The Santa Barbara Zoo’s visit from two of Santa’s reindeer has been cut short by the Thomas Fire.
The zoo welcomed two male reindeer Nov. 22, an adult named Holiday and a first-year calf named Lightning.
On Monday, Holiday and Lightning had to return home to the “North Pole” (by way of Windswept Ranch, near Tehachapi) as the Thomas Fire continues to burn nearby. The pair were originally slated to be at the zoo through the new year.
“We’re sad to see our visiting reindeer Lightning and Holiday leave, but they have important work to do back at the North Pole,” the zoo wrote in a Facebook post Monday.
This was the first time in the zoo’s 54-year history that it exhibited reindeer.
Both reindeer were first evacuated to the Earl Warren Show Grounds in Santa Barbara on Saturday night, when the fire began spreading close to the community of Montecito and the Santa Barbara Zoo was given an evacuation warning. Two Guinea hogs, five Navajo-Churro sheep and five goats were also evacuated to the show grounds.
The zoo was closed Monday to give staff time to provide additional care to the animals, and to continue cleaning the outdoor areas. Its “Zoo Camp” for children is slated to stay closed all week.
Representatives say they will continue to act to ensure the safety of staff and animals.