06/25/2013 03:07 EDT | Updated 08/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Hippos nearly escaped Calgary Zoo during flood

Floodwaters have receded at the Calgary Zoo, but officials offering media tours of the muddy grounds said two hippos nearly escaped during the height of the crisis.

The hippos, named Sparky and Lobi, were housed in the African Savannah building, not far from the edge of the Bow River. As the water seeped into the building, the hippos swam into a public viewing area and nearly escaped through a broken window, zoo officials said Tuesday during a media tour.

Damage to the Calgary Zoo is estimated at tens of millions of dollars, with ruined kitchen and dining areas, and hundreds of metres of fencing down. Buildings on the zoo's island in the middle of the Bow River still have no power. Nearly 150 tropical fish — tilapia and piranha — perished and at least two peacocks died. Two others are missing.

Zoo officials said the losses could easily have been more severe.

"Considering the scale of the disaster," said the zoo's director of animal care, Dr. Jake Veasey, "It's frankly unbelievable we didn't lose more than we did."

Dr. Clement Lanthier, the president of the zoo, said staff made every effort to prevent animal deaths.

“We managed to squeeze sufficient animals in our animal health centre and other areas of the zoo," said Lanthier.

However, he added that the level of destruction means "the landscape of the zoo will change dramatically."

Zoo officials said more animals are at risk because of stress, including the giraffes.

Some animals, such as the elephants, have been drying out during the mostly sunny days that Calgary has enjoyed this week.

The zoo is expected to reopen in two weeks and will need a lot of work before visitors can return. Summer camps and birthday parties scheduled to July 5 are cancelled. The Calgary Zoo has partnered with other family attractions in and around the city to offer discounts to their members.