NGALA Wildlife Preserve CEO suffers burns saving animals

- Wildfires forced the evacuation of animals at the NGALA Wildlife Preserve over the weekend.

The park says all of the animals were evacuated in time, but the park's president and CEO suffered second-degree burns on almost 20 percent of his body during the rescue of one of the park's rhinos. 

Donovan Smith wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday that he was going into surgery for skin grafts. In a previous post, he thanked his friends for their kindness and generosity.

He said it was, "worth enduring the pain to protect my animals! From the bottom of my Heart...Thank You!"

Park evacuations began Friday, April 21, and the animals were able to return two days later. 

In a post on the park's Facebook page, staff said five people spent 24 hours getting 42 animals to safety. The park said many structures will need to be rebuilt after the fires. 

On Tuesday, many of the animals were returned to the park. Donovan Smith came through surgery at Tampa General Hospital around the time the animals were settling back in. 

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