By Kay Quinn
KSDK -- Considerable fear. That's how local wildlife conservation specialists describe their reaction to the spill.
As the oil washes closer to shore, an expert at the St. Louis Zoo predicts another chapter is opening in this disaster: one that concerns animals.
Smiles and laughter at the Stingray exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo's Caribbean Cove, like Cownose and Southern stingrays are native to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly, what brings St. Louisans so much joy is now just the type of wildlife being devastated by the oil spill.
"It has the potential to be totally catastrophic," says Dr. Eric Miller, vice president of zoological operations at the St. Louis Zoo.
Catastrophic for native gulf species like the Double Crested Cormorant, Great Egret and Roseaete Spoonbill on display in the Zoo's Cypress Swamp exhibit in the 1904 World's Fair Flight Cage.
Dr. Eric Miller says it's still difficult for wildlife experts to come to grips with the scope and long-term impact of the spill.
"I think we don't know yet," says Dr. Miller. "I don't want to over-react, but the extent of it is what's so scary."
Feelings echoed by some visitors to the St. Louis Zoo.
"What's going to be the long-term effects you know? And that's what I'm concerned about, what's long term not for what's now," says Lora Evans, a zoo visitor.
"I'm so frustrated one because of the wildlife and what it does for the generations of the wildlife coming up its like are they going to be able to reproduce enough to sustain are animals going to become extinct?" says Sharla Woodland, another zoo visitor.
Zoos are already organizing for what's to come. Keepers here at the St. Louis Zoo and other facitlities across the country are on standby should they be needed to help out in the rescue and rehab effort."
Efforts centered around wildlife like the Brown Pelican, one of which is on display at the Zoo's Penguin and Puffin Coast.
"We haven't been called on yet but we're prepared to respond with some of our staff," says Dr. Miller. "We care about animals here. When we see something this catastrophic we care about them there."
Dr. Miller says the oil is hitting during breeding season so not only are the birds becoming contaminated by oil but they're also being taken off their nests, which could also impact the numbers of birds in the Gulf in the future.