SUSSEX — Severe damage from Saturday's strong thunderstorm won't keep the fourth-generation owners of the Space Farm and Zoo from opening for the season in April.

Owner Parker Space told New Jersey 101.5 that his 22-year-old son was home when the storm rolled through on Saturday afternoon. The farm's blacksmith shop, which dated back to the late 1800s, had collapsed and trees came down on some of the animal enclosures. The damage was confined mostly to the upper part of the zoo, and to a cemetery across the street, where some trees were knocked over.

"Luckily the two enclosures that were severely damaged didn't have any animals in them at the time," Space said.

Space said an excavator will need to come and lift the roof off the blacksmith museum to see what can be salvaged.

"We had some antiques, old motorcycles and antique farm machinery. We did a lot of assessing on Sunday and today we're cutting trees up, putting roofing back on and putting siding back on buildings," Space said.

It's not the first storm to damage the farm and zoo, which is home to 500 animals including lions, tigers, yak, bears, jaguars and kangaroos, and which houses a museum and restaurant.

"My wife said that mother nature is starting to take a pretty toll on us," Space said. "Between Hurricane Irene, tropical Storm Ray and Sandy. Two years ago we had a fire at one of our big processing plant for the animals. That whole building got destroyed by fire," Space said.

The zoo is looking forward to the start of its 90th season on March 25.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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