The story appears on

Page A14

August 22, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Animal Planet

Zoo animals keep cool

OTTERS sweltering in the summer sun suck on "fishsicles." For carnivores like the Amur leopard, it's "bloodsicles."

Zoos across the United States are using icy treats, shade, water and every conceivable form of cooling machine to help hundreds of thousands of animals, visitors and workers beat the heat this summer.

Even African animals suffer in high heat, said Lion Country Safari wildlife director Terry Wolf.

"It can be pretty stressful to some of them," he said. So at the Loxahatchee park in southern Florida, rhinos, tortoises and birds have slushy wet mud holes and the water buffalo have canals and lakes pumped full of water. Diets have changed from winter protein to summer fiber.

Earlier this month, temperatures soared past 38 degrees Celsius on the east and west coasts.

The lions have wet moats, primates and outdoor birds get shade and mist, jaguars and Andean bears have swimming pools, and the orangutans hang out near air conditioning vents at the Houston Zoo, said Brian Hill, director of public affairs.

Ice, frozen in everything from snowcone cups to 95-liter buckets, is a heat treat. The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey, uses fishsicles and bloodsicles, along with "fruitsicles" for bears and ice cream and Italian ices for the humans, explained zoo director Jeremy Goodman.

Some animals sweat and some are as susceptible as humans to heat stroke and exhaustion. Some get sunburned.

"We apply sunscreen to our pigs," Goodman said.

The Phoeniz (Arizona) Zoo is probably the nation's hottest, said Dan Subaitis, director of animal management. For three months every summer, it often reaches 46 degrees Celsius during the day and the humidity reaches 60 percent. Staff constantly watches the animals, guests and each other for signs of heat distress.

"Our reptile collection likes heat, but it's too hot for most of them, so they head for their pools," Subaitis said.

You won't find any moose or polar bears at the zoo because it would cost too much to keep them cool.

The orangutans have learned to help by making their own hats, Subaitis said. "We give them old shirts or burlap sacks and they will get them wet and drape them over their heads."

Throughout the zoo, there are fans, misters, evaporative coolers, trees, grass, artificial shade, ponds, sprinklers, spouts, hoses, drinking fountains and rest areas.

Besides keeping them cool, workers try to keep animals calm and reduce stress. They put off as many routine veterinary procedures as they can.

Wolf echoed the stress concerns. "If we have to put our hands on an animal because they have some kind of medical issue, we have to juggle whether or not the issue is more critical than what might happen if they overheat in the capture process," he said.

A new, US$20 million, 7-hectare Polar Frontier at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium has an acre-plus home for three-year-old polar bear sisters Anana and Aurora.

The 272-kilogram bears have a chilled pool (stocked with 500 or 600 trout), trees, a grassy area, and 24-hour access to air-conditioned dens, said Doug Warmolts, director of animal care.

They get piles of ice to roll in and heavy duty balls or 200-liter plastic drums to roll around, he said.

"There are big rocks next to the side of the pool and they leap off and do these great belly smackers," Warmolts said.

But there's no need to worry about heat inhibiting the birds and the bees.

The Cincinnati (Ohio) Zoo & Botanical Garden is nicknamed the "sexiest zoo in America" because of all the births there through the years.

Heat doesn't alter animals' sex lives as much as instinct and light does, explained curator of mammals Mike Dulaney.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend