As much of the US faces extreme heat this summer, zoos across the country are taking several measures to reduce the impact on their animals.
“The days when it’s 99 degrees makes our job challenging for these animals who are used to living in cold environments to keep them a little cool,” Pete Costello, assistant curator of New England’s Stone Zoo, told IPS. NPR.
The zoo is located about 20 miles north of Boston, where record-breaking heat is scorching the city. As early as the second heatwave of the summer, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a heat emergency until Sunday earlier this week.
Stone Zoo is trying to curb the effects of these dangerous temperatures, especially for animals accustomed to the colder weather, such as snow leopards.
“What we do with the snow leopards in that situation is they have a building built into the side of their exhibit, and that building has air conditioning,” Costello said.
Fans were one of the easiest ways for the zoo’s reindeer, who are used to living closer to the Arctic Circle, to cool off, according to Costello.
Ice blocks and pools help animals stay cool
Swimming pools have also helped some animals. Stone Zoo will top up the pool water for the animals every morning to ensure it is at least 10-15 degrees colder than the water that has been sitting there overnight. The zoo will also hose or spray the animals with water.
“We just dump the tubs and fill them with water, sometimes we put ice in them all day,” he added.
Costello said ice is a quick way to cool the animals down. Seymour, the zoo’s jaguar, enjoyed a block of ice filled with meat in it earlier this week.
“You can just take a little bit of his diet, which is usually just a little bit of meat, and you freeze it in a five-gallon bucket overnight, and then in the morning, you just put it in his pool,” he said.
Stone Zoo also gives Seymour ice cubes sprinkled with some of his favorite scents — pumpkin pie spice is his favorite right now.
“So you could… just take a regular bag of ice cubes, dump them on the floor and then put the pumpkin pie spice on it, and it’ll rub it and all to cool it down a bit,” he said.
The animals also have shelters, which are placed with the sun in mind.
“The reindeer shelter is positioned so that when that strong midday sun hits it, that shelter is completely shaded,” Costello said.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, also tackles the animals’ extreme heat.
“Most animals that can go outside are given the choice of going outside or staying in their indoor exhibit all year round. Most indoor exhibits are cooled with air conditioning in the summer and heated with heat in the winter,” a statement said. of 25 July.
The Smithsonian also said its giant pandas have air conditioning and water-cooled caves, and spend most of their hot days indoors because their thick fur makes the heat unbearable.
The zoo also fills ice cubes with fruit inside for a cool summer treat.
“Many animals are offered pulp as an enrichment, which can be particularly refreshing at this time of year,” the Smithsonian said.
“Fruitsicles are popsicles — they’re usually frozen diluted fruit juice with shredded pieces of fresh fruit in them. Gorillas, elephants and other bears also enjoy these treats,” the statement added, explaining that the animals get these treats year round.
The zoo also said some animals can use their outdoor pools, such as bears, pandas, lions, tigers and otters in the Andes.