Zookeepers help animals beat the heat: NPR

Zoos across the country are taking several steps to help animals beat the heat this summer.

Eric Jay/AFP


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Eric Jay/AFP


Zoos across the country are taking several steps to help animals beat the heat this summer.

Eric Jay/AFP

As swathes of the United States deal with the sweltering heat this summer, zoos across the country are taking various steps to mitigate the impact on their animals.

“Days when the temperature is 99 degrees, our work makes it challenging for these animals who are used to living in cold environments to keep them somewhat cool,” Pete Costello, assistant curator of the New England Zoo at Stone Zoo, told NPR.

The zoo is located about 12 miles north of Boston, where record temperatures have blazed in the city. In the second heat wave of the summer, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a heat emergency earlier this week through Sunday.

Stone Zoo attempts to limit the effects of these dangerous temperatures, especially for animals accustomed to cold weather, such as snow leopards.

“What we do with the snow leopards in this situation is they have a holding building built next to the gallery, and the suspended building is air conditioned,” Costello said.

Fans were one of the easiest ways for the zoo’s reindeer, who used to live near the Arctic Circle, to cool off, according to Costello.

Ice blocks and pools help animals keep cool

Swimming pools have also helped some animals. Stone Zoo will refill the pool water every morning for the animals to make sure they are at least 10-15 degrees cooler than the water that has been sitting there all night. The zoo will also spray the animals with a hose or spray them with water.

“We’ll just throw out the basins and fill them with water, sometimes put ice in them, all day long,” he added.

Costello said snow is a quick way to calm animals down. Seymour, the zoo’s jaguar, enjoyed a lump of snow filled with meat indoors earlier this week.

“You can just eat a little of his diet, which is usually just a little meat, freeze it in a five-gallon bucket overnight, and then in the morning, you put him in the pool,” he said.

Stone Zoo also offers Seymour ice cubes sprinkled with some of his favorite scents—pumpkin pie spice is his favorite right now.

“So, you can… just take a regular bag of ice cubes, dump it on the floor and put pumpkin pie spice on it, and he’ll rub it in and things that help him sort of cool off,” he said.

The animals also have shelters, which are placed with the sun in mind.

“The reindeer shelter is positioned in such a way that when the strong noon sun hits it, it is completely shaded,” Costello said.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC also treats the animals’ extreme heat.

According to a statement from July 25.

The Smithsonian also said that giant pandas have air conditioners 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 blocks with fruit inside for a cool summer treat.

“Fruit is offered to many animals as enrichment, which can be especially refreshing at this time of year,” the Smithsonian said.

“Fruits are lollipops – usually diluted and frozen fruit juice with bits of fresh fruit inside. Gorillas, elephants and other bears also enjoy this treat,” the statement added, explaining that the animals get these rewards all year round.

The zoo also said that some animals can use the outdoor pools, such as Andean bears, pandas, lions, tigers and otters.

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