Summer is one of the busiest times of the year at the Zoo! Kids on summer break and families on vacation flock through the gates to enjoy a day outside together. You might see elephants out for a walk, camels stripping the leaves off of branches with their flexible tongues, or our new baby giraffe getting acquainted with the rest of his family. But what you might not be as aware of – even though it is right in front of you – is the many ways that Zoo Keepers and staff work to keep the animals comfortable and healthy in the high temperatures.
Just like people, animals have temperatures that are too hot (or cold) for their bodies to handle. Zoo Keepers and staff make sure that no animal is ever put in these extremes by constantly monitoring local weather and providing indoor, temperature-regulated enclosures for those that need it.
On the summer days where temperatures are okay for animals to be outside, Zoo Keepers give their animals plenty of choices on ways to cool off. Some of the things you might see on your next visit are:
- Shade.Â Shade is the single most important factor in keeping animals cool at the Zoo. Some of our animals, like the red pandas, have shade from natural plants in their exhibit. Other animals, like our harbor seals and elephants have shade from special cloth supported by cables over part of their enclosure. Shade can even come from the shadows created by the walls and fences of the exhibit itself.
- Water. Another really important way that our animals keep cool in the summer is with water. Many animals have pools in their exhibit that they can choose to use. The Humbolt penguins spend lots time zipping around the water. Our moon bears could almost be mistaken for a person as they lounge in their pool. For other animals that are not naturally strong swimmers, like the emus and red pandas, the Zoo provides misters and sprinklers that animals can run through, sit in front of, or just ignore. It’s up to them!
- Ice enrichment. Keepers use ice to cool down the animals, as well as to provide a challenging feeding opportunity. Depending on the animal, keepers and volunteers make popsicles for the animals out of large buckets and yogurt containers. Part of the animal’s daily diet can be frozen in the ice. Some animals get fruit and vegetables while others like frozen peanut butter. Yum!
So the next time you visit the Zoo find a bench under a shady tree, walk underneath one of the misters set up for guests, grab a Dell’s lemonade and think about how much you and our Zoo residents have in common!
For more information about animals in their natural habitat, visit Roger William’s Park Zoo located at 1000 Elmwood Avenue. Providence, RI.