How do zoos protect animals from the heat?

WWhen it gets too warm in the middle of the day, even in the shade, the only thing that often helps is a dip in the cold water. It is only after 1 pm on Monday that the sun is at its zenith, when the bear seen at the Frankfurt Zoo gets very warm under a tree. The shaggy animal pulls itself out of the shade, then somewhat lazes in the freshly filled pool of water and enjoys staying in the coldest part of the enclosure.

Right in front of a board, the Andean bear scratches its back against the stone, writhing in the water over and over again. “Look! There’s a bear,” said a visitor to his girlfriend: “Oh, how cute.” The couple have just arrived and seem happy that they were offered something in the first can at the beginning of their visit to the zoo.

Because those who visit the zoo in the midday heat these days aren’t always lucky enough to see all the animals in action. Many stay in the cooler interior of the enclosure when the temperatures are high, bask in the shade or get cozy in the pool like a Petra hippo. “In the summer, it is especially recommended to visit in the morning hours. This is great,” says a visitor who has a season ticket and pushes his son in front of him in a pram.

The same applies to many animals as it does to humans: heat is a great burden. “They have to get used to it and get used to it,” says Christina Geiger, director of the Frankfurt zoo. Especially when temperatures of up to 38 degrees are announced for Tuesday in Frankfurt. The zoo is trying to make the accommodation more bearable for the animals.

Ice bombs are especially popular

In the course of evolution, two different concepts prevailed: there are endothermic (equally warm) organisms in which the body temperature is always at a constant level. This genus includes mammals or birds. Exothermic organisms regulate their body temperature using sunlight. These include reptiles in particular. They need warmth to be able to move around at all. “Some of them are particularly active now,” Jaeger explains.

Camels and meerkats have fewer problems with the high temperatures in Frankfurt. They come from warmer regions and are therefore well prepared for the days ahead. Camels, such as zebras or bongos, remain in the shade. Meerkats are pulled into burrows when it gets too warm. Not much has changed for the lion Keiron either, who has settled in the shade in a corner at the end of his enclosure: “The lions really do have a lot of breaks during the day anyway,” says Geiger. “They look for a shady spot and sleep a little longer.”

Especially popular with animals and visitors are ice bombs, that is, blocks of ice made from frozen food in buckets, and huge, almost watery ice. Penguins, seals, or bears get them from guards. There are also ice bombs at Hanover Zoo for polar bears. There they are called ice cream cakes.

Earth as protection from the sun

Polar bears are accustomed to the temperatures, says an employee on the phone: “The jogger is actually a true sun worshiper.” to go into the water.” Hostility may be the exception among polar bears.

The cold waters of Hanover are more popular with elephants. They use their trunk as a snorkel and sometimes stay underwater for several minutes. “There is also a lot of water mist. It’s a huge pool party.” Animals are often smarter than people who are still sitting in the sun in such hot weather: “The animals are calmer, they are more relaxed and less active,” says a zoo employee. Hanover.

Frankfurt Zoo had to invent something for other animal species. Four awnings were installed above the sealing container. If the animals get too warm in the wild, they simply sink deeper. You can’t do that in the zoo. If there is no water in the enclosure but you need to cool off, you can use a lawn sprinkler, garden hose, or bathtub specially designed to take care of it. Director Jaeger says it’s always important to find the right balance, because the zoo also wants to save water.

Mud baths are also essential for many animals. Red river pigs, who have been back at the Frankfurt Zoo for a few weeks, are bobbing in the mud on Monday afternoon. Wet ground is noticeably cooler than the sandy soil on which the bongo stands. And sticks to the skin of some animals – as protection from the sun.

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