You may recall that on a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo, how surprised I was to see so many animals housed indoors due to the chilly conditions outside! Especially larger animals like rhinos and giraffes. Whilst in New York I also visited Central Park Zoo which houses many animals from more temperate / colder climates. The day before I visited Central Park Zoo it snowed, so seeing polar bears, snow leopards and snow monkeys outside in that environment looked totally natural. But as we all know it can get very hot and humid in New York City over summer, so what happens to those colder climate animals over those hotter months?
This prompted me to look into what zoos do to protect animals from climates that they are not accustomed too.
|Giraffe indoors at Bronx zoo|
One easy solution for zoos, is to house animals that are more suited to the zoo’s natural environment. Perth Zoo, in Western Australia is a good example of this. Most of their animals are from Australia, Asia and Africa. This suits the Perth weather conditions where they get quite extreme temperatures, regularly going over 40 degrees in summer but rarely going under 0 degrees in winter. Even so, Perth Zoo has measures to cool off even their more well-adjusted animals. Over the hotter days many of the animals receive their favourite treats in ice blocks. This is a great way to cool them down and can also be part of their animal enrichment program. Animals also have the option to rest back into their night time air-conditioned enclosures over the hotter parts of the day.
Sea World at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, has a great Polar Bear enclosure with an environment set up to replicate an Arctic Summer. This is a state of the art enclosure giving Sea World the ability to create micro climates by adding sprinklers, mist and wind generators. As soon as it heads towards a humid 35 degrees, the bears can retire into their five air-conditioned dens with temperature controlled pools. The bears prefer the temperature of the water a comfortable 17 degrees. It’s also interesting to note that in Canada polar bears natural habitats can get over 40 degrees in summer.
|Front entrance polar bear enclosure Sea World Queensland|
New York of course presents a slightly trickier environment – reaching very hot conditions in summer and very cold conditions in winter. To give the animals the most comfortable environment over these periods the Bronx Zoo has completed giant temperature controlled enclosures so that the public can still see these amazing animals no matter what the conditions are outside. This is no different to Central Park Zoo creating a huge indoor rain-forest walk with temperatures to suit – or the Madagascar enclosure at the Bronx Zoo albeit for smaller animals. For visitors, these warm environs are a great haven from the cold winter winds outside too.
It is useful to remember, when visiting zoos, that their first priority is animal comfort. So be prepared for the fact that you may not get to see the animals in their more natural enclosures, but rather in purpose built viewing enclosures which mimic their natural habitat. What you do get to see then, are great technologies and climate control systems in play. It all adds to the experience for both visitor and animals – and saves you from having to visit extreme parts of the globe to see these animals too!