An adult Asian elephant eats a large watermelon during the TXU Energy Chill Out at the Houston Zoo. Dave Einsel/Houston Zoo
The searing heat is no fun for anyone, but what if you were covered with a thick coat of hair and you lived mostly outside? For many zoo animals these record 100 degree temperatures are simply unbearable.
Larger animals are typically the warmest says zookeeper Jennifer London from the Irvine Park Zoo in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
"The cats and bears are the bigger animals, so they're going to be the warmer ones," London said. "With the tigers, we'll give them ice cubes, we'll freeze buckets of ice, and throw that in the pool."
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At the North Carolina Zoo, caretakers say each animal has some source of water or a way to cool off.
"Sometimes it's a pond or lake and sometimes it's chilled pools or even mounds of crushed ice," said Tom Gillespie, North Carolina Zoo. "Many exhibits have fans and air conditioning in their off exhibit holding areas. In this type of hot weather, we leave these holding area doors open so they can escape the heat."
Cooling off can also be fun for animals and spectators. Zoo keepers create icy treat for animals to claw at, play with and enjoy.
"We take the animals favorite treats like fruit, fish or juice and freeze it in a bucket creating a Popsicle," Gillespie adds.
At the Houston Zoo a snow day offered heat relief for animals for the second summer in a row. TXU Energy provided the man-made snow while zoo keepers provided the fun by building snowmen for the elephants.
"Keepers really had no idea what the elephant's reaction would be. They thought that the youngsters, 2 year old Baylor and 1.5 year old Tupelo would be ‘brave’ and push the snowmen down and that the adults would be the ones hanging back, content to watch the ‘children’ have fun," said Brian Hill, Houston Zoo Public Affairs. "It was just the opposite. Methai, the matriarch of our herd, and Tess another of our adult female Asian elephants were the ‘brave’ ones, smashing the snowmen and squashing the watermelons. It was the ‘kids’ who were a bit more timid."
Last year chimpanzees received the snowy treat. Plans are in the works to bring another snow day to other animals at the Houston Zoo, possibly Red Pandas, Meerkats or Tigers.