Keepers at Taronga Zoo have been preparing cold treats to help the animals keep cool in the hot weather this week.
Taronga’s African lion family were given an iceblock with a frozen milk substitute to help them cool down, the zebras were given iced carrot blocks and the Brazilian tapir ‘Tiquie’ enjoyed a cooling shower.
Taronga Zoo’s Behavioural Biologist, Vicky Melfi, said:”Keepers often give the animals additional ice themed enrichment items to keep them cool in extreme weather temperatures.”
“The frozen favourite food items help keep them hydrated, but are also something out of the ordinary and gives the animals something new to think about.”
‘Curiosity is important for any creature and we continually present different things to our animals such as new food items and puzzles, sometimes they need to retrieve food from puzzles, but either way these items arouse the animals’ senses. With the warmer weather now upon us, we thought why not add a summer spin to the activities,” said Dr. Melfi.
“Providing plenty of water, both for hydration and also to bathe in is vital in these conditions.”
“’Tiquie ‘our Brazilian tapir loves to get a hose down from her keepers. She literally turns her whole body into the spray of water and will sometimes lift her 250 kilogram body up on her hind legs to get her face completely wet.”
“The animals at Taronga Zoo are lucky because they have teams of people caring for them throughout the day when the heat reaches its peak, but most pets at home don’t have that luxury,” said Dr. Melfi.
“In times of extreme heat, just as we concern ourselves with the elderly and very young, people need to be vigilant about their pets.”
“Make sure pets have access to plenty of water and shade, try freezing some of their food, like left over scraps of meat and blood for dogs or if you’re home, make a game out of coaxing them into a shallow kiddie’s pool or sprinkler.”
Many animal species, including those at Taronga, have naturally evolved to cope with extreme temperatures.
A giraffe’s long blue tongue, prevents it from getting sunburnt when grazing on the African plains, a fennec fox’s long ears act as cooling towers to dissipate the heat and the fur between the pads of their feet prevent them from getting burnt on the desert sands, whilst a meerkat literally has a pair of in-built sunglasses with dark patches around their eyes to lessen the desert glare.
“But for many animals, as for ourselves, it is often safest to avoid the hottest glare of the sun,” said Dr. Melfi.