With temperatures soaring, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute continues to take good care of its creatures — human and non-human alike! Here’s what keepers do for the animals in this heat:
- Most of the animals that can go outside are offered a choice year round—to go outside or to stay in their indoor exhibit. Most indoor exhibits are cooled with AC in the summer and warmed with heat in the winter.
- Giant pandas have air-conditioned and radiant water-chilled grottos. They have AC indoors. They have thick fur coats and cannot tolerate heat, so on hot days they mostly stay inside.
- Many animals are offered fruitsicles as enrichment, which can be particularly refreshing this time of year. Fruitsicles are popsicles — they are usually diluted fruit juice frozen with cut-up chunks of fresh fruit in them. Gorillas, elephants and other bears enjoy these treats, too. (Note that these aren’t just a summertime treat! They receive them year-round.)
Some animals have the option of taking a dip in their outdoor pools: Andean bears, pandas, lions, tigers and otters. Others are acclimated to this weather.
Animal care staff also follow temperature and weather guidelines to care for animals, and may make the decision to keep some animals indoors during extreme temperatures.
Visitors have a number of options for staying cool:
- Water fountains are available around the park.
- They can enjoy a number of “misters” around the Zoo.
- Kids can splash around in the Squirt Zone
- The Zoo sells a variety of ice cream and frozen treats, along with cold beverages and water.
- All of the animal houses are air conditioned.