If you have visited the Smithsonian’s National Zoo during the summer, then you know it can get hot, muggy and buggy here in Washington, D.C.! Have you ever wondered how we help animals handle the heat?
The Zoo’s exhibits are designed with species’ needs in mind. Some have pools and streams for animals that like to swim, while others have trees or structures that provide a lot of shade. We make sure our animals are kept in appropriate temperatures year-round. Many have the choice to spend time outside or in a temperature-controlled indoor space.
On the hottest of summer days though, even animals that are naturally found in warmer climates and adapted to handle extreme heat might seek relief. Like us, they can slow down, lose their appetite, and even get a little irritable when temperatures get too extreme. If you were walking through the Zoo on a hot day, feeling a little tired and maybe a little grumpy, you might consider stopping for an ice-cold drink or a frozen snack. Many of our animals cool off in the same way. On hot summer days, our swamp monkeys enjoy frozen treats, such as nondairy blueberry yogurt popsicles, by their pool. Swamp monkeys are skillful swimmers and will take a dip in the pool to cool off as well.
We use enrichment to encourage animals to be physically active while searching for food, just as they would in the wild. When we add ice to enrichment, it also helps them beat the heat. We hide snacks for our otters and hogs in buckets of ice, so they cool off while they forage for food.