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Cold Temps and Zoo Animals
By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo
It is cold outside; real cold for Southern Louisiana. We know that few people in this area are going to bundle up and come to the zoo while these temps stay in the 50’s or below. (However they can bundle up and go to the Aquarium of Americas or Audubon Insectarium!) People always ask me about the animals at the zoo and what do they do when it’s cold. Here are some of the animals in our collection and their winter habits.
Alligators don’t really like the cold (they are cold-blooded reptiles after all) and they brummate, which means they slow down their metabolic activity. They try to stay in water or burrows, which change temperatures more slowly than the air.
Some of the animals like the cold weather, the ones with fur coats. Black bears, raccoons and bobcats can be seen outside in this 40-50 degree weather, along with the river otters at the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit.
Many of our animals are from Africa. We have rhinos, giraffes, zebra and wildebeest. They prefer the comfort of their heated barns, but just like us get a little stir crazy if they have to stay in too long.
Big cats like our lions and tigers will lie in the sun and have open house to their warmer dens if desired.
The sea lions stay in the salted water which is normally chilled to degrees in the 60’s.
Zoo Keepers have freeze plans and protocols for animals just like city’s do for humans. Zoo keepers spend a lot of time putting up plastic sheeting and making sure heat lamps work to keep all the animals warm and healthy.
Everyone around here is looking forward to the warm-up and more “normal” temperatures. Some are even dreaming of hot and humid summer days. We know that when the sun comes out and the heavy coats and gloves come off you will be back at the zoo and the animals will be outside waiting for you.