Keeping zoo animals safe in the summertime heat

NOW: Keeping zoo animals safe in the summertime heat


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This week's heat isn't just impacting humans. The animals at Potawatomi Zoo come from all regions of the world, and they all deal with Michiana's heat a little differently.

Zoo staff offer animals a variety of ways to stay cool: fans, misters, ice enrichments, even air conditioning units built into houses (like the red pandas).

On hot days, you can see animals like Masamba the rhino digging into the mud to find a cool spot.

Animals like tortoises, who enjoy warmer temperatures, also have a mud bath they can enjoy if they choose.

Zoo director Josh Sisk says that while each animal has a different temperature protocol, ultimately, they let animals decide whether to spend the day outdoors or in their holding barn.

"We give animals choice," he explained. "We may get a complaint from the public on a hundred degree day, 'well, there wasn't that many animals.' It's because we give them that choice. We won't just lock them out in their enclosure."

The holding barn, which Sisk relates to animals' bedrooms, are a series of behind-the-scenes stables for animals. These can be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. This is where animals may decide to stay inside if they feel too hot.

In addition to heat, we've also seen thunderstorms this week. Sisk says that unlike our pets at home, animals at the zoo typically aren't too scared during loud storms.

"We run from storms. We run from bad weather. I think sometimes the animals enjoy the change," Sisk explained. "The rhino loves the rain. A lot of the birds love the rain, because they get out, they can clean their feathers."

The reason many animals are brought indoors during a storm is to protect the enclosures. If a large limb fell on an exhibit, it could be unsafe for animals or for visitors.

If you still want to visit the zoo for the season, they are open until October 31. You can find their hours by visiting here.

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