LOS ANGELES Otters sweltering in the summer sun suck on fishsicles. For carnivores like the Amur leopard, its bloodsicles.
Zoos across the country are using icy treats, shade, water and every conceivable form of cooling machine to help hundreds of thousands of animals, visitors and workers beat the heat this summer.
Even animals from Africa can have problems with extreme heat, says Lion Country Safari wildlife director Terry Wolf.
It can be pretty stressful to some of them, he said.
So at the Loxahatchee park in southern Florida, rhinos, tortoises and birds have slushy wet mud holes, and the water buffalo have canals and lakes pumped full of water. Diets have changed from winter protein to summer fiber.
Earlier this month, temperatures soared past 100 in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., and broke records in Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. In the West, Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico were in triple digits. Death Valley in eastern California reached 125 degrees.
The lions have wet moats, primates and outdoor birds get shade and mist, jaguars and Andean bears have swimming pools, and the orangutans hang out near air conditioning vents at the Houston Zoo, said Brian Hill, director of public affairs.
Ice, frozen in everything from snowcone cups to 25-gallon buckets, is a heat treat. the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., uses fishsicles and bloodsicles, along with fruitsicles for bears and ice cream and Italian ices for the humans, said zoo director Jeremy Goodman.
Some animals sweat and some are just as susceptible as humans to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Some even get sunburned.
We apply sunscreen to our pig, Goodman said.
The Phoenix (Ariz.) Zoo is probably the nations hottest, said Dan Subaitis, director of animal management there for the past five years. For three months every summer, it is 110 to 115 degrees during the day, the humidity reaches 60 percent and the nights might cool off to 90 or 100 degrees, he said. Staff constantly watches the animals, guests and each other for signs of heat distress.
Our reptile collection likes heat, but our heat is even too hot for most of them, so they will head for their pools, Subaitis said.