This year's summer was the Earth's hottest since global record-keeping began in 1880. Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere – including areas of the United States, Europe, and Japan – experienced scorching heatwaves. Humans comfortably rode out the extreme weather inside air-conditioned homes and offices. However, the option was not available to most zoo animals. Here are some creative ways that zookeepers used to keep the animals safe in the heat.
Many zoos doused their residents with cold showers throughout the day. Furless creatures like rhinos, elephants, and tortoises were soaked with hoses, while those with fur enjoyed a continuous cold mist — similar to how produce is sprayed in supermarkets. Some lucky gorillas even got to spend the summer relaxing in "shower pools!"
"One of our gorillas, in particular, loves the shower pool. It looks like a person sitting in a hot tub," said Kevin Hodge, the Houston Zoo's vice president, told NBC News. "It's really cute."
Just like us, animals also enjoy frozen treats on hot days. Zookeepers created delicious berry-filled ice chunks for the herbivores. The carnivores were treated to "bloodsicles," or "meatsicles" — frozen concoctions made with blood and ground meat.
In Tokyo, Japan, zookeepers sheared the hair of their six alpacas. "Alpacas are animals from the highlands of South America," said zookeeper Shunpei Miyakoshi. "Their fur protects their bodies from the cold, so it is very dense." They also put two fans in the animals' enclosure.
In Nagano, Japan, officials kept their sole elephant, Fuko, cool by filling up part of her enclosure with water. The mammal was often seen happily swinging her trunk while lying in her temporary pool.
The special measures certainly helped zoo animals survive this summer. But with extreme heatwaves becoming increasingly common, zoo officials are seeking permanent solutions to help the animals. The options include adding air conditioning to existing enclosures or building new climate-controlled habitats. However, the endeavor is both expensive and time-consuming. So, for now, the animals will have to settle for cold showers and frozen treats to keep cool!
Resources: asahi.com, reuters.com, nbcnews.com, kfoxtv.com