How do you keep animals cool in hot weather?

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If you’ve been to the Smithsonian National Zoo during the summer, you know it can get hot, muggy, and buggy here in Washington, DC! Have you ever wondered how we help animals deal with the heat?

The zoo exhibits are designed with the needs of the species in mind. Some have pools and streams for animals that like to swim, while others have trees or structures that provide plenty of shade. We make sure that our animals are kept at appropriate temperatures all year round. Many have the choice of spending time outdoors or in a temperature-controlled indoor space.

During the hottest summer days, even animals that are naturally found in warmer climates and adapted to extreme heat may 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 around the zoo on a hot day, feeling a little tired and maybe a little cranky, you might consider stopping for a frozen drink or a frozen snack. Many of our animals cool off in the same way. On hot summer days, our marsh monkeys enjoy frozen treats, such as dairy-free blueberry yogurt popsicles, by their pool. Marsh monkeys are skilled swimmers and will also bathe in the pool to cool off.

We use enrichment to encourage animals to be physically active while foraging for food, just as they would in the wild. When we add ice to the fortification it also helps them beat the heat. We hide the snacks for our otters and pigs in buckets of ice, so they can cool off while they forage for food.


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