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Beat the heat: Keeping critters cool at the Phoenix Zoo

People aren't the only ones who feel the scorch of summer. Animals at the Phoenix Zoo are getting lots of support to stay cool.

PHOENIX — You can feel it as soon as you step outside and the wind rushes up around you. It's hot during Arizona summers. It's hot everywhere, and the Phoenix Zoo is no exception.

But guests aren't the only ones feeling the heat. As Indu, the zoo's 57-year-old Asian elephant showed us, this kind of weather is exhausting!

Credit: 12 News
Indu the elephant rests on her fence at the Phoenix Zoo.

Many of the species kept at the Phoenix Zoo are native and used to Arizona weather. 

But there are a lot of animals who aren't from around here.

We got a chance to speak with some of the caretakers about what's being done to keep them safe in this kind of weather. From cool showers to frozen treats, air conditioning, and misters, there's a lot in play!

There are a lot of animals at the zoo who love the water. Take the Galapagos tortoise, Elvis for example!

Elvis spends most of his time out and about in the dust, but as soon as his caretaker turned on the hose he came running... As best a tortoise can.

He happily spent a few minutes stretching out in the cool water, enjoying the shade after a hot morning.

And just like Elvis, Archimedes the Eurasian Eagle Owl also enjoys the occasional shower.

With his thick feathers, it's easy to get overheated. Because of that, caretakers make sure Archimedes always has a tub of water that he can dip his feet in to cool off.

Animals like Raja the Sumatran tiger, or Kima the spotted-necked otter have ponds in their enclosures that they can slip into to get out of the sun.

But what about animals who don't like the water very much? We spoke with Dawn Addelson, the zoo's carnivore collection manager, about some other methods they use.

"One of the ways we keep them cool is with ice treats like this," Dawn explained, showing us what looked like a massive red Popsicle. 

"This is a giant bloodsicle, which is made of the blood left over from their meat diet mixed with water."

Tasty, right? Well, Raja certainly thought so. 

The tiger got a 5-gallon bloodsicle to enjoy throughout the day. Likewise, the cheetahs came running when Dawn tossed a few smaller treats into their enclosure.

And just like the other carnivores, Kima got a tasty treat of frozen fish to munch on throughout the day.

Credit: 12 News
A common squirrel monkey takes a break in the shade.

Over at the primate enclosure, we talked with senior caretaker Danyelle Benza about what some of the monkeys do about the weather

It turns out, "they'll actually spread out like superman to cool down," she said. 

By pressing themselves to the cooler surface of their play towers, they can get out a lot of excess body heat. They also get plenty of frozen fruits and raisins to snack on!

Finally, we spoke with the zoo's Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Events, Linda Hardwick about how these efforts come together.

"We actually really specialize in animals that thrive in these temperatures," Linda told us, "We have an entire Arizona Trail dedicated to native species."

But for species that aren't from around here, they have plenty of shade, cool showers, and air-conditioned spaces to get out of the heat, Linda explained.

"We definitely wanna take precautions to conserve water, but we also need to keep everybody strong, and healthy, and very comfortable."

"We don't have those animals that require lots and lots of water and a really expansive habitat that contains lots of water," Linda said, "We specialize in animals that thrive in these temperatures."

"We can take care of them, and also conserve water for the community."


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