How animals stay cool at Reid Park Zoo

How the animals stay cool at Reid Park Zoo

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Most of May was pretty mild in the Tucson area. However, 100-degree temperatures are not staying away forever. The Reid Park Zoo is getting ready for hot summer day and keeping the animals cool.

Herbie, an 80-year-old Aldabra tortoise, comes from a place near Madagascar.

“It’s an area where their temperature only gets to about 80 degrees,” said Jed Dodds, with the Reid Park Zoo.

Staff take his temperature multiple times a day with a heat gun that uses a laser. The enclosure for Herbie has misters and an air-conditioned indoor barn. If things get too hot, he gets sprayed down with a hose. His temperature needs to stay a little below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If you splash (a pot) with cold water, the pot cools down instantly,” said Chris Butler, Herbie’s zookeeper. “It’s the same concept with their shell.”

The Zoo said many of their animals can adapt to the heat, but they try to help them cope. The elephants get a swim. The meercats get ice with bugs, the giraffes get green onion popsicles and the grizzlies get fish and nut ice cubes.

“I think it’s really cool that they’re enjoying something cool,” said Roberto Vasquez, a visitor at the Zoo.

For many animals, staying cool has to go beyond misters and ice cubes. Reid Park Zoo is planning to put Red Pandas in their new Asia expansion. They would be the first long-term Red Pandas to be in an Arizona zoo, but they can only take temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The Zoo said they will have an indoor enclosure with air conditioning, and an outdoor area the pandas can go to during the winter.

“This isn’t something we take lightly,” said Dodds.

The Asia expansion is part of a ten-year, $100 million dollar plan to expand the zoo. Dodds said construction on the Asia expansion should start in 2020 or 2021.

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