With cities all over the country hitting record high temperatures, it’s not just humans who are feeling the heat. Zoos are finding creative and effective ways to keep their animals cool and comfortable despite the rising mercury.One of the most interesting: The bloodsicle. Yep, that’s right, popsicles made of blood. It probably sounds disgusting to you, but to tigers living in places like Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and the Minnesota Zoo, it’s a truly tasty treat. “It's kind of gross, but they like it," said Diana Weinhardt, who supervises the Northern Trails exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo.
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While extreme weather like this presents certain challenges, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park has plenty of protocols in place to avoid any potential issues. "Most of our animals with outdoor habitats have the choice to go inside or outside," said Pamela Baker-Masson. "Most are cooled with air conditioning in summer and have heat in winter.” The Andean bears, pandas, lions, tigers, anteaters and otters all take a dive in outdoor pools.
The Detroit Zoological Society offers icy treats like frozen fish and fruit to its polar bears, and chilled watermelon to the snow monkeys and hippo, said Patricia Mills Janeway, Communications Director.
But it’s not all about the food — many animals have splash pools available to cool their heels, and at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, they take it a step further. “Tigers are pretty much the only big cats that enjoy water,” said Jill Revelle.
In order to lead the tigers to water and make them swim, the zoo employs a motivational tactic. “During the summer, we encourage them further by throwing toys, bones and food into the water for them to dive in after,” said Revelle.
Giant pandas at the Smithsonian have chilled water grottos available, but they also have air conditioning — something you’ll see in exhibits in a surprising number of zoos — which they seem to prefer. Turns out, they're a lot like us humans in this sweltering weather. “The panda grotto not only has chilled water but is also air conditioned to keep the air cool," said Baker-Masson. "You'll often see our pandas, especially the male, just lounging in there and loving it!"
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story