The Detroit Post
Monday, 29 November, 2021

Best Zoo Weather

Maria Johnson
• Saturday, 19 December, 2020
• 7 min read

There they can admire domestic and exotic animals of all shapes and sizes while enjoying the beautiful spring weather. As primarily outdoor venues, warm temperatures and sunshine will bring guests into the zoos in droves, while cold and wet conditions might keep others at home.

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“Our staff routinely monitors weather conditions and temperatures to help manage animal care and guest services.” With average highs in the mid to upper 90s in July and August, Dallas summers can be real scorchers.

“Simply put, we watch the radar to judge wind, rain, clouds, and other factors,” said Susan Expert, who works in communications for the Dallas Zoo. Founded in 1962, Phoenix Zoo has earned international recognition for its conservation programs centered around the propagation of several endangered species.

“ Weather is a huge factor for our attendance,” said Linda Hardwick, PR & Marketing Manager for Phoenix Zoo. Guests can also enjoy some water play features during the spring and summer months to cool down in between exhibits.

Although Phoenix is in a desert climate, humidity can increase during the summer monsoon that typically begins in July and continues through August. While temperatures may be held down some by this increased moisture, it also can drive the heat index up and make the weather very uncomfortable and even dangerous.

Set in a 55-acre lush tropical landscape, Houston Zoo is home to more than 6,000 exotic animals and 800 species. According to Brian Hill, PR Director for Houston Zoo, carnivores (lions, tigers, bears, and small cats) are given the access to inside off-exhibit areas when the temperature dips below 50 degrees.

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More known for its heat, Houston averages high temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s for the spring months and 90s in the summer. Misting stations provide relief from the heat, as well as the newly expanded water playground.

Visit Houston Zoo on a hot day, and you might see the elephants taking a swim in their 80,000-gallon pool. Shaded structures, frequent baths, and automatic watering devices also help pacify the pachyderms.

Just imagine watching a lion devour a 5-gallon popsicle made with water, meat juices, and bones. When temperatures hit the upper 90s and the heat index is even higher, the carnivores and primates are given access to the indoor off-exhibit areas.

As a leader in Palm Beach County's tourism industry, Lion Country Safari offers a unique and affordable opportunity for visitors to take a wild African safari without having to leave the country. “We have animals from 6 of the 7 continents here, and they all do pretty well in the warmer climates,” said Jennifer Berthiaume, Director Public Relations & Marketing for Lion Country Safari.

Located on the southeast coast of Florida, West Palm Beach is no stranger to hurricanes. “We prepare year-round for hurricane season, so when a storm comes we can get the park and animals ready,” said Berthiaume.

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However, during a major storm, extra precautions must be made to ensure the safety of the animals as well as the neighboring community. “Each species is treated differently,” explained Terry Wolf, Wildlife Director at Lion Country Safari.

“These animals get locked up in cages behind concrete and steel, which are sturdy shelters during storms,” said Wolf. With more than 600-head of different hoof stock, including large antelope and zebra, indoor shelter is not a good option for these wild animals that are not used to enclosed spaces.

“They know the nooks and crannies of their pasture, so it's pretty easy for them to find some shelter from the wind,” explained Wolf. In addition, Wolf stated that they were lucky to have a great network of zoos in Florida who are all ready to help the other out during hurricane season, from repairing fences to water supply.

With more than 1.6 million annual visitors, Denver Zoo is home to a host of rare species including the okapi, red-bellied lemur, Amur leopard, black rhino, and Siberian tiger. Although winter lows can often mean temperatures in the teens, Denver Zoo is open every day of the year.

Hay beds for extra warmth and optional indoor habitats are some ways Denver Zoo helps the animals cope with the outdoor temperatures. In addition, several of the exhibits such as those for the lions, hyenas, African wild dogs, gorilla and orangutans, have “hot rocks” (electric heaters) to help them remain comfortable outside on cooler days.

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In the wild, some animals avoid the cold of winter by migrating to warmer climates while others adapt to the surrounding conditions. Zookeepers at Denver Zoo help the animals prepare in the same way with increased feedings.

As one of central Ohio's most popular family attractions, The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium hosts more than two million visitors annually. Home to more than 9,400 animals representing nearly 680 species from around the world, Columbus Zoo exhibits consist of five geographic regions: Asia Quest, North America and Polar Frontier, The Shores, Australia and the Islands, and African Forest.

With such a difference in temperatures, most of the animals are given access to both indoor and outdoor habitats, which allows guests to visit year-round. “Some animals, like those in our North American region, choose to remain outdoors almost year-round as they are native to the area or climates very similar,” explained Jennifer Wilson, Communications Manager for Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Animals that cannot tolerate cooler temperatures and snow are kept in their indoor habitats until milder weather returns,” Wilson added. While nice weather typically brings more guests to the zoo, some sturdy Ohioans even choose to visit in freezing temperatures and snow.

“We have seen an increase in attendance this winter season, and we attribute that spike to the unseasonably warm weather we have been experiencing,” noted Wilson. Situated on a 42-acre Victorian garden, Philadelphia Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered.

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As the region's leading family destination, the zoo welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors last year. “For temperatures lower than 50 degrees, each animal is evaluated,” explained Dana Lombard, Communications Manager at Philadelphia Zoo.

While cold weather might deter some visitors, Lombard explained that the Philadelphia Zoo has many indoor buildings that are heated. Opened in 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is the fourth most-visited theme park in the U.S. and the seventh most-visited in the world.

Although Orlando is landlocked, it is only about 50 miles from Florida's East Coast and gets plenty of tropical action. Summers can get very warm and very wet, with highs in the 90s and an average of 7.58” of precipitation in June, Orlando's wettest month.

In addition, many of the animal exhibits have shelter from direct sun and water misters to help make the Santa Ana's more comfortable. Due to the persistent humidity, the heat index can feel much hotter than the average high temperature of 91 degrees during the month of July.

“When it gets really hot, we have an array of warm- weather beaters like frozen treats and water features in the exhibits,” said Sarah Burnett, Public Relations Director at Audubon Nature Institute. “You would be surprised to learn, perhaps, that the most difficult animal to keep cool is our California sea lion,” noted Burnett.

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While those temperatures would be considered mild for some, the tropical animals at Audubon Zoo are not accustomed to this climate. While they almost never close due to the weather, the amount of visitors coming through the doors in the winter does decline on days with cold temperatures.

Many of the lesser zoos may not have the same volume or variety of animals for visitors to see or interact with, however they do find other ways to attract crowds. Kindness Ranch may not have the most exotic and rare animals on display, but that doesn't detract from the good they're doing within the community.

Zookeepers will also keep bedding swapped out and clean to make sure everyone stays warm, along with giving heated water so it won't freeze, and extra food to allow for a layer of warm fat on animals. The Lynx is actually built for this colder weather and enjoy the snow and ice that comes with the winter months.

Also, the cloudy, possibly rainy day keeps many visitors away so there are fewer people scaring the animals and making them seek shelter. Fall is rutting season for many animals, and they are more active in cooler weather.

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