How Canada's zoos protect their animals from the bitter cold

How Canada's zoos protect their animals from the bitter cold
From Global News - January 14, 2018

Its hard out there for a penguin.

Well, at least it was on New Years Eve in Calgary, when the mercury dipped to a frigid -25 C (plus windchill) and the keepers at one of Canadas largest zoos decided thatit was just too cold for even the toughest of birds.

The penguins were hustled indoors, mainlythe keepers explainedto protect their young chicks. Already adapted to the rigours of winter, they lasted longer outside than most other animals at the zoo.

WATCH: Too cold for penguins at the Calgary Zoo

Major zoos and safari parks across the country seem to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping their menageries sheltered from the elements throughout the calendar year, but Canadas winters present a unique set of challenges.

For some animals like penguins, pandas, polar bears, bison, alpacas and the appropriately named snow leopard, Mother Natures icy grip is nothing they wouldnt experience in the wild.

But others are accustomed to much warmer climates, and some have to be moved inside for the duration of the coldest months. That means adapting and sometimes expanding their summertime indoor shelters to become round-the-clock winter homes.

Karl Fournier, director of animal care at Quebecs Granby Zoo, said about a third of his animals can venture outside in the cold regularly. The others, not so much.

When we get to the fall, there are certain days that animals will go outside because the temperature permits it, other days they wont be able to go outside, he said, noting that the zoo has rules in place regarding how cold it can get before individual species must come in.

READ MORE:Alligators make do in frozen zoo enclosure in amazing display of survival

Many facilities, including the Toronto Zoo, follow the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species-specific guidelines on temperature ranges for animals. Giant pandas, for example, will come inside at about -10 C.

But decisions are not based only on temperature, Fournier explained. Wind and precipitation also play a big role.

Once we get to winter, all of our indoor spaces have been designed specifically according to the needs of each species We want to give them the most space possible, Fournier said.


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