Austin Zoo takes extra steps to keep animals safe in the heat



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Posted on July 30, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 31 at 9:23 AM

One look around the Austin Zoo, and people can see the temperatures above 100 degrees and lack of rain affects the animals just as much as people.

"A lot of them are a lot more lethargic than they would be, and they are more active at night," said Sara King, the Head Zookeeper for the Austin Zoo.  "They would be more diurnal or being up during the day."

Zoo employees have had to double up on the amount of ice, frozen treats and water so the animals can stay properly hydrated.

"A lot of the animals not only get real lethargic, but if they get too hot they can actually suffer heat stroke," said King.

In addition to the excessive heat, the lack of rain from the drought has kicked up a lot of dust and other allergens.  Just like humans, some of the animals are suffering from allergy problems.

"We are having to check their eyes and give them saline drops and things like that," said King.

Visitors at the zoo are from Austin and as far away as Atlanta, said the animals seemed to be well cared for and were making the best of the extreme weather conditions.

"We even wondered if we would see the animals at all today, because we thought they would stay in their shelter because it is so hot," said Isabel Garcia from Austin.

"We were looking forward to the llamas especially," said Linda Mesa, from Atlanta.  "They were laying down and not moving, so I am sure it is due to the heat.  A few other animals were the same way." 

"I did not blame them for hiding in the shade the whole time," said Mia Mesa, from Atlanta.  "It was still fun."

Zoo staffers said they can always use donated fans and towels.  They said the best way Central Texans can help keep the animals cool is simply to come out and buy a ticket to get in. Austin Zoo staffers said ticket admission money goes a long way in helping them afford food and other items that help care for the animals since the zoo is a non-profit.