Like The Rest Of Us, Animals At The Kansas City Zoo Enjoy Cold Treats In The Summer

Jul 17, 2017

Misting fans, chilled pools, ice treats and air conditioning. It's what a lot of people turn to in the summer in Kansas City — and so do the caretakers of the animals at the Kansas City Zoo.  

During the summer months, many of the animals are more active in the mornings when it's cooler. 

Starting at noon on Wednesday, an excessive heat warning will be in effect through Saturday night, with temperatures in the mid 90s to near 100 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, the heat index in the afternoons will make it feel more like 105 to 110 degrees. 

Zookeeper Deanna DeRosa heads up the team responsible for the penguin, polar bear, trumpeter swan and North American river otter exhibits. 

"Our otters have a chilled pool all year round, so it's nice and cool for them, and they have some shady spots to go to," said DeRosa. "We often give them ice treats throughout the day."

DeRosa said they keep a close eye on their polar bear, Berlin, to see how she's responding to the weather. Berlin often swims in the 65-degree pool, or goes off-exhibit to spend time in the air conditioning. This past weekend, the polar bear cooled off with four tons of ice. 

"Two tons each day, Saturday and Sunday, and so she likes to roll around in that," said DeRosa. "We hid some treats, some ice treats in there as well. Different types of enrichment, so she can spend that time cooling off." 

Some animals, like the primates, are offered misting fans. They're also given access to an indoor space — when it's a really hot day. 

"If there is a feels like temperature over 95 degrees, all primates get access to an air-conditioned off-exhibit area," said DeRosa, "that way they have that option to cool off." 

On hot days, the Zoo reduces admission, and provides free tram rides and water for visitors.
Credit Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

As for the staff taking care of the animals, DeRosa says staying hydrated is important, as well as taking breaks, as needed.

"If we see anyone that's overexerting themselves, we try to make sure that they have that time to cool off in the air conditioning," she said.

"Both the penguin building and the polar bear building are air conditioned." 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.