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Keeping cool with summer fun

Tuesday, July 3

Making sure the animals here at Zoo Atlanta stay cool and hydrated is a major part of an animal care professional’s job in the summer months. We ensure they are healthy and safe, especially with the heat we have been experiencing in Atlanta, Ga. Animal care teams across the Zoo are always coming up with ideas in the form of enrichment. The habitats provide shaded areas for them to cool off, and some even have pools. To encourage use of the pools, we can throw some food favorites into the pool. For example, at the western lowland gorilla Habitat 4, we can throw food favorites such as apples and grapes into the pool. You may find Willie B., Jr. or Jasiri bobbing for fruit. We can offer frozen enrichment in the habitats such as ice treats, which is ice with some favorites in addition to their daily diet mixed in, including banana, oats, seeds, raisins or just a little sugar-free flavor boost to encourage them to cool off. You may see other enrichment hanging in the habitats that have been frozen beforehand, although it’s hard to tell from just looking. If the temperatures are expected to be pretty high, we will offer extra sugar-free flavored water throughout the day for them to drink.

About a third of our day is preparing enrichment, and we spend many hours building and preparing new enrichment. We also ensure indoor temperatures are appropriate and fans hidden from guests are provided. You may even spot misting fans, water hoses with a sprinkler, and for the animals that don’t mind a hose, a keeper might use one on a low setting to cool the animals off kind of like a rain shower would. I am currently working primarily with gorillas and orangutans, so next time you attend a Keeper Talk and feeding, you can ask one of us what kind of enrichment they use to cool off their animals. Keep in mind some animals at the Zoo may even seek out heat based on their native habitats. You may find birds sunning and reptiles basking in the sun. Somewhere in between ensuring the animals are hydrated and cool, the staff all over the Zoo find time to drink lots of water and cool off ourselves. We work hard and sweat a lot to ensure a clean, safe, and healthy environment for the animals in our care but also for our guests. I bet a lot of you are enjoying Splash Fountain this summer! Remember to hydrate, take breaks when needed, visit some indoor areas like Scaly Slimy Spectacular and the Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center, to cool off. Feel free to indulge in everyone’s weakness, ice cream! Thanks for tuning into my “cool” keeper story. Have a safe and enjoyable summer, and see you at the Zoo!

Kaya Forstall
Seasonal Keeper, Primates

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