As Hoosiers adjust to the cold temperatures and watch over their family and friends, the Indianapolis Zoo has had to make adjustments to accommodate its animals for the weather.
Some of the animals actually prefer the cold weather. Brown bears, polar bear, walrus, Amur tigers and red pandas are a few examples of animals in the zoo that don’t mind the cold. In fact, their overnight buildings aren’t heated. Penguins prefer the cold as well. Although they are in an indoor exhibit, their environment is below freezing year-round.
Animals are allowed to be out in the elements depending on that specific animal’s tolerance and based on the decisions of the trained zoo staff. Thermostats, alarm systems and human care are monitoring all zoo animals year-round. These systems also have backup systems, just in case.
When it gets as cold as it is now, you are unlikely to see animals in the African exhibit named “Plains.” Those animals will be cozy in beds of hay. Approximately 50 degrees is the temperature required for them to be out. Mud, snow and ice are also factors staff must consider.
Something you probably didn’t know about the zoo is that the floor of the elephant building is heated. This helps keep the elephants’ feet warm and offers a warm place for them to lie down if they choose. Plus, hot air rises so the heated floor helps keep the whole building heated. Overall, though, elephants are more cold tolerant than you might think.
Another animal you may not think of as cold weather tolerant are flamingos. The zoo has two species, Chilean and Caribbean, and it’s not uncommon for them to be out even when the temperatures get down into the 40s. When they are not in the exhibit, flamingos and our other bird species spend the day out of the cold and inside climate-controlled buildings.