Chris Oaks spoke with Toledo Zoo spokesperson Andi Norman.
Q: There’s an old saying that “the weather’s not fit for man nor beast,” and we certainly experienced that this week. I would imagine, though, the penguins and polar bears were loving it.
A: Well, not our penguins so much, because they’re African penguins. But the polar bears, the wolves and the tigers all really enjoyed it. In fact, we had a number of comments from people that it was fun to watch the tigers playing in the snow on our webcams.
Q: In terms of monitoring the animals that are native to warmer climates, the protocol is the reverse of monitoring cold-climate animals during the extreme heat of the summer?
A: Exactly. It’s something we do continuously, for all our species. Generally speaking, we provide them with ways to cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter, and let them come and go as they please. The meerkats, for example, have been spending most of their time underground. I kind of chuckle about that, thinking that sometimes the animals know better than we people do about when it’s too cold to go outside.
Q: So what measures did you take ahead of the storm to ensure the safety of the animals?
A: We actually rounded up all the animals into their indoor enclosures, regardless of how well they are biologically suited to the weather. First of all, because we didn’t want them to get trapped outside in the event the doors were to freeze up. And secondly, because there was some concern that the weight of the snow, the force of the wind or a combination of both might damage the outdoor habitats and injure the animals or allow them to escape. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Q: That type of “Noah’s Ark” operation must have been a massive undertaking for the staff.
A: It sure is. Fortunately, our animal care team and veterinary people know exactly what to do. We have plans in place for all types of emergencies, from winter storms to tornadoes to chemical spills.
Q: Many people found their home heating systems weren’t enough to keep up with the extreme conditions. Did you also have to being in supplemental heat sources for some of the animals?
A: We did. And, just like we do for our human families, we made sure we had plenty of extra food on hand for all the animals just in case our suppliers weren’t able to get through with their regular deliveries. Again, this is something we do on an ongoing basis, just in case.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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