Beating the heat at the Chattanooga Zoo - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Beating the heat at the Chattanooga Zoo

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- The early May heat reaching into the mid-80s -- possibly near 90 this weekend -- hasn't stopped visitors from coming to the Chattanooga Zoo. But it may keep some of the animals from making an appearance.

"So on a really hot 90 degree plus day you might not see a snow leopard. And that's because the snow leopard is inside in the air conditioning," says zoo director Darde Long.

She's not too worried about the higher utility bills. They saved money not having to run as much heat during the warmer then normal winter.

Climate controlled rooms are a traditional way to look after animals enduring uncomfortable heat. Another is simple but relatively new to the zoo and is enjoyed by many animals including African tortoises. They're used to hot temperatures in their native land but need relief when it gets steamy in the Scenic City.

"We just happened to notice that some of our animals, when we were doing some landscaping and watering, seemed to be enjoying the spray off the sprinklers. So we started adding that," explains Long.

Perhaps the most interesting and inventive technique is using frozen treats, like the "blood-cicles" fed to the jaguars. It has a familiar substance in the center.

"Some of the meat diet we feed them here at the zoo. We freeze the leftover blood that drains from the meat, put them into ice cube trays," says Parker.

Sort of gruesome and maybe not so appetizing to us, but the big cats spend plenty of time licking through the ice, helping them forget about the hot sun. Similar treats containing vegetarian fare are a highlight of the chimpanzee's day when temperatures climb higher than they do.

"Not only does that give them a cool, tasty treat but it's also a form of enrichment. So it keeps them stimulated," explains Parker.

The Federal Department of Agriculture cited some infractions against the zoo in late 2010, but they weren't non-compliant issues. Long says she and her staff haven't felt additional pressure to keep the animals extra-cool during the early-season heat, they'll simply stay the course.

"We feel like we've always done a really professional job here. Our animals' welfare has been and always will be our top priority," emphasized Long.

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