Houston Zoo works to keep animals cool in Houston heat


by Sherry Williams / KHOU 11 News


Posted on June 28, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 28 at 5:53 PM

HOUSTON—At the Houston Zoo Friday it was hot enough to fry an ostrich egg.

Thankfully the primate keepers have laid in a supply of monkey popsicles—a little water, fruit juice and some seeds or nuts. Keepers throw them at the chimps three or four times a day.

“Our alpha male Mack, he’s entitled to take as many he wants so you’ll see he’ll grab like three or four before anyone else has a chance to grab one,” said primate keeper Kaitlyn Spross. “We have a training room that has a mister that we keep on during the day and you’ll see some of the chimps go in there and play in the water.”

Tucker, the 6,000-pound Asian elephant, was also spotted using water to keep cool. He puts dirt on his back which acts as sunscreen and sun block. His big ears are full of veins that act like a radiator. Elephants do not sweat.

Sea lions don’t either. They have no reason to at the zoo since they have a 65-degree salt water pool, just like back home in Northern California.

Over at the African exhibit, the heat wasn’t bothering the giraffes. Houston heat is nothing compared to African summers.

As for the people, volunteer Celia Anderson said, “When I started here in April it was actually quite cool, but as it’s gotten warmer. I’m really wondering how I’m going to do this. I’m not exactly a spring chick.”

The zoo operators have fans and misting stations all over the grounds plus lots of shade and indoor exhibits to keep the heat off.

One of the coolest spots at the zoo is the splash pad area where water shoots up out of the ground.  It’s only for children. An equally cool spot that is for everybody is the Natural Encounters exhibit. The lights are low and the AC is on high in there.

The zoo runs a day camp during the summer.

“Campers get to meet an animal every day. They get to use our 5- acre classroom,” said Chance Sanford, Vice-President of Zoo Education. “The kids spend probably half their time inside and half their time outside.”  

There are several dates during the summer when parents and children can sleep-over at the zoo. Sleeping quarters are indoors.

Also Friday is the first night for Cool Nights this summer when the zoo will be open late for those who want to enjoy it in the relative cool of the early evening. The Houston Zoo will remain open until 8:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

For more information on what’s happening at the zoo visit:  houstonzoo.org.