Zoo animals closely monitored in record cold

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) As the crowds disappear for the off-season, the staff at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo keep close tabs on the animals, especially in the frigid cold.

“People think the animals leave during the winter, but nope, they’re here and there’s people here all the time taking care of them,” Zookeeper Rachel Purcell said during the frigid Tuesday. “They make sure heat doesn’t go out in a building. They make sure generators are running. They make sure everything is warm.”

The zoo’s sea lions dive off of a heated beach into the water, despite it freezing on the glass.

Many of the animals move to warmer buildings, like the prairie dogs, Komodo dragon and birds. Others have shelters connected to their exhibit space. The ring tailed lemurs and American alligator are two of those species.

Believe it or not, the penguins are huddled up, nowhere in sight. They’re African and don’t enjoy the snow. In fact, all of the African Adventure animals are moved inside, including the giraffes.

“We have a huge barn for them, lots of stalls for them to be in and stay warm,” Zookeeper Jessica Cline added.

The zoo’s Canada lynx brothers are used to cold weather. Zookeepers also added straw to the exhibit for extra warmth.

Some like it cold though. The red panda, native to the Himalayas, curl up on a heated pad during a break between rolling in the snow Tuesday, while the sea lions swam. Ice formed on the exhibit glass but they preferred the water to their heated beach and shelter.

Near the main gate, the zoo’s Canadian lynx brothers kept watch in their straw-lined exhibit while wearing extra layers of winter fur.

“They’re naturally from Canada, northern U.S. and Alaska, so they can handle the cold weather, but this is still pretty cold,” Purcell added.

Peacock tracks can be seen all around the zoo. Twenty of the birds stay in shelters scattered around the property.

A close look around revealed peacock tracks. Twenty-some of the birds still hold court at the zoo. Volunteers from Lowe’s built them shelters for protection.

“They do stay out all winter,” Purcell explained. “It would be more stressful to move them inside, so they do stay out and they have shelters all around the zoo for them to stay warm and go in. We bed them down with hay and straw to keep their feet off the ground.”

For more information on where the animals go during the cold weather, visit the zoo’s website here.

Construction crews are also working at the zoo this off-season. Work is underway on improvements to Monkey Island and a new otter exhibit.