Jacksonville Zoo helps animals keep warm

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor , Christopher Yazbec

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With temperatures dropping into the 20s and high teens, northeast Florida and southeast Georgia residents are reminded to bring their pets inside.

There are other animals also needing warmth -- the animals at the Jacksonville Zoo.

When it gets below 50 degrees, zoo staff starts preparations for the animals.

For those like the leopard, the cold weather isn't a big deal because of its warm coats. But primates need help getting warm.

"Some animals just like to hold up and get cozy warm on that hay bed or on that heater, heating pad," said Dan Dembiec, of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. "Some of the primates like to grab that blanket and cover themselves."

To keep the animals warm and comfortable, zoo employees put down hay beds, turn on heaters and heat lamps and distribute blankets.

They even heat the water for the ducks.

The weather also has an affect on the animals' habits. For the elephants, the cold air brings them in touch with their wilder side.

"If it's nice and hot out, it makes them want to sleep," Dembiec said. "Cold makes them want to move and keep warm, and yep, it makes them more active."

But for the others, like the popular apes, they tend to prefer the indoors.

"We're all about animal welfare, and one of the components is letting animals make choices," Dembiec said. "So sometimes they have the choice to come inside out of the cold. So we always run specials in January."

Because visitors aren't guaranteed to see the animals during the winter, admission prices go down.

The specials include $2 Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, $3 Thursday and $5 Friday.

The animals have the best care and opportunities to get the warmth they need. The zoo says the animals' comfort is its top priority.

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