Zoo animals get protection from cold

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor, Christopher Yazbec

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Handlers at the Jacksonville Zoo are busy Tuesday making sure all the animals stay warm.

They take preventative measures anytime temperatures drop to 50 degrees, but they stepped up their efforts even more for the freezing temperatures.

Some zoo animals require extra care in this cold weather because they originate from warm tropical regions.

For animals like lions, the cold weather isn't a big deal because of their warm coats. But animals like the Komodo dragon need help getting warm.

"They can stay out in the wind, they can stay out in the rain, the wind and things like that, but it has to be at least 65 degrees," said Mark Beshel, of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. "So on the cold nights like this they stay locked inside."

The zoo spent all of Monday preparing for the cold snap, and handlers say animals made it over night without any issues.

"Everyone has fared well," said Dan Maloney, of the Jacksonville Zoo. "They've got another cold night coming, so it's always a challenge, but we've got areas for them to stay warm."

Some of the tactics the zoo does to keep the animals warm and comfortable are put down a hay bed, turn on heaters and heat lamps, distribute blankets, and heat the water for the ducks and birds. The cold air makes some animals like the rhinos active.

"Some of the animals seem to enjoy the cooler, if not colder weather," Maloney said. "Some of the animals will be inside today, but we'll give them the option to go in and out if they want to."

The zoo staffed an extra person Monday night to make sure the animals were being protected, and no animals seem to be distressed.

"The animal staff are really keyed in on this," Maloney said. "They know their animals really well, and you know, we're crossing our fingers. I think we're going to be OK."

The zoo has discounted prices during the winter to promote guests because some animals prefer to stay hidden away during the cold season.

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