The summer is here and people are desperately seeking ways to keep themselves cool in the sweltering heat. Similarly, zoo animals, especially those who are not familiar with hot conditions, are having a tough time in the prevailing weather.
To protect these animals from getting tired and stressed owing to the rise in mercury levels, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai, popularly known as the Vandalur zoo, has come up with a unique and innovative summer management plan.
Under the plan, all animals are provided with sufficient shade and adequate water. Moreover, shade nets have been set up at designated places to obstruct direct sunlight.
Big herbivorous animals including elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, giraffes and zebras are being given regular water showers through sprinklers.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, a zoo official said special dietary arrangements have been made for primates, bears and elephants to keep them cool.
“Just like we eat watermelons or drink coconut water in summer, the animals are also provided with food items based on the recommendation of the veterinarian to beat the heat. The zoo currently has two female elephants Rohini (8) and Pragathi (6). They are given a shower and allowed to wallow in the mud pond twice every day to provide relief from the heat,” the official said.
Their mahout, Kutti, said the pachyderms feel energised after taking a shower. “The elephants behave like babies when they are in the shower, they feel so happy,” he added.
Thatched sheds have been provided in the majority of animal enclosures. The management has even set up a tiny sprinkler for visitors.
In the aviary, gunny bags have been tied on the top and at the sides of the enclosures and are sprayed with cold water. Caretakers have been directed to spray water through hose pipes in enclosures housing ostriches and other terrestrial birds.
The caretakers said they spray the water before noon so that the birds get to enjoy a cool temperature inside their enclosures for the rest of the afternoon.
The serpentarium has been provided with mud mounds and mud pots in multiple tiers to ensure differential temperature and facilitate the different physiological functions of the reptile guests. The officials noted that in enclosures like the one hosting the King Cobra, the temperature has to be below 24 degree Celsius. Foggers and misters have been deployed to protect the animals from extreme heat, they said.
As per a release by the zoo management, carnivores are provided with frozen meat while primates and bears are given fruits frozen in ice cubes.
Vandalur zoo director Srinivas R Reddy, who recently took charge, said: “The summer management is an initiative to benefit the animals as well as to attract visitors… During the afternoon, the visitors are often not able to spot the bears as the animals take shelter in certain areas that don’t get direct sunlight. So, we need to come up with an arrangement that satisfies the visitors as well as provides much-needed shelter to the bears.”
Reddy said the zoo is currently receiving about 80 per cent of the footfall it used to get in the pre-pandemic days. He exuded confidence that the number will go up further with the new summer arrangements in place and in the run up to the upcoming festival weekend.