Animals Beat the Heat at the Zoo

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AKRON-- The same hot, humid, muggy conditions that are making humans suffer across Northeast Ohio are also making it un-'bear'-able for animals at local zoos.

At the Akron Zoo, measures that are being taken to try and keep the animals cool include encouraging them to swim, providing them sprayers and treats molded into blocks of ice.

Among those that may have it the best are the zoo's penguins.

Although the penguins are warm weather birds that originate in Chili and Peru, under the current swealtering conditions zoo staff provides them with additional treats that lure them into a 55 degree pool inside their display.

The creatures also have large fans and sprinklers to play in.

"It's nice for them. Like we said, the pool water is about 55 degrees. We said it would be nice for us to jump in there; maybe invite the other animals over for a big pool party at the penguin exhibit," said penguin handler, Vicky Croisant.

Among the animals least equipped to tolerate the conditions is the aptly named 'snow leopard.'

With its thick fur coat and an origin that enables it to best tolerate colder conditions, zoo staff chills the leopard by literally providing it a bed of ice to lounge on.

"Considering I'm not wearing as much as she is and I'm burning up, I can't imagine what she feels like," said Eric Cain of Rittman.

Another big cat, the Jaguar, also has a pool in which it can swim.

Zoo staff says the male Jaguar spends more time in the water than the female does.

Although the cat has roots that take it to the warmer regions of Central and South America, Akron Zoo staff also provide the animals with ice blocks made of meat.

"They sleep inside during the night; but during the day they are out all day. So, right now our female jaguar has an ice block to help keep her cool," said handler, Sarah Kirkman, on Wednesday.

"The ice block that she is working on is made from roast juice and it has a few pieces of meat in it; so it's kind of like a meat-flavored popcicle for her today," said Kirkman.

Grizzly bears at a brand new exhibit scheduled to open on Saturday were taking refuge in the shade of a shelter, digging into the cool dirt after also spashing around in their own pool.

"Figured I'd bring the boys here let them see all the animals and how the animals keep cool, found a lot of sleeping animals in the shade," said Monica St. Amour, visiting the zoo with her kids.

Zoo staff, who spend much of their day outdoors, are also provided drinks and ice cream on the hottest days.

"We have a lot of outdoor exhibits so the keepers are out a lot of the day; but we drink a lot of water and take breaks in the air conditioning," said Kirkman.

For contractors putting the finishing touches on the bear exhibit, watching the animals splash in the water so close to them is torture.

"Oh yeah, I want to jump in there too, but, can't do it; they won't let us," said Kenny Jones of Akron.