Keeping animals, visitors cool at the Jacksonville Zoo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Stiflingly hot temperatures out at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens mean zookeepers have to keep a much closer eye on the animals.

"We need to watch the animals carefully and make sure the heat is not bothering them," said senior mammal keeper Elana Kopel. "We give them access to shade, to water -- of course pools are always helpful."

At the Land of the Tigers exhibit, zookeepers feed the tigers frozen treats that they go right after.

"We usually, depending on the animal, put the appropriate type of food they like inside of it," Kopel said. "It makes them more interested in them, so when they do eat them, they cool themselves off."

The zoo's penguins are from the warmer South American climate, but their home is cooled down.

"We have misters for them that we use," said bird keeper DeeAnna Murphy. "We also have fans on them. We keep the pool temperature cooled down -- usually in the 50's so they can get in the cool water if they want to swim around and keep cool."

So far, there have been no heat-related problems with any of the animals. Plus, there have been no heat issues for the Komodo dragon, which is usually taken inside when it is too cold.

But the temperatures can also be tough on zoo visitors, like Kristine Dennis, making sure her two sons stay hydrated and take frequent breaks to rest.

"It is difficult, it can be, but it is a lot of fun," said Dennis.

No shirt and a covered wagon is the way to go for young Maxwell O'Quinn.

The train ride is good for a nice breeze, plus the ice cream shop is a popular spot. That's where Alexander Drew brought Alexander Jr. in for a cool treat.

"He thinks it is delicious," the father said. "You should have seen him doing a dance before. He was dancing about it."

The hot temperatures at the Jacksonville zoo can save you money. If it's predicted to be 92 degrees or higher through Labor Day, you can go on the zoo's website and get a coupon for half off admission.


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