Sedgwick Co. Zoo battles the cold

WICHITA, Kansas — The aftermath of the Wichita Whiteout has left our area with bitter cold temperatures.

While the cold can be dangerous for people, it can prove deadly for zoo animals.

The zoo has close to 3,000 animals of over 400 species.

But some of those animals aren’t used to the kind of conditions we’ve been dealing with all week.

So zookeepers are taking the necessary steps to keep those animals safe and warm.

While most of the Sedgwick County Zoo’s exhibits almost resemble a ghost town.

Some of it’s residents found the frigid temperatures to actually be appealing.

“The north american river otter though is built for this type of weather, so the colder the better, the more snow the better,” said Brian Helten, a zookeeper at Sedgwick County Zoo.

The same could also be said for others like the bison.

“While some of animals might be acclimated to the cold weather, others have to be taken out of their exhibits to warmer conditions,” said Helten.

Like the Okapi, which is closely related to the giraffe, normally in an exhibit that would resemble a forest, the frigid temperatures have forced zookeepers to house them in a barn.

“They typically don’t go out until it is 40 degrees, maybe even 50 degrees,” said Danielle Decker, a senior zookeeper at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

Decker says similar precautions are taken with other animals like the gorillas.

She says if left out in colder weather like this, these animals could experience similar dangers we face such as frostbite.

“The ears would probably be susceptible to that, the areas that don’t have fur or hair could be very susceptible to that too,” said Decker.

So whether it’s the cold or warm weather animals, zookeepers say they take all the necessary precautions.

We provide all our animals with shelter, food, water, bedding material,all the essentials.

To protect the animals during the coldest stretch of the year.

In an effort to keep the animals active while they’re being housed in-doors and in somewhat of a different setting, zookeepers say they use enrichment activities to encourage natural behaviors for the animals.

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