Too Hot For Man or Beast? Zoo Boise Does Its Best to Cool Things Off

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A Binturong enjoys some frozen watermelon at Zoo Boise.

If there’s anyone or anything in the Treasure Valley not stressing over the heat, it’s Zoo Boise’s Desert Rosy Boa snake. Considering its native Mojave Desert home, where summer temperatures easily surpass 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s safe to say the reptile is perfectly content, even on Boise’s hottest day.

What about the rest of the animals that call Zoo Boise home? Not all fare as well when temperatures climb above 100 degrees before lunchtime. But it’s a challenge Zoo Boise staff are prepared to face head-on.

“For the most part, if it’s a cooler day, we’ll try to make sure they’re out on exhibit, and won’t necessarily have access to their den, but on a hotter day, if they want to go inside where it’s cooler, that’s definitely an option,” Liz Littman, Zoo Boise’s Director of Development and Communication told the Boise Weekly. “The keepers will make ice blocks for animals to lie next to or lick throughout the day, or they’ll freeze the animals’ food. We’ll put fans in the exhibits, or freeze watermelon as a treat. Basically, we’ll use any variety of things to keep them active, but also cool them off at the same time.”

In fact, temperature is one of the leading factors in the zoo’s decision to take in more animals. Littman said the zoo generally looks for animals that can adapt to Boise’s winters and summers.

“Summer is actually a time when we would worry less about what’s going on, because in the winter, if the power goes out, it’s a much bigger issue to keep an animal warm then in the summer trying to keep an animal cool,” she said.

Littman emphasized that animals are more adaptive than humans; however, there are some animals that Zoo Boise pays closer attention too when temperatures break into the triple digits.

“We turn on misters and sprinklers, and some animals, like the Red Pandas, have air conditioned dens, because they come from climates at much higher altitudes. We pay particular attention to the baby Snow Leopards, because they’re so young, and just starting to be able to regulate their own temperatures,” Littman explained. “But the lions, and giraffes, and hyenas, and zebras, they’re loving the heat.”

Despite rising temperatures, Littman believes the zoo is still the ideal place to spend the day. She said the best time to come to the zoo on warmer days would be the morning when the animals are still getting up, but many can still be seen throughout the day.

Within the next few years, Zoo Boise intends to go through with plans to rearrange many of the entrance exhibits—a plan that includes the addition of a splash pad where patrons can still come to zoo and cool off.

A fox makes his way to some frozen fish inside an ice block.

Some Visayan warty pigs enjoy some frozen watermelon at Zoo Boise.