Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts are ready to face the cold snap.
Staff at the two Devon zoos, both registered charities, are making sure their animals are comfortable as forecasters predict sub-zero temperatures.
Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “A lot of species are very adaptable – you get cold nights even on the plains of Africa. Extra bedding is provided for bongos, tapirs and zebras. We make sure our animals have all the warmth and shelter they need and keepers may, for example, give all the baboons hot jacket potatoes. But some animals choose to sleep outside even in cold weather – it is the wet they do not like so much – cassowaries, for example.
“Some birds are moved indoors in anticipation of cold weather; others are moved if and when it comes. In cold weather keepers look out for ice forming on the lakes and make sure they keep water troughs clear so animals can drink. Mediterranean tortoises go into hibernation, but the giant tortoises will often opt to go outside in the winter.”
Exotic trees like date palms are wrapped up against the frost, but Crocodile Swamp remains at a balmy 26 degrees all year round, regardless of the weather.
“This weather is probably hardest on the keepers, as the care, feeding and mucking-out of livestock goes on regardless, even when it’s freezing cold outside. Some older keepers remember winters many years ago when they had to row around the lake to break up the ice in case the gibbons decided to explore! On cold mornings it can be hard to clean the public viewing windows as the water freezes on the glass.
“Even so, this is a good time to visit both Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts. There are fewer people so it’s easier to get about and see things. The restaurants and shops are open all the winter. We have our own mini gritter to try to keep paths safer for visitors, staff and volunteers. The plumage of the birds, especially the sea ducks at Living Coasts, is fantastic.”
Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring (01803) 697500