Keeper's Diary - January 2010
Happy New Year to all readers! This month the focus has again been on dealing with the icy weather as we have had another unseasonably cold winter.
Some of our animals which originate from tropical regions of the world, such as the aardvarks, meerkats and giant anteaters, all require extra bedding, increased heating and other enclosure adjustments to keep them warm and comfortable over winter. However some of the other animals have their own ways of keeping warm at this time of year.
Llamas and alpacas come from the cold mountainous areas of South America and are naturally used to cold temperatures.
Thick woolly coats which have grown back since being sheared off in the early summer offer these animals great protection, and they still often choose to sleep outside – even when it’s below 0°!
Our North American animals including the prairie dogs as well as Pepe and Winston the striped skunks are also used to cold, snowy weather but these animals have a very different way of dealing with winter – by hibernating.
Hibernating allows these animals to sleep through the coldest months where in the wild there is no food available to them.
They are able to do this by not requiring any food and instead using stored fat reserves while utilising very little energy by spending a lot of time asleep.
Although these animals do not truly hibernate at the zoo, much of their hibernating behaviour is still present. They will eat a lot of food in late summer and early autumn so that they do not need much to eat over winter.
This coupled with a naturally slowed metabolism helps them put on extra weight and fat which they will burn off slowly over winter when they are more inactive and they consume far less food – allowing them to emerge in the spring slim and far more active!
More news next month…