How Cameron Park Zoo keeps its exotic animals cool during Texas summers

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WACO, Texas — The Cameron Park Zoo is home to a variety of exotic animals – from elephants and orangutans to mountain lions and black bears.

Each of these animals have their own reaction to Texas temperatures – as some were not meant to beat the heat. But Cameron Park does as much as they can to keep their friends cool.

“We also do enrichment-type stuff, where we will give them tubs of water, or they do water play,” Mammal Animal Supervisor Katrinna Lee said. “And we’ll also do popsicles. So we give them popsicles to eat. All of our animals really enjoy those. They’ll have different types of things in them from Sqwincher, which is kind of like a Gatorade, to fruits and vegetables. Even those, too.”

One of the largest ways Cameron Park keeps it’s animals cool is by building microclimates in each of the habitats to give the animals an option to cool off. Whether it’s a sunshade or a pool, each habitat has one.

“So the overall goal is to make an area of their habitat different than what the overall habitat is,” she said. “So if most of the habitat is in the sun, we want to make a microclimate – an area that is a little bit different temperature. So with the lions, we have that shade structure. Or that shade tarp with the misters.”

When the temperatures reach into those triple digits, the zoo does have inside access areas the animals can move into that are air conditioned to keep them cool and healthy.

“So what we do if it’s above 100 [degrees], some of our animals get access right then and there – which means they can go into their barns where it’s air conditioned,” Lee said. “A lot of that depends on their age. We have older animals, or even really young infants, we will let them inside. And then if it’s 110 [degrees], almost all of our animals get access inside.”

So the next time you’re at the Cameron Park Zoo on a hot day, be sure to check to see if the animals are in the microclimates in their habitats.

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