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How do you keep zoo animals cool in a heatwave? With sprinklers and icy treats

Thursday January 6, 2022 - 00:34 AEDT

Zookeepers in Rockhampton are getting creative in keeping their animals cool amid an ongoing heatwave.


From icy treats for chimpanzees to sprinklers and hoses for the meerkats and air-conditioned dens for wombats, staff at the Rockhampton Zoo have been working hard to ensure the animals beat the heat.


Assistant curator Sharni Thomas says there are two camps when it comes to the sprinklers: some animals love to run around in the water, while others hide until they are turned off.


"We also give them things like ice packs to curl up to," she said.


"So for a koala, we can wrap some ice packs wrapped in towels on their trees and they'll go and give it a little hug and cool their core body temperature down.


"Some animals, like the otters, we can give them ice cubes and put them in their pond and they'll swim around and play in the cool water."


For the chimps, meanwhile, it's snack time with icy treats made from fruit juice and vegetables.


Ms Thomas said staff were keeping a close eye on the newest member of the chimpanzee clan, a baby girl born in early December.


She said the baby, who has yet to be named, was suckling well and clinging to mum Leaky's stomach.


Leaky has been seen adjusting the baby's position to give her some air and relief from the heat.


Ms Thomas said keepers were guided by temperatures and humidity to enact heat mitigation plans, which had been in place throughout the week.


Air-conditioned dens


Ms Thomas said it was the wombats who got the best deal on a hot day.


Their habitat is kept at a refreshing 18 degrees Celsuis is and can be used at any time of the day.


"But at this time of year, with the heat we're having, you're mostly going to find them asleep in the air-conditioned dens," she said.


"These animals sleep for about 20 hours a day anyway.


So when guests come to the zoo, [the wombats] usually in full sleep mode ? upside down, legs in the air, enjoying the air-conditioning."


Heat on the roads


The heat is not only affecting animals and humans, but also infrastructure.


The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads confirmed it was aware of a "bleeding seal" ? caused by extreme temperatures ? on the Capricorn Highway between Rockhampton and Gracemere.


"We routinely manage bleeding seals by using water to cool the bitumen, in the first instance," the department said in a statement.


The contractor was on-site Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, cooling the bitumen with water.


The department said it would continue to monitor the seal and undertake any necessary repairs.


Further west in Longreach, 45-degree heat combined with strong winds hampered efforts to fight a blaze on the Landsborough Highway between Longreach and Ilfracombe on Wednesday at 12:20pm.


Emergency services worked in the heat for more than three hours after a road train carrying 10 cars blew a tyre and collided with another vehicle.


Two people (the driver of the road train that caught fire and the driver of the vehicle it collided with) were taken to Longreach hospital. Both were in a stable condition with minor injuries from the crash and in the subsequent blaze. 


"The heat has been quite exhausting on them [emergency services workers] and we very much appreciate of the work they've done here ? to protect the community," Acting Senior Sergeant Beau McNamara said.







- ABC

© ABC 2022

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