Friday 24 March 2017

Elephants wrong-footed as savannah 'frozen solid'

Colin Gleeson

IT'S not just humans who can get hurt falling on ice. Dublin Zoo's elephants are under lock and key to stop them slipping and falling over.

The heavy snow and plummeting temperatures have forced the zoo to keep some of its other animals locked up, too.

The coldest winter in decades has seen temperatures drop as low as -10C -- causing havoc for people all over the country.

And animals have not been exempt. Dublin Zoo's African Savannah attraction, which opened last April, has been closed and the animals have been locked in their shelters to keep them safe from the cold weather.

Dublin Zoo's Ciaran McMahon yesterday said the exhibit was "frozen solid" and the animals had to be kept indoors for their own safety. But he said they are still on view to the public from inside their enclosures.

"The savannah is frozen solid. It's almost turned into concrete out there. If you have animals walking around on that, they might get a sharp piece of ice in one of their hooves or something like that, so they are in their houses," he said.

"The elephants, for example, are locked-in because the ground is too bad. We've two young elephant calves out there that need to be looked after so that's the priority. We have to be careful because -- just like ourselves -- they can slip and fall.

"When you're dealing with a 4,000kg elephant, they fall pretty hard -- and it's getting the animal back up when there is ice everywhere that's the real challenge."

The primates are also under lock and key during the cold snap because their lake is frozen over.

"We're afraid that they will try and walk out on it. It's covered white with ice -- so they might be tempted," Mr McMahon explained.

The animals' indoor enclosures are heated to temperatures of 22-24C in order to keep them warm. Mr McMahon said all of the zoo's heating contractors were on standby in case the system went down.

The feeding patterns of the large carnivores like lions, tigers and snow leopards also had to change because of the big chill.

"These cats can shiver during weather like this so we'll change their feeding," Mr McMahon explained.

"Normally, they get fed every second day so they can gorge and then sleep it off. In these weather conditions however, we feed them every day with smaller amounts."

Irish Independent

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