We get asked this question a lot during these colder months and we have a variety of ways to keep animals warm in the winter.
Firstly, heated housing is our number one method. We use either heater tubes, heat lights, spot lights, blower heaters and underfloor heating, all in well insulated buildings to help keep heat in during winter. All of these are controlled by thermostats and are adjusted to higher temperatures during winter to make sure that our animals have a nice warm house to go into. The houses may also be fitted with flaps over the animal’s shutters, these are to help keep in as much heat as possible with the animals still being able to go in and out as they please.
Warm food and blankets
We may also give animals warm drinks and warm food such as honey and lemon drinks and jacket potatoes to help keep them warm up on particularly cold days.
Blankets are also a big hit for our great apes and we provide them with quite a few during winter so they can wrap up nice and snug if they want to. If you have any old blankets you were thinking of throwing out, our chimpanzees and orangutans would really appreciate them and honey is one of the items on our Amazon wish list which is very gratefully received at this time of year for the honey and lemon drinks.
For animals that do not require a heated enclosure we provide them with extra bedding and extra food during the cold periods. Keepers will also do water checks up to 3 times a day to check that water sources outside have not frozen over and ensure animals have access to drinking water.
Some animals love winter
Some of our animals however prefer the colder months. Our Red Pandas in particular love the cool mornings. Being native inhabitants of the temperate forests of the Himalayas, during the winter where the temperature remains below freezing for long periods of time, with a thick covering of snow. Mai and Yuzu are much more active during the winter months than they are during summer here.
Physical changes in our animals
We also have animals that have natural adaptations to cope with winter such as growing thick winter coats. Our European Wolves grow a lovely thick winter coat to keep warm and then moult this during spring/summer to keep cool. Here are some examples of our animals summer and winter coats.
We also have animals that have quite unexpected reactions to snow. Our smooth coated otter pups back in December 2017 had a great time trying to catch the snowflakes. Considering their natural habitat is the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia, which can be very hot, you wouldn’t think they would enjoy the snow so much.
The main animal species that struggles the with the winter are the humans. Please spare a thought for the staff that still come in everyday whether it’s freezing cold, raining or snowing to look after the animals at the park. They survive by wearing extra layers of clothing (I believe the record is 7), drinking warm drinks on breaks and eating junk food. Many will use hand creams to stave off dry cracked hands and most will resort to woolly hats. The few brave ones however may still be in shorts, but no one understands why!