When summer temperatures soar in Wuhan City, central China’s Hubei Province, animals at the local zoo find many different ways to cool down, from modern air conditioning to a refreshing bathe in the river. A tiger, soaking in a water pool with its head stretched out, glares at visitors; an African lion showers under a water tap with evident satisfaction; white rhinoceros roll in cooling mud; and a chimpanzee eats apples and watermelon served with ice chips.
The temperature in Wuhan City has been hovering around 39 to 40 degrees centigrade as the dog days of summer take a grip on central China. Even those animals from Africa cannot cope easily with the high temperature and humidity, and need human help to stay cool, calm and collected.
The zoo made preparations at an early date. More than 3,000 trees were planted this spring, so that visitors and animals can enjoy some cooling shade. Due to the abundant trees and vast expanse of water, the temperature in the zoo averages 2 to 3 degrees less than that in the baking downtown districts.
As a national treasure, giant panda Jian Jian is given preferential treatment. Because the natural habitat of these animals is at altitude and in a temperate zone, they cannot cope with temperatures over 30 degrees. Modern household appliances such as electric fans, ventilator and air-conditioner have been installed in Jian Jian’s “residence.” As the summer developed, zoo workers began providing 200 kg of ice cubes to the panda every day. Several days ago, when the temperature in Wuhan hit 40 degrees, the ice cube ratio was raised to 300 kg. Jian Jian often takes a nap while hugging an ice block after dining on juicy bamboo shoots. According to her keeper, Jian Jian sometimes like to bite the ice cubes, so they are made from potable water.
Some old measures also have been taken in the zoo to drive away the summer heat for animals, including building awnings and installing showers. In a wildlife park inside the zoo, many lion cubs play under the awning. According to the head keeper, although the lion is native to Africa, it can’t withstand the high temperatures in the urban oven that is Wuhan in the summer. The zoo installed air-conditioners this year to lower the temperature in the lion cage. However, even the cool air provided in this way was not enough for the lions, so that the keepers have to give them showers every evening as the sun sets. Now, the cubs have become accustomed to this special treatment, and frolic happily in the cool water. African white rhinoceroses and elephants have also been given such special treatment.
In regard to guaranteeing the normal diet of animals, watermelon is provided as an absolutely necessary fruit to prevent heatstroke. It is watermelon that can provide additional nutrition to animals including elephant, hippo and giraffe. The chimpanzee enjoys ice food made by itself, having apples and watermelons mix with ice chips.
The Wuhan Zoo makes efforts to help animals avoid heatstroke during the extremely hot days in the city each year. This summer, the zoo installed several new air-conditioners. Except for waterfowls, which live beside the water, and camels, which can bear great heat, almost all the animals in the zoo are treated with profound care, so that they can pass summer smoothly.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, August 1, 2002)