As a winter storm rolls into the state today, Oklahoma City Zoo staff members are prepared to protect their animals, the zoo’s director of veterinary services said.
Animals are given extra bedding, like blankets or hay, Jennifer D’Agostino said. Drafty doors are insulated. The zoo’s heating systems have alarms that alert staff if a part breaks or the buildings aren’t warm enough. Zookeepers carefully watch the animals to prevent frostbite and slipping injuries. Animals in captivity are less likely to suffer weather-related injuries than in the past, D’Agostino said. Higher industry standards have improved animal care during the past few decades, and that guarantees animals are better protected against severe weather like ice and snow. The accreditation process for zoos began more than 30 years ago, and animal care has improved significantly since, said Steven Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Accredited sites must have emergency plans, independent power sources, generators and quality exhibits to protect animals from bad weather, Feldman said. Just as importantly, animal care has improved, Feldman said. "That all plays a huge role in making sure the animals can come through inclement weather without injury,” he said. But the danger is still real, he said. Earlier this month, a 9-year-old female giraffe died of hypothermia at the Tulsa Zoo after temperatures dipped too low for heaters to keep up. Zoo staff worked through the night to keep the giraffe warm.