Over the course of the last week, Texas and many parts of the country were hit with unprecedented winter weather. Losing power and water for days on end created lots of issues for members of our community. But many people were curious as to how these conditions affected the animals at Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo.
Preparation is Key
Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo has numerous “Emergency Response” protocols in place for a variety of unexpected events. Although a record-setting winter storm wasn’t one of those specific plans, our existing protocols for other extreme weather emergencies that are often accompanied by power outages and water supply issues (like hurricanes), were easy to retrofit for the conditions we faced.
When extended durations of below-freezing temperatures were forecasted, our team sprung into action gathering up the emergency response materials we always have on hand (animal crates, bottled water, generators, gas, etc.). Our animal care specialists safely moved all of our smaller, more cold-sensitive animals, like our birds and primates, into climate controlled buildings. All of our larger animals, like our lions and jaguars, had their indoor enclosures “winterized” with extra bedding and supplemental heat sources.
Powering Through Power Outages
Once the Zoo lost power on Monday, our team had to make a few adjustments. Animals were consolidated into just a few buildings that could be heated by our generators. By Wednesday, power was back on and things were starting to look up as temperatures continued to rise.
The electricity issues were resolved, but they were quickly replaced with water issues. Broken water lines, boil advisories, things of that nature became our biggest concern. Many of our animals rely on automatic watering devices to supply them with 24/7 access to clean water. With those needing to be turned off, our staff was working around the clock to boil water in the kitchen of our onsite residence to make sure all of our animals had clean, drinkable water. With over 500 animals in our collection, that took a lot of work!
Animals Adapting to the Cold
During emergencies like this, we are constantly reminded of nature’s resilience.
Our alligators are the perfect example of this! Despite their pond completely freezing over, our alligators did something incredible. Often referred to as “icing,” alligators will punch their snouts through the ice and stick their nostrils above the water to breathe. As “cold-blooded” reptiles, alligators rely on their external environment to regulate their body temperature. But by lowering their metabolic rates and coming to the surface for air every hour or so, the alligator is able to survive periods of freezing weather. Many of our reptile team has read about this phenomenon, but it was the first time experiencing it for nearly all of them!
Another example of nature’s resilience is the camel! Although these creatures are often referred to as “ships of the desert” and most people think of them being a warm-weather animal, they are also well-suited for cold weather too! Bactrian Camels are known for being the animal that can withstand the greatest variations in temperature, ranging from -20 °F in the winter to over 100 °F in the summer. Although the camels at Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo are Dromedaries, they still enjoyed rolling in (and eating) the snow.
Many of our big cats enjoyed their first major snow. One of our African Lions, Ngala, wasn’t sure what to think of this cold wet stuff touching her toes. Her neighbors, the Mountain Lions, loved it! Edward and Sarah especially loved investigating the snow, while Angel enjoyed looking at it from the sunny rock ledge at the back of their exhibit. Kiera our melanistic Jaguar was a bit skeptical at first, but ended up having a blast sliding around on her frozen pond.
The biggest fans of the snow were by far our Grey Wolves, Cherokee and Cheyenne. These two were constantly running in it, digging in it, rolling in it, and even licking it.
Thank you to everyone who reached out during the chaos to check in on our animals. Our hearts were warmed by the number of people who offered to donate supplies along with those folks who donated money through our website.
On Thursday, Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo teamed up with Review the Pew to help members of the local community stay warm. The team gathered wood from the future Zoo expansion site, chopped it up, and delivered it to local families without power.
We are so grateful to be part of such a supportive community, and are happy to give back to the folks who take care of us whenever possible.
Potato the Capybara going ice skating across her frozen pool