Brrr. It’s cold outside. Cold enough to give chilblains to a chimpanzee or frostbite to a flamingo.
But whereas people visiting the Fresno Chaffee Zoo have had to bundle up against chilly weather, the animals have places to get warm.
“We planned for the cold,” says Scott Barton, executive director.
The zoo’s new 13-acre African Adventure has state-of-the-art heating systems that let the African elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes go inside when it’s cold and come out when it’s warmer.
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They’re in a heated environment.
Scott Barton, executive director, Fresno Chaffee Zoo
And on very chilly nights, zookeepers can bring the animals inside and close the doors to keep them warm. “They’re in a heated environment,” Barton said.
For animals housed at the zoo that are not in the African Adventure, heaters and heat lamps have been checked to make sure they’re in working order, he said. “Obviously, the zoo has been here for a lot of years, and we’re pretty well set up to deal with the cool weather.”
When the nighttime temperature is 35 degrees or lower, many of the animals are taken inside, Barton said.
Keeping animals warm in Fresno is easier than say, Minnesota or New York, where “they may have to keep animals indoors for days at a time,” Barton said. But in Fresno, “it almost always clears up and warms up during the day here and animals can come outside.”
Fresno’s nighttime low temperature Monday is forecast to fall to 37 degrees and a slightly warmer 38 degrees on Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Cold temperatures haven’t kept visitors from having a zoo adventure. On Thanksgiving, about 700 people visited the Chaffee Zoo, which was a reasonable attendance day, Barton said.
Zoo visitors came prepared for a daytime high in the 50s on Friday.
Cassandra Kimura, 1 ½, could barely see from under the knit cap tugged over her ears by parents, Whitney and Kenny Kimura.
“This was our one chance for her to wear her hat,” Whitney Kimura said. The family, from Orange County, is accustomed to balmier temperatures.
Braving the chill to visit the zoo was worth it, Kenny Kimura said. “Cassandra fed lettuce to a giraffe. The African Adventure was awesome.”
25,000Visitor attendance at Fresno Chaffee ZooLights last year
Barton expects a good turnout for ZooLights, a special event on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and on weeknights during Christmas week and the following week, when children are not in school. “Last year, about 25,000 people came over all the nights,” he said.
“There are lights all over the zoo and music going on,” Barton said. And this year, Santa will be a special ZooLights guest at the African Adventure lodge.