Preparing animals for the cold winter

Bawe the Sumatran tiger
Bawe the Sumatran tiger

This week’s clear skies have brought upon cold days and even colder nights. For most of us, winter drawing in just means putting another jumper on, but for the animals here at Flamingo Land, that’s not really an option! So today, I’m going to take you through just some of the ways that we’re preparing them for the cold months ahead.

Not all of our animals come from hot countries, and some are in fact entirely used to the cold. Our herd of Bactrian camels would find our weather much milder than their native Gobi desert, which can reach temperatures of -40°C in the winter. Although you might think of deserts as hot places, the Gobi desert is just as dry as the Sahara – any water available is locked up in snow and ice! Bactrian camels have to be adaptable to very different weather conditions throughout the year, so in the summer they will shed their thick winter coat, leaving them almost completely bald and rather silly-looking! You may have seen this in action if you visited us earlier in the year. They’ve just finished regrowing their coats now, so they’re well-prepared for the incoming cold. Our hippos take a somewhat different approach, and have been spending most of their time together in their muddy wallow to conserve body heat. They’ll also use the wallow as a toilet, which is fairly disgusting but raises the water temperature by a surprising amount!

Most of our animals, however, are not so lucky to have a thick coat simply grow itself when it gets chilly! Some of the birds from our aviary, such as the scarlet ibis and the cattle egret, have been moved to an indoor space in the Muddy Duck Farm which will keep them warm until the worst of the weather has passed. We’ve also moved our alpacas from the South America section to the farm, which will give the somewhat soggy ground a chance to recover and also free up some indoor space for the smaller, more vulnerable rodents.

Moving the smaller animals is easy enough, but we wouldn’t be able to do the same for the giraffes and lions! For them, we instead use a technique known as deep-littering. Rather than replacing their bedding every day, new straw is simply added on top, gradually creating a warm, thick bed for them to sleep in. We’re also installing heat lamps in many of our animal houses to give them a few extra degrees in case they’re feeling particularly chilly! Combined, these techniques will ensure that our animals are as comfortable as possible over the winter period.