How giant pandas at National Zoo cope with extreme heat

July 18, 2019

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sleeping giant panda baby(Getty Images/iStockphoto/silverjohn)
Mei Xiang enjoys a cold treat outside at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. (Courtesy Smithsonian's National Zoo)
<p>Tian Tian has a treat to help beat the heat at Smithsonian&#8217;s National Zoo.</p>
Tian Tian has a treat to help beat the heat at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. (Smithsonian's National Zoo)
<p>Tian Tian has a treat to help beat the heat at Smithsonian&#8217;s National Zoo.</p>

If you want to see the National Zoo’s giant pandas in the sunshine, you’ll want to arrive early.

Their keepers put them in their outside habitats first thing in the morning, when temperatures are cooler, and they don’t stay outside long.

Turns out, giant pandas cope with extreme heat in a way we wish we all could: longer naps.

“They have definitely been choosing to stay inside. The hotter it gets, it seems like the longer their naps are, so they’re definitely sleeping inside in the air conditioning,” said Laurie Thompson, assistant curator of giant pandas at the National Zoo.

Thompson said pandas are not tolerant of heat in normal situations in the wild.

“We get their enclosures cleaned as fast as we possibly can, and then they have access inside in the air conditioning all day. And, we put their food inside for them, so they don’t have to go outside in this heat,” Thompson said.

Sweet, cold treats are sometimes offered to the pandas outside while their indoor enclosures are being prepared for the night. Panda ice pops are made with frozen apple juice, water and fruit.

Sometimes they even get frozen sugar cane.

What about the other animals?

The National Zoo in a statement gave a brief overview about how they help the animals beat the heat.

Most of the animals have the option of going outside or staying in their indoor exhibit, which has air-conditioning, throughout the year. Some animals, such as lions, tigers, otters and Andean bears, have outdoor pools.

And, much like the giant pandas, many of the animals, such as gorillas and elephants, can munch on some “fruitsicles,” the zoo said, which contain diluted fruit juice frozen with chunks of fresh fruit.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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