Photos: How zoos beat the heat

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  1. Ice? Nice!

    Gray langurs enjoy an ice bomb filled with fruit on July 16 at the Hanover Adventure Zoo in Germany. The country was in the grip of a heat wave with temperatures topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). (Peter Steffen / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Let it snow

    A polar bear cub lies on artificial snow in Russia's Moscow Zoo on July 21. Temperature records were broken across central Russia during the summer heat wave. (Misha Japaridze / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Snarf up the fruit pops

    A worker gives frozen fruit to elephants at Madrid's zoo in Spain to cool off on July 7. (Dani Pozo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Mmm, bloodsicle!

    Naba, a 4-year-old African lioness, keeps cool by licking a "bloodsicle" made of frozen cow blood at the National Zoo in Washington on June 9, 2008. Zoos across the country use shade, water and every conceivable form of cooling machine to help animals, visitors and workers beat the heat every summer. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Cool and colorful

    A mandrill licks ice cream in a zoo in the Dutch city of Rhenen on Aug. 6, 2009. The animals in the zoo were treated to cold ice to cool them down amid temperatures near 85 degrees F (29 degrees C). (Robin Utrecht / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Frozen fish

    An otter snacks on a "fishsicle" at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J. (Annemarie Ferrie / Turtle Back Zoo via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lifesaver on a hot day

    Chewie, a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, samples a frozen treat on July 8. (Ernest Coleman / The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Natural nibble

    Buckley, a 9-year-old beaver at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Wash., nibbles on a fruit, veggie and juice popsicle amid temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on July 29, 2009. (Lui Kit Wong / The News Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Chinese chiller

    A rhesus monkey sucks on a frozen treat to stay cool at a zoo in the Chinese city of Qingdao on July 7. Summer weather sparked heat alerts in many parts of China, and Beijing recorded the highest temperatures for the first 10 days of July in 50 years. (Wu Hong / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A refreshing dip

    Children watch as a polar bear beats the heat with a swim at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on June 24, 2005. (Brian Kersey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Melon for meerkats

    An adult and baby meerkat cool down as they eat a watermelon given to them by their keepers at ZSL London Zoo on July 9. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Kickin' back in a hammock

    A chimpanzee enjoys a piece of ice filled with peanuts and fruit bites at Amersfoort Zoo in the Netherlands on July 1. (Robert Vos / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Keep cool

    Toba, a 34-year-old orangutan, has a frozen treat at the Oklahoma City Zoo on July 28, 2006. (Sue Ogrocki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Sharing a treat

    White-handed gibbons eat frozen fruits at the Sao Paulo Zoo in Brazil on Nov. 12, 2009. (Paulo Whitaker / Brazil Animals Society via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 7/27/2010 3:20:12 PM ET 2010-07-27T19:20:12

Otters sweltering in the summer sun suck on "fishsicles." For carnivores like the Amur leopard, it's "bloodsicles."

Zoos across the country are using icy treats, shade, water and every conceivable form of cooling machine to help hundreds of thousands of animals, visitors and workers beat the heat this summer.

Even animals from Africa can have problems with extreme heat, says Lion Country Safari wildlife director Terry Wolf.

"It can be pretty stressful to some of them," he said. So at the Loxahatchee park in southern Florida, rhinos, tortoises and birds have slushy wet mud holes and the water buffalo have canals and lakes pumped full of water. Diets have changed from winter protein to summer fiber.

Earlier this month, temperatures soared past 100 in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., and broke records in Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. In the West, Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico were in triple digits. Death Valley in eastern California reached 125 degrees.

The lions have wet moats, primates and outdoor birds get shade and mist, jaguars and Andean bears have swimming pools, and the orangutans hang out near air conditioning vents at the Houston Zoo, said Brian Hill, director of public affairs.

Ice, frozen in everything from snowcone cups to 25-gallon buckets, is a heat treat. the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., uses fishsicles and bloodsicles, along with "fruitsicles" for bears and ice cream and Italian ices for the humans, explained zoo director Jeremy Goodman.

Some animals sweat and some are just as susceptible as humans to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Some even get sunburned.

"We apply sunscreen to our pig," Goodman said.

The Phoeniz (Ariz.) Zoo is probably the nation's hottest, said Dan Subaitis, director of animal management there for the past five years. For three months every summer, it is 110 to 115 degrees during the day, the humidity reaches 60 percent and the nights might "cool off" to 90 or 100 degrees, he said. Staff constantly watches the animals, guests and each other for signs of heat distress.

"Our reptile collection likes heat, but our heat is even too hot for most of them, so they will head for their pools," Subaitis said.

You won't find any moose or polar bears at the zoo because it would cost too much to keep them cool.

The orangutans have learned to help by making their own hats, Subaitis said. "We give them old shirts or burlap sacks and they will get them wet and drape them over their heads."

Throughout the zoo, there are fans, misters, evaporative coolers, trees, grass, artificial shade, ponds, sprinklers, spouts, hoses, drinking fountains and rest areas. Guests can bring fully stocked coolers and ice chests and visit starting at 7 a.m.

Besides keeping them cool, workers try to keep the animals calm, reducing as much stress as possible. They put off as many summer veterinary procedures as they can.

"We do not want an animal to get agitated or nervous. That will increase body temperature and if you add that to an environmental temperature of 110, they can get overheated real quick," Subaitis said.

Naba Pets Hot Zoos
Charles Dharapak  /  AP
A four-year-old female African lion keeps cool by licking a "bloodsicle" made of frozen cow blood, at the National Zoo in Washington.

Wolf echoed the stress concerns. "If we have to put our hands on an animal because they have some kind of medical issue, we have to juggle whether or not the issue is more critical than what might happen if they overheat in the capture process," he said.

A new, $20 million, 17-acre Polar Frontier at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium has an acre-plus home for 3-year-old polar bear sisters Anana and Aurora.

The 600-pound bears have a chilled pool (stocked with 500 or 600 trout), trees, a grassy area, and 24-hour access to air conditioned dens, said Doug Warmolts, director of animal care.

They get piles of ice to roll in and heavy duty balls or 55-gallon plastic drums to roll around, he said.

"There are big rocks next to the side of the pool and they leap off and do these great belly smackers," Warmolts said.

Anyone worried about nature taking its course can be assured that the heat does little to stop the birds and the bees.

The Cincinnati (Ohio) Zoo & Botanical Garden is nicknamed the "sexiest zoo in America" because of all the births there through the years. The title is probably safe because heat doesn't alter the sex lives of animals as much as instinct and light does, explained curator of mammals Mike Dulaney.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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