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Zoo animals hot under collar during heat wave

/ Source: The Associated Press

The beavers took cover in their underwater lodges, but hundreds of other animals were left seeking shade or a cooling breeze Thursday when a power outage hit Adelaide Zoo during a heat wave.

The zoo was closed to the public for the morning as workers scrambled to keep the animals cool after a power cable was accidentally cut by earth-moving equipment.

The timing couldn't have been worse. The southern city of Adelaide is suffering through a record-setting heat wave, with five days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit and at least three more in the forecast. By 9 a.m. Thursday, the temperature in the city was already 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Not knowing how long the power would be out, we had some anxiety," said zoo CEO Chris West. "Every summer we have hot spells and go into our hot-weather routine, but this morning was unexpected, and we had to accelerate our plans."

Most of the zoo's animals are acclimated to the hot, dry summers and cool winters of Adelaide, so West said it was the few northern natives that he was most concerned about. The zoo has a policy of not keeping many animals from cooler parts of the world.

The beavers, he said, kept cool in the water, but the Himalayan red pandas were left without their regular fans, so zoo workers sprayed them with mist. Most animals sought out the shade in the lushly vegetated zoo.

Power was restored by back up generators after about two and a half hours, West said, and volunteers immediately began work making icy treats out of fish, fruit and other food to cool off the animals.

"The otters have their fish ice blocks, the mandrills have their watermelon ones," West laughed.

For now, only the humans at the zoo are hot, as they turned the air conditioning in offices off to use the power for the animals.

The average temperature for Adelaide in November is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This week marks the region's first-ever heat wave in November, the last month of spring in the southern hemisphere.