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Zoo animals find bloody brilliant way to beat heat

Like most, the animals at the National Zoo and Aquariam will be trying to beat the heat this week, by kicking back in the pool or under the sprinklers with an icy-cool treat.

Except unlike people, theirs will be blood-flavoured. Or perhaps of the vegetable variety.

Temperatures were forecast to break 40 degrees on Wednesday for the first time this January, sending people and animals across the ACT looking for ways to escape the punishing heat.

As animals carers were taking steps to cool down their charges, Canberra saw its highest water consumption in seven years on Tuesday.

Zookeepers at the National Zoo and Aquarium used blood ice-blocks (or blood-sicles), frozen food, large water baths, hoses and cage irrigation to keep some of their furrier residents cool this week.


Senior wildlife keeper Renee Osterloh said it was all hands on deck, as volunteers spent the previous week making ice-blocks for the animals.

"A lot of the ice-blocks may have fruit and vegetables in them or blood and meat depending on the species," she said.

"It’s just frozen food really, but throughout the day as it gets hot, and it’s defrosting, the animals can having a drink as well as enjoying the treats inside."

The zoo's sun bear, Arataki, headed to his pool on Wednesday when temperatures started to get hotter.

Ms Osterloh said all the bears are occasionally hosed down as well.

"Some bears love getting hosed down by the keepers, they stretch out and expose their backs and get a good hose down," she said.

Ms Osterlich said although the animals had been bred in Australia and were therefore more used to the temperatures, most of them still had thick, dense fur.

In its menagerie, the National Zoo and Aquariam has two sun bears, three cheetahs, six white lions, three tigers and three brown bears to keep cool.

Animal enclosures are fitted with an irrigation system, which can lower the temperature in the area.

"It can be turned on to create a cooler micro-environment, which our animals love to enjoy. They sit under the mister systems," said Ms Osterlich.

The zookeepers aren't only people in Canberra with animals to look after during the January heat wave.

At the Domestic Animal Services shelter in Symonston, dogs will be given ice cubes to chew on and small shell pools to play in to escape the heat.

A spokesperson for Territory and Municipal Services said the kennels would be wet down every morning and volunteers would alter their dog walking routes, to ensure maximum shade.

The RSPCA has reminded pet owners that animals need shelter and water during this week's extreme heat.

“With temperatures expected to reach the high thirties this week we are asking everyone with a pet to assess their backyard, ensuring their pets will be kept cool with plenty of available water, shade and protection from the sun,” RSPCA ACT acting chief executive officer Jane Gregor said.

As temperatures soared, so did Canberrans water use, with ACT residents using more than 250 megalitres on Tuesday, the highest water use in seven years.

ACTEW Water released a statement which said some Canberrans had experienced discoloured water, as the surge of demand had disturbed natural sediments in the territory's water network.