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ABILENE, TX (KTAB/KRBC) – The Abilene Zoo is taking extra care this summer to help its animals cope with rising temperatures and ensure their safety.

Not only can the summer heat be harsh on us, it poses a danger to animals as well, so the Abilene Zoo is taking some innovative measures to ensure its animals are protected from dangerous temperatures. The safety and well-being of the animals at the zoo is a top priority for their keepers, and one of the methods they use to regulate the body heat of some animals seems to be quite traditional.

“Lemurs get things like Pedialyte pops to keep them hydrated,” said zookeeper Sydney Hudson, describing another unique method they use to keep the lemurs native to Madagascar cool: “They also get these marble slabs. They stay in the freezer for a day or two and then I put them out there. Sometimes I sprinkle some treats on them so they’re more inclined to lay on them.”

There are many animals here at the Abilene Zoo that are accustomed to this weather. For example, the black rhino Uhuru has traditionally lived in the African savannah and grasslands, where temperatures can reach similar levels to those here in West Texas. But that doesn’t mean the Abilene Zoo doesn’t offer them a place to cool off when temperatures rise above 30 degrees.

“We wallow in the mud for our rhinos because in the wild they like to wallow to cool their bodies,” says zookeeper Meredith Haney.

Haney is the keeper for much of the zoo’s African section and describes how many methods have been developed to keep the animals comfortable during these scorching hot days.

“We also have what we call temperature policies. When the temperature reaches a certain temperature, we allow our animals access to their pens and they can choose whether they want to be inside or outside,” says Haney.

Perhaps one of the most interesting methods of thermoregulation occurs in their lion habitat, where, just like humans, they enjoy a nice cool popsicle. However, these popsicles are probably not something you would find in your freezer.

“So we collect the blood that comes from their bones or flesh, freeze it, add water and make blood popsicles out of it,” says zookeeper Haney, describing this unconventional treat.

The Abilene Zoo is also fighting the summer heat by offering its visitors earlier hours. Now, guests can visit the Abilene Zoo when the doors are open during summer hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Additionally, guests are offered bagels and iced coffee for their early morning visits.