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Zoo Animals Cope With The Summer Sun

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The animals weren't the only ones trying to keep cool at the
National Zoo this weekend. Visitors made the most of the zoo's
misters, while staff were told to exercise caution.
Jessica Gould
The animals weren't the only ones trying to keep cool at the National Zoo this weekend. Visitors made the most of the zoo's misters, while staff were told to exercise caution.

By Jessica Gould

Tony Barthel is a curator at the National Zoo. He says animals have adaptations to help them beat the heat.

Take the elephants, for example.

"Well, they love to swim," he says. "So they’ll go into the pools to swim. But they also will throw dust and dirt on their back. That helps keep them cool and helps keep the sun from baking on their back and it also helps keep bugs away."

The Marabou Storks also have special strategies for keeping cool.

"There are some birds that will even defecate on their legs to help cool themselves, coat their legs in that. Sounds gross, but it’s an effective behavior for them," says Barthel.

But, mostly, he says, animals behave a lot like people. "They’re going to be kind of laying down in the shade somewhere sleeping through the heat of the day and conserving their energy," he says.

And they'll get ice blocks to play with.

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