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From Frozen Fish To “Bloodsicles”: How Zoo Animals Beat The Heat

Heather Davis / Fresno Chaffee Zoo
Malayan tiger Gahara enjoys a frozen blood popsicle in July 2016 at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

When the temperature hits triple-digits, keeping ourselves and our pets cool may be the main priorities for us humans. But zoo animals enjoy a cool-down, too, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo has some creative solutions for helping beat the heat.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably eaten a popsicle with a gumball in it—or maybe strawberry slices. Now imagine that instead of fruit or candy, your ice pop contained pieces of fish. That’s what sea lions get at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. For giraffes, it’s green onion popsicles. Zoo director Scott Barton says they have a whole menu of frozen treats for keeping animals cool and content.

“For lions, it can have blood in it, and you actually make basically a ‘bloodsicle,’” Barton says. “Then it’s like a child eating a popsicle, and it’ll keep them busy for an hour or so licking that.”

These delicacies are so-called enrichment activities, designed to stimulate animals and enhance their well-being. Other summertime enrichment includes mud baths, shallow pools, and, for the African elephants, playing in the sprinklers. 

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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