Zoo Tries to Keep Residents, Visitors Cool During Heat Wave

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A polar bear in a 100 degree heat wave may sound like the makings of a bad joke, but for Nikita, a resident at the Kansas City Zoo, it’s reality.

“If he gets too hot, he can go inside,” said zoo director, Randy Wisthoff.  “It’s nice and cool inside.  Or he can jump in the pool.  Either way, he can be 65 degrees.  “

But for zoo visitors, it’s a different story.  While there are a few indoor, air-conditioned exhibits, most of the attractions are outside.  When it’s as scorching as it has been, the zoo takes a hit on attendance, which in return affects its bottom line.

“The heat always has an effect at the zoo,” said Wisthoff.  “Our attendance usually drops off big time.  It’s not uncommon in the zoo world.  This week, fortunately, we picked the hottest week on record to have an early morning opening.”

This week, through Sunday, the zoo will open at 8:00 a.m. People are taking advantage of that, and not just because it’s cooler on them.

“We wish the zoo would do it all summer, or at least during the hot months because it’s really nice to be able to get in [early],” said Kristi Dalberg, a Gladstone, Mo. resident.  “The animals were a lot more active and close for us to see them.”

She and her two kids beat the heat by visiting the zoo when the doors opened.  By the time it heated up around 11:00 a.m., they headed home.

“When they come out and it’s cool, in relative terms, you’ll find that they’re much more active,” said Wisthoff.  “By about noon or so, they start looking for shade and take a siesta in the afternoon until it cools off in the evening.”

Which, when you think about it, sounds like what we humans tend to do to stay cool during the hottest months.

The Kansas City Zoo will open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 4:00 p.m. through Sunday, July 21, 2012.  Free ice water, tram rides and cooling stations are available throughout the zoo.  Additionally, any day it hit 95 degrees or higher, the zoo will offer half-price admission.

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