Miami-Dade County

Monkeys need blankets, but the tigers don’t mind. How the Miami zoo deals with cold.

A Giant Aldabra tortoise photographed in a heated pen on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, at Zoo Miami during a cold spell in South Florida. The animal is from the Seychelles Islands off of the coast of Africa and weighs over 400 pounds. Zoo spokesman Ron Magill, who took the photo, writes: “Yes, in addition to the radiant heater and heat lamps, the floor is heated also!”
A Giant Aldabra tortoise photographed in a heated pen on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, at Zoo Miami during a cold spell in South Florida. The animal is from the Seychelles Islands off of the coast of Africa and weighs over 400 pounds. Zoo spokesman Ron Magill, who took the photo, writes: “Yes, in addition to the radiant heater and heat lamps, the floor is heated also!” ZOO MIAMI

A cold spell always rattles Miami’s daily routines, but staying warm at Zoo Miami requires a string of exotic twists.

Take the Giant Aldabra tortoises from the Seychelles Islands off the African coast in the Indian Ocean. It was 82 degrees in the tortoises’ home climate on Thursday, but 43 degrees in their adopted one in southern Miami-Dade at the county-owned zoo.

To compensate, zoo keepers herd the tortoises into shelters with heating all around — lamps above, heaters on the walls and even heated floors, said Ron Magill, the zoo’s longtime spokesman.

“There is a certain protocol we go through to protect the animals that generally goes into effect whenever the forecast is for temperatures below 50,” Magill said. “The majority of the animals tolerate the cold fairly well without additional heating.”

Sometimes, protection from the wind can be enough to endure unseasonably cold weather in South Florida. Easier said than done when elephants are involved. At Zoo Miami, the elephant “barns” get shrouded in 12-foot-tall curtains to block the wind and trap heat for the mammals from India and Southeast Asia.

Monkeys and other primates have the benefit of fur, and just generally need to bundle up at night. They receive blankets and hay for bedding to ward off the cold.

Don’t worry about Zoo Miami’s tigers, part of a species that can be found at the foot of the Himalayas. Magill said he’s noticed the tigers looking particularly active during Miami’s cold snap.

“They actually enjoy it,” he said.

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