Temperatures are dropping and the inhabitants of Munich’s Hellabrunn Zoo are preparing for the cold days and snowfall. The South American sea lions have already built up an extra layer of fat, and the wood bison and wolves have grown a thick winter coat.
Hellabrunn’s brown bear Olga and the prairie dogs are already in hibernation. The marmots have also begun their long winter nap, which lasts until around Easter. The South American sea lions have built up an extra layer of fat called blubber and the wood bison, moose and wolves have grown a warm coat of thick fur just in time for winter.
But it is not only the animals that are preparing for the coldest months of the year, the zoo engineers also have their hands full: Before the winter season begins, the zoo's water pumps and heating systems have been tested to ensure the warm temperatures in the tropical animal houses are maintained. This ensures the Tortoise House maintains a tropical climate year-round so that the sensitive Seychelles giant tortoises feel at home. The Jungle House and the Tropical House also need to stay warm in winter to ensure that the tropical animals such as fishing cats, chimpanzees and gorillas do not catch a cold.
In addition to the heating systems, all the water pumps in the zoo were recently serviced. This is to ensure that the many watercourses remain free of ice as the temperatures dip to frost level. The moats in the zoo, for example, are not allowed to freeze, otherwise the Siberian tigers Ahimsa and Jegor could walk out of their enclosure.
"Hellabrunn is open 365 days a year and, thanks to its many animal houses, offers visitors a warm, dry alternative for a day out, even in cold temperatures, rain and snow. Visitors can enjoy tropical climates and exotic animals not only in the Jungle House, but also in the Tropical House and Turtle House. There you will feel like on a short trip to warmer climes. Even a visit to the aquarium will take you on a dive into a completely unique world," says zoo director Rasem Baban.
The excitement of the arrival of winter is highest in the Polar World: The polar bears Giovanna, Yoghi, Nela and Nobby clearly enjoy the cold, ice and snow. Every year they are the first ones to venture out to play in the snow. They love to run around in the white powder and have snow baths and fights.
But even the animals who have never experienced winter in their natural habitat, feel at home in snowy Hellabrunn: The Asian elephants love the snow, even though they actually originate from a geographical region that is the complete opposite. However the pachyderms are not allowed to eat snow, because then it may give them a stomach ache. In general, elephants cope relatively well in dry cold. It is only the damp cold they do not like. And at night, the elephant herd at Hellabrunn needs a warm place to sleep.
In the African enclosure, most ungulates such as zebras, antelopes and giraffes are not bothered by the cold. These hoofed animals are only prevented from leaving their enclosure in icy conditions as the risk of slipping is too great. This applies particularly for the giraffes, as the probability that Bahati, Limber, Naledi and Taziyah may lose their footing and break their long legs is quite high. The reticulated giraffes' enclosure is however equipped with a snow and ice melt system that enables the keepers to melt the snow and ice in winter to allow the animals to step out into the fresh air. Opened in 2013, the Giraffe House is equipped with a modern snow and ice melt system, which similar to an under floor heating system, comprises plastic pipes installed below the ground through which hot water flows. This supplies heating for the building and guarantees that the African reticulated giraffes enjoy the recommended warm temperatures to make them feel at home.
Don’t miss out on our other Hellabrunn Zoo articles “Munich Zoo in Hellabrunn” and ”Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich: It is More Like a Farm than a Zoo, Daddy” for all additional info regarding the Zoo and what makes Hellabrunn so special.