The Moscow Zoo has switched to the autumn season. From now on, you can visit big pandas, Asian elephants, flamingos and other Zoo inhabitants from 07:30 am till 09:00 pm. Ticket offices are open from 07:30 am till 08:00 pm.
These changes are due to the fact that days grow shorter and some animals are preparing to meet cold weather.
"Autumn is a special period in the life of the Zoo's inhabitants. In the wild, it is a transitional time for many animals to stock up and find a suitable winter shelter. By autumn, cubs and chicks born in spring and summer grow up and get strong. Adults need to teach them how to find food on their own and what to do to survive winter. Captive animals do not have to care about getting food. However, they also need some rest during the transition period,'' said Svetlana Akulova, Director General of the Moscow Zoo.
According to her, marmots were the first to feel the onset of cold weather. Male Archie and two females, Sarah and Nagaina, eat more food than ever now, as they need to have enough supplies to hibernate for 4 to 6 months. Usually by the time they fall asleep, marmots gain 1 to 2.5 kg. Today, rodents' diet includes fresh corn, porridges, best seeds and nut mixes. Marmots also love fresh clover grown on the Zoo’s grounds.
According to zoologists, marmots are to hibernate in September already. Last year, Sarah and Nagaina fell asleep late in August, with Archie following them two weeks later.
Himalayan bears and Rosa, a brown bear, have started to prepare for hibernation too. They eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Rosa loves melons, honey and dried fruit, but its Himalayan relatives prefer grapes. So far, bears are active, but as soon as cold weather sets on, they will mostly rest and prepare their artificial dens for sleep, gradually giving up their food.
Two weeks before the expected hibernation day, keepers will reduce the quantity of their everyday food. If autumn is warm and sunny, bears will be awake until November, and if it gets cold too quick, they may fall asleep as early as October.
The rehabilitation centre and winter foster home for bats has welcomed its first guests. Residents of Moscow and its suburbs have been bringing common noctules, particoloured bats, and other bats to the centre. First, keepers weigh the animals and assess their general health. If an animal is underweight, it receives extra feeding before it is allowed to hibernate.
"For bats living in northern latitudes and feeding on insects, winter time is a tough period. Any disruption of hibernation process is deadly for bats. If an animal chooses an unsuitable hibernation place, it will die. That is why it is so important to help these animals survive the winter," Svetlana Akulova added.
With the onset of autumn, many animals will be transferred from their open summer enclosures to the winter ones indoors, with most favourable temperatures for animals. So, Ksyusha, a pygmy hippo, is to be transferred to a heated enclosure as early as mid-September. Hippos are very sensitive to cold, and even a draft can make them sick. African ground hornbills, including three chicks that hatched at the Zoo this spring, will also move into indoor enclosures soon.
Towards the end of September, penguins will exchange their enclosures. Humboldt penguins will move from the open-air to the indoor enclosure to be replaced by gentoo penguins, which feel more comfortable in the cold season. In the wild, they reside on subantarctic islands with harsh climate.
Red and pink flamingos will be the last of the birds to move to the winter aviary. These birds will bathe in a large pond until the first frost. After that, all the noisy flamingo family together with seven chicks will move to the warm enclosure located nearby.
Asian elephants will walk in fresh air until the temperature drops below +7°C. Filimon, a two-year-old elephant, is not ready to close the swimming season so far, as it still enjoys diving into the pool, in contrast to its relatives, who rarely bathe now.
Some Zoo inhabitants move into heated enclosures, some grow their summer fur more dense and warm. Musk oxen, Arctic foxes, wolves, Amur tigers, lynxes, and a Pallas' cat are growing thick coat now to demonstrate the gorgeous fur in November. Animals need rest during the process of autumn moulting.
The Moscow Zoo is the first Zoo in Russia. It has over 10,000 inhabitants. The Moscow Zoo preserves and helps to increase population of more than 1,200 animal species.