High-calorie food and sleep in the refrigerator: how the inhabitants of the Moscow Zoo are prepared for winter

High-calorie food and sleep in the refrigerator: how the inhabitants of the Moscow Zoo are prepared for winter
In winter, marmots, raccoons, raccoon dogs, jerboas, chipmunks, white-breasted hedgehogs and common dormouses fall asleep in the Zoo.

Muscovites, public utilities, and, of course, the inhabitants of the Moscow Zoo are preparing for winter. The Zoo already changed opening hours. You can visit it from 09:00 to 20:00. Many animals already gained weight preparing to the winter and are ready to fall asleep. Other animals, such as polar bears, pandas Jui and Dinding, and zebras, will stay awake all winter. Why is it so important for some animals to get fat for the winter and who pass the winter in the refrigerator — see this mos.ru article.

Exchange enclosures and warm each other in winter

With the decrease in the average daily temperature, the specialists of the Moscow Zoo began to gradually transfer the heat-loving animals to the heated enclosures.

“All monkeys moved to heated rooms, meerkats and capybaras practically do not go out, giraffes began to walk less often. Although all these animals can be seen by visitors in winter. Our bears already go outside only in the morning — they prepare for hibernation. Marmots, raccoons, raccoon dog, jerboas, chipmunks, common dormouses and white-breasted hedgehogs also fall asleep in the Zoo for the winter,” Svetlana Akulova, director of the Moscow Zoo, said.

According to her, all animals are carefully prepared for winter sleep: Zoo specialists give them special high-calorie food, monitor their weight and equip the enclosures.

At the same time, some residents of the Zoo leave their summer enclosures just before the onset of cold weather. Oddly enough, this group includes zebras and ostriches, which are traditionally associated only with a warm climate. Also, closer to frost, the pelicans move to indoor enclosures.

With the onset of cold weather in the Zoo raccoons start hibernation. To warm each other, they gather in one house and fall asleep in one big company. Their distinctive feature is that raccoons, like bears, can wake up during the winter. Animals use this opportunity to refresh themselves or check if spring has come.

Another curious fact: in anticipation of winter, gentoo and Humboldt penguins change their enclosures. And it's not about the temperature at all, but about the breeding season. For gentoo penguins, it occurs in summer, and for Humboldt penguins, in winter. Therefore, the latter move to the indoor enclosure of the "House of Birds" pavilion, which is specially prepared for the breeding season.

Planned weight gain

Preparing for hibernation is a serious and responsible matter, and marmots are usually the first to hibernate. Throughout the summer, the zoo specialists monitor their diet and the dynamics of weight gain. Since marmots will not have access to food throughout the winter and part of the spring, they need to eat properly during the summer. The animals use fat reserves to sleep through the cold season (which is almost four months) without harm to health.

If the marmot has not had time to make enough supplies, then he risks not surviving the winter or waking up too early — even before the snow completely melts and food appears.

Moreover, complex preparations for winter are carried out not only by the zoo specialists, but also by the rodents themselves. Since mid-August, marmots have been putting things in order in their burrow: they rake out excess sand, old straw, repair underground corridors and insulate the sleeping cell, where they sleep until spring. To further protect the animals from the cold, zoologists will cover the marmot burrow with a layer of straw. It will also protect the burrow from melt water ingress.

Sleep in the refrigerator

The jerboas are next in line to hibernate. They will spend the cold season in anabiosis: body temperature will drop to eight degrees, their breathing and heartbeat will become rare, almost imperceptible, and all metabolic processes of the body will also slow down.

Like marmots, jerboas receive a lot of fat seeds before hibernation. In addition, Zoo specialists constantly monitor their body weight and gradually reduce the temperature in the animals’ enclosure. By the way, weight gain for each animal is individual, so specialists put the jerboas into hibernation only when the weight reaches optimal values. As soon as this has happened, the animals are transferred into special refrigerating chambers.

The weight of the jerboa at the beginning of hibernation is about 330-370 grams, and at the time of waking up the rodent weight drops to about 240-250 grams.

In addition, the animals are closely monitored throughout the winter. If the animal loses weight gradually, then everything is in good order with it, and if this process goes too quickly, the jerboa is woken up and fed.

Hibernation in Himalayan

The bears are already preparing for hibernation — the Himalayan black bear Aladdin and the brown bear Rosa. They feel the approach of cold weather, so every day they become less active: less often they go out and have an afternoon rest every day.

This is how bears switch to energy-saving mode before hibernation. They, for example, do not have such a sharp drop in body temperature or slowing of the heartbeat as in jerboas. On the contrary, bears sleep lightly enough and during the winter they can get up for a while to walk around the den and stretch legs.

Experts began to prepare these animals for winter in early autumn. Throughout the season, they received high-calorie food to accumulate fat reserves. Their diet includes a very wide range of products: a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits rich in vitamins, honey, nuts, as well as meat and fish.

At the same time, in nature, bears hibernate due to lack of food. And although the Zoo does not face such problems, zoologists avoid the natural metabolism disturbance with animals overfeeding. The staff also prepared soft straw litter in the dens in advance.

But polar bears and giant pandas, unlike their brown relatives, will stay awake throughout the winter. The representatives of these species do not hibernate, so it will be possible to visit the polar bears Khatanga and Tompu and the pandas Dinding and Jui all winter long.