Департамент культуры HONEY FOR BEARS, CORN FOR GROUNHOGS: HOW MOSCOW ZOO MEETS AUTUMN SEASON

HONEY FOR BEARS, CORN FOR GROUNHOGS: HOW MOSCOW ZOO MEETS AUTUMN SEASON

04.09.2019

Since September 1 our zoo will come to autumn work schedule. Now you can visit zoo to see giant pandas, Asian elephants, flamingos and other animals from 7:30 to 21:00 due to the reduction of daylight hours. Cash desks will work from 7:30 to 20:00. Also the active preparation for winter will begin in the zoo.

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Autumn is a special period in the life of zoo residents. For many wildlife species it is transition period, during which it is important to prepare for the cold, make stockpiles and find a suitable shelter. Also during autumn period young animals and birds born during the spring-and-summer period should fully strengthen: by this time babies usually independently learn to forage and already know how to behave in order to survive. Certainly, the zoo inhabitants do not need to think about food, because all necessary food is collected in their balanced diet. Anyway, this does not affect the preparation for winter. 

Yet today many species feel that summer is over, and each of them begin to prepare for winter differently. The groundhogs are the first who feel approach of winter. Male groundhog named Archie and two females named Sarah and Nagaina have been strenuously put on weight since middle of the summer: they need to accumulate enough reserves to spend 4-6 months during hibernation. Usually by that moment, when it is time to sleep, the groundhogs gain weight from 1 to 2.5 kg. Now the diet of these rodents contains fresh corn, porridges, selected seeds, nut mixtures. Also groundhogs are glad to enjoy a fresh clover, which kippers bring for them. For the last week, Sarah and Nagaina come out of the hole rarely enough and only to eat and warm themselves in the sun. But Archie keeps vigilance and protects the territory. By the way, for the last month he is been preparing a sleep hole without stopping. The groundhog plucked excess land and old straw out of it. But the fresh hay brought by the employees, it on the contrary pulled inside the hole to make the underground sleeping chamber as warm and cozy as possible - groundhogs have to spend all winter, most of autumn and spring in it. By the projections of experts, groundhogs will plunge into hibernation in September. Last year, Sarah and Nagaina fell asleep in the final days of August, and Archie followed suit in mid-September. 

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Not only groundhogs prepare for winter, but also other zoo inhabitants. For example, Himalayan bears and brown bear Rosa. Now their diet contains a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Rosa gives special precedence to melons, honey and dried fruits, and her Himalayan relatives enjoy to eat grapes. For now, bears are quite active, but with the onset of the first cold they will increasingly rest, prepare their artificial dens for sleep and gradually give up eating. Two weeks before the supposed day when bears plunge into sleep, we begin to reduce their portion sizes, and three days later predators can refuse to eat at all. If autumn is warm and sunny, bears will be awake until November, and if quickly cooled, they may fall asleep in October. The same is true of raccoons. Although these cunning beasts come out of their warm houses at times even in winter - but only to check if spring has come. 

Jerboas, hedgehogs, dormouses and tenrecs also prepare for hibernation. In addition, the Center for Chiroptera Rehabilitation and Winter Overruns began to receive first guests. Residents of Moscow and Moscow region already bring to specialists common noctules, two-color brown bats and other bats. First our specialists weigh animals, assess their general condition. If the animal is underweight, it is fed, and only then immersed in hibernation. For northern latitudes bats feeding on insects, winter time is a difficult period. Any disruption to the hibernation process for Chiroptera is deadly. If the animal chose wrong place for hibernation or some external impact will disrupt its natural course, such species will die without assistance. Therefore, if you have discovered a bat, it is strongly recommended to contact our specialists and bring the animal to the zoo so that it can get the necessary care and survive the winter.

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As autumn sets in many zoo inhabitants will leave their open summer cages and move to winter, where the optimal temperature is maintained. This applies to thermophilic species. So, already by the mid-September the pygmy hippopotamus Ksusha will go in a warm cage. These animals are very sensitive to temperature differences and even through can cause health problems. That is why our behemoth spends in a room with constant temperature and humidity all winter and spring. Also cassowaries and southern ground hornbills will move soon to closed cages. The last-mentioned will winter in two different cages: an adult pair of birds will winter separately, and five of their chicks (the eldest one hatched in 2017, and the youngest one this summer) together. Over the past couple of months, the fledgeling crows Bruno, Plato and Socrates became friends with their older conspecifics Rubens and Drogo, there are no conflicts in their group, and adults do not offend the little ones. 

Towards the end of September, penguins will exchange cages: Humboldt penguins will move from an external cage to an internal cage, and their place will be taken by gentoo penguins, who feel most comfortable in the cold season. It is no wonder, because their natural habitat is subantarctic islands, where the climate is quite harsh. 

Furthermore, a secretary bird will move to a warm cage in the "House of Birds." For this African species, Moscow autumn is not too comfortable. Great cormorants, Dalmatian and great white pelicans will follow it suit. These bird kind will spend winter in the pavilion "Birds and butterflies." Flamingos are the last of the birds will move in the winter cage. These bird kind will walk on a large pond up until the freezing of water. Then all the noisy group of flamingos will move to the nearby warm cage, where ceiling and floor heating work during all winter. 

Until the temperature drop below 7 degrees, Asian elephants will continue to walk outdoors. Two-year baby elephant Filimon is still don not want to close bathing season and is enthusiastically diving into the pool. But its conspecifics come into the water more and more seldom. Giraffe Lipa, zebra and African struthios will follow elephants to the winter cages. The last ones can go out for a walk at winter, but very briefly, otherwise it threatens with frostbitten limbs. 

While some zoo inhabitants move to the warm cages, the others change summer light fur to thicker and warmer. Now muskoxes, Arctic foxes, wolves, Siberian tigers, lynxes, as well as manul actively provide themthelf with thick wool. Already in November this wild cat will show its luxurious fluffy coat. 

We recommend you to hurry if you want to see thermophilic zoo inhabitants in open cages. However, you will be able to observe most of them in cozy warm pavilions during the winter season. 

We will be glad to see you at the zoo!