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Splish, splash! Zoo animals that beat the heat
Splish, splash! Zoo animals that beat the heat

We all love summer in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s no doubt that some days get pretty hot. Humans are pretty creative in finding ways to beat the heat – splashing, shade, cool clothes – and our Zoo animals do it too!


Muskoxen are adapted for living above the Arctic Circle and nibbling for lichen through snow. They have warm shaggy coats, and even a warm underlayer (qiviut) for winter.

But keeping cool in summer? Well, our muskox calf Trebek got a special enrichment when keepers brought him his own baby pool full of ice-cold water!

Keepers also gave him and mom Charlotte a big pile of ice to explore – perfect!

Asian elephant

suki elephant splashing

Suki might be an elderly elephant, but she loves a good bath, whether it’s splashing in the deep pool or scooping up trunkfuls of mud to slap on her back.

Sometimes our keepers will help her out with a jetting hose of water!

And afterwards? She’ll coat her thick hide with dust, which works like talcum powder on humans to soothe the skin. Perfect for a hot day!

Think of it like an elephant spa…

FIND HER: Find our elephant in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.


Polar bears

Our senior polar bear Blizzard likes a good nap when it gets warm – especially under the shade cloth our staff puts up every summer.

He also enjoys ice enrichments made by keepers, and of course a fabulous big pool (fed with cool Puget Sound water) to swim in!

To help keep cool inside, keepers put ice and fans in his den.

Says keeper Sheriden Ploof: “Few people know, but it can get up to 80 degrees in the arctic in the summer time as well, so our bear is not so out of place here in the summer.”

FIND HIM: Find our polar bear in the Arctic Tundra habitat.


Sumatran tigers

tiger splashing in waterOur three tigers, of course, are native to a country where it’s regularly much hotter than the Northwest: Indonesia. But they still enjoy a good cool-down by taking a swim (tigers are great swimmers), napping in the shade or slurping up icy enrichments made by keepers.

FIND THEM: Find our tigers in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.


Small-clawed otter

Asian small-clawed otters are water-creatures: they live in swamps, marshes and wetlands in the wild. Here at the Zoo our otter Bubbles always has a pool to dive into – or even a waterfall.

FIND THEM: Find our otters in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.



Charlotte and Hudson muskox
Charlotte (left) and Hudson shed their winter coats.

Our muskox Charlotte, Hudson and Trebek may look shaggy, but right now they’ve actually got their cool summer coats. In winter, they’ll grow thick underwool, called qiviut (“kiv-ee-ute”).

FIND THEM: Find our muskoxen in the Arctic Tundra habitat.


Arctic fox

You can spot an Arctic fox’s summer coat – it’s brown, not white, to better blend in against the snow-free tundra. Find Maggie our fox near the polar bears.

FIND THEM: Find our Arctic fox in the Arctic Tundra habitat.


Seals, sea lions, sea otters and walruses

sea otters on ice
Two sea otters play with ice.

Enough said – these marine mammals have it made with big swimming pools. But our walruses also likes to play in the waterfall keepers make with a hose, and our sea otters love playing with ice!

FIND THEM: Find all these animals at Rocky Shores.


Some like it hot…

Of course, some of our animals like it hot. The lemurs, meerkats and many of our Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater animals are native to hot climates.
And reptiles, being cold-blooded, need the sun’s warmth to regulate their body temperature: Keep a watch for our tegu or iguanas sunning themselves at a Close Encounter!

Iguana for Hours

5 Tips for a Cool Zoo Day

  1. Arrive early. It’s cooler, and animals are more active.
  2. Grab an ice-cream from the outdoor kiosk.
  3. Cool off inside our two amazing aquariums.
  4. Feel the cool breeze at Rocky Shores – you might even get splashed by a sea lion!
  5. After your zoo visit, head down to explore the Point Defiance waterfront and cool off at Owen Beach – the perfect end to a summer’s day.