Thermal image of Tortoise at Melbourne Zoo reptile house.

Melbourne Zoo innovation warms up animals in winter

15 July 2019

We all love finding ways to keep ourselves warm throughout winter, and so too do the animals at Melbourne Zoo.

So in the midst of Melbourne’s chilly winter season, the zoo’s keepers have been deploying innovative tools and out-of-the-box strategies to help keep its animals of all ages, warm, comforted and active.

Wild Sea Life Sciences Manager Adrian Howard said many of the animals at Melbourne Zoo are native to tropical climates, so it is important to cater for their needs.

“A lot of it doesn’t appear obvious to the eye, but many of the exhibits have custom-designed facilities that help keep the animals warm,” Mr Howard said.

For the zoo’s ageing 18-year-old Asian Small-clawed Otter, Oscar, a heated hideaway cave and heated pool are important for the management of his arthritis.

“Just like people, ageing animals feel any aches and pains a little bit more in the cold,” Mr Howard said “So these facilities help us to care for Oscar and manage his age-related condition in the best possible way.”

Elsewhere in the zoo, its largest animals - the Asian Elephants, are enjoying the hot water drinkers that have been installed in their exhibits. Eight-year-old Mali regularly scoops the heated water onto her body with her trunk to give herself a steamy hot shower.

For the zoo’s reptiles, new thermal imaging technology is helping to inform keepers about heat distribution throughout a reptile’s body and within their surrounding environment.

Two otters looking at camera standing on the ground

Reptile Zookeeper Alex Mitchell said a handheld thermal imaging camera, which produces images using colour, was providing invaluable and detailed insights about various species including snakes, lizards and Giant Tortoises.

“This technology enables keepers to fine-tune heating facilities such as lamps and heated flooring in reptile exhibits to help us provide an optimum climate for them,” Mr Mitchell said.

The innovative heating facilities and tools used at Melbourne Zoo help to provide all animals with the highest quality care and welfare.

Visitors can see Melbourne Zoo’s animals out-and-about throughout winter from 9am-5pm seven days a week.