19 Jun 2014 11:29:14
Keeper Kylie - Winter Warmers
Hello animal lovers!
When you're sitting in your heated lounge or putting on an extra layer of clothing before leaving the house, have you ever wondered how our wild friends cope with the winter chill?
Wonder no more friends! Keeper Kylie has the facts :)
As the weather gets colder our animal friends start eating more and more, accumulating extra layers of fat which helps keep their bodies warm. It's just like us adding more clothes like jackets, jumpers and track suit pants. Oh… Don't forget those fluffy slippers! This added fat reserve also comes in handing when food sources are low in winter.
Hibernation is when an animal needs to conserve energy in times of low food availability. Bears are a great example of an animal which hibernates throughout winter. They prepare for hibernation from late summer through to autumn, eating as much as they can to create extra body fat that is used as energy in the sleeping period. When in a deep sleep the animal's heart rate and breathing slows and their body temperature drops. This conserves great amounts of energy as the body is no longer working at full pace.
A term generally reserved for reptiles and is similar to hibernation. Reptiles are ectothermic, meaning they get their energy primarily from external sources, like the sun. In winter when the weather is colder their bodies go into low to no energy mode and they find somewhere safe to hide and wait out the cold. Reptiles will not eat for months during winter as they need higher temperatures to assist in the digestion of their food - our big crocodile, Rex, is no exception.
With Rex's size he could easily go six to twelve months with out a feed. Although we have been lucky with unusually warm weather this winter, meaning Rex is still chowing down a meal every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 1pm. As the weather is certainly going to get colder, we cannot promise how long he will keep feeding, so best come in soon to check out an amazing croc feed.
This is also similar to hibernation where species like our Sugar Gliders will go into a state of dormancy, reducing their body temperature and heart rate to conserve energy. We have seen that our sugar gliders will have low energy in the cold mornings and look like they are can't wake up. As the day warms up the sugar glider's energy levels increase and they are able to move around more and eat some food. These gorgeous fur balls are out visiting guests in encounters at 11am and 2:30pm every day.
And then there are the animals that just don't deal with the cold and go on a holiday to warmer climates (this is exactly what I feel like doing on cold winter mornings). One species is the Humpback Whale that migrates from Antarctic waters, up the Eastern Australian coast to warmers waters around Queensland's Hervey Bay.
If you were an animal, how would you prefer to deal with the cold? Put on a few more kilograms of fat? Sleep it out by hibernating or brumating? Wait until the day warms up like our Sugar Gliders? Or just hit the road and avoid the whole cold experience?
Thanks for visiting! And catch you next time.
Keeper Kylie :)