Goat coats, flicks for giraffes help Philly area zoo animals cope with the cold snap

Duncan, the 14-year-old Nigerian dwarf goat, wears his

Duncan, the 14-year-old Nigerian dwarf goat, wears his "goat coat" to stay warm during frigid temperatures at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, Pa. (Tim Stephenson)

While the Elmwood Park Zoo’s bison and reindeer are adjusting to this week’s below-freezing temperatures, Duncan, a 14-year-old Nigerian dwarf goat, is having trouble coping.

So this week, he’s sporting a “goat coat” — a navy nylon jacket that gives him the extra layer of insulation he needs for a goat his age.

“He loves it,” said Marina Haynes, the Norristown, Pa., zoo’s general curator. “A lot of animals are not comfortable wearing that kind of stuff, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to take to it or not, but he did, and he’s comfortable walking around with his coat on. It’s really cute.”

Many of the animals scuttle in and out all day, with freezer flaps on their enclosure doors to stop cold breezes from blowing inside their heated dens, said Haynes.

Others are happy chilling outdoors during the cold snap. This includes bobcats and otters, which enjoy playing in snowy weather — and, surprisingly, African lions.

“You envision them in the African savanna,” said Dr. Alex Ernst, the associate veterinarian at the Cape May County Zoo in New Jersey. “However, even in temperatures like this, they’re still outside during the day.”

He added, “It’s not much different than us. We go outside and do our thing, but human beings certainly aren’t acclimated to these kinds of temperatures either.”

Other animals at the Cape May Zoo, like the red pandas, native to the eastern Himalayas, actually prefer cold temperatures to the hot and humid weather of summertime.

But the giraffes and tropical ocelots, which need a hot and humid climate, are stuck inside — although the giraffes aren’t short of entertainment.

Indoors, they enjoy watching feature films.

“The funniest thing ever is watching a giraffe watching a Harry Potter movie,” Haynes said.

Watching movies provides extra enrichment and stimulation the animals might otherwise miss from staying indoors for an extended period of time.

Ernst and Haynes both stressed that if you’re willing to brave the cold, there’s still plenty to see at local zoos, whether it’s watching bobcats nose around in the snow or catching a movie indoors with the giraffes, though they may not be able to offer any insight into Harry Potter conspiracy theories.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.