23 August 2012
A heatwave across much of Europe has left people struggling to keep cool, but the zoo in Rome has come up with a novel way to ensure that the animals are comfortable in the boiling temperatures.
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Code red heat warnings have been issued by Italy's health ministry, as a heatwave nicknamed 'Lucifer' scorches the Mediterranean region. But at the zoo in Rome, keepers are ensuring the lions and tigers stay cool by freezing their food in large blocks of ice. The animals have to lick through icy layers before getting to the joints of meat contained inside, like a giant lollipop.
Klaus Friedrich, the zoo's veterinarian, says making these meat-flavoured treats is part of their strategy to cool the animals down: "The animals get bored, like children, so they find new ways - how to prepare the ice. So sometimes you put the ice in a bucket of water, and you put a string inside, and you hang this on a tree or you hide it somewhere. There are different ways to give this food and these ice creams... So they like it a lot."
The smaller animals, like lemurs, are fed pieces of watermelon and special ice cream, while the monkeys are given bamboo canes filled with yoghurt and frozen fruit. Italy is suffering from its worst drought in ten years, caused by a high-pressure system that's bringing hot air from Africa to Europe. Spain is also sweltering, while the heatwave has fuelled forest fires in the Greek island of Chios and the north-east of Bosnia.
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- code red
heats or burns
- joints of meat
parts of an animal where two bones join
flavoured sweet on a stick
doctor who treats animals
animals similar to monkeys