From the Desk of Dan Ashe

"Cool" Attractions to Check Out this Summer

Everyone is affected by the hot temperatures during the summer, including animals. This is why AZA’s rigorous, scientifically-based animal care and welfare standards require facilities to provide their animals with cool and safe options when temperatures rise. The ultimate goals of AZA’s standards are to provide the safest work environment for animal care professionals and to provide the highest quality of animal management and care, which will result in excellent overall animal well-being in our facilities. Ultimately, the success of AZA’s care will allow AZA facilities to contribute to conservation and assure animals are in our future for generations to come.

For example, AZA’s elephant standards require: “Water, mud, dust, soil or sand must be available for elephants to dust themselves to assist with thermoregulation. Sufficient sheltered areas must be provided to protect elephants from adverse weather. When sunlight is likely to cause overheating or discomfort of elephants, sufficient shade by natural or artificial means shall be provided to allow all elephants protection from direct sunlight. Shade areas must be provided to assure that all individuals can have access to shade when desired and that subordinate elephants are not excluded from the shade. If needed to prevent hypothermia, supplemental heat, an area of direct sunlight protected from wind/precipitation, access to indoor barn stalls or other options for thermal management must be provided for the elephants.” More details about AZA’s standards regarding temperature can be found at and in our animal care manuals.

At AZA facilities, animals have a choice to go inside or some animals that are suited to cold temperatures are kept indoors during the hot summer months. If an animal prefers to stay outdoors, the zoo staff will provide cooling options for the animal. The Nashville Zoo provides their animals with “their own brand of popsicles, such as frozen grapes, chilled mealworms, and turkey broth pops.” This practice helps keep the animals from overheating and serves as fun enrichment for the animals. The Kansas City Zoo provides sprinklers to its animals for a nice and enjoyable way to refresh, with many other facilities adopting unique ways to keep animals cool during the summer months.

Meanwhile, if most of the animals decide to stay inside during the warm temperatures, zoos and aquariums are improving their facilities with new attractions, traveling exhibitions, and interactive playgrounds for guests to enjoy – all with a conservation or education theme that will enhance your hot weather  trip to a zoo or aquarium. Here are a few for you to look forward to:

From May through September, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is hosting the traveling exhibit, “Washed Ashore: Art to Save Our Seas.” The exhibit features 15 sculptures made entirely out of trash found in the oceans, sending a strong message about plastic pollution. You’ll also be able to view the exhibit at Tulsa Zoo and Toronto Zoo during the summer.

Audubon Aquarium opened a family-friendly, interactive escape room experience called “Escape Extinction: Sharks” on June 12th. The mission of the interactive “escape room” with games and puzzles is to make guests aware of declining shark populations and inspire them to help save sharks from extinction.

Virginia Zoo opened “Run Wild- Nature Discovery Zone”- in mid-June.  The play area features tree stumps and pieces to be used as climbing, walking, and jumping structures, as well as a sandbox for digging, a sensory walk, willow tunnel and a bamboo maze. In addition to being open to the public daily for free-play, the area is utilized for informal, free programming from the Education Department.

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, one of our newest members, will debut a new exhibition this summer called “Animal Vision, Through Nature’s Eyes.” This new educational exhibition will explore how animals view their environment through an eye-opening perspective.

Image of Through Their Eyes Exhibit Poster

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing with their new “Apollo Redux,” which opened on June 22nd. This exhibit takes you back in time to the Mission Control of the Apollo-era missions to the Moon with equal consideration of Space exploration today and in the future. This educational exhibit has actual control artifacts, touchscreen interaction, and will share with guests the importance of each person’s role in the moon landing 50 years ago.

Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo will be the first venue in North America to display the international traveling exhibit, “Brick Safari,” presented by Metro™ by T-Mobile. The zoo’s summer exhibit- which opened May 11 and continues through September 29- will feature more than 40 life-size animal sculptures created from more than 1.6 million individual colored LEGO® bricks. Many of the sculptures are based on some Brookfield Zoo favorites—the giraffe, snow leopard, and pangolin. After checking out these amazing figures, guests can go visit their live counterparts that reside at the zoo.

Image of Brick Safari Giraffe

Oregon Coast Aquarium’s newest habitat, “Seapunk: Powered by Imagination,” officially opened Saturday, May 25. “Seapunk: Powered by Imagination” shows a whole new perspective on tropical marine life, using “a hands-on and interactive extravaganza of the senses.” The habitat is modeled after a subgenre of science fiction, art, technology and fashion inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery: Steampunk.

Boston’s Museum of Science opened a new IMAX movie on July 5th that will help guests to stay out of the extreme heats this summer. “Great Bear Rainforest” takes guests on a journey to see grizzly bears, coastal wolves, sea otters, and the rare spirit bear - a subspecies of the North American black bear that has white fur due to a rare genetic trait. Spirit bears are only found in the remote  Great Bear Rainforest. No one knows exactly how many spirit bears there are, but estimates range from 50 to 100. They truly are the rarest bears on Earth! For the first time ever, you can discover the last intact temperate rainforest and see these rare bears at the Museum of Science.

OdySea Aquarium surprises its guests with this new exhibit. “Surprise Your Eyes,” a 3-D photo art attraction that recently opened in June, has guests snapping into another world. Yellow dots on each artistic background instruct guests where to stand, to capture the 3D effect of running from a T-Rex who is breaking through a wooden door behind them, or becoming an astronaut floating in outer space. There are many other educational backgrounds that will keep you indoors and increase your Instagram game.

Photo of Surprise Your Eyes Exhibit

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is taking guests back in time to prehistoric times at Dinosaurs Alive! From July 1 through September 30, five dinosaurs will be on display that look, move, and sound like the real thing and one even spits! The Science Center will host educational programs to coincide with the Dinosaurs Alive! Exhibit such as “Meet the Dinosaurs of Dinosaurs Alive!” and “Discover Dinosaurs Alive!”

And in Washington D.C., Smithsonian’s National Zoo is introducing DinoRoars; a self-guided safari around the zoo, where visitors will meet massive animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar. From June 1st to Aug. 31st, visitors will be able to look up and see Compsognathus, Dilophosaurus, Parasaurolophus and babies, Stegosaurus and baby, Quetzalcoatlus and babies and T. Rex “on exhibit.” Each dinosaur is fitted with electronic brains to activate and control movements and produce the sounds.

AZA facilities are dedicated to superior animal welfare and an engaging guest experience. These activities provide several alternatives when it is too hot for the animals to be outside. If you are interested in what exhibits, events or activities your local AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium may have, find your closest AZA member here: and see what they have to offer this summer!

Posted by Ashley Jones at 8:00 AM

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