MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
With the arrival of cold weather, some residents of the capital’s zoo traditionally go into hibernation. The task of specialists is to create conditions for the animals to survive the winter as comfortably as possible.
Winter is a special period for the inhabitants of the Moscow Zoo. With the onset of cold weather, the rhythm of life of animals changes, and in some it is cardinally – mammals go into hibernation, as a result of which all internal processes slow down.
Among those who are at rest in winter are brown and Himalayan bears, steppe marmots, raccoon dogs and striped raccoons, jerboas, dormouse, chipmunks and white-breasted hedgehogs. The task of zoologists is to create conditions for animals to properly prepare for hibernation and overwinter comfortably.
Deep sleep in the refrigerator
Philip Tumasyan, the leading zoologist of the experimental department of small mammals at the Moscow Zoo, has some of the most nimble wards – jerboas, dormouse and chipmunks. All of them are kept in conditions as close to natural as possible. Closer to autumn, when the animals begin to prepare for sleep, the temperature in the enclosures is gradually reduced, and more nutritious feed is included in the diet.
This year the jerboas fell asleep faster than anyone else in the zoo. They hibernate in wooden boxes imitating burrows. To reduce the noise level, the boxes are covered with a layer of foam rubber. They are placed in refrigerators and carefully removed once a week to make sure the animals are okay. Dormouse and chipmunks are provided with material for building nests.
“Rodents have one of the deepest hibernations – the body temperature drops dozens of times, the heart rate goes down hundreds. They awaken from any factor of anxiety, but it takes several hours to awaken, says Philip Tumasian. – During hibernation, we continue to monitor the general condition and weight of the animals once a week. Hibernation ends in spring or if the weight of a particular animal drops below critical values. In this case, it is transferred to conditions similar to summer ones. “
Steppe marmots were among the first to fall asleep this year. According to Nikolai Skuratov, head of the ornithology department of the Moscow Zoo, who is responsible for the conditions of keeping these rodents, they will spend the coming months in a cozy hole in complete solitude.
“Back in September, marmots began to accumulate fat reserves, as a result, their weight increased by one and a half times,” the specialist notes.
A distinctive feature of marmots is their thorough approach to the construction of dwellings. The underground passages created by them stretch for tens of meters.
“For the winter, marmots dig deep, branched burrows, which completely repeat their sleeping place in the wild. Zoologists do not participate in this process, they only provide the animals with the necessary material – hay for bedding, ”says Nikolai Skuratov.
The marmots sleep all together, and the entrance to the hole is closed with a mixture of earth and stones, so that even in severe frosts, a comfortable temperature remains inside.
Long sleep of hedgehogs
White-breasted hedgehogs also spend colder months in a state of sleep in the zoo. All summer and autumn, they actively eat and by the beginning of hibernation can significantly recover – by about 500 grams. Zoo staff carefully monitor this process.
White-breasted hedgehogs spend all year round in nests, which are built from natural materials. With the approach of cold weather, they only insulate their houses. Keepers closely monitor the condition of their shelters throughout the winter and, if required, install additional shelters outside.
The Moscow Zoo is home to about ten striped raccoons and one raccoon dog. These small carnivorous mammals, representatives of the raccoon and canine families, live in the neighborhood and have a common feature – they usually spend the winter at rest, having previously made reserves of fat. However, according to zoologists, neither raccoons nor raccoon dogs hibernate, but simply sleep poorly and can observe the actions of the zoo staff when they enter the enclosure. For the winter, the animals are helped to settle in comfort.
“In nature, the animal itself chooses the sleeping place. At the zoo, staff provide cabins with hay, sawdust, woolen sweaters and blankets. The keeper also decides where the beast will sleep, ”says Elizaveta Kuzmicheva.
Depending on their own preferences, predators can lie down in groups or singly. During this period, zoologists try not to disturb them.
“The employees almost completely stop feeding and disturbing the animals, making only control deliveries of food to the enclosure (about once or twice a week) and, if required, changing the bedding in the shelters or additional insulation of the houses during severe frosts. Periodic foraging during the winter is usually enough to understand how well the animals sleep: examining the paws and fur, and just the general appearance of the animal will tell you about it, ”says Elizaveta Kuzmicheva.
The timing of hibernation is due to the temperature regime. Basically, with the arrival of heat, the animals return to their usual rhythm of life.
Den for Rosa, Aladdin and Budur
Perhaps the most thorough preparation for winter in the zoo is large predators. Brown bear Rosa and a pair of Himalayan bears Aladdin and Budur eat very densely before heading to the side. Since the end of summer, their diet has been rich in fish, pine nuts, honey, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Zoologists monitor the weight gain and well-being of their wards and teach them to move to the desired room on command, so that the animals simultaneously disperse to their dens at the beginning of hibernation. Also, a clubfoot is prepared for a sleeping area.
In a dream, animals can roll over and get up to drink, but they do it very slowly. Loud sounds from outside can disturb their sleep. To prevent this from happening, experts look into the cells with extreme caution.
“During hibernation, the bear is constantly monitored through cameras that have night vision mode. And once every few days one of the employees very quietly and carefully comes to them to top up water, ”says Vladimir Anpilov.
Hibernation ends with spring warming. This usually happens in March. After waking up, the bears are inactive. Despite the fact that they practically do not lose weight during the winter, they need time and additional food to fully recover. During this period, zoologists begin to gradually feed animals.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.