Record-breaking winter snowstorms this month have crippled parts of the U.S. Northeast and Canada, but many zoo animals native to cold, northern regions are enjoying the snow and ice, with some species playing outside even more than usual.
Lions and tigers adapted to life in frigid conditions particularly seem to be at home in the storm-hit areas, according to Audubon Magazine and other sources.
At the Bronx Zoo, for example, Amur tigers — also known as Siberian tigers — have been playing in deep snowdrifts. Mother tiger Miss Sasha, along with her three cubs, have been pouncing undeterred through the snow and ice.
You can see them in action in the following video:
Booming thundersnows and other turbulent winter weather are relatively common in the southern Russian Far East and Northeast China where the tigers are originally from. These large wild cats, which can weigh up to 670 pounds, grow thick, long winter fur and have other bodily adaptations that permit them to thrive in cold regions. In their native habitats, they inhabit boreal and mixed forests. Siberian tigers used to occupy an even larger range until poaching, habitat encroachment, illegal hunting of their main prey (ungulates) and other human activities reduced their former numbers.
At Southwick Zoo, New England’s largest zoo, several tigers and lions have also been enjoying the recent snow.
According to the Worcester Telegram, Bengal tigers and lions have been frolicking in the snow, with numerous paw prints providing evidence of the playtime. When Kya, a standard gold tiger, and her brother Taj, a white tiger, emerged from their shelter, Kya immediately stretched herself and began to roll playfully in the snow. In another enclosure, Lexi, a female lion, took one look at all of the snow, yawned, and planted herself solidly in a snowmound.
Betsy Brewer, executive director of EARTH Limited, recently toured the Massachusetts zoo and told the Worcester Telegram that lions and tigers are actually more active during the wintertime.
“The lions sleep all summer long,” she said. “They are usually more active in the early morning, and evening, but sleep nearly 22 hours a day.”
Not all big cats are celebrating winter, though. Mowgli, an African leopard native to rainforest and desert environments, seems annoyed by the snow and ice.
“He doesn’t like the snow on his pads,” Brewer explained. “He usually jumps from tree to tree.”
She jokingly added: “He’s a bit of a wuss.”
Other zoo animals native to warmer regions are spending more time inside now. The Southwick Zoo’s Molly, a giraffe, is now sharing a heated barn with three kangaroos. Clyde, a 44-year-old white rhinoceros, enjoys a luxury that many people might appreciate now: heated floors.
“He usually likes to lay on his heated floor,” Brewer said as Clyde approached her for a body rub.