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How does the Tulsa Zoo prepare for severe weather and weather extremes?

Zoos are intimately aware of the weather.

“As staff members, we are constantly checking the forecasts – whether we are at the zoo or at home,” says Joe Barkowski, vice president of animal conservation and science at the Tulsa Zoo. “We take the responsibility for our animals, our guests and our staff very seriously.”

Barkowski shares ways the Tulsa Zoo prepares for weather extremes.

Severe Weather
Each spring, we are on the lookout for storms that bring the potential for high winds, rain, lightning and even tornados. Each year we conduct mandatory safety drills for severe weather to ensure our teams are prepared to follow our in-house procedures. This is dictated by the type of event, of course, but may entail moving animals into their indoor spaces for their safety or doing the same for our staff and guests – making sure people are also getting to the designated shelters in the zoo.

In summer months, we are constantly monitoring our animals, guests and staff when the temperature rises. We cool some areas with air conditioning, fans, or water hoses depending on the needs of the animals in the habitats. We monitoring staff members to ensure they consume enough water and take time to cool off during strenuous daily tasks. Finally, we offer assistance to our guests if they need to get to a cool place or feel they cannot make it back to the parking lot without assistance.

In winter months, lower temperatures and the potential for snow and ice are constantly on our minds. We provide climate-controlled habitats for our animals and the upkeep for these systems takes the hard work of many different departments throughout the season. We have staff on grounds at the zoo 24 hours a day, 365 days each year. When temperatures drop, staff constantly monitors the temperature of the heated habitats. In instances of extreme cold or when we expect significant snow and/or ice we have extra staff stay at the zoo around the clock to assist in monitoring the animals and grounds.

As the zoo continues to grow, we will work to ensure weather concerns are considered in new exhibit and building plans, from back-up generators to sheltered areas.