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A chilly day at the zoo

Updated: Friday, February 14 2014, 01:35 PM EST

Rochester, N.Y. --- Tuesday was one of those freezing cold days that had many wishing they could stay home from school or work…assuming they were not already home from school or work.  Wind chills were in the negative by double-digits and time spent outdoors was limited.

Except for some of the animals at the Seneca Park Zoo.

"If any animal can appreciate this weather that we're having in Western New York it's definitely Zero and Aurora,” Zookeeper Kara Masaschi said of the zoo’s two polar bears.  “They're from one of the harshest climates on the planet so to him this is really no big deal and as you can see even though he has access inside he chooses to be out so for him this is a perfect day.”

On the other hand, three of the youngest animals at the zoo made the “education decision” to stay inside on Tuesday.

“Today it's a little chilly so they ran out, kind of stopped and then ran back in,” Masaschi said of three ten month-old lion cubs.  “But last week when it was even below freezing they were out there playing so don't think you won't see anything if you come out to the zoo because you will.”

Even in the winter the zoo remains open and a surprising number of loyal patrons do visit in the colder months.

"I still believe it or not get questions, when does the zoo open in the spring?  And we've never closed for the winter,” joked Zoo Director Larry Sorel.  "This is extreme for anything outside in my opinion but (on a) normal winter day at the zoo I think is absolutely wonderful, it's a completely different experience I think the zoo is beautiful with the snow.”

To accommodate the animals the enclosures often contain some “hidden” warming features.  Rocks in the lion enclosure are actually heated and you find many lounging there on days that are a bit warmer than Tuesday. 

"They have access to nest boxes,” Masaschi said of other warming features for animals in the zoo.  “We also put up tarps for wind breaks and often times they'll have heaters in their nest boxes as well so they can make a choice if they want to be in or out.”

As for the penguins?  You might expect to see them during your visit but not the penguins at this zoo, at least not on a day as cold as Tuesday.

"The reality here at our zoo is that our penguins are from South Africa so they would much prefer a 65-to-70 degree day as opposed to the weather that we're having now,” said Masaschi when explaining why they were all kept inside.

A chilly day at the zoo

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