Beating the Heat
Animals that live in this part of Africa experience hot summers. How do they beat the heat? Let’s look at some that go for a swim, some that come out at night, and others that find a cool place to hide during the heat of the midday sun.
Jump in the Water
One way to cool off is to go for a swim in some water. Lots of animals, from elephants to hippos to flamingos, use this strategy.
Sweat it Out!
If we aren’t able to go for a swim on a hot day, there is a way that our bodies try to cool us down. Do you know what it is? On hot days or when we are hot from exercise, sweating helps to lower our body temperature. The water we sweat cools us as it evaporates.
But not all animals can sweat, so they have come up with other solutions. One popular way to beat the heat is to be active at night. Many small animals like reptiles and some birds take advantage of the cooler temperatures at dawn, dusk, and overnight. Reptiles and birds can’t sweat, so this is a useful strategy. One African bird at the zoo, the white-faced whistling duck, is very successful partly because of switching to a more or less nocturnal lifestyle.
Head for Shade
Another strategy is to take cover when it gets too hot. The African pancake tortoise has adapted to be much flatter than other tortoises just so he can squeeze under and between rocks to get some shade from the hot sun.
There is a second kind of heat. This is the pressure that the growing human population on Earth puts on animals. The more of us there are, the more aware we need to be about how our purchases, recycling habits, building projects, etc. each have implications for the wildlife in our back yard neighborhoods.