Cheetahs, red pandas, capybara and more bathe in summer sun at Auckland Zoo

Summer's heat is continuing to beat down - even as most of us are returning to work - but spare a thought for those stuck with a fur coat.

Over summer, Auckland Zoo goes into overdrive as thousands of visitors come through the gates to see more than 126 species of animals.

Keepers balance educating the public with keeping a close eye on the animals to make sure everyone stays cool and has plenty of enrichment during hot and humid weather.

Newshub headed along to see how animals were handling the heat.

One of the Cheetahs tucks into a milky ice block.
One of the Cheetahs tucks into a milky ice block. Photo credit: Newshub.


Auckland Zoo has two new residents in the form of Qia and Quartz, two young cheetahs who moved over from South Africa in November 2016.

Being from South Africa they're both quite used to the heat, but still appreciate the chance for an icy treat when the mercury rises.

A 50-50 mix of water and Whiskas cat milk does the trick, although sometimes keepers will change things up a little and give them ice blocks made of blood.

"Cat milk is a bit of a treat and we don't want it to be too rich, so we've just watered it down with a little bit of tap water just to make it a little bit more refreshing as well," said carnivores team leader Lauren Booth.

Their enclosure also has misters too, which spray a cool breeze of water on the cheetahs - if they want it.

A Red Panda in a tree.
A Red Panda in a tree. Photo credit: Newshub.

Red pandas

Three red pandas live at Auckland Zoo - Mohini, Bo and Ramesh.

Over summer they can usually be found hanging out in the tops of the trees catching some nice breeze and shade, and Mohini and Bo can be seen taking advantage of the misters in their enclosure.

Over cold winters red pandas use their tails as a blanket, wrapping it around themselves - but over summer most of the hair moults off and leaves the tail a little more diminished.

Keepers tried giving them ice blocks, but Ms Booth says they weren't quite so taken with the idea.

"The ice blocks for red pandas were a bit too weird sometimes - they do take a little while to get used to novel objects and so sometimes they look at things as if to say, 'What is this?'

"In saying that though, we keep all the fruit in the fridge before we feed it out. A nice cold juicy grape is a bit of a favourite."

A tortoise in the mud.
A tortoise in the mud. Photo credit: Newshub


Charlie, Smiley, Willy and Chippy are New Zealand's only Galapagos tortoises, and have been at the zoo for around 30-35 years.

Over summer, guests will often see them taking a dip in their specially made wallow, a muddy hole filled with sticky clay for them to roll in.

The clay performs a dual purpose - when it's cooler it can keep the tortoises insulated against the cold, and when it's warmer the clay keeps them cool.

Humans would have mixed results were they to try and follow in the tortoises' footsteps.

"Well I've heard of face masks, but the tortoises take it very much to another level," said ectotherms team leader Dom Macfarlane.

A Capybara tucks into a branch of lucerne.
A Capybara tucks into a branch of lucerne. Photo credit: Newshub.


Auckland Zoo currently has seven capybara, four adults and three babies, who share an enclosure with the mischievous squirrel monkeys.

Originating from South America, the Capybara is built for hotter climates and spend a lot of time hiding in the water.

Capybara have webbed feet and a face designed with eyes, ears and the nose right at the top so they can sit with only the very top of their head poking outside of the water.

Senior keeper Christine Tintinger said the capybara is built to be in the water and on the lookout for predators such as large pythons.

At Auckland Zoo they can sometimes be spotted in their specially built pool, or more likely hanging out in the shade with their squirrel monkey buddies munching on a Lucerne branch.

One of the KuneKune pigs gets ready for her walk.
One of the KuneKune pigs gets ready for her walk. Photo credit: Newshub.

KuneKune pigs

Sisters Alma and Neena are pretty easy to spot lumbering through the zoo over summer on their daily walk.

Kunekune pigs don't have sweat glands, so before they leave and when they get back both girls get a shower from their keepers.

Along their travels they often do tricks - both Neena and Alma know to sit, run around their keepers in circles and do a spin on command.

Not ones to shake stereotypes though they also have a wallow, and sometimes can be spotted having a roll around in the mud on hot days.

Captain shows off his feathers.
Captain shows off his feathers. Photo credit: Newshub.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Captain is the only cockatoo resident of Auckland Zoo, but he certainly has enough personality to make up for it.

He was donated to the zoo in 1990 but the zoo has no idea how old he actually is, as his owner didn't mention it.

Being a bird native to Australia over summer he tends to cope well, but he does still like a treat now and then which comes in the form of a pinecone covered in frozen bananas, oats and sunflower seeds.

Being the character he is though, sometimes rather than eating the pinecone he would rather play with it.