Potawatomi Zoo animals make it through polar vortex safe and sound

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Michiana residents are happy to finally be able to step back outside after these subzero temperatures and so are the animals at the Potawatomi Zoo.

“It has been a rough couple days here at the zoo,” said Josh Sisk, the director of animal programs. “These ostriches are just one of the many animals that we've had here in the barn for the past couple days and we made it through it.”

Two by two, the animals were taken into what the staff at the Potawatomi Zoo calls the ark, where heat lamps and furnaces kept them warm during the polar vortex.

“We just had to really make sure that we were taking extra precaution with extra heaters, extra heat lamps, extra furnace parts, just to make sure that this extreme cold would keep up with our furnaces and keep up with what we currently have in place,” Sisk said.

The maintenance staff was on hand 24/7 with extra parts and equipment in case something went wrong.

Thankfully, all went well and the barn stayed a comfortable 50 degrees.

“But then, some of our primates and monkeys, they need to be up to 70, 80 degrees…”

Much like many of their human counterparts would prefer. However, the humans at the Potawatomi Zoo braved the cold temperatures to keep their animals safe.

“Rain or shine, my staff here at the zoo, they have to feed these animals and they're dedicated to these animals,” Sisk said.

The weekend warmup is coming just in time for the Winter Day on Saturday, when the zoo will be temporarily open to the public.

“What's going to be great about this Winter Day is that these animals have been in their barns for a couple of days and now the sun is shining, we're going to be at 40-degree temperatures and I think the public's really going to see a lot of animals out and about running, getting some exercise and enjoying the sun,” Sisk said.

The winter day at the Potawatomi Zoo Saturday, Feb. 2, from noon-3 p.m.

Admission is $5.50 per person, but children 2 and younger get in free.