Cold forces early closure of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

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Cold weather led officials at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo to close early Wednesday.  The zoo shut down at 1 p.m. once chilly temperatures and morning rain showers poured over the area.

The park's general curator, Chris Massaro, said the animals were able to come and go into heated buildings in their enclosures.

"Based on their natural history, where they come from, whether or not they're more or less cold sensitive, we do manage the area appropriately for them," Massaro said. "We provide certain animals with warm areas to go to if that's what they prefer, give them the choice or the option of either spending some time maybe in their homes with the heat on or coming out and enjoying the habitat." 

This was the first time in years cold weather forced Lowry Park to close down; the weather that typically causes this type of action are things such as thunderstorms and hurricanes.

Many of the animals hid from the brisk breeze indoors. Some, like penguins, elephants, and rhinos, were still outside later in the day.

"Some animals really enjoy the change in temperature and the cooler weather. Others are going to want to nestle down and cozy up some place warm," Massaro said. "Both the elephants and rhinos are good examples of animals that, if you think about the African Savanah, most people think it's really hot. But there are actually times when it's pretty cool out, especially at night. So these animals are pretty accustomed to cooler weather, especially the type of cold we get here in Florida."

Guests who had to leave the zoo early were offered rain checks.