The heat takes its toll on animals – The Vacaville Reporter


In early September, we experienced consecutive days of excruciatingly hot three digit temperatures, with the heat rising to 115 degrees on September 6 here in Vacaville.

With the blistering heat affecting California and other parts of the West with record-setting temperatures, warnings were targeted for the young and elderly.

My thoughts also concerned the animals that were at significant risk, including animals housed in zoos, animal research facilities and factory farms, as well as ranch animals, animal companions and wildlife. Non-native animals are the ones most challenged to survive.

This extreme heat wave shattered multiple records for several states, emphasizing the very real threat, dangers and reality of climate change.

Even with foreboding messages from scientists who have held conferences for decades about greenhouse gas emissions and their catastrophic consequences to the planet, the naysayers and climate change deniers over the years have stifled efforts to curb this foreseeable calamity.

Just a few years ago while shopping, I was approached by one of these deniers who tried to convince me that climate change was a hoax and there was no need for alarm.

This denier struggled in her absurd argument and after disagreeing, we parted ways.

I wonder if this denier and others like her have finally come to their senses and accepted the dire warnings scientists have given for years, or if they continue to blindly defend big biz polluters and corporations that are continuously destroying our planet and its inhabitants. If birds falling dead from the sky in India because of unprecedented heat will not convince them, nothing will.

• One animal that can function in the heat is the camel because it is able to store water, enabling it to function for days. Even so, camels exploited for transportation in the hot, arid desert are at times deprived of water longer than they physically require, which results in these overworked sentient beings collapsing and dying.

In the wild, camels can live 40 to 50 years because of the absence of predators in their native habitat. Nature has two varieties of camels — the Dromedary, with a humped back, and the Bactrian, with two humpbacks. The humped back is where they store their fat when food and water are deficient. Their beautiful eyes have two sets of long eyelashes and a third eyelid to protect them from sand and winds.

They can also shut their nostrils when sandstorms strike the desert sand hills.

Humans have domesticated camels in increasing numbers over the years.

They are exploited for the transportation of tourists, milk production and are slaughtered for meat and the skin-fur trade. They are also subjected to use in “entertainment” with the growing popularity of camel races in the Middle East.

Most of these magnificent creatures are observed in captivity, where some say they live longer lifespans there due to shelter, food, water and medical surveillance.

However, zoos have many negative implications for captive animals not meant to be “caged.”

Zoos are also not immune to climate change, as was the deadly case for Hitomi, who was living in a zoo in central Japan. This zoo in Okazaki, reported that Hitomi began to show signs of health decline in February. She was having a trying time to walk, thus spending more time sitting and was at higher risk when the heat wave struck Japan over five months later.

Hitomi was born at a zoo and was later moved to Morioka city for “breeding purposes” because of zoo renovation work. She was transferred to Okazaki’s Zoo in July 2021.

On Aug. 2 This statuesque creature could not eat or drink water. The staff members “discovered” that Hitomi’s body temperature was up to 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — far too high for a healthy camel.

She was breathing rapidly while drooling and grinding her teeth as the intense heat ravaged her.

Staff members poured cold water on her and into her rectum, a method used to cool animals.

An IV drip was also applied to rehydrate her, but to no avail.

I would think they should have also used large blocks of ice around her and cool wet blankets on her back and neck at the first sign of heatstroke.

Sadly, she died from heatstroke on Aug. 3 at age 22 — half the lifespan of a wild camel.

If under the supervision of veterinary care, shelter, correct diet and fresh water, how is it that this 22-year-old camel had health issues that made her so vulnerable?

What made this death most upsetting was the statement of a staff member at the zoo that told that the 22-year-old Hitomi was at higher risk for heat exhaustion due to her age.

— The author can be reached at: PO Box 5112, Vacaville, CA 95696


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