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North Carolina Zoo prepares for the cold

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ASHEBORO, N.C. – The North Carolina Zoo will be closed to the public Saturday and Sunday because of the winter weather that is blanketing the Piedmont.

But that doesn't mean the animals will be left to fend for themselves all weekend.

Many of the animals come from tropical and desert climates, so zookeepers have a lot to do to make sure the animals are protected from the harsh weather.

But judging by the sounds coming from the seals and sea lions, some of the animals can sense the impending arctic conditions.

And the polar bears looked pleased with the conditions too; one doing underwater somersaults over and over as some of the few visitors at the zoo on this cold day looked on.

Wanda Chanmaly, an Asheboro native who lives in Charlotte, visited with her family from Washington state. They all wondered how the animals will deal with the cold.

"I know the polar bears are probably happy as a clam,” said Chunmaly.

But there are a lot of animals at the zoo that don’t thrive in cold weather. Zoo Director Pat Simmons says they have a plan in place to keep all animals warm and taken care of over the next few days.

“Most of the other animals do very well…our chimps and gorillas we know are warmer climate animals and they have beautiful holding facilities they go in and just chill out in their bedrooms kind of like we would,” said Simmons.

The bigger animals that roam large areas are gathered into a smaller, heated area during the crisis period.

There’s also the need to get essential employees to work during the storm. The NCDOT has that covered, making sure all the roads leading to the zoo are covered with a layer of brine and the zoo uses 4x4s to pick up employees who need extra help getting in.

When the zoo reopens and the animals come back out to play, they may all get a look at whatever snow is left on the ground.

“Some of the newer primates, the babies that haven’t really experienced snow, they’re like your normal kid, they go out like, 'What, what is it?'” Simmons said.

The zoo will make the decision on Sunday whether or not to open to the public on Monday.