Ice cream for primates, blackouts for humans as Europe feels the heat

PARIS: A blistering heatwave sweeping through Europe on Wednesday brought blackouts to France and fears of heat stroke for Wimbledon tennis fans, but meant a range of interesting ice creams for the continent’s zoo animals.


With temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius, the UN warned heatwaves were growing more frequent and intense due to climate change, and called on more countries to put warning systems in place to inform people of the dangers.

At the Safaripark Beekse Bergen zoo in the Netherlands, staff had already put their emergency procedures in place — including ice cubes for baboons, cold showers for the elephants, and special meat- and fruit-flavoured ice cream for the ring-tailed lemurs.

Not to be outdone, especially on the subject of ice cream, Italy’s main zoo in Rome offered gelato to its orangutans with a choice of flavours including fresh fruit and vegetables, or dried figs topped with eggs and insects.

Humans were having a tougher time, with around a million homes in western France left without power overnight Tuesday after the heatwave moved in from Spain, and another blackout striking Brittany Wednesday morning, cutting electricity to 100,000 houses.

The Wimbledon tennis tournament in London saw the hottest day of play ever at 35.7 degrees Celsius, more than a degree hotter than the record set in 1976. Elsewhere in the city, public fountains became impromptu beaches, with parents sunbathing on benches and children playing in the water in their swimming costumes behind King’s Cross station.

Meanwhile in Brussels, it was hard to tell whether European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was sweating from the pressure of the Greek crisis or just the ambient temperature.

He joked with photographers at a press conference: “Every time I scratch myself, wipe my brow, you take a photo. Now I know what to do to end up in tomorrow’s papers!”