Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

The zoo’s animal community sees birth, death

Azeo, a 19-year-old snow leopard who moved to BioPark Zoo from a facility in Canada, died in January. He fathered 12 pups who now live in recognized zoos across the country. (Courtesy ABQ BioPark)

Copyright © 2021

Like any community, the animal community in the ABQ BioPark Zoo also experiences life cycle events such as births, deaths, illnesses and the movement of residents in and out of the neighborhood. Here are some of the more notable events at the zoo in 2021 – the pleasant ones and the less pleasant ones:

The new year began with the sad news that Azeo, the 19-year-old snow leopard, has died.

Azeo was productive and left an impressive legacy after fathering 12 pups with former mate Kachina and two more with second mate Sarani. Azeo’s offspring are now at zoos from Anchorage to Memphis.

In January, the Mexican gray wolves Kawi and Ryder and their seven pups were also taken to a “game school” south of Mexico City to learn how to hunt and survive in the wild before being released to their northern Mexico homeland .

The Malay Tiger Bunga was moved from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri to the ABQ BioPark Zoo in March. (Jackson Thompson / Dickerson Park Zoo)

The BioPark Zoo has been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Mexican Wolf Conservation since 1983 to bring the endangered species back into their native range and at the same time restore the animals’ genetic diversity.

In a creative exchange in March, the ABQ BioPark Zoo gave up one Malay tiger for another – the animal’s brother. The zoo brought Tiger Penari to the Bronx Zoo, while Penari’s littermate Bunga (pronounced “Boon-ya”) came from Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri that same day.

This move and the move of other zoo animals was coordinated as part of a species survival plan overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which aims to help maintain sustainable and genetically diverse animal populations.

The critically endangered Malay Tiger is native to the southern and central parts of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.

In another mix of zoo residents, Marcus, a 35-year-old male western lowland gorilla and the dominant silverback of the zoo he has lived in since 1987, was relocated to another zoo in the west in April. He was replaced by Kojo, a 19-year-old man from the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered. They are native to a number of countries in central, west, and equatorial Africa.

Mother hippopotamus Karen gave birth to a female baby at the ABQ BioPark Zoo in July. After a public naming competition, the newborn hippopotamus was named Matilda. (Roberto E. Rosales / )

A male Siamang, Rue, was born in June to 30-year-old mother Johore and 32-year-old father Brian. The baby joined 4-year-old brother Eerie. Siamangs are an endangered species native to the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

In July, the female hippopotamus Matilda was born. The pairing of 19 year old mother Karen and 47 year old father Moe. However, the pregnancy came unexpectedly as Karen had been put on birth control. Hippos, classified as endangered, are native to sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest populations being found in Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, and South Africa.

In early August, zoo veterinarians began seeing zooprimas contract the Shigella bacteria, the symptoms of which include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, and sometimes fever.

Huerfanita, a 48-year-old female western lowland gorilla at BioPark Zoo, was euthanized in August. (Courtesy ABQ BioPark Zoo)

Four primates died in the next two months: Huerfanita, a 48-year-old female western lowland gorilla, and the Siamangs Brian, Johore, and Baby Rue. Because Siamangs are extremely social and vocal creatures that form long-term family ties, Eerie, the zoo’s only remaining Siamang, has been moved to a new zoo to join a different Siamang group.

The cutting of the ribbon in October for the new raised Elephant Overlook Deck signaled the completion of phase 1 of the zoo’s new Asian exhibition. Construction phase 2 is underway and should be completed by December 2022.

Thorn, a 3-year-old male elephant at BioPark Zoo, died early on Christmas Day of an elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus that causes hemorrhagic disease. All elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state for their entire life, and it is not known why the virus sometimes becomes active.

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