ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The BioPark is giving insight into how the animals are handling the lack of hustle and bustle at Albuquerque’s zoo. Staff says many of the animals are noticing the crowds are gone, but that zookeepers are keeping them entertained.
“Some of that stuff is stuff that visitors do for us, you know, they engage the animals, they get them to think, they get them to problem solve,” BioPark Director Dr. Baird Fleming stated. He added that there are animals that miss showing off for the crowds and the extra interaction, namely the penguins, apes, elephants, cheetahs, and polar bears.
“They miss having the crowds and I would venture to say that even the penguins- when I would go into the penguin exhibit, you’d see the penguins go and interact with people through the glass and they don’t have that anymore so our keepers are stepping up big time to make sure everybody is actively engaged,” Fleming said.
Now, zookeepers are making sure the animals are staying busy with enrichment activities, training, and exercise. Fleming said he’s even noticed some behavioral pattern changes in the animals, meaning they’ll mix up where they hang out.
The BioPark is looking into possibly adding cameras to some exhibits so people can enjoy the zoo from home, like they can with the Penguin Chill. He said the BioPark hadn’t done it in the past because of poor Internet connection and because they want people to see the animals in person, but the pandemic is having them re-evaluate.
“How we can modify the way that we do things, how we modify the service that we provide to the public?” he asked.
Fleming said staff is concerned about lost revenue at the gates that would help pay for animal training and conservation efforts, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if attendance takes a 30% hit for the year. However, they are still assessing the losses.
“We’re very concerned about the loss in revenue, we’re very concerned about the impact this is having on our [New Mexico BioPark] Society, our fundraising organization,” he said. “May is our busiest month always and so not having any visitors is hugely impactful.”
The BioPark still has money coming in from the voter-approved BioPark tax that pays for capital improvement projects like the new Asia and Australia exhibits that are still on schedule.
“We want people not to forget us. We want people to know that while they can’t visit us, our animals are getting the absolute best care possible,” Fleming said. “We’re still making sure that everybody who lives here is happy, healthy, and safe and we can’t wait for everybody to come back.”
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