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ABQ BioPark Continues its Work in the Ivory Coast

Fall 2019 trip focuses on relationship building and field work.

Jan. 10, 2019 - The ABQ BioPark recently completed its eighth trip to the Ivory Coast to continue a partnership that started with crocodile conservation at a local zoo in 2014.

In October, five staff flew to the Ivory Coast, starting in Abidjan but spending the majority of the two-week trip at a field site in Grand-Béréby, a coastal town in southwestern portion of this West African country.

Here, they would split into three groups working on crocodile, sea turtle and pangolin research. The ultimate goal for much of this research is to help document species to help support a proposal to create a new national park in the area.

Before beginning, the group met with village elders to explain their purpose. The elders ultimately gave the group their blessing through a special ceremony.

"This trip was all about building relationships," said team co-leader Katie Anderson. "Strong working bonds create lifelong friendships, and ultimately are the most important component to working in West Africa."

Crocodile Team

Team members:

Katie Anderson, Lauren Gruny from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida, two local PhD students Michel N’dede Ahizi and Christine Kouman

Activities:

Survey work on the river and in the jungle swamps

Accomplishments:

  • Saw all three species of crocodile in the region (West African crocodile, slender snouted crocodile and dwarf crocodile)
  • Took a few blood samples to measure several components, mainly looking at ionized calcium
  • Collected GPS data on all crocodiles that were encountered, which will help researchers log which species are where

Sea Turtle Team

Team members:

Chaz Moxley, Ashley Baca

Activities:

Walking beaches to look for turtles and evidence of poaching

Accomplishments:

  • Started relationship with Conservation des Espèces Marines (CEM), a sea turtle conservation organization in the Ivory Coast
  • Potential for building a more comprehensive sea turtle research and protection project, partnering with CEM

Pangolin Team

Team members:

Cassie Barber, Tim Van Loan, one local PhD student Guy-Brou Mathieu Assovi

Activities:

Hiking through the jungle looking for pangolins and evidence of pangolins

Accomplishments:

  • Found pangolin nests as well as evidence of chimpanzees and leopards
  • Documented various bird species, taking photographic evidence to help a local non-governmental organization. Many species were not previously documented.

Images from the ABQ BioPark's Fall 2019 trip to the Ivory Coast.