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ABQ BioPark Hosts Four Zookeepers from the Ivory Coast

Two-week exchange is part of a multi-year international crocodile conservation partnership.

August 8, 2018 - This week, four zookeepers from the Zoo National d'Abidjan(ZNA) in the Ivory Coast are visiting the ABQ BioPark as part of a multi-year conservation partnership between the two facilities. 

The men arrived on July 31 and will return to the Ivory Coast on August 13. While in Albuquerque, they are shadowing BioPark staff members in their areas of expertise, going on facility tours, and participating in cultural events including attending an Isotopes game and a Zoo Music concert.

"We are ecstatic to have our friends from the Zoo National d'Abidjan here on BioPark grounds," said Matt Eschenbrenner, ABQ BioPark supervisor of herpetology and Abidjan project lead. "It has added a new dimension to this partnership and I truly believe that the knowledge they gain from this visit will be valuable to them as they continue their careers in the zoo field."

One of the four visitors, Berte Mamadou, said Albuquerque is the "most beautiful city" he's ever seen and that he is "very impressed by the discipline of the people." Another, Andre Zoh, said he's impressed by the diversity of animals and plants at the ABQ BioPark.

ABQ BioPark team members have visited ZNA every year since 2014 with the goal of helping the facility breed and care for the critically endangered West African slender-snouted crocodile, which is native to West Africa. Within six months of the initial visit, ZNA celebrated its first successful crocodile reproduction in more than 20 years. Since then, the ABQ BioPark has continued assisting with the crocodile breeding program while also contributing in other areas including giving veterinary care, providing diet recommendations, and gifting essential items like work boots.

To date, 12 ABQ BioPark employees, including zookeepers, aquarists, maintenance and communications staff, and veterinarians, have visited ZNA to offer their expertise, learn from ZNA staff, and participate in a cultural exchange. 

In 2018, staff went into the field for the first time, successfully collecting health information about wild crocodiles in Tai National Park in the western portion of the Ivory Coast. According to Eschenbrenner, the data they collected is "new and groundbreaking" for this species and can be used to set baseline guidelines for captive crocodiles.  

The partnership is funded by contributions from the New Mexico BioPark Society and is part of the ABQ BioPark's in-situ conservation program. 

Read more about this multi-year international conservation project. 

Learn more about the ABQ BioPark's conservation programs.

Click here to access the media kit including photos and videos of the visitors.