Big News for ABQ BioPark Elephants
Irene the elephant with ABQ BioPark Elephant Manager Rhonda Saiers. Photo: New Mexico BioPark Society.
Updated 04/05/2017 - The ABQ BioPark has some exciting news from its elephant herd.
Milestone Birthday for Irene
Irene celebrated her 50th birthday in March with an event that included elephant enrichment making for kids and special keeper talks.
The birthday was special because Irene's prognosis was grim upon arriving at the BioPark 20 years ago. Although she was 30 years old, she moved and looked like a much older elephant and it was believed that a continued decline in mobility would lead to a short life span. She had never been a member of herd and was suspicious of anything new.
Today Irene is a different elephant who is doing extremely well for her age.
"She is one of the first elephants new trainers learn to work with," said ABQ BioPark Elephant Manager Rhonda Saiers. "She is a productive member of a beautiful herd and makes 50 look amazing."
Over the years, Irene has been the focus of many changes made to the BioPark elephant program including an exercise plan to improve flexibility and strength, diet changes, and one of the most intricate behavioral enrichment programs in the country.
"The most exciting change came in November 2003 when the BioPark committed to becoming an Asian elephant breeding facility," said Saiers. "We could give Irene and the herd so much of ourselves, but not the one most important thing in the world to an elephant - more elephants. The addition of two young bulls added much-needed variety to the elephants' days. That endeavor has resulted in two births here at the BioPark, with the third on its way."
Rozie the Asian elephant is pregnant. This is Rozie's third pregnancy, including 3-year-old Jazmine, who also calls the ABQ BioPark home.
"We are thrilled to be adding another member to our multi-generational elephant herd," said Saiers. "Rozie has been an excellent mom and the new calf will be an important addition to our elephant family."
Asian elephants have a gestation period of 18-22 months and Rozie's expected due date is between mid-March and mid-June 2018.
The BioPark is designated as an Elephant Breeding Facility by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Elephant Species Survival Plan.