Abidjan Zoo Brown Bag on March 8 and 11
Zimmerman (top center), Eschenbrenner (top right) and the crocodile capture team. Photo courtesy of Matt Eschenbrenner.
Last month two ABQ BioPark experts traveled to the Cote d’Ivoire to help rehabilitate the zoo in war-torn Abidjan. Dr. Ralph Zimmerman, head veterinarian, and Matt Eschenbrenner, senior reptile keeper, will give a talk on their conservation outreach work on March 8 and March 11, 12-12:45 at the ABQ BioPark Zoo’s Colores Education Building. The talk is included with regular admission.
The zoological world’s attention was drawn to Abidjan by the world’s largest captive population of the critically endangered West African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus). With 37 individuals in its care, Zoo d’Abidjan has almost as many of the rare crocodiles as are still surviving in the wild. The country is slowly recovering from more than a decade of civil war, and the zoo is in desperate need of rehabilitation and support. On a trip funded by the New Mexico BioPark Society, Zimmerman and Eschenbrenner traveled to Africa with supplies, manpower and expertise to help.
“Being involved in international conservation is something that every keeper dreams about,” said Eschenbrenner. “It was an unbelievable trip. We were able to get so much accomplished from training and educating keepers to advising the community about croc problems to identifying the ‘Founding Fathers’--the six cataphractus coming to the U.S. for conservation research and breeding here.”
Excerpts from Eschenbrenner’s travelogue are posted at www.abqbiopark.com/abidjan. While his time was spent primarily with crocodiles and the crocodile keepers, he also writes about the veterinary work that Zimmerman performed with all of the zoo’s residents and the work the pair did advising community leaders about ways to rehabilitate the zoo.
“With civil wars and poverty-driven hunting, the native wildlife has been wiped out in many areas of Cote d’Ivoire,” said Zimmerman. “The zoo in Abidjan has great potential to be the place where people can come to see and learn about animals.”
The outreach trip was funded through the New Mexico BioPark Society’s Conservation Fund. The BioPark will continue to provide support virtually through emails, and we may host their staff on training visits in the future. Eschenbrenner is an active member of the Crocodilian Advisory Group and is working on bringing West African slender-snouted crocodiles to Albuquerque in the future.