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BioPark Staff Go Overseas for Conservation Work

Employees of the Week: Cultural Services’ Dr. Carol Bradford, Josh Davis, Lindsey Eagan, Matt Eschenbrenner, Chaz Moxley, Clovis Perea, and Kim Ward

March 17, 2017

Albuquerque, NM- Today, Mayor Richard J. Berry recognized seven ABQ BioPark staff members for their conservation efforts and passionate ambassadorship during a critical international mission at the Zoo National d’Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa. This week’s Employees of the Week are Dr. Carol Bradford, Josh Davis, Lindsey Eagan, Matt Eschenbrenner, Chaz Moxley, Clovis Perea, and Kim Ward. 

For the past three years, this team of ABQ BioPark employees has worked with staff at Zoo National d’Abidjan (ZNA) on species conservation, especially conservation of the endangered West African slender-snouted crocodile (Mecistops cataphractus). Recent surveys show a grim reality for this species, with fewer than 50 confirmed in the wild. It is the least-known crocodile on Earth and is critically endangered due to the bush meat and leather trades, large-scale habitat destruction and competition for fish with artisanal fisheries as fishing nets can entangle crocodiles. Although ZNA houses the largest captive population in the world, they struggle with breeding because zookeepers lacked supplies and training.

It was in 2013 when Matt Eschenbrenner learned more about Project Mecistops which led to the BioPark’s involvement with ZNA. Project Mecistops is a group of institutions worldwide, West African zoos, universities and those dedicated to the survival of central West African crocodiles. Project Mecistops is the first project in Africa specifically designed to reinforce and revive locally extinct crocodile populations.

The ABQ BioPark employees have successfully worked with ZNA to increase the number of this species in the wild. Since 2014, by sharing egg handling and incubation techniques, the employees have helped the ZNA go from a struggling breeding program for the critically endangered crocodile to producing more than 50 hatchlings.

ZNA is also recovering from the effects of two civil wars between 2002 and 2011. Some of the fighting occurred just outside ZNA's gates leaving the zoo in poor condition. ABQ BioPark staff trained ZNA staff on modern zoological and animal husbandry practices. To help ZNA get back on its feet, ABQ BioPark staff assisted in other areas across the zoo including welding, hoof stock and general animal examinations. This past year, staff worked on refurbishing the filtration machine for ZNA’s crocodile exhibit. In addition, ZNA also benefited from new gear gifted by the BioPark crew: work boots for the crocodile keepers, work shirts, a camera, a tablet, a second reptile incubator and numerous veterinary supplies.

These efforts are generously funded by the New Mexico BioPark Society’s Conservation Fund that pays for these annual visits.

This hard work goes far beyond just helping ZNA. These employees are ambassadors for the BioPark, Albuquerque and the United States. Their work in Cote d’Ivoire has taken them from working with crocodiles to meeting with the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ivorian Ministry and ambassadors from the United States, Canadian and Italian embassies. Conservation is an important part of the ABQ BioPark's mission and many programs at the ABQ BioPark support local, state-wide and international conservation efforts. It is for these reasons that Dr. Carol Bradford, Josh Davis, Lindsey Eagan, Matt Eschenbrenner, Chaz Moxley, Clovis Perea, and Kim Ward were recognized as this week’s City of Albuquerque’s Employees of the Week.

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The ABQ BioPark is an accessible facility and a division of the Cultural Services Department, City of Albuquerque, Richard J. Berry, Mayor. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a member of the American Public Gardens Association. For more information, visit www.abqbiopark.com or call 311 locally or 505-768-2000 (Relay NM or 711).