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ABQ BioPark Zoo Welcomes a Baby Snow Leopard and a Gorilla

Says Goodbye to a Mountain Lion and a Navajo Sheep
ALBUQUERQUE, NM - It was a bittersweet week at the ABQ BioPark Zoo, with new arrivals joining and some long-time residents leaving.

Kailash, a male snow leopard was born on May 30 to mom Sarani and dad Azeo. Snow leopards stay very close to their mothers during the first months of life and will eventually start to explore. Sunday was Kailash's first day exploring his public habitat. Snow leopards are classified as vulnerable to extinction in the wild.

The ABQ BioPark Zoo also recently welcomed Nia Lewa, a 16-year-old female Western lowland gorilla to the ABQ BioPark family. Nia Lewa joins Samantha, who arrived in April, as well as Matadi and Marcus. She is a potential future mate for Marcus, the BioPark's male Silverback gorilla who has previously sired two sons at the BioPark. 


Nia Lewa came from the Toledo Zoo in late July with the help of both facilities' animal care staff. ABQ BioPark staff have spent the past few weeks introducing her to the other gorillas in her new troop and helping ensure she is thriving in her new home.


"Nia has integrated well into her new group," said ABQ BioPark Zoo Manager Lynn Tupa. "She has been introduced to all of the members of the group and is now living in the habitat with them."   
While our gorilla groups move between multiple exhibits, guests can currently spot Nia Lewa and her new group in the first habitat after the Apewalk entrance ramp.

Gorillas are critically endangered in the wild and their population is decreasing largely due to habitat loss.

The ABQ BioPark is sad to announce the passing of Spanky, its 17-year-old mountain lion. Spanky came to the ABQ BioPark along with his sister, Darla, as cubs in 2002 after their mother was hit by a car. The cubs were rescued by New Mexico Game and Fish and they lived briefly at The Wildlife Center in Española before making the Zoo their permanent home. Despite their rough start, the pair thrived for many years at the BioPark. Spanky enjoyed interacting with his zookeepers (through protective barriers, of course), and the zookeepers will surely miss him. Median life expectancy for a mountain lion is 13 years, so Spanky well surpassed his peers. As Darla is also 17, our caregiver staff monitors her health daily. To help make her time as comfortable as possible, Darla has access to a specially designed habitat for geriatric cats.

Shirley, a 16-year-old Navajo sheep who lived at the Heritage Farm at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden has died. Her keepers said she was a feisty old sheep. She was often a guest favorite at special events and class tours, where kids would sometimes have the opportunity to meet her up close. Average life expectancy for a Navajo sheep is 12 years. Her sister, Laverne, is also 16 and still resides at the farm.

The snow leopard birth and gorilla transfer are part of their respective animal's Species Survival Plan (SSP), recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Accredited zoos and SSPs work together to protect animals. Organized by AZA, SSP programs match animals to maintain genetic diversity, and help to ensure their survival.