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ABQ BioPark Opens New Asia Habitat

Largest expansion in decades sets the new standard for animal care and wellbeing at the Zoo.
October 05, 2023

The ABQ BioPark Zoo opened a new $33 million Asia habitat today, and it’s an entirely new point of view for iconic wildlife such as snow leopards, Malayan tigers, Steller’s sea eagles, siamangs, and orangutans. The 4.5-acre space, the first new habitat area created at the Zoo in decades, offers larger and more dynamic spaces that give its residents more choice and control over how they spend their days.

“Our BioPark continues to be a window to the natural world, and the Asia exhibit is a big step forward, providing an entirely new experience for the animals they are privileged to care for,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “It opens a rich glimpse into natural behaviors for these remarkable species, and how we must protect them.”

The innovative “flex habitat” design provides tigers, siamangs, and orangutans the chance to spend time in different habitats each day. Special “wobble trees” rock back and forth and sway poles bend as primates jump, swing and climb on them, just as trees do in the wild.

Mayor Keller and the ABQ BioPark, with help from students and teachers from neighboring Dolores Gonzales Elementary School, officially opened the 4.5-acre Asia habitat at the Zoo on Thursday morning.

The Malayan tiger and snow leopard can lunge and jump onto items hanging from the new pounce lines and exercise their hunting instincts.

Majestic Steller’s sea eagles can spread their wings to fly freely and dive into their pond.

Each habitat is also brimming with carefully designed nooks and crannies for staff to stock with enrichment items, like food and scented objects that stimulate the animals’ senses and invite them to explore further.

Asia’s immersive experience extends to guests, too. Walkways lead guests through forests, mountains and coastlines and underneath bridges and ledges where their favorite animals watch them from above. Guests also may take the “brachiation challenge” to see how they fare when moving like a great ape. Guests will get a super-close view as caregivers train animals to participate in their own health exams.

“Our staff is thrilled beyond belief to have these creative new options to enrich the lives of our wildlife,” said Lynn Tupa, Zoo Manager. “It’s our responsibility and honor to ensure our animals live their best lives, and our team came up with remarkable ways to enhance each moment of the animals’ day.”

Educational messages are woven throughout Asia, as well. People work to protect the things they care about, and the new habitat focuses on how guests can help protect wildlife across the world, with easy-to-understand exhibits on subjects such as wildlife trafficking, sustainable palm oil and how humans and animals interact. Guests will learn how conservationists are helping Asian animals in the wild and how they can help, too.

Asia’s unique design incorporates renewable energy sources, passive ventilation, sustainable materials, water reclamation, stormwater management, and LEED-inspired strategies.

The expansion was funded by the 1/8-cent, voter-approved Gross Receipts Tax. This tax had broad public support and was approved in 2016. It has funded many improvements to the ABQ BioPark, from behind-the-scenes maintenance and infrastructure improvements to the beloved Penguin Chill habitat that opened in 2019.

In addition to funding by the GRT tax, the New Mexico BioPark Society (NMBPS) wishes to acknowledge the dedicated community partners whose generosity helped bring Asia to the ABQ BioPark: Thornburg Investment Management, Teller Brewing and RNDC, as well as the PNM Foundation. PNM has been a long-time supporter of the BioPark. This year, in honor of 40 years of giving back, the PNM Foundation decided to celebrate by giving some more. NMBPS was awarded a special anniversary grant for the Asia Discovery Trail and Research Field Camp, promoting science education and conservation.

And finally, NMBPS would like to extend its gratitude to its newest partner, PNC Bank. The PNC Foundation collaborates with the BioPark's education department and has helped offer the BioPark experience to low-income students in the surrounding neighborhood. Additionally, PNC Bank has helped make the exceptional possible with their presenting sponsorship of the Asian primates. NMBPS is honored to welcome them to Albuquerque and the BioPark family. NMBPS and the ABQ BioPark thank their partners, sponsors and supporters and look forward to continuing to serve our community together.