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Behind the scenes: Tours explore habits, demeanor of ABQ BioPark Zoo’s hippos, great apes

The New Mexico BioPark Society is hosting a Hippo Tour on Saturday, June 22, at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. (Courtesy of New Mexico Biopark Society)

Go behind the scenes and learn about the habits of the great apes and hippos at the ABQ BioPark Zoo.

Each tour lasts about an hour. The tours are led by the zookeepers, who will talk about each of the animals, their zoo home and their wild habitat, according to Allyson Zahm, New Mexico BioPark Society Development Manager.

“One of the best parts of this program is the opportunity to learn about each individual animal’s demeanor,” she said. “Guests will learn fun stuff, such as the animals’ favorite treats, favorite toys, interesting habits, as well as all the amazingly complex behaviors the animals do to support their own health care. As examples, the tour-goers will learn that the muntjac loves Cheerios, the gorillas get their teeth brushed, and the female hippo’s favorite toy is a big plastic ball.”

During the hippo tour, guests will help the zookeeper feed the semiaquatic mammals and learn how the zookeepers do everything from training to enrichment to basic hippo care. Also on this tour, guests will visit and interact with the Reeves’ muntjac, a tiny species of deer. During the ape tour, guests will watch a training session with one of the gorillas, visit the orangutan family and get a close-up view of the active and inquisitive siamang family.

“We have western lowland gorillas and Sumatran orangutans at the ABQ BioPark, both of which are critically endangered species,” Zahm said. “We also have two hippopotamuses, which are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.”

The hope is that guests will leave each tour with an appreciation of how much “love and hard work” go into caring for these animals.

“We hope that they’ll connect with the individual animals in a new way and they will be inspired to care for all animals in the wild,” Zahm said.

The Great Ape and Hippo Tours are scheduled for Saturday, June 22, as well as dates in July, August and September. Other animal tours are also offered every week.

“We offer different tours each weekend, and those include elephants, rhinos, giraffes, cats, reptiles, polar bears, lemurs and the vet clinic,” Zahm said. “We also offer behind-the-scenes tours at the Aquarium and the BUGarium at the Botanic Garden. All proceeds benefit the animals seen on the tours.”

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