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BioPark Zoo reopening with some limitations

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A pair of young ocelots seen here on June 9, hang around on a hammock at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. Closed to visitors since mid March, the zoo will re-open on a limited basis starting Aug. 12. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The ABQ BioPark Zoo, closed since mid-March because of COVID-19, is getting ready for a partial reopening on Wednesday.

Only outdoor exhibits will be open, while indoor exhibits such as Penguin Chill and the reptile and crocodile buildings will remain closed. High-touch attractions, such as the carousel and trains, will not operate, and daily public feedings and shows will not be held.

The zoo, which will be closed on Mondays, will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., said Paul Garver, the BioPark’s guest services manager. People are asked to purchase timed tickets online at abqbiopark.holdmyticket.com. A limit of 2,100 tickets will be available daily, and visitors will have a 30-minute window to arrive for their scheduled visit. The last time slot will be 3:30-4 p.m.

Face masks will be required.

“Our animals and their caretakers are thrilled to welcome visitors back to the zoo,” Garver said in a news release. “We hope that our guests enjoy the new Zoo Trek, which is designed to keep our visitors and animals safe while enjoying popular animal habitats. We’re also excited for folks to experience our new Birds of the Islands exhibit and newly renovated Raptor Roost exhibit.”

The BioPark’s Botanic Garden will continue to be open daily from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., and it will offer evening hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

One animal that zoo visitors will no longer see is Memala, the female Sumatran orangutan. She was euthanized on July 31 after her inflammatory bowel disease could no longer be managed by diet and medication, and her condition deteriorated, said zoo manager Lynn Tupa.

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ABQ BioPark Zoo staff and visitors are mourning the loss of Memala, a 50-year-old Sumatran orangutan who was humanely euthanized after an intestinal illness worsened. (COURTESY CINDY RODGERS, NEW MEXICO BIOPARK SOCIETY)

Memala was 50 years old and was the second-oldest orangutan in any facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The median life expectancy for a female orangutan in captivity is 32 years, Tupa said.

A resident of the ABQ BioPark Zoo for 37 years, Memala arrived in 1983 from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. She adapted to her new home and lived with the BioPark’s four other orangutans, females Sarah and Rubi, and males Tonka, with whom she liked to snuggle, and Pixel, her frequent play and wrestling partner.

Orangutans are great apes native to Indonesia and Malaysia and are found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. The Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, classifies them as “extremely endangered” due to the capturing and selling of the animals as pets, and shrinking rainforest habitats that are cleared to make way for agricultural and industrial interests.

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