Albuquerque’s lions have arrived at their new home: the Abilene Zoo.
Kenya and Dixie, 9-year-old African lion siblings, recently left the ABQ BioPark for the zoo in Texas.
BioPark officials said their lion habitat in Albuquerque was built in 1984 and the move will provide the two lions with a better environment. The BioPark plans to make renovations and create a state-of-art habitat that could allow for lions to return in the future, but no timeline has been announced.
Their new enclosure in the Lone Star State has shade, platforms, a small creek, a dam, places to scratch themselves and several lion dens.
From their new habitat, Kenya and Dixie can see rhino, hogs, birds, ostrich, zebra, warthog, lemur and fossa, said Clay Carabajal, the Abilene Zoo’s supervisor of conservation.
The pair arrived Tuesday night and zoo officials opened them up to their new home Wednesday morning.
Carabajal said Kenya immediately took to his new space and started rubbing on everything to mark his territory.
He said Dixie was a little bit hesitant after the move, but by Thursday afternoon she was lying next to her brother from a platform, where visiting school groups sparked Kenya’s attention, Carabajal said.
“Kenya has been getting to the highest points of his habitat. And he just sits there and he just watches everything walk,” Carabajal said, adding that Kenya seems particularly curious about a nearby rhino, and watching ostriches run.
BioPark officials said while it’s sad to see the apex predators move, the transfer worked out for the best. The move was coordinated through Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s African Lion Species Survival Plan.
“This is a moment of real progress,” said Shelle Sanchez, the city of Albuquerque arts and culture director. “Because … the welfare of the animals, Kenya and Dixie, is the priority.”
Kenya and Dixie were born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and moved to Albuquerque in 2016. Dixie weighs 271 pounds; Kenya 434.
African lions are native to savannahs and grasslands. The median life expectancy for the species in human care is 17 years.
Stephanie Stowell, the BioPark director, said the zoo intends to someday be a home for lions.
“Our intention is to maintain that commitment to having lions as a part of the BioPark,” she said. “Just not right now.”