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Editorial: BioPark doing big part to save threatened species

Snow leopards, Socorro doves, Guam Micronesian kingfishers and slender-snouted crocodiles. None of them is native to New Mexico, or the United States for that matter, yet all are a little safer from extinction in this new year because of work being done at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque.

The animal and facility experts have been able to think outside the box and combine their training with astute observations to improve each species’ breeding results.

For example, the zoo’s snow leopards are in their teens – almost geriatric – yet the breeding pair is “one of the most successful in the last eight years,” with seven litters with 11 surviving cubs. That’s in great part because zoo pros understand the big cats need vitamin B, this pair wants to be together at all times and female Kachina prefers an empty nest box.

The zoo’s Socorro doves, extinct in the wild since 1972, are a worldwide success story, with Albuquerque now home to 26 percent of the world’s population. And the kingfishers, extinct in the wild since the 1980s, are making a comeback as experts here figured out the cork blocks used for duck decoys are perfect stand-ins for the rotting logs the birds like to nest in. A population of 29 birds is now 200.

And two trips by zoo experts to Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, have helped the outlook for the critically endangered slender-snouted crocodile. What was just 50 in the wild has doubled thanks to Albuquerque’s professionals explaining proper egg and croc care and handling (regulate the temp and humidity around the eggs and keep them in the same position).

While it’s not on the placards outside the enclosures, visitors to the Rio Grande Zoo are getting more than a glimpse of an endangered animal; they are also getting a peek into what it takes to save an endangered animal. And that is something to be appreciated in this new year.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.