BioPark taking steps to protect New Mexico native species

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The zoo is a place where you can witness wild animals at first hand. But the ABQ BioPark is also taking steps to conserve species that are native to New Mexico, including some that were almost wiped out of the state completely.

Matt Eschenbrenner, supervisor in the BioPark’s Reptile Department, said, “In the Native Species Room, what we have are species of reptiles found in New Mexico that you, essentially, only find here within this state.”

KRQE News 13 got a special tour of the Native Species Room, including the northern Mexican garter snake. Not seen in 20 years, the BioPark found four snakes near the Gila River in June 2013.

“It was a heck of a find and a heck of a shock, too,” Davis said.

Last month, the zoo welcomed 11 healthy babies. The goal is eventual reintroduction of the species back into the wild.

Katie Anderson, a reptile and amphibian zookeeper, showed KRQE News 13 the Sacramento Mountain salamander, found only in New Mexico.

“They’re really special critters,” she said. The state lists these salamanders as threatened. The small population is vulnerable to droughts and fires.

“Having the Native Species program is really important to show our pride for New Mexico and how much we love our native species, and we really want to take care of them and conserve them,” Anderson said.

The zoo has also returned to breeding Mexican gray wolves, continues to take steps to save the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow, and the Botanic Garden is working to conserve New Mexico native plant species.

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