ABQ BioPark Zoo unveils first phase of new Asia exhibit

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Albuquerque BioPark Zoo is getting ready to open a brand-new exhibit – part one of the new Asia expansion area.

The new area is offering folks a different, more immersive way to experience some of their favorite animals and during the ribbon-cutting early Monday afternoon, it’s clear the elephants are pretty excited about it.

The first part of the new Asia exhibit includes a new pavilion to see the elephant exhibit. Previously, folks could only see the elephants in the small staging area, but now they can experience the entire 5-acre habitat.

"From this overlook, you will be able to watch the elephants move across the 5-acre habitat into new areas, you’ll get to see different enrichment activities that keep our elephants’ bodies and mind active, and you’ll get a great view of our training sessions,” said Stephanie Stowell, director of the Albuquerque BioPark.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the pavilion also includes one, highly-requested addition.

"It also has shade, which, by the way, is the number one thing people request at the BioPark – more shade,” he said.

Officials said they still have to add some final touches, but they’re hopeful guests will be able to enter by the end of the month. The rest of the expansion is still well over a year away.

Phase 2 is not expected to open until 2023 at the earliest. That area will include a new home for the zoo’s tigers, snow leopards, orangutans and hopefully some zoo babies.

"So we’re going to be giving them new exhibits, habitats, training opportunities, and welfare opportunities here in the new expanded exhibits and have space to potentially expand our collection, you know hopefully there will be some offspring and they’ll have great space for future generations,” said Brandon Gibson, deputy director of the city’s Department of Arts and Culture.

For now, there’s just a lot of construction equipment but officials said that’s not necessarily a bad thing

"I’m the mother of 2 young men, who were little boys, this is a like a dream come true. We have elephants on one side, and heavy equipment on this side for the next 12-15 months,” said Shelle Sanchez, director of Albuquerque’s Arts and Culture Department.

The zoo is also working on plans for a new Australia exhibit – officials said it will also be built in 2 parts. They’re expecting to release more details by the end of the year.