The Lions At The ABQ BioPark Zoo To Be Relocated

Siblings’ relocation part of modernization of zoo’s oldest habitats

February 22, 2023 – After a three-years-long pursuit, the ABQ BioPark Zoo has received a recommendation for African lions Kenya and Dixie to be transferred to another AZA-accredited zoo. This transfer will allow the BioPark to move forward with plans to update and modernize the Catwalk. A move like this is complex and requires several stages of review before plans can be finalized and departure dates and destinations announced. At this stage, the receiving zoo still has the unlikely option to decline the transfer.

While the lions are adored by guests and staff alike, their aging habitat is not. The Catwalk is one of the oldest and most outdated spaces at the BioPark. The footprint of the current Catwalk doesn’t allow for the modifications necessary to renovate the lion’s indoor or outdoor habitat to exceed ever-evolving industry standards. Nor does it provide satisfactory space as an alternate home during any future renovation.

The BioPark’s expert animal care staff is providing the best care for the lions in their current habitat, given its constraints. While Kenya and Dixie are happy, healthy and safe at the BioPark, their newly selected home will provide a larger outdoor space and comprehensive indoor areas for training and healthcare.

As part of its commitment to animal wellbeing, the BioPark has invested millions of dollars to create new, state-of-the-art homes for snow leopards and the Malayan tiger. Those habitats will open later this year in the new Asia exhibit complex. The outdoor habitat for jaguars was recently renovated to add more space and complexity. Other interim upgrades to the Catwalk include the removal of walls between adjacent habitats and the construction of climbing structures to create more room for exploration and enrichment for smaller cats.

Over the last year, the BioPark went through a rigorous process to update its master plan, which is funded by a ⅛-cent gross receipts tax. The BioPark’s intention with the updated master plan is to bring lions back to the BioPark in the future. A new lion habitat would be designed to exceed modern zoological standards and anticipate the future welfare needs of its inhabitants, including amenities to support lions’ physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The updated master plan will also provide short-term guidance for the use of the Catwalk with modification, and these plans will be published later this spring.

“Kenya and Dixie are among the most popular animals among staff and guests.” said Stephanie Stowell, BioPark director. “We will miss them, but we know they will receive excellent care in their new home. We’re looking forward to upcoming expansions at the BioPark that will benefit future lions and enable our park to be a leader in lion conservation and care.”

Brother and sister, Kenya and Dixie were born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2013. They have lived at the ABQ BioPark since 2016. Their relocation is coordinated through AZA’s African Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) to support the genetics, demographics and long term sustainability of lions in human care.

Finding homes for lions isn’t easy. They require a lot of space, opportunities to socialize within a pride and careful consideration of genetics. Like the BioPark, many zoos are also adapting aging spaces into large new animal homes that meet and exceed industry standards. 


African lions are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Populations in the wild have declined over 43% in the last 25 years due to poaching, habitat loss and depleted prey population. 

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