An Albuquerque city councilor is calling for an independent veterinary assessment of animals at the Botanic Garden Heritage Farm, saying some are without water and showing signs of other ill health or anxiety.
Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn presented a series of photos of the farm during Wednesday’s city council meeting that showed empty water pans, multiple chickens and turkeys with exposed skin due to missing feathers and a rooster missing a tail. She said she did not believe the park was taking good care of the animals in her care and requested that the city call in an outside vet to check them and also consider a plan to release them to a shelter.
According to a city spokeswoman, there are currently 22 animals on Heritage Farm: five chickens, five bourbon red turkeys, seven Navajo churro sheep, three llamas, a horse and an alpaca. Officials say BioPark’s veterinary staff make regular rounds to check on them.
“I believe Albuquerque residents have a right to know what is happening at the BioPark,” Fiebelkorn said at one point during the councilors’ question-and-answer period with city officials.
She said the photos were from a voter and from her own personal visit on June 14. She said during her own visit that she saw sheep without water.
“I was there 45 minutes; it was so hot my phone overheated and i couldn’t take additional pictures, but these animals were out there without water — not appropriate,” she said.
An official from the department overseeing the BioPark told the city that the Heritage Farm’s animals receive the same level of veterinary care as other animals at the BioPark, which also includes the zoo, aquarium and Tingley Beach.
Brandon Gibson, deputy director of the Department of Arts and Culture, said staff are “closely monitoring the birds’ molting,” noting that the chickens have passed their normal lifespans and are dealing with mites. Gibson said pecking increases in the warmer months, but staff on the receiving end are trying to separate it.
“The chickens are now being given antibiotics to deal with this molt and are also given topical ointments,” Gibson said at the meeting, saying he would have veterinary staff provide more detailed answers to the councilor’s questions.
But Fiebelkorn remained skeptical. She doubted the necessity of the exhibition.
“I don’t see how this display aids the BioPark’s mission, which I assumed was conservation and research that provided a comprehensive environmental park for the city of Albuquerque,” she said.
The BioPark has two full-time veterinarians and two full-time veterinary technicians. The team is on-site or on-call at all times, making “regular rounds” and immediately dealing with emergencies, spokeswoman Tanya Lenti said in written responses to Journal inquiries. Lenti could not say what regular rounds are on Thursday.
“The BioPark also has a full-time Animal Welfare and Behavioral Training Manager who also makes regular rounds and works closely with all animal care professionals to ensure the highest level of care for all of the BioPark’s animals,” said Lenti. “All animals in the BioPark receive daily welfare assessments and care from professional animal caretakers.”
She said multiple outside veterinarians have visited the ABQ BioPark in the past 13 months as part of its regulatory requirements — one for the accreditation process from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and two from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The AZA re-accredited the BioPark last September.