Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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In Defense of Animals, an animal protection organization, issued a report naming ABQ BioPark Zoo as the second-worst zoo in North America when it comes to elephant care. The ranking was influenced by the recent deaths of two adolescent elephants from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) and the small space allocated for the elephants.

ABQ BioPark Zoo, in response to its ranking, held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to address the perceived shortcomings identified by the report. Associate Director of the ABQ BioPark Bob Lee was quick to highlight the zoo’s research and efforts to provide the elephants and other animals in the zoo with a safe and healthy habitat and the research conducted by the zoo.

“It’s because of the work and the research and the funding that zoos and aquariums put into these diseases that give us the knowledge that we have,” Lee said. The Associate Director highlighted that it was because of zoos that EEHV was discovered.

Lee was also quick to emphasize Albuquerque BioPark’s commitment to the ongoing efforts it has taken to contribute to the species’ survival.

“The Albuquerque BioPark is absolutely committed to the survival of Asian elephants and the welfare of the elephants entrusted to our care. Part of that is allowing them to raise them together. That’s who they are. That’s how they have evolved,” Lee said when asked about their approach to breeding and rearing young elephants.

Lee ended the press conference by restating the zoo’s commitment to the well-being of animals in their care and how they’re continuing to improve the habitat.

“The message is that the animals entrusted to our care are our primary concern,” Lee said. “So we’re proud to stand before you and answer any questions that folks have about the work that we do and the lives that we provide for these animals.”

According to the organization, Edmonton Valley Zoo in Alberta, Canada was named the worst in North America for elephants. It is worth noting that IDA has a worldwide campaign criticizing urban zoos because they do not believe that urban zoos have enough room to keep elephants.