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'He's a great ambassador for our zoo': Dean the llama the face of Zoo Boise's conservation efforts

While he's pretty cute to look at, Dean is actually helping save other animals in Gorongosa National Park.

BOISE, Idaho — Meet Dean Martin. 

But he's just 'Dean' to the Zoo Boise staff and the thousands of visitors that flock to his exhibit every year.

Dean was part of a llama herd that arrived at Zoo Boise years ago. All were named after members of the 'Rat Pack': Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Joey Bishop, and Frank Sinatra.

Today, Dean is the only llama that remains.

At 22-years-old, Zoo Boise Director Gene Peacock says Dean is about 80 in human years.

"Dean, he's doing good. He's got some age-related issues," Peacock said. 

"He's got a corneal ulcer which is common in older animals," Holly Holman, a veterinarian at Zoo Boise. "We've got a protective contact lens on, it actually covers his entire left eye."

Holman says he'll have that on for about a month.

The average life-span of a llama? 20 years.

So what's the secret to living a long, healthy and happy llama life?

"He eats a good balanced diet, he gets lots of TLC from us," Holman said. "I think good genetics and things like that are all factors. He's just lucky I guess."

"He is well, well-loved by the community," Peacock said.

So well-loved that Zoo Boise has used him as their unofficial spokes-llama.

 "I'm pretty sure there have been thousands and thousands taken of dean the llama over the years," Peacock said. "He's been in media campaigns, he was a big part of our Gorongosa groundbreaking and opening."

Zoo Boise is part of a partnership to rebuild the Gorongosa National Park, nearly destroyed by 25 years of war in Mozambique.

The zoo hopes their new exhibit will generate $2 million towards conservation efforts.

By visiting Dean at Zoo Boise, part of the price of your ticket does just that.

"He's a really good boy and he's a great ambassador for our zoo," Holman said.

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