African lion at the zoo
|Location||Coal Valley, Illinois, USA|
|Land area||240 acres (97 ha)|
Niabi Zoo is a public zoological park in Coal Valley, Illinois serving the Quad Cities. Approximately 250,000 visitors a year make Niabi Zoo one of the area's most popular and largest attractions. Niabi Zoo is home to over 900 animals representing more than 160 species. The zoo's name "Niabi" comes from the Native American Osage Nation language and means "young deer spared by the hunter."
The zoo grounds cover 40 acres (16 ha), with an additional 200 acres (81 ha) is set aside for native flora and fauna preservation.
In 1959, McLain, a masonry contractor with an interest in exotic animals, opened the gates to the public. The McLain's Wild Animal Farm, later named The McLain Zoo, was a family-owned and operated venture.
Charles Deere Wiman purchased the farm and additional land in January 1963. In May 1963, she deeded the farm to Rock Island County, which owns and operates the zoo to this day.
The zoo opened its new Passport to Africa exhibit in 2007, and featured the zoo's first set of reticulated giraffes, Colobus monkeys, as well as a variety of other new species, nearly doubling the size of the zoo.
After sending the zoo's American black bears to the Akron Zoo in Ohio, the zoo was granted $230,000 for the purpose of "a natural habitat for a live panda, and if that is not feasible, then for an outdoor natural habitat for black bears" and assistant director Marc Hinzman has suggested they may instead acquire a more "exotic species", implying Spectacled bears from South America.
In September 2012, Niabi Zoo lost its AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accreditation.
The zoo's Asian elephants, Babe and Sophie, were unanimously voted to be sent away rather than raise $4 million for a new exhibit. They were the last live elephants in the state of Illinois. However, the zoo plans to build a new lion exhibit and potentially new habitats for tigers and bears at a later date. They are seeking to get re-accredited by the AZA.
Passport to Africa: The newest area of the zoo is highlighted by a reticulated giraffe habitat featuring a herd of 1 male and 2 females that guests may feed under staff supervision. Inside the giraffe house are small animal exhibits including sulcata tortoise, rock hyrax, and fennec fox. Near the giraffe house are exhibits for colobus monkeys, yards for plains zebras, ostriches, and dromedary camel, and a temporary house for African lions.
Lion exhibit: A new exhibit for lions is being planned.
Other exhibits: koi pond, petting zoo, and a rock island home to a herd of aoudad mountain goats.
Guest amenities: Playground, picnic areas, pavilions, education center, gift shop, train ride, carousel, and concessions. Several popular events are held annually coinciding with school holidays including Halloween, Easter, and more.
Asian Elephant habitat: This was the home of one of the most popular residents of the zoo for decades: Kathy Sh-Boom, a female Asian elephant donated from a circus in 1962. Kathy died in 2002, and Babe and Sophie left the zoo in 2013.