Niabi Zoo

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Niabi Zoo
African lion at the zoo
Location Coal Valley, Illinois, USA
Coordinates 41°26′34″N 90°26′02″W / 41.4427°N 90.4339°W / 41.4427; -90.4339Coordinates: 41°26′34″N 90°26′02″W / 41.4427°N 90.4339°W / 41.4427; -90.4339
Land area 240 acres (97 ha)

Niabi Zoo is 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 1957, Gordon McLain purchased land located just off Route 6 in Coal Valley, Illinois. It took almost two years to clear the ground and construct the first building.

In 1959, Mr. 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.

Mrs. 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.

In September 2012, Niabi Zoo lost its AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accreditation.[1]


Asian elephant habitat: Niabi Zoo currently has the last live elephant exhibit in the state of Illinois and one of the few in the Midwest. 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 the zoo is trying to raise $4 million to renovate the elephant habitat for the remaining two female Asian elephants, Babe and Sophie, and increase the herd.

Australian walkabout: Walk-thru exhibit of wallabies, emu, and an aviary of lorikeets. Guests are able to feed the birds under staff supervision.

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, African lions, and yards for plains zebras, ostriches, and dromedary camel.

Bird house: Several species of birds including macaws, cockatoos, swans, and kookaburras.

Bear/big cat cages: Outdated cages slated for renovation are home to leopards, jaguars, Bengal tigers, and American black bears.

Reptile house: American alligators and an assortment of lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

North American area: Endangered red wolves, bald eagles, bobcats, American bison, wapiti, and collared peccary

Other exhibits: White-handed gibbon, 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.


  1. ^ "Western Illinois' Niabi Zoo loses accreditation - AP State Wire News". The Sacramento Bee. September 11, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2012. 

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