Gibbon at the zoo
|Location||Coal Valley, Illinois, United States|
|Land area||240 acres (97 ha)|
Niabi Zoo is a public zoological park in Coal Valley, Illinois, serving the Quad Cities. Niabi Zoo offers 40+ acres bustling with more than 600 animals representing 200 species from around the world and is open for general admission April-October annually. Niabi offers robust education and outreach programs year round.
Niabi is one of six facilities owned and operated by the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District.
The zoo's name "Niabi" comes from the Osage Nation language and means "young deer spared by the hunter."
Niabi Zoo traces its history back to 1959, when local masonry contractor and animal lover, Gordon V. McLain, opened McLain’s Wild Animal Farm to the public. It operated as a privately-owned zoo for several years until Patti S. Wiman (1895 – 1976) purchased the farm and some surrounding land in 1963 and deeded it to the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, which owns and operates it as a non-profit community attraction to this day.
After the Zoo reopened to the public as a property of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, slow but steady improvements began to take shape. The zoo held its first Zoofari Ball fundraiser in 1972, and opened what was then called the “petting zoo” (now Domestic Animals) in 1974.
One of the most popular attractions – the train ride – accepted its first passengers in the spring of 1975. The 70s also saw the establishment of the adopt-an-animal program. This program allows guests to directly support their favorite animals at the zoo.
The 80s were an exciting time for Niabi Zoo. They opened the cat house in 1983, the Education Center in 1984 and the bird house (now the Biodiversity Hall) in 1985. In 1986 Niabi launched its official zoo volunteer program with 40 new volunteers.
The 2000s marked a huge and exciting blossoming of available guest experiences and improvements to animal welfare. In 2003, Niabi opened the bald eagle exhibit, and in 2004, it built the animal care center, Niabi’s first on-grounds hospital facility for the medical treatment of its animals. In 2005, the Gibbon exhibit opened, along with the Australian exhibit and the nutrition center where all of the animal diets are prepared and food is stored.
2007 and 2008 saw the addition of Passport to Africa and a new exhibit for the critically endangered red wolf. In 2011, the Zoo opened its new entry plaza and administration building to welcome guests and provide space for growing education programs.
2016 saw an increased focus on the park's aging infrastructure. While new exhibits were built and remodeled, Niabi also turned significant attention to repairing and replacing the water system, repairing and replacing other inadequate systems, and raising the standards of the entire experience to levels befitting a modern zoological park in the 21st century.
2017 brought renovations to the Reptile House, and new animals such as alpaca, mini donkeys, bactrican camels, aldabra tortoise, yellow-backed duikers and magean geese. As part of a rotating exhibit space, Niabi also open ‘Oceans’ in 2017 which featured over 50 aquatic species including seahorse and a Giant Pacific Octopus. The educational and outreach programs and volunteer program saw huge improvements as well this year. In 2018, Niabi added a pair of Pallas Cats.
Exhibits & Animals
Africa: Various areas around the zoo are home to animals from Africa. A main attraction, Passport to Africa includes a reticulated giraffe habitat featuring a male, Kenya, and a female, Twigga, that guests may feed under staff supervision. Inside the giraffe house is the home of a mixed primate exhibit, Wolf's Guenon and Allen's Swamp Monkey. Near the giraffe house are exhibits for [], yards for plaibs zebras, ostriches, aldabra tortoises Charlotte and Wilbur, and Gabe the Dromedary.
Biodiversity Hall: Previously called the "bird house," the Biodiversity Hall is home to several species including fennec foxes, slender-tailed meerkats, Cleo the African porcupine, Rosie the binturong, and Bob the ball python.
Other exhibits: Koi Pond
Former Exhibits and Animals
The Niabi Zoo previously held two Asian Elephants, Babe and Sophie. However, with changing perceptions on elephants in captivity and new AZA rules, they were voted to be moved to the Little Rock Zoo in 2013, with their exhibit becoming one for bactrian camels as mentioned above..
In 2018, the zoo released its master plan for the next six years. Among the most notable additions are new exhibits for lion and flamingos near the entrance and an expanded African exhibit.
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.
- Nelson, Shelley. (2013, October 4). Retrieved July 27, 2019 from https://wqad.com/2013/10/04/niabi-zoo-prepares-to-move-elephants.
- Retrieved July 27, 2019 from http://www.ricfpd.org/ForestPreserveDistrict/files/e7/e736bcc5-776c-4add-8ac9-5947f74788b0.pdf