kids encyclopedia robot

Niabi Zoo facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Niabi Zoo
Gibbon close-up.jpg
Gibbon at the zoo
Location Coal Valley, Illinois, United States
Land area 240 acres (97 ha)
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

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 1970s also saw the establishment of the adopt-an-animal program. This program allows guests to directly support their favorite animals at the zoo.

The 1980s 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

Australian Walkabout: Walk-thru exhibit of rainbow lorikeets, Vivian the black swan, and an aviary of parakeets. Guests are able to feed the birds under staff supervision.

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 yards for plains zebras, ostriches, aldabra tortoises Charlotte and Wilbur, and Gabe the Dromedary.

Asia: Around the zoo, species from Asia can be seen, including two Bactrian camels named Taj and Fergie, and white-cheeked gibbon, Max and CJ, with plans for future attractions.

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.

Big Cat habitat: Home to Bobcats Frick and Frack, Snow leopards, and two subspecies of Leopard, two African Leopards, and a critically endangered Amur leopard named Zeke.

Reptile house: Home to a 17-foot-long Green anaconda and an assortment of lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

North America: Critically endangered red wolves, Xena the bald eagle, a North American porcupine, and yellow-backed duikers.

Domestic Animal Zone: Petting Zoo for chickens, miniature zebu cattle, llama, alpacas, sheep, miniature donkeys, and San clemente goats.

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.

Master Plan

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.

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.

kids search engine
Niabi Zoo Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.