Niabi's lions to have new $3 million home

Posted Online: June 18, 2013, 7:03 pm
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By Eric Timmons,
COAL VALLEY -- The Niabi's Zoo three lions are getting a new home, at a cost of around $3 million.

The Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission on Tuesday approved a proposal to build a new exhibit for the lions.The project will be entirely funded by the Niabi Zoological Society, a non-profit that supports the county-owned zoo.

The lion exhibit is the oldest at the zoo, said Niabi Director Marc Heinzman. Plans to build a more modern home for the three big cats have been in place for a number of years.

Niabi has one male and two female lions. The new lion exhibit will give the animals more space to prowl.

The exhibit also will have new viewing windows to allow the public to get a face-to-face look at the lions, Mr. Heinzman said.

"This will provide a better experience for the animals and for our visitors," Mr. Heinzman said.

It will take eight to nine months to build the new exhibit, with a start date for construction yet to be set.The new exhibit also will have space for Niabi to add more lions in the future, although currently there are no plans to do so.

The Forest Preserve Commission approved plans for the new exhibit after Tuesday's Rock Island County Board meeting. All members of the county board sit on the commission.

The commission is likely to vote in the coming months on the future of Babe and Sophie, Niabi's two elephants.Elephant expert Alan Roocroft has recommended the animals be moved to a warmer climate where they can receive specialized care.


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