Niabi Zoo Elephants: Should They Stay or Go? - FOX 18 Quad Cities News and Weather

Niabi Zoo Elephants: Should They Stay or Go?

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Niabi Zoo elephants Babe and Sophie Niabi Zoo elephants Babe and Sophie

The Niabi Zoo may be losing some familiar faces. A leading expert on zoos has said Niabi's elephants, Babe and Sophie, may be better off somewhere else.

It's something county board members will talk about Monday in a meeting with that expert that will be open to the public.

The fact that Niabi even has these animals is rare in the Midwest.

We talked to zoo officials from all over this part of the country, including places like Des Moines, Omaha, Chicago and Minneapolis. None of them have elephants.

They all said it is just not feasible to house elephants in this region, which sees winter weather for several months each year.

The Niabi Zoo faces that same challenge. And, like other zoos in the Midwest, it's up against some tight regulations about things like the size and climate control capabilities for indoor elephant facilities.

It's become especially challenging since the American Zoo Association changed its requirements in 2011, making them even more strict.

If zoos don't follow these rules, they can lose AZA accreditation, which would make it harder bring in new animals and exhibits, potentially impacting attendance and the zoo's financial health.

But, here in the QCA, many people simply don't want to see their elephants leave:

"They're incredible and great animals to watch and I think that anytime an child has a chance to see and observe an elephant is wonderful," Shifra Gassner told us.

"It wouldn't really matter so much but it would be nice if zoos had elephants because they're pretty," added Alyssa Fisher.

But, other people support sending the elephants elsewhere if it comes to that.

"I think they should be where it's going to be comfortable for them - not just here for people's benefit," Amy Hudson said.

One zoo employee from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago said they transferred their elephants away three years ago because of they couldn't provide enough space for them.

According to a zoo officials from Des Moines, building indoor area for elephants that meets AZA standards can cost upwards of $10-15 million dollars.

Rock Island County owns Niabi Zoo and its elephants, and board members will make the final decision about whether they will stay or go.

Their meeting is set for Monday at 3 p.m. and is open to the public.

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