COAL VALLEY, Ill. (KWQC) – As Simon and Garfunkel once wrote, “someone told me it all happens at the zoo.” While the songs may not be referring to Niabi Zoo, there’s certainly a lot going on as it kicks off its 60th season in 2023.
On a windy Monday, there were several families who entered the zoo for the first time this year.
“I know it’s a little cold, but we just wanted to get the kids out, enjoy the day and hopefully see some animals,” said one zoogoer.
Another said: “Today is calm. We have the whole zoo to ourselves so we can take our time and do whatever we want. “My son enjoys animals, so we come and see them every chance we get.”
According to Lee Jackson, director of the Niabi Zoo, improving the zoo is something that will help visitors see the animals better and also keep the animals in homes where they can thrive.
“One of the big things we want to do is get rid of the old bars,” Jackson said. “This exhibition [snow leopards] The exhibit is great for size. The enclosures are the perfect size for these animals and are larger than most cat zoos. These enclosures harken back to the zoos of the early 19th century and we really want to move away from that and give people a better way to see animals and in a more natural environment.”
In addition to the renovation of the building, two new exhibits will make their debut this year. One of them is a new prairie dog exhibit that will open in August, and an African painted dog exhibit that will open within the next few months.
But that’s not all, Niabi Zoo has partnered with Kulture City, a non-profit organization that strives to “never let go” by creating sensitive access and inclusion for people with invisible disabilities. This is to make the zoo more accessible to those with sensory issues.
“We will have headphones [and] we will have areas designated as quiet zones,” Jackson said. “We will also have a sensory outreach day, to be announced soon, where it will be open to people only with these sensory issues and concerns.”
Also new at the zoo: electric scooters that look like animals called Scooter Pals. These can be rented by visitors and driven around the zoo to see the exhibits in a new way.
The zoo is open every day of the week from 10:00 to 17:00, and the last visitors enter at 16:00.
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