Niabi Zoo director steps down

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UPDATED:  Niabi Zoo assistant director Marc Heinzman was named acting director of the zoo until a permanent director is chosen.  

After a little more than a year on the job, Mark Ryan is out as director of the Niabi Zoo.

Ryan’s resignation from the position was made official January 25, 2012 but his last day as director was reportedly January 20.

Ryan, who previously worked at a zoo in Manhattan, Kansas and at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and Shedd Aquarium, became director at Niabi Zoo when Tom Stalf left to become senior vice president of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo and Aquarium.

Officials at Niabi Zoo confirmed Ryan’s resignation but would not say what led to the decision.

An attorney representing Ryan said his departure was the result of a mutual agreement among all parties concerned.

The decision followed a January 6 meeting at which the Rock Island County Forest Preserve members, who oversee the Niabi Zoo, learned of Mr. Ryan's decision to donate the two black bears at Niabi Zoo to the Akroon (Ohio) Zoo. 

After the bears move, Niabi Zoo officials plan to make improvements to the bear enclosure before bringing in a “more exotic” species of bear.  

There is no timeline for the bear enclosure improvements.

The zoo is also continuing to raise funds needed to improve its elephant enclosure.

Prior to being named an assistant zoo director, Mr. Heinzman had been a zookeeper at Niabi Zoo since July 2008.  He has also worked at the Kansas City (Missouri) Zoo and at Rock Island County Animal Care and Control in Moline, Illinois.