Niabi Zoo focuses on the future

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As the summer season comes to an end, those at Niabi Zoo are only looking ahead.

After losing their AZA accreditation last month, staffers and volunteers come up with a plan to get it back. Many of those improvements are already in the works, and in the meantime, zoo director Marc Heinzman says visitors shouldn't expect anything less from their experience.

The plan involves three major fixes: hiring more staff, updating book-keeping records, and building a new elephant exhibit. The new elephant enclosure will be four times the size of the current one and will have an indoor viewing area. It will also have space for up to four elephants. But as Marc Heinzman well knows, that all costs money.

"The elephant exhibit in itself that we’re working on will probably cost somewhere between four and five million dollars.  Adding staff obviously doesn’t cost that much, initially, but it is something we will have to come up with funding for to add into our budget," said Heinzman.

Luckily, one of the zoo's biggest events is coming up on the last weekend in October. Last year 11,000 people came trick-or-treating at Niabi for "Boo at the Zoo." Though it's not the zoo's biggest moneymaker, the exposure it brings is key to Niabi's mission and longterm fundraising.

“One of our missions is to get people to come out and see the animals and connect with them, and hopefully care more about not just the animals, but Niabi Zoo as a whole," said Heinzman.