Elephants Could Leave Niabi Zoo

The Niabi Zoo could get rid of its elephants. Babe and Sophie have called the Quad Cities home, both for more than a decade, but they could soon be on the move.  The Rock Island County Board welcomed in zoo leaders and the public to discuss the elephant’s future.

Experts say that the cold climate may also have an effect on the elephants. Hired by the county board, zoo consultant Alan Roocroft is calling for the Asian elephants to be moved.

Sophie also has no flex in her wrist. An expert believed it was probably because of Sophie’s long hours on the barn’s hard ground surface. As the elephants get older, Sophie’s 44, Babe’s 37, they face more health issues.

This year, the Rock Island County Board made improvements to the outdoor part of the elephant exhibit. The expert who visited in February says the board should have improved the barn for the elephants instead. The zoo has contacted other zoos to see if they’d be interested in taking on two other elephants.

“Just think about what’s best for Sophie and Babe,” says Jodey Eliseo, who used to work with Sophie and Babe, who also attended the meeting.

However, moving them is easier said than done, “They have to be prepared for the move, basically trained to make the move and you know it’s a big job,” says Steve Meersman, Rock Island County board member.

A concern for everyone involved, “I just want what’s best for the animals,” says Niabi Zoo director, Marc Heinzman.

The consultant’s recommending that if the county does move the elephants, they should be moved together. The Forest Preserve Commission’s already started to look at some options, but hasn’t released details about that yet. Board members say there will be many more meetings and planning sessions before they decide to vote on if the elephants should stay or go.

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