Elephants to leave Niabi Zoo

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The Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission voted to move the only two zoo elephants in Illinois out of Niabi Zoo.

Asian elephants Babe and Sophie will be moved by winter after a vote to approve the move happened at the commission’s meeting Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

The decision comes nearly a year after the last time the zoo celebrated birthdays for 44-year-old Sophie and 37-year-old Babe.

Negative impact from the cold climate, small indoor shelter and continuing health problems all contributed to a campaign to move the elephants out of Niabi Zoo.

“We want them to have the best life possible,” said Niabi Zoo Director Marc Heinzmann.

An expert has recommended that, if at all possible, Babe and Sophie be moved together.  It was unclear where the pair might go, and what animal might next occupy the exhibit.  Some consideration has been given to putting a rhinoceros in the space currently occupied by Babe and Sophie.

The outdoor portion of the elephant enclosure was recently expanded.  Zoo officials say the money that had been going in to the enclosure will continue to go into a capital improvement fund that will go to other projects throughout the zoo.

Zoo officials will work with the consultant to figure out the best place to transfer them to.