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What’s new at the Niabi Zoo

COAL VALLEY, Illinois -- Pallas cats... yellow-backed duikers... longhorn cowfish...

If you've never heard of these animals, you're about to.

The Niabi Zoo is opening for the 2018 season on Saturday, April 14.  In addition to welcoming new animals during their shuttered winter months, the zoo made some improvements to their existing exhibits and moved some species in together.

Curator of conservation and education Joel Vanderbush said when they decide which species to put together they consider their natural habitats and which animals would intermingle safely.

In the Biodiversity Hall, the newly-added weaver birds in with the African-crested porcupines.  The meerkats are also sharing their habitat with tortoises.

"That is a bit more natural for them because animals don't live as a single species out in the wild they're always interacting with other species," said Vanderbush. "It just makes for a much more dynamic experience for the guest and for the animals themselves."

In the reptile exhibit, the anaconda got an upgrade to her habitat.  She moved into a larger space that's more centrally located for visitors to see right when they walk in.  This leaves her former home open for a future addition.

The Oceans exhibit is on the second year of its two-year stay at Niabi.  Most of the creatures will move on to their next destination, but some have been held back and moved to other exhibits.  One of those is the longhorn cowfish.

Among the domestic animals, the zoo brought in four San Clemente Island Goats, which are a rare breed of goat.  There are only about 750 in the world.  The zoo has three females and one male.

The zoo is also bringing in yellow-backed duikers and Pallas's cats.  Ahead of the opening, these creatures have been getting used to their new habitat, and the zoo leaders said they will be more active as they get comfortable in their home.

In 2018 the zoo is offering Conservation Champion Bracelets for $2 at admissions and the gift shops.   All of the proceeds go directly to the Niabi Conservation Fund for conservation projects.

Click here for more information on the zoo's education programs.

Click here for admission costs and hours.