Niabi Zoo participates in 3 major research projects


News Release


For more information, contact:

Lee Jackson

Zoo Director

(309) 799-3482 ex 234

[email protected]

Niabi Zoo participates in 3 major research projects

COAL VALLEY, Ill. (March 30th, 2022)

The Niabi Zoo is pleased and excited to announce its participation in several important national and international research programs involving animals in our zoo, and in the wild. “The role of zoos has changed radically over the last few decades “said Zoo Director Lee Jackson.” A zoological park that does not contribute to the conservation of species and contribute to the overall pool of knowledge regarding animal welfare, veterinary science, animal nutrition, or animal behavior, is not fulfilling its true mission in the 21st century”. “Zoos and Aquariums are and always will be places where people go to experience first-hand some of the most remarkable and awe inspiring parts of our world. But by our very structure we are not only in a position to do more, we have a moral and ethical obligation to do so “said Jackson.

The projects, all ongoing or beginning soon, will help answer questions ranging from veterinary care, basic animal welfare, to the effective tracking of endangered species in the wild.


Current projects

Snow Leopard Trust: Quantifying and correcting for systematic population overestimation in camera trapping studies of Threatened felids:

The Niabi Zoo along with 37 other zoos in North America and Europe, is working with the Snow Leopard Trust to improve photo identification techniques used to track these elusive endangered cats in the wild. By using the same types of camera traps to photograph our animals as researchers use in the wild, scientists will be able to develop a detailed catalog of all of the traits that differentiate the Snow Leopard from the other 3 large cat species sometimes found in the same area. The most important results of the work however will be the development of a comprehensive catalog of defining characters that will allow field researchers to tell individual snow leopards from each other. Since many camera trap photos of these animals are only partial images, significant rates of error can occur, giving an inaccurate picture of the total number of species that are actually left. This then has a huge impact on the amount of resources provided to the recovery of a species.

USDA Zoo and Aquarium SARS-CoV2 Serology study


As we all know too well, Covid has had a huge and tragic impact on humans over the last couple of years and continues to take lives today. What is less known to the general public is the effect Covid has had on wildlife, including animals held in zoos. Some of the animals that have died after contracting the virus in American zoos have been endangered species, such as the Snow Leopard. The study will help identify species that are at risk for contracting the virus, and determine which species to prioritize for vaccination.  The study will also investigate the antibody responses to the currently available vaccine and develop improved strategies for mitigation and biosecurity. Surveillance of wild animals that visit the zoo grounds will also be carried out.

American Institute of Rhinoceros Science (AIRS): A model for saving species with science ex situ:

This wide ranging study will take a new look into the four basic pillars of captive Rhino management in order for institutions to continue to provide the best possible care, based on strong science and to use those findings to increase the strength of captive populations that are sometimes called upon to supplement wild populations. These four areas of investigation are:

Physical fitness, reproduction, welfare, and nutritional physiology. The Niabi Zoo will supply fecal and blood samples for the study and will host project researchers when they visit our site.

To plan your visit, go to

A full list of reopening guidelines and closures can be found at

The Zoo will open on April 18th. Hours are from 10 a.m. – 5p.m. seven days per week, with last entry at 4 p.m.


About Niabi Zoo

Niabi Zoo, which is operated by the Forest Preserve District of Rock Island County, offers an opportunity to explore more than 40 acres in Coal Valley, Illinois that encompass 200 animal species. This exploration guides guests through the discovery of more than 800 animals from around the world.  Niabi Zoo strives to instill a sense of care and understanding for wild animals in each and every visitor as they work in the community. For more information about the Zoo, visit


Like so many others, staff shortages have required us to rethink our operational strategy in an effort to continue providing the level of service our guests and animals deserve.

Effective opening day, April 18, tickets pre-ordered online by 9 a.m. the day of your visit will be discounted while tickets purchased at the zoo admission booth will be a few dollars more. Our new process will allow us to staff more effectively for expected attendance, ensuring the best experience for you and while taking care of our team.

These little ones can’t wait to welcome you to the zoo this season! Thank you in advance for helping us create the best experience for YOU.

You can find all the details here:

The Niabi Zoo is a proud member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). Member Institutions are held to the highest standards of animal care and welfare. The ZAA is the fastest growing professional zoo organization in the United States.

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