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Niabi Zoo Welcomes A New Season

WVIK Quad Cities NPR

Vivian the Black Swan is preening in a kiddie pool, as a birdhouse full of budgies erupts with tweets and screeches nearby. Despite the noise, Vivian seems like she's enjoying herself. It's the warmest it's been all year and the Niabi Zoo, her home, opens for the season in just a few short days.

Tammy Schmidt is the assistant director at Niabi and she's just as excited for the zoo to open as Vivian is. This year, the zoo is adding two new monkeys, Lucy and Hugo the singing dogs, a pair of Pallas' cats, and a red headed Tamarin. The most important addition though, may not be an animal at all. 

"We reduce, reuse, and recycle everything," said Schmidt. "We don't use plastic bags for any of our refuse anymore in the animals' habitats. We are now presenting reusable stainless steel straws in our gift shop. We have reef safe sunblock. We'll be offering reusable bags, we won't have plastic bags in our gift shop anymore. So we're really minimizing and walking our talk on single-use plastic."

The conservation doesn't stop in the gift shop, though. The zoo is doing its part to help endangered species. Katavi, an Eastern Black and White Colobus monkey, was just born at the zoo in December, as part of a program to protect the primates. The park is also home to a critically endangered Amur Leopard, of which less than 80 still exist in the wild.

Credit WVIK News / WVIK Quad Cities NPR
WVIK Quad Cities NPR
Katavi, a 4 month-old Eastern Black and White Colobus Monkey, lounges with his parents on a lazy, sunny day.

Niabi Zoo is doubling down efforts for educating and encouraging visitors to get involved themselves. The zoo will also continue hosting a Conservation and Science speaker series, bringing in one or two experts a month to talk about their own work, and what zoo-goers can do in their own homes. Between all the new animals and programs, there will be a lot new for visitors to see.

"I just encourage people to come out and experience everything there is to experience here," said Schmidt. "You can kind of get away from our urban areas and out into the woods a bit, come upon this oasis of a zoo. And just check out some of our really cool conservation and conversations about how we can all be better stewards of our planet."

The zoo's gates will open for another season at 10 a m on Saturday. 

I'm currently a Senior at Augustana College, working on majors in Multimedia Journalism and Mass Communication and Communication Studies. In addition to interning at the station, I also work for the Augustana Observer, the college's official student newspaper, as a writer for the Arts and Entertainment section.