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updated: 7/17/2013 7:57 AM

Niabi Zoo to loan out elephants, close exhibit

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Associated Press

COAL VALLEY, Ill. -- The only elephants at an Illinois zoo will have to find a new home.

The Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission voted 21-0 on Tuesday to loan the pair of pachyderms at the Niabi Zoo to another facility or a sanctuary.

Experts say Sophie and Babe, who are 37 and 40, need a bigger barn and warmer temperatures -- particularly as they get older.

Officials at the western Illinois zoo aren't sure where the elephants will go, but hope to have the pair in their new home in time for winter.

The Niabi Zoo lost its accreditation last year after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums said some exhibits, including the elephant enclosure, were lacking.

The zoo is considering whether to use the elephants' space for rhinos.

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