Duck Pond water wheel and shelter

What’s New

September 2019


Cosley Zoo is Certified Sensory Inclusive

KultureCity has partnered with Cosley Zoo to make the zoo and all of its programs and events sensory inclusive. This initiative promotes an accommodating and positive experience for all guests with sensory issues that visit the zoo.

As part of the certification process, staff at Cosley Zoo were trained by leading medical professionals on how to recognize guests with sensory needs and how to handle a sensory overload situation. Weighted lap pads and sensory bags, equipped with noise canceling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards, will also be available to guests who may feel overwhelmed by the zoo atmosphere.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to overstimulation and noise, which can be an enormous part of the zoo environment. With its new certification, Cosley Zoo is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible.

“A key component of Cosley Zoo’s mission is to promote conservation by connecting people to animals and nature. It is very important to us that all visitors have that opportunity and that they feel comfortable when visiting the zoo. Our staff was eager to participate in this training in order to ensure that we are doing the best job possible to provide a welcoming environment for our visitors with sensory needs,” said Zoo Director Susan Wahlgren.

Prior to visiting the zoo, families can download the free KultureCity app where they can learn about the sensory features that are available and where they can access them. Also on the app is Cosley Zoo’s Social Story which will provide a preview of what to expect while visiting the zoo.

“To know that you soon will be able to see families visit the zoo, a true community binding experience, with their loved ones who have sensory challenges and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment. Our communities are what shape our lives and to know that Cosley Zoo is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing,” said Dr. Julian Maha, co-founder of KultureCity.

KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for using its resources to revolutionize and effect change in the community for those with sensory needs. Since the program’s inception, KultureCity has created over 200 sensory inclusive venues in three countries.


To learn more, visit

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Research: Cosley Zoo Delivers Missing Information Critical to Sustaining Biodiversity

Despite volumes of data currently available on mankind, it is surprising how little we know about other species. A paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – using data recorded by Cosley Zoo in collaboration with other zoos and aquariums worldwide – confirms that critical information, such as fertility and survival rates, is missing from global data for more than 98 percent of known species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

It’s a gap with far-reaching implications for conservationists seeking to blunt the impact of mass extinctions. At a minimum, scientists working worldwide on behalf of IUCN Red List, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), TRAFFIC, Monitor, and others require more complete data to make informed decisions.

That changed when researchers added data from a previously untapped source, the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS). Across classes of species, key blanks fill with salient data. Cosley Zoo records their animal data in ZIMS, which is curated by wildlife professionals working within zoos, aquariums, refuge, research, and education centers in 97 countries. It is maintained by Species360, a non-profit member-driven organization that facilitates information sharing among its nearly 1,200 institutional members, and is the world’s largest set of wildlife data. Cosley Zoo has been contributing data on their animals since 1999. Since then, they have added data on 1203 birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals of 159 species, making a huge impact on the understanding of those species’ life histories.

“It seems inconceivable. Yet scientists tasked with saving species often have to power through with best-guess assumptions that we hope approximate reality,” said lead researcher and Species360 Conservation Science Alliance director Dalia A. Conde.

A multidisciplinary team led by Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, with participants from 19 institutions, believes we can substantially increase what we know by applying new analytics to data that has been long overlooked – using data contributed by Cosley Zoo and other zoos and aquariums around the world. “Providing that missing data – filling in those gaps – is game-changing for these species,” adds the director of Cosley Zoo.

Predicting when species are at risk, and how best to bolster populations, requires knowing at what age females reproduce, how many hatchlings or juveniles survive to adolescence, and how long adults live. To understand what data are currently available, and to measure the void, researchers developed a Species Knowledge Index (SKI) that classifies available demographic information for 32,144 known species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

“The demographic knowledge of species index provides significant information that, in conjunction with genetic data, allows estimations of events that affect population viability. Severe population declines, sometimes called genetic bottlenecks, influence the sustainability of populations, as we have found in studying endangered rhinos,” said Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., Director of Genetics, San Diego Zoo Global.

Turning first to go-to global sources of information, the index registers comprehensive birth and death rates for just 1.3 percent of these major classes of species. The map, which illustrates demographic knowledge for individual species, shows that many remain blank.

“Adding ZIMS was like turning on the lights in an otherwise very dim room,” said Conde. “Class by class, from mammals through amphibians, we saw large gaps fill with fundamental data needed to help conservationists assess populations and advocate for threatened, endangered, and vulnerable species.”

Incorporating ZIMS boosted the Species Knowledge Index eightfold for comprehensive life table information used to assess populations. Information on the age of first reproduction for females, a key piece to estimating how a population will fair in coming years, grew as much as 73 percent.

The study, “Data gaps and opportunities for comparative and conservation biology,” suggests a value far beyond the data itself. As Conservation Science Alliance and other researchers apply analytics to data aggregated across global sources, including ZIMS, they glean insights that impact outcomes for species in danger of extinction. Moreover, this can provide key insights for comparative and evolutionary biology, such as understanding the evolution of aging.

The team of 33 scientists including data analysts, biologists, and population dynamics specialists developed the first Species Knowledge Index to map just how much we know about species worldwide. The index aggregates, analyzes and maps data from 22 databases and the IUCN Red List of Threatened species.

About Species360

Species360, a non-profit NGO and global leader in wildlife care and conservation, mobilizes a network of more than 1,100 zoo, aquarium, university, research and governmental members worldwide to improve animal welfare and species conservation. Our members address today’s most urgent wildlife issues, including establishing best practices in husbandry, enrichment, medical care, welfare, reproduction, population management, and biodiversity.

Together, Species360 members curate the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), the world’s most comprehensive open database of knowledge on more than 22,000 species. ZIMS vastly increases what is known about thousands of species, and is instrumental in identifying sustainability strategies for many of the species assessed as vulnerable, endangered, and extinct in the wild.

From data to applied conservation

Species360 Conservation Science Alliance researchers provide conservationists with evidence-based findings integrating the full scope of global data, including IUCN Red List, CITES, TRAFFIC, EDGE, AZE, ZIMS, and more. Research led in collaboration with IUCN Species Survival Commission, CITES, and others, drives insightful decisions on many levels, from enforcing illegal wildlife trade laws to calculating viability of insurance populations.


Learn more at: 

Cosley Classic 201835th Annual Cosley Classic Golf Outing

The 35th Annual Mike Williams Cosley Classic Golf Outing, presented by Martin Whalen Office Solutions, was indeed a wild day of golf and more for everyone that came out to support the Cosley Foundation.

172 golfers were greeted that morning by one of Cosley Zoo’s animal ambassadors, Gretchen the Norwegian Fjord horse. While she was enjoying the bright sun that came out just in time for the event, golfers enjoyed 18 holes at one of the area’s top courses, Arrowhead Golf Club.
A snake, turtle, hedgehog and more mingled with guests during cocktail hour followed by a delectable steak dinner as well as a raffle and silent auction.

More than $40,000 was raised for the Cosley Foundation, a charitable 501(c)(3) organization that supports ongoing exhibit development and animal care at Cosley Zoo. Since its inception, the Cosley Foundation has consistently raised $150,000 to $200,000 annually. The foundation has sponsored the building of the Vern Kiebler Learning Center, a 66,000-gallon duck pond, an amphitheater, a veterinary clinic, exhibits for bobcats, red fox, coyote, raccoons, rabbits, white-tailed deer, birds of prey, pigs, and chickens. They also supported the construction of the new Animal Care Center that opened in the fall of 2017.

In addition to raising funds for the zoo, the golf outing marks the annual award for the presentation of the Michael T. Williams Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship awards $2,000 each year to past or present Cosley Zoo interns or Junior Zookeepers based on their pursuit or plans to pursue a college degree in a field of study that demonstrates a commitment to conservation and the natural world. Because of so many qualified applicants this year, three recipients were awarded the scholarship.

Scholarship recipient Faith Lagunas joined the Cosley Zoo team in the summer of 2016 as an Education Intern. Since her internship, Lagunas has continued to be involved with the zoo in the roles of summer camp staff, concessions attendant and currently as a seasonal educator all while getting her Associate of Arts degree from the College of DuPage. This fall Lagunas will continue her education at Northern Illinois University majoring in Environmental Studies. Her career goal is to be a director of a zoo or nature center’s education department.

Fellow recipient Sarah Habeck started at Cosley Zoo as a Summer Teen volunteer in 2016. She then joined the Junior Zookeeper program. Originally wanting to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, the experiences she gained from the Junior Zookeeper program made her realize that she wanted to focus on conservation instead. Habeck will be a freshman at Vanderbilt University this fall where she will begin working towards a bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology.

Two-time recipient Caroline Fisher is a student at Indiana University studying animal behavior. Her dream is to continue working in the zoo field, and ultimately become a zookeeper for elephants or great apes. Fisher has spent countless hours at Cosley Zoo cleaning exhibits, working events and conducting educational programs, all to promote the importance of wildlife conservation.

“Due to the generosity of Williams Architects, for the past eight years Cosley Zoo has been fortunate to be able to advance the careers of promising college students through the Michael T. Williams Memorial Scholarship,” Zoo Director Sue Wahlgren said. “There is nothing quite as rewarding as having the opportunity to assist past Junior Zookeepers and interns in their quest to fulfill their commitment to the care and conservation of animals or education of the public.”

Next year’s Mike Williams Cosley Classic Golf Outing will be held on Monday, August 5, 2019.

Staff and volunteer pose at booth with vaquita information at International Save the Vaquita Day event

Cosley Zoo celebrates International Save the Vaquita Day

Cosley Zoo staff members and volunteers spent July 7th, International Save the Vaquita Day, educating visitors about this critically endangered porpoise, whose population currently numbers fewer than 20. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Public Engagement Team for this species, Cosley Zoo is dedicated to spreading the word about the plight of the vaquita.

Visit to learn about how you can help.

Nubian goat kid born

Buttercup, one of Cosley Zoo’s Nubian goats, gave birth to a male kid on Thursday, May 17th. Buttercup and her kid, Charlie, can be visited in the Vern Kiebler Learning Center (big red barn) on your next visit to Cosley Zoo.

roosterCosley Zoo debuts duck and chicken feeding punch cards

Cosley Zoo now offers duck and chicken feeding punch cards for sale. Purchase ten duck or chicken feedings and receive two free! Punch cards are available for sale for $20 each in the Wild Side Gift Shop.

Learn More: Chicken feeding dates and times

Cosley Zoo welcomes White-tailed Deer Darla

Cosley Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of a new white-tailed deer, “Darla”. Darla came to Cosley Zoo from a wildlife rehabilitator who cared for her when she was very young. Because she was in human care for a prolonged period of time, Darla was unable to be released into the wild. Darla is three months old, and still exhibits the white spots which white-tailed deer have as young fawns. These spots assist in camouflaging the youngster, who spends most of his or her first months hiding on the ground from predators. Over time, the spots slowly disappear. Darla joins eleven-year-old Stella and nine-year old Lucy to make a herd of three.

Cosley Zoo welcomes Cora the llama

Please help us welcome Cora the llama, the newest member of our Cosley Zoo family! Cora is 16 months old and came to Cosley Zoo from a llama breeder in Wisconsin. Zookeepers report that she is spunky, but also easygoing and adjusting well to her new home and roommate, Franklin, and she makes the keepers laugh daily at her silly antics. Cora is ready to meet Cosley Zoo visitors, and we hope that you will be able to plan a trip to see her soon!

CoyoteCosley Zoo debuts Coyote Connection program

Cosley Zoo’s Wiley the coyote is ready to take center stage as “Coyote Connection” is introduced to daily programming.

The program will invite participants to go behind the scenes with zookeepers to get an up-close and personal look into Wiley’s life and observe a coyote training session. Guests will also learn about the important role coyotes play in the environment and how humans and coyotes can safely coexist.

This 30-minute, interactive experience is similar to the Bobcats Backstage program that began in 2013 and has since received exceptionally high reviews.

“Cosley Zoo’s mission is ‘To create connections between people and animals that inspire lifelong conservation of the natural world.’ The Coyote Connection program does exactly that by providing our visitors with an opportunity to have an up-close visit with a coyote and learn more about this animal’s importance in our ecosystem from our expert zookeeper staff,” said Cosley Zoo Education Supervisor Natasha Fischer.

Zookeeper Heather Johnson proposed the idea after learning about a similar interactive exhibit at a different zoo. “My first thought was this would be a really great experience for guests and they will see how cool coyotes are,” she said. “As I began doing research for the program content, I began to learn even more about how essential coyotes are to the ecosystem and how many people have a negative perception of them. This behind-the-scenes opportunity will showcase how important coyotes are and why we need to coexist with them.”

This will be a year-round addition to the zoo’s daily events, taking place at 1-1:30 p.m. Check-in will be at 12:45 p.m.

“Coyote Connection” is $12 per person, with Wild Bunch Plus and Keeper Club members receiving a 10% discount. Reservations can be made onsite at the zoo or by calling the Wild Side Gift Shop at 630-665-5534. The program is first-come, first-serve with a limit of six people per session.

Learn More: Coyote Connection Program

Cosley Zoo sends junior zookeepers to Teen Conservation Leadership Conference
Cosley Zoo Jr. Zookeeper's attend Teen Conference

Cosley Zoo sent 10 teen junior zookeepers to the conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology for the first two days of the conference and Brookfield Zoo for the third. Five of the 10 junior zookeepers presented at the conference along-side Jackie Karnstedt, Cosley Zoo Educator and Teen Specialist.

The Junior Zookeepers (JZ) program is for teens in 7th through 12th grades that have an interest in animals, biology, and conservation. Program participants learn about animal care, zoo education, and guest services through hands-on learning opportunities as well as volunteer to help with zoo special events, animal care, and educational programs. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2017/2018 program year.

“This was such a cool opportunity for our junior zookeepers,” said Karnstedt. “Not only does it give them the chance to learn about conservation careers, volunteer, and internship opportunities, they also get insight into what it’s like to be on a college campus, and develop networking skills by talking with various college and university representatives and other conference attendees. To have all of this information available in a single place is amazing! ”

In addition to the presentations at the conference, there was an Expo showcasing colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations that focus on STEM and conservation topics. KCSS is a program dedicated to conservation leadership and college readiness for high school students from all over the Chicagoland area. The keynote speakers included Susan Korn, Vice President of Nuclear Project Management and Chad Pregracke , 2013 CNN Hero of the Year and founder and president of Living Lands & Waters.

“My favorite part of the conference was listening to the many different presentations and learning about all the unique STEM careers,” said junior zookeeper Ethan Wallace. “Since going to conference, I learned how to become more environmentally conscious in my everyday life. The most impactful take-away was the littlest things we do to think of the environment can create meaningful impacts.”

For more information about the conference, visit

Learn more about the Junior Zookeeper program

Family Nature Club Debuts

Looking to get your family out to play in nature? Not sure where to start? Join our Family Nature Club to explore and discover the wonders of nature.

Why Play in Nature?

It encourages families to spend quality time together and helps strengthen family bonds
It fosters an appreciation for nature and the desire to preserve it
It supports child development (intellectual, emotional, social, physical)
It encourages creativity and problem solving
It enhances cognitive ability
It increases physical activity

Families are invited to join zoo staff for nature activities at the zoo or excursions to local natural areas.

All families are welcome. We’d like to extend a special invitation to families with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other similar conditions who’d like to spend more time together and experience the benefits of nature play.

Summer Family Nature Club Schedule

Sunday, June 11 10-11A at Cosley Zoo
Sunday, June 25 10-11A at Cosley Zoo
Sunday, July 9 10-11A at Lincoln Marsh Natural Area
Sunday, July 23 10-11A at Lincoln Marsh Natural Area
Sunday, August 13 10-11A location TBA

Cosley Zoo is proud to offer this amazing opportunity free of charge thanks to funding by the Disney Conservation Fund, through a collaboration with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Diedra, Guernsey dairy cow

Cosley Zoo welcomes Diedra, Guernsey dairy cow

Deidra is almost three years old and came to Cosley Zoo from a cattle breeder who specializes in Guernseys. This breed is known for producing a high-quality milk containing above-average levels of butterfat and protein. Be sure to stop by and visit Deidra!

Cosley Zoo welcomes Buttercup, the Nubian Goat

Please help us welcome Buttercup, our newest Nubian Goat! Buttercup came to Cosley Zoo from a farm in central Illinois, where she was formerly a show goat. This four-year old doe (female goat) is easily distinguished from her new herd-mates by the large white patches on either side of her body. She is very friendly and often comes right up to the fence to greet visitors. We are excited that Buttercup has joined our zoo family.


Cosley Zoo welcomes Franklin the llama

The newest member of Cosley Zoo’s “herd” is Franklin, a seven-month-old cria (young llama) who came to Cosley Zoo from a llama breeder in Iowa. He is settling in nicely to his new home. Visitors can see Franklin either in his barn stall or in the domestic animal yards just north of the barn.


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