The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange is consistently named New Jersey’s best zoo. With over 30 different exhibits, a prehistoric playground, an extensive educational center, an engaging petting zoo, and a mile-long train ride, the zoo continues to grow even after many years of operation.
On May 17, Turtle Back Zoo debuted its African Adventure exhibit. This brand new addition to the zoo is home to some of the world’s most exotic creatures. “We have four giraffes; we have four antelopes; then we have ostriches; and we have whistling ducks in the exhibit,” says Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr.
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The exhibit’s opening was an extravagant event, even attracting the participation of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who visited the zoo for the first time since July of 2014.
The new exhibit also features a recently constructed barn, which was specifically designed for the giraffes. The barn incorporates innovative features to help care for the animals, including a big roaming area for indoor exercise, floor and ceiling heating, and even a mezzanine level so zookeepers can be at the giraffes’ head-level.
With the addition of the giraffes to the zoo’s already diverse atmosphere, the Turtle Back Zoo expects to attract an extra 5,000 visitors this weekend alone, and an additional 50,000 visitors per year. But the zoo’s African Adventure isn’t finished yet; the exhibit will soon feature lions and hyenas. “We’ll have [the lions] by April of next year,” says DiVincenzo.
With the Turtle Back Zoo Education Center opening two summers ago, the gorgeous Savanna Café in mid-May, and the African Adventure now open, Turtle Back Zoo is rapidly becoming one of the country’s most renowned zoos. Packed with countless mammals, reptiles, sea creatures, marsupials, and other exotic creatures, the zoo is both educational and fun. The essence of the zoo was perhaps summed up perfectly by a little girl shouting, “This zoo is the best! I love all the ‘aminals’!” during the grand opening.
Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ