WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo finished 2017 with an all-time record attendance of 907,522, marking the first time that attendance has eclipsed the 900,000 mark. It was also the 13th-consecutive year that a new annual attendance record was established.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. was proud to announce the many improvements recently made to the Turtle Back Zoo, adding that the large turnout of visitors each year shows how popular the zoo has become.

“Introducing new natural habitat exhibits like the African Adventure featuring giraffes, along with our Carousel, Treetop Adventure Course, miniGOLF Safari and Train Ride attractions, make coming to Turtle Back Zoo a fun, learning adventure for children and families,” he said. “We would not be here without the continuing support of our loyal visitors, sponsors, volunteers and staff. We look forward to seeing everyone next year for even more adventures, excitement and family fun.”

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Within the last six weeks of the year, Turtle Back Zoo reached three new milestones.

On Friday, Nov. 17, the old attendance record was broken when the Fleming-Kendrick family from Newark (made up of Stafon Kendrick and Melva Fleming and their children, Myles Fleming and Makenzie Kendrick) became the 795,559th visitors to the zoo. The previous annual attendance record of 795,558 was set in 2016.

A week later, on Nov. 24, the Penn family from Middletown (made up of Vincent and Heather Penn and their children Ashley, 7, and Britney, 5) were recognized as the 800,000th visitors to Turtle Back Zoo.

Finally, the 900,000-attendance mark was passed on Wednesday, Dec. 27 when the Owens/Kusik family from East Orange (made up of Joseph Kusik, Alanah Williams and Ikea Owens) visited the Holiday Lights Spectacular.

According to the zoo, new annual attendance record has been set every year since 2005. The 500,000-visitor milestone was first reached in 2010. The 600,000 and 700,000 marks were established in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Currently under construction at the Turtle Back Zoo, which is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., is a new Exhibit for the South African Penguins.

Since 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded more than $70 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included developing a new educational building and carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals; building the African Adventure Exhibit with Masai Giraffes, Lions and Hyenas; Sea Lion Sound Exhibit with sea lions, sharks and sting rays; the Big Cat Country Exhibit with jaguars and cougars; Tam-ring Gibbons Reserve with white cheeked gibbons apes, Reeves muntjac and white naped cranes; Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and more than 500 birds in the Aviary; Reptile and Education Center, open-air dining pavilion and playground, Penguin Exhibit, Otter Exhibit, Wolf Exhibit, Alligator Exhibit, North American Animal Exhibit, Black Bear Exhibit, Animal Hospital, Essex Farm Petting Zoo and South American Animal Exhibit; building the Savanna Café and making upgrades to the entrance as well as fencing and infrastructure to meet AZA requirements.

Funding has been provided through Green Acres grants, existing capital improvement bonds, or donations from the Zoological Society, Essex County Parks Foundation, corporations or private foundations. Corporations that have provided support include Investors Bank, Prudential Financial, Inc., Wells Fargo (Wachovia Bank), PNC Bank, PSE&G, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Coca Cola, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, Aramark, Covanta Energy and OxyMagic carpet cleaning.

For additional information, call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.