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. said 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.