WEST ORANGE, NJ - Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. outlined plans to develop the Ronald J. Mount Lion and Hyena Exhibit at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange on Wednesday, October 26.  DiVincenzo also announced a new Condor Exhibit is being developed, enhancements to the Cattle Exhibit are being made; new fencing at the Essex Farm Petting Zoo and shade structures at the Sea Lion Sound Exhibit, amphitheater and Dinosaur Playground.

Condor Exhibit: A new Condor Exhibit is being constructed next to the Penguin Coast Exhibit. It will take the place of an older exhibit that was damaged several years ago after a storm. Construction started earlier in October is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2017. French and Parrello received a $90,000 contract to design the exhibit. Zenith Construction Services from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,038,777 to perform the construction work. The exhibit is being funded through the ECIA’s Pooled Government Loan Program.

Scottish Highland Cattle and Wolf Woods Exhibit: The viewing areas at the Scottish Highland Cattle and Wolf Woods exhibits are being improved to provide the public with better opportunities to see the animals. At the Scottish Highland Cattle Exhibit, a new covered viewing area for the public is being constructed. The improvements include creating a patio area for the public to gather in front of the exhibit. Instead of looking through a fence into the exhibit, glass walls will be erected. A lattice covering will provide shade over the viewing area. The upgrades are similar to the work done earlier in 2016 to enhance the viewing area at the Bison Exhibit. At the Wolf Woods, the windows in the viewing area are being enlarged. The improvements were designed by French and Parrello. Zenith Construction was awarded a publicly bid contract for $461,876 to perform the construction work.   

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Shade Structures: Shade structures are being installed over the Sea Lion Sound pool, the amphitheater, and the children’s Dinosaur Playground. The shade structure over the Sea Lion exhibit will help regulate the water quality in the pool and, by keeping the water from direct sunlight, will help suppress the growth of algae in the water. The structure over the playground will keep the apparatus out of direct sunlight and prevent the climbing structures from getting too hot. The amphitheater structure will provide shade for people attending educational or entertainment programs. French and Parrello received a $48,000 contract to design the shade structures. Shauger Property Services was awarded a publicly bid contract for $281,550 to install the structures over the amphitheater and Sea Lion Sound; these are funded by a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Whirl Construction from Port Monmouth, N.J., received a publicly bid contract for $119,285 to install the structure over the playground; this is funded through the Turtle Back Zoo Beautification Fund.

Installation of Fencing: New perimeter fencing is being installed at the Zoo. National Fence Systems from Avenel was awarded a publicly bid contract for $297,250 to install the fence. It is being funded through the ECIA’s Pooled Government Loan Program.

Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has roared back to life from the verge of closure by a previous administration. Attendance reached an all-time high of 755,239 in 2015, and the zoo has operated as a self-sustaining facility with revenue collected exceeding operating expenses for the last eight years. In addition, Turtle Back earned its third five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2016, a clear indication that an institution is committed to the highest standards in animal care, ethics, conservation and education. It also has been named the Best Zoo in New Jersey by NJ Monthly magazine four times and received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.com the last three years.

The Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $11 for children and senior citizens, and free for children younger than two years. For more information, call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo.