WEST ORANGE, NJ In celebration of World Snake Day on Saturday, July 16, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. helped animal keepers from Essex County Turtle Back Zoo measure and weigh the reticulated python this week. The 16-year-old python, named Angie, weighed 132 pounds and was 17 feet 2¾ inches long.

Reticulated pythons are among the longest in the world, with the record being 33 feet. Angie was was 14 feet long and 90 pounds when she came to Turtle Back Zoo in 2005, when the Education and Reptile Building first opened.

DiVincenzo said that allowing the public and students from the summer camp view the weigh-in and measuring was a rare opportunity to get an up-close look at these strong reptiles that usually are only seen behind glass.

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“We are always looking for new ways to expand the zoo experience to educate the public about nature and conservation, and to raise awareness about the important role animals have in the world,” said Turtle Back Zoo Director Brint Spencer. “Witnessing the power and grace that the reticulated python possesses will give people a better understanding and appreciation for the animals.”

According to zookeepers, pythons are indigenous to tropical regions near the equator in Asia, Africa and Australia. The reptiles were introduced to the United States, South America and Europe as pets.

Generally, pythons have a forked tongue that helps them detect their prey. They kill through constriction, which means that they literally squeeze the life out of their prey, causing asphyxiation, or suffocation.

Experts say that pythons swallow the entire body of their prey, so the larger the prey, the longer it takes to digest. This means that the reptile may only eat four to five times per year.

In the wild, pythons feed on lizards, caiman (small alligator-like animals), monkeys, antelope and farm animals.

In addition to the many exhibits, there will be more time available to spend at the Turtle Back Zoo for the remainder of the summer. 

On Wednesdays and Thursdays during July and August, the  zoo offers Family Nights, with extended evening hours to 8:30 p.m. During that time, "Zoo-vies​", featuring animal-related movies, will be shown.

Click HERE to see the schedule and other information.

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.

DiVincenzo has spearheaded more than $70 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included the development of the following exhibit:

  • A new Educational Building;
  • A Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals;
  • A 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;
  • An Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and more than 500 birds in the Aviary;
  • A Reptile and Education Center;
  • Open air-dining pavilion and playground;
  • A Penguin Exhibit, Otter Exhibit, Wolf Exhibit, Alligator Exhibit, North American Animal Exhibit, and Black Bear Exhibit;
  • An Animal Hospital;
  • The Essex Farm Petting Zoo;
  • A South American Animal Exhibit;
  • The renovating the Food Pavilion for year-round use;
  • 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.

Located on Northfield Ave. in West Orange, the Essex County Park System was the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice-skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.