Turtle Back Zoo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Turtle Back Zoo
Turtle Back Zoo logo
Entrance to the Turtle Back Zoo
Date opened 1963[1]
Location West Orange, New Jersey, United States
Coordinates 40°46′3″N 74°16′55″W / 40.76750°N 74.28194°W / 40.76750; -74.28194Coordinates: 40°46′3″N 74°16′55″W / 40.76750°N 74.28194°W / 40.76750; -74.28194
Number of animals nearly more than 850[2]
Annual visitors over 500,000 (2010)[3]
Memberships AZA[4]
Website www.turtlebackzoo.com

Turtle Back Zoo is a zoo in West Orange, New Jersey as part of the South Mountain Recreation Complex. Situated on 20 acres (8.1 ha) in the South Mountain Reservation,[2] it is part of the Essex County Park System, the oldest county park system in the United States. Founded in 1963, the zoo was originally a showcase for animals indigenous to New Jersey, but currently features species from every continent except Antarctica. As of 2012, it houses approximately 700 animals, including several hundred birds in a free-flight aviary.[2] Located adjacent to the Richard J. Codey Arena, former practice home of the New Jersey Devils, the zoo is open year-round.

The Turtle Back Zoo has been an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 2006.[1]


Turtle Back Zoo, which took its name from a nearby rock formation, opened in 1963 with a collection of 140 animals representing 40 species.[2] It was originally opened seasonally and had a Hans Christian Andersen "storybook theme," with such exhibits as "a giant piggy bank, the ABC house, [and] the pirates’ ship".[2] By 1973 the zoo was home to 850 animals representing 275 species.[1]

In 1975, the Zoological Society of New Jersey was established to help promote the zoo and provide funding. Despite this, Turtle Back Zoo fell into disrepair, and was almost shut down in 1995.

In 2000, the zoo created a master plan with the objective of improving the zoo enough to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Between 2003 and 2006, Turtle Back received approximately $20 million in funding, which was used to improve the facilities, and in 2006 the zoo received its accreditation. New facilities included the Essex County Animal Hospital on zoo grounds, and a new 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) entrance/administrative complex with a 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) reptile center, classrooms, and an auditorium.[1]

In 2010, zoo attendance exceeded 500,000 visitors for the first time in its history.[3]


Recent additions to the zoo include Filipino "golden mantled" flying foxes, making Turtle Back the first zoo in the country to show this species of bat; an American Black Bear exhibit; the Essex Farm, which holds common farm animals and includes a petting zoo; and the Tropical Currents Aquarium, which exhibits fish from around the world in six large tanks;.[3]

Reptile center

The $4.6 million reptile house and education center, the zoo's first indoor exhibit, opened in June 2006. The 4,000-square-foot (370 m2) reptile center contains a pair of nine-foot-long "black dragons", a species of monitor lizard which was discovered in Malaysia in 2005 and has yet to receive a scientific name. The lizards at Turtle Back are believed to be the only "black dragons" on display in North America.[5]


The Gibbon habitat is a 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m2) outdoor mesh tent habitat that is home to the zoos two gibbons. This $1.8 million exhibit was opened in 2009.[6]

Sea Lions and Touch tank

This exhibit features an 82,000-gallon pool for sea lions and a 1,600-gallon touch tank for sting rays, along with space for education programs and special events. This $5.5 million exhibit was opened in 2013.[7]

Other attractions[edit]

The zoo has a train ride, carousel, and a playground. The trains were originally Iron Horse Trains by Allan Herschell, but were replaced in 1984 and 1999 by CP Huntington trains. The carousel opened in 2008 and is in a large gazebo. On September 25, 2010, the Turtle Back Zoo opened the Turtle Back Zoo Safari Mini Golf course. Designed by French & Parrello Associates, P.A., the miniature golf course replicates three African regions: the Sahara Desert, the African Grasslands, and the Congo located to the center is Mount Kilamanjave. The miniature golf course consists of 19 holes and contains various animal sculptures, such as a camel, an elephant, a gorilla, a lion and more. The golf course alone is projected to bring in $250,000 in revenue annually.[8] In September 2011, the zoo opened a "treetop adventure course."[9]

A $2 million on-site veterinary hospital includes a full surgery suite and x-ray and ultrasound facilities.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "History". turtlebackzoo.com. Turtle Back Zoo. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Yarmove, Hillel L. (7 March 2012). "Keeper of the Flame: An interview with Dr. J. D. Goodman, director of the Turtle Back Zoo, skilled veterinarian, and president of the West Orange Eruv Society". Hamodia Magazine. pp. 12–16. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Best of New Jersey: Recreation". New Jersey Monthly. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 29 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Essex County Executive DiVincenzo Recounts Historic Year at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County, February 7, 2008 - accessed May 15, 2012
  6. ^ Read, Philip (24 September 2009). "$1.8M gibbons apes exhibit opens at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo". nj.com. The Star-Ledger. 
  7. ^ http://www.nj.com/independentpress/index.ssf/2013/04/sea_lion_sound_exhibit_opens_a.html
  8. ^ Read, Philip (16 September 2010). "Turtle Back Zoo mini-golf course is latest West Orange rebranding effort". nj.com. The Star-Ledger. 
  9. ^ Yi, K. (September 29, 2011). "Treetop Adventure Course Open Today". MaplewoodPatch. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 

External links[edit]