Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. officially dedicated the new Otter Exhibit at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo on Thursday, May 20th. The exhibit was completely overhauled with modern infrastructure, improved viewing areas for the public, and water features for the otters. The project is part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to continually enhance the care of the animals and the learning experiences of visitors.
“We are continually looking at ways to improve Turtle Back Zoo so it remains an educational resource and destination for families. We needed to update the Otter Exhibit because of its aging infrastructure and changing AZA requirements,” DiVincenzo said.
“This new exhibit is another opportunity to raise the notch a little higher at Turtle Back Zoo. On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, we look forward to partnering with the County Executive on future projects,” said Board of Commissioners Vice President Carlos Pomares, who was joined by Commissioners Patricia Sebold and Len Luciano.
“Otters love to play and swim, and opening this exhibit shows our visitors that learning about the environment and animals can be fun,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Jilian Fazio said.
“I remember when the County Executive partnered with Prudential to update the original Otter Exhibit and now here we are again making sure the exhibit continues to meet high standards. Because of the attention the County Executive has given to Turtle Back, we have become the number one zoo in New Jersey,” Zoological Society of New Jersey Executive Director Adam Kerins said.
The exhibit was completely redone within the existing footprint of the old exhibit. Glass walls were installed to improve viewing areas for the public, new landscaping was planted inside the exhibit and a new water filtration system was installed. The upgrades also were made to meet updated guidelines and standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
French and Parrello engineers from Wall were awarded a professional services contract for $75,000 to design the new exhibit. AB Contracting from Wharton was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,280,175 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. The exhibit was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.
Turtle Back Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, $14 for senior citizens over 62 and children ages 2 to 12, and free for children under 2. To promote social distancing, tickets must be purchased in advance at https://turtlebackzoo.com/admission-hours/. For more information, visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo or call 973-731-5800.
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 907,522 in 2017 and the zoo has operated as a self-sustaining facility with revenue collected exceeding operating expenses. In addition, Turtle Back is accredited by American Humane, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Zoological Association of American, 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 three times.