West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that Essex County Turtle Back Zoo welcomed 795,558 visitors in 2016, which set a new annual attendance record for the 12th consecutive year. This was the second time in the Zoo’s history that attendance topped the 700,000 mark.

“We are extremely humbled by the record number of people who keep coming each year to experience Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. It is very gratifying to see the excitement of children running from exhibit to exhibit to get an up close look at our animals and to realize how we are influencing our next generation of environmental stewards,” DiVincenzo said. “We truly thank the schools, organizations, families, children and others who choose Turtle Back as their destination. Their support is the reason for our continued success and we look forward to seeing the crowds grow in the future,” he added.

The 2016 attendance of 795,558 is 40,319 more visitors to Turtle Back than in 2015 when 755,239 people passed through its gates. The Zoo reached its 12th consecutive attendance milestone on Wednesday, December 21, 2016, when Larisa Vickers from Bloomfield arrived to see the Holiday Lights Spectacular with her two daughters, Sophia, 2½ years, and Christina, 9 months, and her mother, Nadya Ziboreva.

Recent exhibits and upgraded facilities added at Turtle Back continually attract visitors. Scheduled to open in 2016 are a new Lion and Hyena Exhibit and Condor Exhibit, along with upgrades to the Scottish Highland Cow and Wolf exhibits. Opened during 2016 were a new African exhibit featuring giraffes, a covered arena for pony rides and an expanded café building to accommodate the growing crowds. In 2014, a new 12,000-square-foot Education Building with four classrooms was opened and enabled educational, summer camps and special programming to be expanded. In 2013, the Sea Lion Sound exhibit with sea lions, sting rays and sharks opened to commemorate the Zoo’s 50th anniversary. There is also the Treetop Adventure Course, 19-hole miniGOLF Safari and Paddle Boating on the Orange Reservoir that attracts visitors to the area.

The year before DiVincenzo took office, in 2002, attendance was 168,739. It climbed to 211,449 in 2005, 340,356 in 2007, 420,276 in 2008 and broke the half million mark for the first time with 511,655 in 2010. The 600,000 mark was broken for the first time in 2013 when attendance reached 621,838.

Turtle Back Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Regular admission is $10 for children and senior citizens, $12 for adults and free for children under 2 years. For additional information, please call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org.

Revitalizing Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

 Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $75 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included developing the African Adventure with four Masai giraffes; a new Educational Building; the Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals; the 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; Australian Exhibit that features kangaroos, wallabies, emus and over 500 birds in the Aviary; Reptile and Education Center, open air dining pavilion and playground, Penguin Exhibit, Otter Exhibit, Wolf Exhibit, Alligator Exhibit, North American Animal Exhibit, Black Bear Exhibit, Animal Hospital, Essex Farm Petting Zoo and South American Animal Exhibit; renovating the Food Pavilion for year-round use and making 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, PNC Bank, PSE&G, Verizon, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Coca Cola, Capital One Bank, TD Bank, Aramark, Covanta Energy, Matrix Development Group and OxyMagic carpet cleaning.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is 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. Turtle Back Zoo is located in Essex County’s South Mountain Reservation and was opened to the public in 1963.