West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced Essex County Turtle Back Zoo finished 2017 with an all-time record attendance of 907,522. This is the first time that attendance eclipsed the 900,000 mark and the 13th consecutive year a new annual attendance record was established.

“We have made tremendous improvements to Turtle Back Zoo and the large turn-out of visitors each year shows how popular our Zoo has become. Introducing new natural habitat exhibits like the African Adventure featuring giraffes, along with our Carousel, Treetop Adventure Course, miniGOLF Safari and Train Ride attractions, make coming to Turtle Back Zoo a fun, learning adventure for children and families,” DiVincenzo said. “We would not be here without the continuing support of our loyal visitors, sponsors, volunteers and staff. We look forward to seeing everyone next year for even more adventures, excitement and family fun,” he added.

Within the last six weeks of the year, Turtle Back Zoo reached three new milestones. On Friday, November 17th, the old attendance record was broken when the Fleming-Kendrick family from Newark – Stafon Kendrick and Melva Fleming and their children Myles Fleming and Makenzie Kendrick – became the 795,559th visitors to the zoo when they came to view the Holiday Lights Spectacular. A week later, on Friday, November 24th, the Penn family from Middletown, N.J. – Vincent and Heather Penn and their children Ashley, age 7, and Britney, age 5 – were recognized as the 800,000th visitors to Turtle Back. Finally, the 900,000 attendance mark was passed on Wednesday, December 27th when the Owens/Kusik family from East Orange – Joseph Kusik, Alanah Williams and Ikea Owens – visited the Holiday Lights Spectacular.

The previous annual attendance record of 795,558 was set in 2016. A new annual attendance record has been set every year since 2005. The 500,000 milestone was first reached in 2010, 600,000 was first reached in 2013 and 700,000 was first reached in 2015.

Turtle Back Zoo is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Through November 30th, regular admission is $12 for children and senior citizens, $15 for adults and free for children under 2 years. Beginning December 1st, 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

 Currently under construction is a new Exhibit for the South African Penguins. Since taking office in 2003, DiVincenzo has spearheaded over $70 million in upgrades to Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, which have included developing a new Educational Building, the Carousel with 33 figures of endangered animals; building the African Adventure Exhibit with Masai Giraffes, Lions and Hyenas; 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; building the Savanna Café 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 (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.

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 23 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.