08 Sep ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES TURTLE BACK ZOO RECEIVES THIRD CONSECUTIVE FIVE-YEAR ACCREDITATION FROM ASSOCIATION OF ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS Accreditation Recognizes Commitment to Quality Animal Care, Education and Conservation

West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has earned accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ independent Accreditation Commission. Accreditation recognizes an institution’s commitment to providing quality animal care, education programs and promoting conservation. AZA made the announcement during its annual convention on Wednesday, September 7th in San Diego, Calif.

This is the third consecutive five-year accreditation that Turtle Back has received. It became an accredited facility for the first time in its history in 2006 and the accreditation was renewed in 2011.

“Maintaining accreditation is very important because it demonstrates to our visitors our commitment to providing the highest level of care and safety for our animals,” DiVincenzo said. “I want to thank Zoo Director Brint Spencer, the Zoo staff, and our volunteer Docents and Zoological Society members for working hard every day to maintain the high standards set by AZA so that our visitors can have an enjoyable and memorable visit. They understand that having accreditation is one of my priorities and that it contributes significantly to the success of Turtle Back,” he added.

“Under the leadership of our County Executive, we have been committed to making Turtle Back Zoo a modern, first-class facility that is safe for the animals and an exciting place for people of all ages to visit,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Brint Spencer said. “Earning AZA accreditation for a third time is a tremendous accomplishment and is an indication of the high quality of care we give to our animals and the dedication of our keepers, staff and volunteers,” he added.

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation in areas such as animal care; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff, and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and other areas. The inspection team prepares an extensive written report for AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal Commission hearing, after which accreditation is granted, tabled or denied. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

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 755,239 in 2015 and the zoo has operated as a self-sustaining facility with revenue collected exceeding operating expenses for the last eight years. In addition, Turtle Back has been named the Best Zoo in New Jersey by NJ Monthly magazine four times and received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.com the last three years.

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 2 years. For more information, call 973-731-5800 or visit www.essexcountynj.org/turtlebackzoo.

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.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. The AZA logo provides assurance that the institution is dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors and a better future for all living things. AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and a link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, visit www.aza.org.