Turtle Back Zoo

Turtle Back Zoo

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Turtle Back Zoo

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Turtle Back Zoo, is a zoo in West Orange, New Jersey. Situated on the South Mountain Reservation, 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. Located adjacent to the Richard J. Codey Arena, 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.


Turtle Back Zoo, which took its name from a nearby rock formation, opened in 1963 with a collection of 140 animals representing 40 species. By 1973 the zoo was home to 850 animals representing 275 species.

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 ...
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