Turtle Back Zoo to Launch New Jersey’s First Sea Turtle Recovery Center

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The following is from Essex County:

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced a partnership with the non-profit Sea Turtle Recovery from Northfield, N.J., to operate the Prudential Sea Turtle Recovery Center at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. Currently under construction, the Sea Turtle Recovery Center is the first facility of its kind in New Jersey, will enable Turtle Back to enhance its mission of promoting conservation and preservation, and create a sanctuary to nurture and assist the Zoo’s namesake animals.

“This project is a great example of how zoos and animal rescue organizations can work to save animals and raise the public’s awareness about the dangers animals face. The facility fills a great need and will help protect the very animals after which our zoo is named,” DiVincenzo said. “We are pleased to be working with Sea Turtle Recovery. They are enthusiastic about their mission of conservation and have the expertise to run a first-class facility,” he added.

The Zoo is partnering with Sea Turtle Recovery, a non-profit organization, to create the first sea turtle rehabilitation facility in New Jersey. Based in Northfield, N.J., Sea Turtle Recovery is dedicated to the rehabilitation, preservation and conservation of sea turtles. The organization’s goal is to rehabilitate sick or injured sea turtles for their release back to the wild, and educate the public on the important ecological role of sea turtles, threats endangering them, and ways to protect their future.

The Zoo is partnering with the Sea Turtle Recovery, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit dedicated to the rehabilitation, preservation and conservation of sea turtles.  Its current work extends throughout the state educating the public about the ecological role of sea turtles, threats endangering them, and ways to protect their future. Working with Turtle Back Zoo, Sea Turtle Recover will be able to expand its mission by rehabilitating sea turtles and releasing them back into the wild.

All six species of sea turtles found in U.S. waters are threatened or endangered. They face accidental capture from getting tangled in fishing gear and are losing natural nesting and feeding sites because of coastal development, poaching and pollution. In New Jersey, there were 55 incidents of stranded sea turtles in 2013, which is more than double the number in previous years. Currently, when endangered and threatened sea turtles wash ashore in New Jersey, they are given short-term care to stabilize them. If a sea turtle’s injury or illness requires long-term treatment, then it needs to be transported out of state. The Sea Turtle Recovery will provide this long term rehabilitation and eliminate the long travel times.

“Reducing these animals’ stress and possibly aiding in their survival is crucial. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given the Sea Turtle Recovery the permits necessary for this important work, and STR is excited to establish our facility at Turtle Back Zoo” Sea Turtle Recovery Co-Executive Director Bill Deerr stated. “It is estimated that only 1 in 10,000 sea turtles will make it to adulthood and every sea turtle’s life is important to the species survival. I cannot express how it will feel to watch our first patients crawl back into the ocean to thrive,” Sea Turtle Recovery Co-Executive Director Brandi Biehl added.

The new, 15,000-square-foot facility is constructed next to the Sea Lion Sound exhibit. It will have five recovery tanks, a “head start” display for cold-stunned juvenile turtles, and life support systems and rehabilitation areas for sicker turtles. The public will have close-up views of the turtles in the recovery tanks while learning about the perils they face and what the public can do to help. Once the turtles have regained their health, they will be released back into their natural habitats. An antiquated tortoisry building was demolished earlier this year to make room for the new exhibit.

The construction of the Sea Turtle Recovery Center is being funded with contributions from Prudential Insurance, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, PSE&G and the Matrix Development Group and from the Essex County Capital Improvement Budget. It is scheduled to open by the end of 2016.

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 earned its third five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2016, 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 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.

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