Turtle Back Zoo reopens leopard exhibit

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The leopard exhibit at Turtle Back Zoo reopened Monday, Aug. 27, following a comprehensive modernization and expansion of the area to provide the highest standard of care and first-class conditions for the snow leopards and Amur leopards living there.

“Many of the upgrades were made behind the scenes and will enhance the care we provide to the leopards and the safety for our animal keepers, and improve the efficiency of how the exhibit operates,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release. “What happens behind the scenes is just as important as the public exhibit space seen by our visitors.”

“Projects like these should not be taken for granted. There is something new to see every time we come to Turtle Back Zoo,” Freeholder Carlos Pomares said.

To enhance conditions for the two leopard species, the holding areas were enlarged, caging was replaced with new equipment and an addition to the building was constructed to create the additional space needed. New heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems were installed inside the expanded building. In addition, the perimeter fencing and wire mesh that went above the outdoor exhibit area were replaced.

“The public will not be able to see a difference in the exhibit, but the improvements that were made to the building, holding areas and fencing help tremendously in how we operate and care for our animals,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Michael Kerr said.

“There are less than 100 Amur leopards in the wild, so it’s great that we are part of the story to help strengthen this population. It shows Turtle Back is right in the middle of important conservation efforts,” Zoological Society of New Jersey Executive Director Adam Kerins said.

French & Parrello, of Wall, was awarded a professional services contract to design the improvements to the leopard exhibit. Crosson Construction, from Rumson, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $2,194,000 to perform the construction work to the exhibit’s support building. GSP Properties, from Metuchen, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $387,421 to replace the perimeter and mesh fencing. The Department of Public Works monitored the project so delays were avoided. The improvements were funded through the Essex County capital budget and with grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Work started in February and was completed in six months.