‘Drill Family Flamingo Exhibit’ opens at Turtle Back Zoo

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Wednesday, Aug. 29, Turtle Back Zoo unveiled its new flamingo exhibit, dedicated as the “Drill Family Flamingo Exhibit” in honor of the West Orange family’s long-time relationship with the zoo, which dates back to the zoo’s original opening in 1963.

“The flamingo exhibit is a dynamic attraction that will captivate the attention of our visitors. Not only can you see the flamingos up close but, if you stand on the second floor of our Savanna Cafe, you can look right into the exhibit area,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “With their unique appearance and colorful feathers, the flamingos are sure to become a favorite of our visitors.”

“I’m pleased to be here for the opening of another dynamic animal exhibit at Turtle Back Zoo. I’m sure the flamingos will attract even more people here,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said.

“This is a fantastic exhibit that I don’t think is equaled at any other zoo,” Zoological Society of New Jersey Executive Director Adam Kerins said.

Flamingos are found around the world from the Caribbean and South America to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. They are famous for their bright pink feathers, stilt-like legs and S-shaped neck. Their favorite foods include shrimp, snails and plantlike water organisms called algae. An average flamingo can weigh about 8 pounds and be about 40 inches tall.

The new exhibit features a pool, nesting island in the middle of the pool and an imitation waterfall. There is a 1,000-square-foot indoor facility to hold the flamingos when they are not on exhibit. Shade structures are provided in the viewing areas for visitors.

“Flamingos are a good addition to Turtle Back because we don’t have many exhibits featuring birds and this will help diversify our animal family,” Kerr said. “Our mission at Turtle Back includes promoting education about and understanding of animals. Because flamingos are found in many parts of the world, we will be able to highlight conservation efforts and cultures from different parts of the globe.”

As this new exhibit is so in line with the zoo’s mission, it seemed right to name it for the Drill family.

“I can think of no better family than the Drills to name the exhibit after,” DiVincenzo said. “They built the original zoo and have stayed involved through the years, helping us build more modern exhibits that have transformed Turtle Back into the great educational, family destination it has become.”

The Drill family was involved with the construction of Turtle Back Zoo when it first opened in 1963. They have continued their relationship with the zoo in recent years, being awarded public bids to build exhibits for the penguins, Komodo dragon, reticulated python and monkeys, and the tropical currents aquarium. Their current contract with the zoo called for Drill to demolish the old penguin coast exhibit that they had constructed in 2008 and build the new flamingo exhibit in its place.

To recognize the family, a bronze plaque has been placed at the exhibit. It begins with a quote from popular zookeeper Jack Hanna: “Zoo animals are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.” It continues with “The Drill Construction Company of West Orange has a legacy of nine decades and three generations of family members. They have built medical facilities, transportation hubs, retail centers and communication towers, and their work can be seen in 30 states, the Bahamas and Greenland. What is most important to this family-owned business is much closer to home, and that’s the work they have done for decades at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo. The company has been there from the beginning, building the original Zoo when it opened in 1963 and continuing that relationship with the construction of the Penguin Coast, Komodo Dragon, Reticulated Python and Monkey Exhibits and the Tropical Currents Aquarium. They have returned to their ‘labor of love’ once again, this time developing Turtle Back’s Flamingo Exhibit. We are pleased to count the Drill Family as part of our Turtle Back Zoo Family and name this exhibit in their honor.”

“My family is absolutely thrilled to receive this honor from the county executive,” said Philip Drill, chairman of Drill Construction. “We have the greatest appreciation for this incredible honor for helping to make Turtle Back Zoo an excellent destination with a national reputation.”

French and Parrello from Wall designed the flamingo exhibit as part of an existing contract. Drill Construction from West Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $3,201,810. Funding was provided with grants from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund and NJ Green Acres program, and an allocation from the Essex County capital budget. Work began in March and took just five months to complete.

Photos Courtesy of Essex County