WEST ORANGE, NJ — Essex County officially opened the Ronald J. Mount Lion and Hyena Exhibit at Turtle Back Zoo on Monday, June 12. This exhibit expands the African Adventure themed area of the zoo, which already includes four Masai giraffes, and is named after the late Ronald J. Mount, who was a major supporter of the zoo and a member of the Zoological Society of New Jersey and the Volunteer Docents.
“The lion is the central figure on the Essex County seal, so it’s only natural that we have real-life versions at Turtle Back Zoo. Known as the ‘king of the jungle,’ the lions are one of the most recognizable and popular animals. They will complement our Masai giraffes and make the African Adventure exhibit an even more dynamic attraction,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Ronald Mount was a great advocate for Turtle Back Zoo, and he always wanted to bring lions here. We are pleased to have partnered with his family to make his dream come true and create a first-class exhibit for the public to enjoy.”
The exhibit featuring the lions and hyenas is part of the African Adventure Exhibit and is adjacent to the Giraffe House. The half-acre exhibit is heavily landscaped and has a two-foot pool and exposed rock formation. There are three stations for the public to view the animals. At one station is a heated stone patio to attract the lions so they can be easily seen. At the rear of the exhibit is a heated one-story building that is designed to resemble an old North African fortress that has been returned to the wild.
“Lions and hyenas interact in the wild and that is what we have tried to recreate here,” Turtle Back Zoo Director Michael Kerr said. “What is also important is that both of these species are part of the AZA’S species survival plan so we can provide a genetically stable population for years to come.”
French and Parrello from Wall received a $350,000 contract to design the exhibit. Shauger Property Services from East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $3,660,214 to perform the construction work and the Essex County Public Works Department monitored the project. The exhibit was funded with a donation from Ian Mount, Ronald Mount’s son, and support from the Pooled Government Loan Program from the Essex County Improvement Authority. Construction began in October 2016 and was finished in seven months.