No Turtle Back Zoo Expansion
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Essex County is proud of the improvements made to the Turtle Back Zoo. Visitors walk pleasant, undulating paths under tall trees where they encounter modest settings within the landscape which house lions, leopards, eagle, gibbons, swans and more. Children swarm everywhere and their voices sing out with amazement as they race from exhibit to exhibit. The small train toots its whistle as it has for fifty years while it glides through a corner of the reservation with the shimmering reservoir at its side. A pleasant two hours is to be had at the Zoo, if you don’t think about it from the animals or the local residents' perspective.
During two public hearings on the Zoo Master Plan in early 2018, residents spoke out to alert County Executive Joe DiVincenzo of their concerns.
We don’t want Disneyland here in West Orange.
With 900,000 annual visitors in 2017, the traffic is unbearable for the residents who live nearby. Some wait forty minutes to go past the Zoo.
Traffic is heavier on the arteries through the South Mountain Reservation, a 2000-acre park designed for passive recreation and wildlife habitat.
Residents are concerned that the original intent of the South Mountain Reservation as a passive and peaceful park is being changed, even though it is a 28-acre piece that houses the zoo. The activities on the West Orange portion of the reservation are preventing the peaceful use of the reservation.
The Reservation is a Sponge.
Some residents have complained that the cutting of trees to expand the Zoo, building more impervious roads and walkways to service the zoo, causes water runoff.
Keeping Non-Native Animals In a Northern Climate.
Other residents are concerned about the potential for an animal death or accident with so many rare animals outside of their native environments and in the hands of accident-prone humans, no matter how well-intended.
A Giraffe Has Already Died at this Zoo.
Residents have spoken out against the proposal to bring in large animals such as grizzly bears which roam one hundred miles in their native habitat, or elephants, which would have to stay indoors in small facilities during the winter.
According to zoo staff, giraffes are allowed outdoors in their one-acre pen only when temperatures are above 50 degrees. Otherwise they are kept in a large barn-like building for months.
Doubtful Conservation Benefits.
The zoo promotes its work as a noble conservation effort, which is only partly true. It is primarily an entertainment complex.
There is no evidence that exhibiting animals leads to preservation of wildlife. According to the WWF during the last forty years the planet has lost 50% of the wild animal and bird populations due to habitat loss and human ignorance of how to maintain a pollution-free environment.
Meanwhile outside the Zoo boundaries, hunters imported by the county during the months of January and February, kill the native wild deer. In a non-scientific trophy hunt they collapse the population so that it resurges and then collapses again through cruel and dangerous firearm use.
Bathroom Facilities Need to be Improved and Proper Sidewalks Were Lacking in the Area.
It seems the Country budgets $300K per year for portable bathrooms for county parks including the Zoo.
The food that is served at the Zoo’s Zanzibar Café is primarily low-cost factory-farmed meat.
This fast food is the kind of substance whose very production has caused a loss of habitat for the animals this zoo purports to protect.
Open Space Trust Fund Money Supports the Zoo.
Tens of millions of dollars spent on the Zoo are diverted from the Open Space Trust Fund. Imagine the benefits to residents and wildlife if that money were to be spent acquiring habitat instead.
Tell The County:
Animals have a right not to be traded, transported or exhibited to the public. Residents have a right not to have excessive traffic and noise near their homes.
Residents request that the Turtle Back Zoo not be expanded, that no more trees be cut, that no large, non-native animals or non-native habitats be added. In addition, it should not be advertised as a destination Zoo. Please do not drive greater and greater attendance. The current traffic and parking problems need to be resolved to the satisfaction of the West Orange residents.
Animal entertainment complexes are difficult and controversial.
It may not be the type of economic development that residents are willing to exchange for their rights to a protected reserve, expenditures of tax dollars, and to move freely and peaceably through town.
Further reading: NorthJersey.com
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