Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. outlined plans to develop the Ronald J. Mount Lion and Hyena Exhibit at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange on Wed., Oct. 26. The exhibit 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 Docent organization.
Other additions announced include a new Condor Exhibit, enhancements to the Cattle Exhibit, new fencing at the Essex Farm Petting Zoo and shade structures at the Sea Lion Sound Exhibit, amphitheater and Dinosaur Playground.
“We are very excited about bringing lions and hyenas to Turtle Back Zoo because they are the animals that people most identify with the African Savanna,” said DiVincenzo. “In addition, a lion is the central figure on our Essex County Seal, so we are pleased about bringing the real life version of our iconic seal here. We are always looking for new ways to attract new visitors and enhance their experience. Bringing new animal exhibits, upgrading exhibits to improve viewing areas for the public and introducing amenities create new things for people see and learn about and makes their visits more enjoyable.”
Mount’s son, Ian Mount, said, “The exhibit is going to be an amazing addition to Turtle Back Zoo. I thank the County Executive and the Freeholders for the deep respect you’ve shown my father and my family. When I think of Lions, I think about pride, and that reminds me of my father. I’m proud of him when I think of all the lives he has touched.”
The lion and hyena exhibit will be located in the African Adventure Exhibit adjacent to the Giraffe House. The half-acre exhibit will be heavily landscaped and have a two-foot pool and exposed rock formation. There will be three viewing stations for the public. Inside the exhibit near one of the viewing stations will be a heated stone patio to attract the lions so they can be easily seen by the public. At the rear of the exhibit will be a heated one-story building that is designed to resemble a North African fortress that has been returned to the wild.
“This is the busiest attraction in New Jersey,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. “We are pleased to partner with the County Executive and the Freeholders to make it the safest in the state,” he added.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Ronald Mount because he gave so much back and the zoo was one of his pet projects,” Assemblyman Thomas Giblin said. “The addition of the Lion Exhibit really completes the zoo the way it should be.”
Several other projects were being undertaken to create new or enhance existing animal exhibits, provide amenities to make visitors’ experiences more enjoyable and to modernize fencing.
A new Condor Exhibit is being constructed next to the Penguin Coast Exhibit. It will take the place of an older exhibit that was damaged several years ago after a storm. Construction started earlier in October is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2017.
The viewing areas at the Scottish Highland Cattle and Wolf Woods exhibits are being improved to provide the public with better opportunities to see the animals. At the Scottish Highland Cattle Exhibit, a new covered viewing area for the public is being constructed. The improvements include creating a patio area for the public to gather in front of the exhibit. Instead of looking through a fence into the exhibit, glass walls will be erected. A lattice covering will provide shade over the viewing area.
Shade structures are being installed over the Sea Lion Sound pool, the amphitheater and the children’s Dinosaur Playground. The shade structure over the Sea Lion exhibit will help regulate the water quality in the pool and, by keeping the water from direct sunlight, will help suppress the growth of algae in the water. The structure over the playground will keep the apparatus out of direct sunlight and prevent the climbing structures from getting too hot. The amphitheater structure will provide shade for people attending educational or entertainment programs.
New perimeter fencing is also being installed at the Zoo.