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Ranking #1 as the state?s best zoo in the NJ Monthly Magazine, the Turtle Back Zoo was established on June 3, 1963 with 140 animals from forty different species. Its name was derived from a unique mountainside rock formation which Lanape Indians referred to as the Turtle Back Rock.

With the American Zoo and Aquarium Association accrediting the zoo in 2000, the Turtle Back Zoo then focused on its master plan, starting with the use of bigger and more realistic habitats for their animals instead of obsolete 1960?s-styled cages. Five years later, the zoo also completed construction of its $1.8M Essex County Animal Hospital. The old administration building had also been turned into a state-of-the-art 11,000 square foot complex equipped with its own gift shop, reptile center, auditorium, classrooms, and administrative offices.
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