Sunday, August 15, 2010

Turtle Back Zoo

The Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County, NJ, is filled with engaging and aesthetically pleasing exhibits, but one of my most vivid memories is a giant pig named Arbuckle. This dude(?) was 800 pounds easy, and lumbered over to us at the "Essex Farm" exhibit. I have never seen a pig this big, and wondered, how do those pointy (relatively) petite hooves hold him up?
We were in this area of the world to visit the seamstress's mecca, Fabricland, in North Plainfield (where I lived from kindergarten to fourth grade). Mom used to drag me to Fabricland, but I hated it then--love it now. It's NJ's largest fabric store, after all. Anyhow, after driving past our old house and my old school, I thought it would be fun to visit the zoo in East Orange. This was a popular destination for Girl Scout trips, school trips, and playdates with friends. I remembered going there, but no specifics. On one of these trips I learned about carsickness; not me, but my seatmate. Ew.

The zoo is not huge, but the exhibits were terrific. The first 'wow' was the prairie dog exhibit. It looked like a landscaped playground thing for kids, and we were going to skip it. Then I noticed the prairie dogs and the plexi-glass lookouts with real kids heads sticking up in them, among the prairie dogs!
We were there for feeding time and got to see the dogs eating carrots. the zookeeper explained to Fred (who talks to everyone, everywhere) that they like orange foods the most: carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges. (I learn a lot from Fred talking to everyone everywhere.)

Next up was the Wild New Jersey exhibit I had read about online. This was interesting, but the animals are old news and the exhibits ordinary. But look at the cool shot of the Bald Eagles:This Australian Budgerigar (parakeets to us yankees) aviary was a stroke of genius. The pastel-colored birds fly around, perch, and eat seeds off sticks purchased by zoo visitors for $3. Kids and adults alike got a bang out of walking around the aviary with parakeets attached to their seed sticks. I was so mesmerized by the birds and the people interacting with them, I hardly noticed the noisy, sticky kids and their younger siblings' enormous strollers. Fred, who has infinite patience with rugrats, had reached his kid-saturation level while I was still admiring the scores of beautiful birds and their willingness to eat seed from strange people. Now that's an engaging display!Also part of the Australian exhibit were kangaroos and wallabies. These guys move fast--I tried to capture them boinging around on video, but that proved too much of a challenge.The Asian exhibit featured these graceful cranes, a red panda, lots of bamboo, and a waterfall.The Cape May County Zoo (mentioned in some earlier posts), has Capybaras, too. These are the world's largest rodents. We hit the Capybara paddock at feeding time, too. They seem like gentle creatures; really big hamsters.
Then the reptile house...
My photo of the giant python with the huge lump halfway down did not come out, so we will have to be satisfied with this sleeping bat photo.

And right at the entrance to the zoo, some of the newest residents, penguins! We got to see them swimming in their bright blue water when we entered, and their parting gift was this nice group pose.

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