Turtle Back Zoo closing outdoor exhibits with birds to avoid avian flu
All outdoor exhibits featuring birds at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange will "promptly begin to close" because of the emergence of a newly discovered, highly pathogenic avian flu, Essex County officials said Friday.
"The exhibits are being closed as a precautionary measure to protect the birds from exposure to the influenza and to help stop the spread of the disease," County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release.
There have been no cases of the virus, first found in February in a non-commercial backyard flock of birds in Michigan, at the zoo, DiVincenzo said. But there have been cases in wild bird populations in surrounding areas, DiVincenzo said.
“As an accredited facility, the health and welfare of our animals is of paramount concern. Turtle Back Zoo is located along migratory routes for birds so it is important that we do all we can to prevent the birds in our care from getting infected. All of our birds that are featured in outdoor exhibits are being temporarily moved indoors out of an abundance of caution to protect them from harm,” DiVincenzo said.
He said staff would be taking "extreme measures to ensure all of our birds are well cared for while they are placed in quarantine."
The affected exhibits include those featuring flamingoes, bald eagles, condors and hawks, the county said in an announcement. The opening of a seasonal aviary display in the Outback Adventure Exhibit will be delayed until further notice as well, it said.
Peacocks that are allowed to roam freely in the Zoo’s grounds also will be relocated to indoor accommodations, the county said.
Birds in the Reptile House and the penguins in the Shores of Africa Exhibit will remain available for guests to see because they are kept in enclosed exhibits and the birds are not exposed to outdoor conditions, the county said.
The zoo will remain open to the public, but because several exhibits will be closed, admission is being discounted to $14 for adults (down from $17) and $12 for children under 12 and senior citizens (down from $14). Children younger than 2 receive free admission.