Shots From the Turtle Back Zoo

(Taken September 7, 2021)

It's been a really long time since I've gone to any sort of zoo/aquarium type place, and when an opportunity to visit the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey with borb (who has family out that way) popped up, I made sure to take it. Gotta say, it might be a tourist trap in the state I love to make fun of the most, but it was still really nice there and a really great (and exhausting) day out overall. Lots of chatting, lots of running around, walking back to the McDonald's down the street by ourselves, plushies in hand...good times. (I've got my otter right next to me to this day!)

Plushies from the zoo

And most importantly for you guys, it was also an excellent opportunity to stress test the camera on my new phone. (Yes, I kept the full-sized shots, but at 4000x3000, I don't think either of us need to see those.) I'm horrifically late writing this page, but the trip itself got postponed several times, so in a way, it fits. Besides, the shots are still lovely, and you guys still deserve to have a peek at what I consider to be the best of about 100 total, plus a video.

I've broken these up by some loose, non-chronological categories for ease of browsing. Click through for a larger (1024x768) version of each photo!

African Adventure

We started our journey in the African Adventure area, which was this simulated little savanna filled with hyenas, ostriches, and giraffes, of course. A big attraction was to feed leaves to the giraffes, and borb, naturally being the tiny one, did just that. It took a bit of detective work, but I found out that the antelope-looking guys in some of the shots were bontebonks, and one decided to graze right in front of a great view of a parking garage. Can never quite escape civilization, can we?

Hyenas being lazy
A few bontebonks out in the pasture Oh, and there were ostriches too
borb feeding a giraffe
borb standing under a giraffe

Big cats (and a dog)

Big cats were scattered about the place, especially in the Asia section. We were hoping to see the snow leopard (you let Somnolians around a zoo, they're not leaving until they see their sonas), but alas, he was in hiding the whole day. The other cats ranged from sleepy and chilling to...being bothered by little kids.

It's one of the things that gets me about zoos, and to be fair to this one, they were handling their animals incredibly well and they seemed to be just fine—but then people bring their shitty little kids along and don't stop them being shitfucks to the animals and explicitly disobeying the posted instructions, and we saw a few stressed kitties prowling as a result. We joked a couple times about switching out the stars of the exhibits, but ultimately, we just went elsewhere and that was that.

I think that mountain lion picture in particular proves I was correct about digital zoom being completely unnecessary. borb kept asking why I refused to zoom in, and it's because digital zoom makes for worse photos, point blank period. I just took them as-is, even if I couldn't see the animal much myself, and cropped it later. Funnily enough, nearly always, my phone could see the animal better than I could.

Sleepy mountain lions
A leopard hanging on a fence under us
A jaguar prowling around uncomfortably
A cougar being lazy next to our window

One of the most curious exhibits (which was hell to find any record of online, somehow) was the zoo's Animal Ambassadors exhibit, which was on its own stretch of land roughly in the middle of things. This one was home to a cheetah and, surprisingly, a yellow labrador! Apparently, for orphaned kittens, domesticated puppies make fantastic surrogate siblings, and these two (Nandi and Bowie, respectively) were especially attached. Nandi was too busy darting around for me to get a picture of her, but Bowie, having been left behind in said darting, we got up close to.

Bowie the labrador

Lordy, birds!

Okay, so, flamingos.

A small army of flamingos in a pond

With that out of the way, here's the context.

One of the first stops we made after getting out of the African Adventure (I only mention this because after this, the timeline gets incredibly hazy) was the Penguin House, which dips deep underwater and lets you take a look at the little buggers doing dives and other underwater business penguins do. Otherwise, it was an especially good day for bizarre, exotic birds—we saw some peacocks basically roaming free, and the flamingos had a small army stationed around their base, as you can see above.

The penguin house
A penguin mid-dive
One of the peacocks, this one not free-roaming
One of the peacocks, this one free-roaming
A couple of birds whose species I don't remember

Water, water everywhere

The zoo was set up with giant windows in all the (at least partially) underwater exhibits to let you see into the water from lower ground. Of course, the Penguin House was one of them, but we also got looks at river otters and seals in two separate exhibits. The members of both species seemed to be in a bit of a groove; one of the otters was stuck doing flips for two minutes maybe, and the seal was busy doing laps underwater, which gave me a few chances to get pictures of him.

One of the otters mid-swim
Another otter mid-swim
Seal mid-swim
One of the seals basking in the air
The seal doing laps as before

Even better was when I was able to get a proper video of the flipping otter, and seriously, this boy was going for a while. Apparently borb wasn't able to get a good look at him, but I sure did. I've got two versions for you to watch, old-school and new-school, the former being a crisp 6.8MB (requires the Xvid codec, VLC can play it just fine if you don't know what that is) and the latter being available on YouTube if you've got one of those fancy broadband connections. Pick your detail level and enjoy this boy's acrobatics either way.

Ah, barn animals, that's what was missing from this zoo

Now for a sharp detour! Up to this point, we've been looking at fairly exotic creatures, but the zoo is by no means lousy for local wildlife either. They have an entire wing for New Jersey critters (alas, most in very dim cages and most being birds and darker-colored birds at that, so no pictures) and another giant section animals? Really did puzzle me at first, not the first thing I associate with a zoo, but hey, fair game.

Even more bizarrely, some of the animals were either wandering around or outright laying out in the sun (on a hot day!) on the gravel outside, which doesn't exactly sound comfortable to me, but I'm guessing the animals were cool with it. I mean, I doubt they were dead, they didn't smell quite that bad... (as far as I remember, they really didn't smell like anything outside)

Piggies, natch
A rogue cow appears
A goat and a sign warning of biting
Another unidentified zoo creature

A category for nothing in particular

Most of the rest of the day's photos were taken in no particular exhibit at all, and so, they get their own section. Included: when they evacuated the prairie dog exhibit to dedicate it to borb instead (true story, ask your parents), some monkeys that had what looked to be construction scaffolding all to themselves (if I could've gotten a better angle on that one lad, it'd be album cover worthy), an unfortunately not great shot of an american alligator (though you get to see his scales real up close and personal, it's still cool), and some wallabies! Underrated creatures.

the borb exhibit
(Part of) an alligator
A bunch of monkeys chilling
A few wallabies out roaming behind a fence
A wallaby laying around in the dirt

What would you call this, zoo art?

Wrapping this up, I got a few shots of some very odd art installations scattered about the zoo grounds. Some of them made sense, like the turtles and turtle shells. Others, like the sunflowers that sprayed water or the random Buddha head on a pedestal in the middle of a rest area? Slightly less so.

A turtle statue not far from African Adventure
Nice eagle statue out by the NJ Wildlife exhibit
Uh, sunflower mister?
Uh, Buddha statue, I guess
The dinosaur slide...for some reason

This page last updated October 7, 2021.

Click here to not see a drawing of me as a wolf that Caby did!

(To explain, I had my "me at the zoo" status on Discord set with a wolf head and...)