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!)
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!
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?
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
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.
Okay, so, flamingos.
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 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
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.
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
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 for...farm 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)
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.
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.
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...)