N.J. park zoo to close following a lot more than 70 many years, animals to be moved out of flood zone

The seven-thirty day period saga that commenced when Tropical Storm Ida flooded a tiny Piscataway zoo last September seems to be coming to a shut.

The zoo — an “animal haven” positioned in the sprawling 478-acre Johnson Park that is totally free for readers — will close following 73 years, the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners introduced Thursday for the duration of its month-to-month conference.

Dozens of animals that have termed the zoo property for many years are in the procedure of remaining relocated to sanctuaries, but about 12 of the animals will be relocated to a new academic facility in just the park’s borders, officials stated. The park zoo holds deer, turkeys, rabbits, birds, goats, pigs, sheep, llamas and horses.

“We have combined thoughts. We’re certainly truly happy and grateful for the animals who are likely to sanctuaries … however, there are animals who are not going to the sanctuaries that we do have some considerations about nevertheless,” claimed Sonya Elefante, a volunteer for Mates of the Johnson Park Animals, a new team formed final fall that has fought to near the zoo.

The county built a equivalent closure announcement past October, citing the park zoo’s site within just a flood zone and the “undeniable threat of weather improve.” Nonetheless, about a month later on officers mentioned they’d preserve the zoo open up whilst consultants assessed the risk of shifting the animals elsewhere in just park grounds or shuttering it solely.

The affect of Ida on the zoo spurred animal advocates to variety Buddies of the Johnson Park Animals, declaring the animals did not obtain suitable care and were being at hazard simply by residing at the park. After the storm, organizers posted photos online of the mini-horse chest deep in brown h2o, as properly as other animals dealing with flooding.

No animals died or went lacking at Johnson Park zoo as a result of Ida, a county spokeswoman beforehand explained. Even so, officials confirmed that about 17 miles away a pig died amid the storm at Merrill Park in Woodbridge, a further Middlesex County park that also residences animals.

20-two years back, 10 horses at the Johnson Park zoo died as a consequence of flooding all through Hurricane Floyd.

Calls to close the zoo, which is inclined to flooding, have been shared for a long time by locals and were renewed next Ida. Continue to, some citizens mentioned they preferred to hold the park zoo open up, Commissioner Director Ronald Rios claimed Thursday.

The warm-button problem was the concentration of quite a few commissioner meetings and led to at minimum 3 petitions and several protests.

Of the more than 90 animals that reside at the zoo, at the very least 11 had been moved to sanctuaries involving the stop of 2021 and very last week. Before this month, four alpacas ended up transferred to Stay Absolutely free Farm in Montgomery Township. In addition, 22 animals had been moved to Thompson Park and 15 moved to Merrill Park in February, a county formal mentioned.

Very last calendar year, other sanctuaries stepped up to shelter animals — designed achievable by way of efforts led by organizer Jenna Trent. Goats of Anarchy took over possession of a goat, RJ Stokley took on a mother goat and her two young ones and Uncle Neil’s House welcomed in two pigs and a ram.

Commencing this 7 days, officials will start the approach of relocating a couple of of the animals to a new nearby facility inside Johnson Park and the rest to animal sanctuaries, Middlesex County officials claimed.

“We’re going to have Zoo Advisors examine different sanctuaries to see which ones are acceptable and eager to acquire (the animals),” Rios mentioned Thursday.

Rios, who pointed out the county planned to get started operating “ASAP” to obtain new houses for the animals, stated he expected the work to be completed within just the up coming couple months.

The new facility will be element of a new Historic Animal Husbandry Plan at East Jersey Previous City Village, county officers reported in a assertion.

“East Jersey Old City Village is a collection of historic structures from the 1700s and 1800s that by way of ground breaking exhibits, general public packages and living history tells the tale of Middlesex County,” the county claimed in a assertion.

“The locale at the village, out of the flood zone, has been identified for some of the animals,” the county added.

Two horses, 3 goats, 6 chickens and a cow will be moved to the facility, Elefante stated.

Johnson Park zoo in Piscataway, NJ, flooded during Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1, 2021. Johnson Park zoo will shut just after a lot more than 70 several years because of to its location in a flood zone, Middlesex County officials announced Thursday, April 7, 2022.

The determination, the county explained, was the final result of an evaluation performed by Havertown, Pennsylvania, scheduling and consulting business Zoo Advisors and Wall-dependent engineering advisor French & Parrello Associates. Both of those assessed park zoo operations and reviewed other county services, facts which will also be folded into the county’s 2040 master plan.

Rios explained the husbandry software as an “educational software.” Next problems about animal care at Johnson Park zoo, he also noted that workers at the new facility — the identical from the shortly-to-close zoo — would obtain more education.

Though some have expressed considerations about the likely for animals to be bred at the new area, Rios said breeding would not get position. Also, they will develop a approach for momentary relocation or other actions to continue to keep the animals harmless during inclement weather conditions. He explained fencing would also prevent folks from feeding the animals, an additional worry of zoo critics.

“Another difficulty we have is the basic treatment that the animals get. In the earlier there have been scenarios in which the animals have been not offered appropriate vet care in a well timed style,” Elefante said.

Rick Lear, director of Middlesex County business office of parks and recreation, stated through a past commissioner’s conference that the park zoo is in compliance, topic to federal inspections and employs veterinarians to treatment for the animals.

Through an inspection on Jan. 27 of Johnson Park adhering to resident grievances, an assistant biologist with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife mentioned she was worried with vegetables meant for the fallow deer that have been observed on the floor. An inspection of the doe enclosure at Thompson Park, one more county park that houses animals, also discovered a gap in part of the fence.

An assistant biologist with the point out Division of Fish and Wildlife lauded the disorders and animal care supplied at each parks.

“All of the captive video game and exotic and non-sport animals at Johnson Park and Thompson Park appeared to be in fantastic health and fitness. The enclosures permit the animals to execute their usual behavior pattern and avoid illness, liberation, or accidental injuries to the animals and the general public,” the condition biologist wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to the county, obtained by NJ Advance Media by way of an Open up Public Documents Act request. “The animals are fed an sufficient diet plan and are held in clear enclosures.”

One resident requested commissioners Thursday what may well Johnson Park zoo turn into at the time the animals were being taken off. Rios mentioned it could serve numerous purposes but did not remark even further.

Animals in Johnson Park

Ryan Cobb, Package Lantier and Russel Cobb feed carrots to the goats in Johnson Park, in Piscataway, N.J. September, 27, 2021. Johnson Park zoo will shut soon after much more than 70 several years owing to its location in a flood zone, Middlesex County officials announced Thursday, April 7, 2022.Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

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Steven Rodas may be arrived at at [email protected]. Adhere to him @stevenrodasnj.