South Orange, NJ

Twitter Hoax at Turtle Back Zoo Post-Ida

Morristown Minute
Flooding in Milburn, NJMcKenzie Sadeghi, USA Today

Ida, NJs recent storm rolled through Milburn not too long ago and flooded streets and shops leaving many to clean up a mess that look unrecoverable.
Flooding in Milburn, NJMcKenzie Sadeghi, USA Today

An online social media post, not long after Ida left its mark, claimed that animals, lions, tigers, bears (oh my) had escaped from the Turtle Back Zoo and were roaming the streets of South Orange. The false claim originated from a Twitter account impersonating CNN, "Breaking: Reports of escaped animals circulate throughout South Orange, New Jersey after the TurtleBack Zoo (@TurtleBackZoo) is severely flooded. Local authorities advise all South Orange residents to stay home until the animals are returned back to their homes.”

The news spread on Instagram and Facebook before the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange caught on and confirmed that this was a hoax and that the animals "weathered the storm well and remain safe and secure within the facility.”

Turtle Back was not the only Zoo hit hard by flooding from Tropical Storm Ida. The Johnson Park Zoo in Piscataway took a heavy hit from Ida, but the zoo claims no animals were lost, injured, or missing. At Merrill Park in Woodbridge, another location that houses and cares for zoo animals, a pig died due to flooding. Man-made animal habitats have been a subject of debate lately as more severe weather is putting many zoos and animal sanctuaries at risk. A protest and petition were created and signed by nearly 9000 concerned residents of the area to move animals from the Johnson Park Zoo to a safer location before another natural disaster. The petition has created a new organization, Friends of the Johnson Park Animals, that is heading the coordination efforts. 

Many zoos in the NJ area were hit hard by Ida. Our investigation at Morristown Minute found that many of these animal sanctuaries and zoos are located within a flood plain and would need to be moved to avoid a disaster like this in the future.

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