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A sea turtle swims in a tank at the Sea Turtle Recovery hospital inside the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., Feb. 27, 2020. (AP) A sea turtle swims in a tank at the Sea Turtle Recovery hospital inside the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., Feb. 27, 2020. (AP)

A sea turtle swims in a tank at the Sea Turtle Recovery hospital inside the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., Feb. 27, 2020. (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles September 2, 2021

Online hoax claims New Jersey zoo animals escaped during Ida

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  • Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J. and the Essex County executive issued statements that the social media claim of escaped animals from the zoo was a hoax.

Tropical Storm Ida hit New York and New Jersey with torrential downpours, flash flooding and tornadoes on the night of Sept. 1.

For all of the dangerous conditions awaiting residents the next morning, escaped zoo animals were not one of them. A viral text message warning of lions, gorillas and bears on the loose was a hoax.

An image of a text alert spread across social media, including this Facebook post, and said, "Animals from Turtle Back Zoo (West Orange 07052) are fleeing the premises. Animals listed: penguins, lions, bears, otters, gorillas, and reptiles. Any exotic animals seen please call local animal control services immediately so we can return animals back to the zoo safely."

Some were alarmed by the warning, even saying that they had even heard of an alligator roaming South Orange Avenue, but others called it fake

The zoo is part of the Essex County park system. Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said the rumor was "unequivocally false."

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"Turtle Back is an accredited facility that takes the care and welfare of our animals very seriously," DiVincenzo said in an emailed statement. "In advance of Hurricane Ida, our animal care team secured all the animals indoors and staff remained on grounds to monitor the situation."

Turtle Back Zoo thanked people for their concern on Twitter. "There was no loss of power and all of our animals and animal areas weathered the storm well and remain safe and secure within the facility," the zoo wrote.

Our ruling

A social media claim warned of animals that escaped from New Jersey’s Turtle Back Zoo during Tropical Storm Ida.

Both the zoo and Essex County executive said that didn’t happen.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

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Online hoax claims New Jersey zoo animals escaped during Ida

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