New Jersey officials: Mass zoo escape rumors ‘unequivocally false’

Officials in a New Jersey county are reassuring residents that no lions, gorillas or penguins escaped from a local zoo during Tropical Storm Ida, despite rumors to the contrary on social media.

Photos of an official-looking text message appeared on social media this week, claiming animals including penguins, lions, bears, otters, gorillas and reptiles escaped from the Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County when the remnants of Ida swept through the area Wednesday.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. released an official statement Thursday on Facebook saying the message is “unequivocally false.”

“Turtle Back is an accredited facility that takes the care and welfare of our animals very seriously,” DiVincenzo wrote.

“In advance of Hurricane Ida, our animal care team secured all the animals indoors and staff remained on grounds to monitor the situation. 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 said in a Facebook post that animals were secured indoors before the storm and staff remained on site all night to make sure there were no issues.

“We appreciate everyone’s concern about our animals and staff during the storm,” the post said.