Zoo teeming with new faces

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The Aoudad, or Barbary sheep, herd has six new little ones at Hillcrest Park Zoo.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

It’s spring … and there are lots of changes at the Hillcrest Park Zoo.

The zoo has new babies, prices and exhibits.

Spring and summer are the zoo’s busy seasons, according to zookeeper Mark Yanotti. Yanotti said the zoo tries to do something new each spring.

“Mother Nature does a lot. The trees bloom and we have babies, which are a big draw,” he said. “It’s really a lovely place to be in spring.”

The common marmosets gave birth to two babies a week and a half ago. One ring-tailed lemur gave birth to twins a week ago and another gave birth to a baby two weeks ago. And, the Aoudad, or Barbary sheep, herd has six new little ones.

Some of the babies will stay at the zoo, Yanotti said. Others will be placed with other zoos.

“It all depends on a myriad of things,” he said. “We look at how the animals are handling the increase, the zookeepers and the space.”

A new alligator exhibit is slated to open this spring. Yanotti said the zoo is still finishing up a new gator pool and isn’t sure of the exact date it will open. But it will be this spring.

Yanotti said three alligators will be moving into the new outdoor pool.

The zoo’s big spring event, the Easter egg hunt, is April 11. The event is for children ages 10 and under.

There will be 4,000 eggs hidden for the hunt.

Today is the first day of new prices. Adult admission went up a dollar to $3. Children under 11 will now pay $1.50 and seniors 60 and older can request a $2.50 admission fee.

Yanotti said it’s the first raise in admission prices in about five years.

“Everything’s gone up, so we could use it,” Yanotti said. Yanotti said all admissions go back into the zoo’s budget.