Fact Check: Animals At Turtle Back Zoo In N.J. Did NOT Escape In The Midst Of Hurricane Ida -- It's Parody

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: Animals At Turtle Back Zoo In N.J. Did NOT Escape In The Midst Of Hurricane Ida -- It's Parody Safe and Sound

Did animals kept at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey escape during the state's experience with the remnants of Hurricane Ida? No, that's not true: The animals did not flee the zoo during the storm.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on September 2, 2021. It included a screenshot of a tweet attributed to a CNN Breaking News account that was not verified. The tweet read:

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 tweet followed with "Images:" and showed images of animals -- and in the bottom right-hand corner, an unidentified creature -- loose on streets.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on September 2, 2021:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Sep 2 21:48:09 2021 UTC)

The Twitter account that published the story is not the actual CNN Breaking News account, which can be found at @cnnbrk. The account that tweeted the information, @CNNBRNWS, is a parody account. A screenshot of the @CNNBRNWS bio is included below:

cnnbrnws.PNG

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Thu Sep 2 21:25:30 2021 UTC)

The Turtle Back Zoo denied the claim online. In a tweet (archived here) published on September 2, 2021, zoo officials said:

We appreciate everyone's concern about our animals and staff during the storm.
Staff stayed through the night to monitor. 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 tweet is embedded below:

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21:53:54 2021 UTC)

Even state officials stepped in to clarify. In a statement released on September 2, 2021, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said:

The social media message stating that animals have left Essex County Turtle Back Zoo is unequivocally false. Turtle Back is an accredited facility that takes the care and welfare of our animals very seriously. 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.

DiVincenzo's statement can be found on his official Facebook page here (archived here).

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  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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