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March 31, 2023

Cape May Zoo to permanently close its aviary, relocate birds across U.S.

The 25-year-old exhibit is among the South Jersey attraction's least visited and has become too expensive to maintain, officials said

Animals Zoos
Cape May Zoo Aviary Cape May County Park & Zoo/Facebook

Cape May County Park & Zoo is closing its World of Birds aviary, which it opened in 1998, because it has become unsustainable to maintain, officials say. It will close later this spring.

The Cape May County Park & Zoo is permanently closing its aviary, one of its oldest exhibits, because its upkeep is no longer tenable. Though some of the birds will remain at the zoo, others will be sent to zoos across the country, officials said Friday. 

The building that has housed the World of Birds exhibit will be removed to make way for future attractions. It will be closed this spring. A specific date has not be set because zookeepers are still working to find new homes for the animals. 

"Unfortunately, 25 years of tropical habitat has taken its toll on the building and necessary maintenance and upgrades have become unsustainable," said Dr. Alexander Ernst, associate veterinarian at the Cape May County Park & Zoo. "While the closure of this exhibit was a difficult decision, we look forward to the future when we can bring new and upgraded habitats for our visitors. The Zoo staff will be working diligently over the coming months to find new homes for our birds at the zoo." 

More than 400 people commented on the zoo's Facebook post announcing the closure. They expressed sadness and reminisced about watching the birds and, in some cases, being pooped on. 

The World of Birds aviary opened in May 1998, housing as many as 30 species of birds at one time, zoo officials said. Though it operates as a year-round attraction, it is among the South Jersey zoo's least-visited exhibits.

The aviary's closure is part of a larger improvement plant that includes new exhibits and an expanded parking lot. The removal of the aviary will pave the way for "enhanced animal encounters and improved viewing options," officials said.

"We look forward to the Zoo improvements and enhancements that will make it safer and better for animals, staff,and visitors," said Commissioner Andrew Bulakowski, the county's liaison to the zoo. "Be assured that while the aviary is closed to the public, the zoo staff will continue to care for the birds until they are moved to their new homes. Join us as we bid farewell to an old friend but look forward to a bright future." 

The aviary was temporarily closed last year due to prevent the zoo's endangered birds from contracting the avian flu that swept the country. The outbreak, which began in early 2022, led to the deaths of more than 58 million chickens and turkeys, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The Cape May County Park & Zoo repeatedly has been ranked as one of the best in the nation and, in one case, the world. The 52-acre park housed more than 550 animals in 2021. 

The Park & Zoo, located at 707 US-9 North, Cape May Court House, is free to enter and open every day except Christmas Day. The County Parks are open from 7 a.m. until dusk. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.