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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Bald Eagles Spread Wings in Rebuilt Zoo Aviary

 

By Al Campbell

SWAINTON — A pair of bald eagles, America’s national emblem, reside in an enlarged, beautified aviary at the Cape May County Zoo, thanks to the Feb. 5-6 blizzard and a widespread community effort.
Dedication ceremonies were held at the popular zoo attraction on June 3, four months after the original exhibit was crushed by heavy, wet snow.
Through a concerted effort by members of the Cape May County Zoo Society and its Zoo Friends as well as an outpouring from the community, the exhibit not only provides a better place for the majestic birds, but also hosts a statue, in a revamped garden setting, that pays tribute to America’s veterans.
According to Parks Director Michael Laffey, the Philadelphia firm, CLR Design, which specializes in zoo habitat exhibits, was enlisted after consultation with Zoo Director Dr. Hubert Paluch about the needs of the birds. The exhibit is 80 feet long, 24 feet wide and 22 feet high.
The staff landscaped and did much of the finish work, he said.
A staff member, Jim “Cap” Loper, a commercial fisherman, was skilled in working with fishing net, which he painstakingly mended together and joined to supporting cables so that the eagles would have a soft barrier, and one that makes it easier to view them.
Outside contractors provided some of the basic construction of the exhibit, while County Park staff did much of the other finishing work. Some of that work has yet to be finalized, including additional perches and a shade covering.
According to Cape May County Zoological Society/ZooFriends president Bill MacQueen, the idea of dedicating the eagle exhibit to all veterans sprang from a donor, Donafaye Burke, who wanted to memorialize her husband, Charles H. Burke, a Navy veteran of World War II, who loved animals, and her uncle.
There were others, too, said MacQueen, whose contributions ranged from $5 to $5,000.
The Dennis Township Eighth Grade Peer Leader group was recognized at the dedication ceremony for their efforts in raising funds that, collectively, paid for the $50,000 exhibit entirely from private sources.
MacQueen, a photographer, snapped the original scene that forms the background of the diorama at the creek and marshland that surrounds Hand Avenue, just east of Route 47.
A California artist who specializes in eagles did the sculpture, said MacQueen.
A number of veterans, representing various organizations, participated in the dedication.
“They were very impressed,” said MacQueen.
The dedication was to have taken place May 28, but inclement weather postponed it until after Memorial Day.
Contributions of $500 or more were recognized with a permanent plaque at the site. Those interested in further assistance for the zoo should contact: info@capemaycountyzoo.org or contact MacQueen at 609-865-7938.
Cape May County Zoological Society/ZooFriends, a 501(c) 3 non-profit NJ corporation, is the private sector partner of county government in the continuing improvement of the zoo for our visitors, staff and – most of all – the living creatures in our care.
Contact Campbell at (609) 886-8600 Ext 28 or at: al.c@cmcherald.com

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