Jungle Habitat was a Warner Brothers-owned animal theme park located in West Milford, New Jersey. It opened in the summer of 1972 and closed in the fall 1976. The park had over 1500 animals and had walk through and drive through sections. Sadly I never had the opportunity to visit this New Jersey gem, but my older sisters went multiple times and we had multiple bit of ephemera from the park laying around the house throughout my childhood. Just seeing this stuff made me very happy, why you ask? Well…
What went wrong?
The place was plagued with problems. They had attacks on park visitors by a lion and a baby elephant (seriously). Then a lot of the animals got sick and needed to be euthanized. The park also caused problems for the towns nearby in the way of traffic and wild animal escapes. Despite the problems, Jungle Habitat was still popular enough that they attempted to do an expansion. This went into regulatory hell and never happened.
In the theme park business if you are not growing, you are dying and that is exactly what happened just a few short years after they opened their gates. Which is why I never got the opportunity to visit.
If you were a NJ resident with an adventurous spirit though, you could explore the ruins for years afterwards. Although I would never go, I hear that the ghost of that baby elephant haunted the place delivering painful but adorable bits to all who would trespass.
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