SWAINTON – Fears of rain vanished as the county zoo celebrated its 40th anniversary June 9 at the Cape May County Zoo and Park. 

Throughout its 40 years as a free zoo, the attraction has transformed from a small zoo with just a lion, spider monkeys, some barnyard animals, and wildlife into one of the county’s premier attractions. Officials said it is one of the best zoos in the nation.

Events at the celebration included the announcement of the name of the newest baby giraffe, Kifeda. In Swahili, Kifeda means “only boy among sisters.” The male, born Nov. 17, 2017, is walking with his head held high.

He was the star of a media tour earlier in the day. Accompanying him was his mother and another female giraffe.

All of them enjoyed a tasty treat of cedar branches held by Parks Director Ed Runyon.

The event boasted magic shows, face painting, and more for families looking to celebrate.

New Jersey’s Secretary of State Tahesha Way was present. She underscored the significance of the zoo to the county and its tourism industry. Way said, “We roll up our sleeves to make sure the quality of life of all residents is maintained,” citing that the zoo’s free admission is a huge attractor for tourists and locals alike.

Way said that although “visitor experience is important, animal care comes first.”

Way was not the only state official present to commemorate the zoo’s anniversary; other speakers included Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak, and freeholders, including Director Gerald Thornton. He joked that when he was present for the ribbon cutting of the zoo, he has plenty of dark hair.

The zoo’s 40th-anniversary event also coincided with “Conservation Day,” an event where guests had the chance to learn more about how the animals at the zoo are preserved and cared for.

Scout units, including Cub Scout Pack 161 from Williamstown, and other groups staffed information tables throughout the zoo.

The celebration concluded with the introduction of a male Eastern Mountain Bongo calf, born April 2, who just recently started venturing outside onto the zoo’s African Savanna.

The zoo came a long way from its beginnings in 1978. The zoo was recently accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for the fifth year in a row; this is no small task, and less than 10 percent of all zoos nationwide are currently accredited.