Jungle Habitat in NJ was the Action Park of animal safaris
We’re all familiar with — let’s call them "incidents" — at Action Park. It didn’t get the nicknames "Traction Park," "Accident Park," and "Class Action Park" out of nowhere. There were deaths and many, many injuries.
It’s the stuff of Jersey legend.
Well, I never realized until now that Jungle Habitat had a reputation of its own. Giving credit where it’s due, I was reading an article on how the land in West Milford that used to be Jungle Habitat is now used for biking and hiking trails. In that article, it mentions a few "incidents" with the old drive-thru animal safari that made me take a deeper dive.
First of all, Jungle Habitat was the original gangster of drive-thru safaris in The Garden State. They were doing it a few years before Great Adventure opened theirs. Jungle Habitat was only open from 1972 to 1976 and it was the safari competition from Six Flags Great Adventure that doomed them.
But did you know in those brief few years all of the following happened?
Less than three months after opening in July, on October 9, 1972, an Israeli tourist named Abraham Levy was attacked by a lion. He was riding in a taxi. He made the stupid decision to keep his window partly rolled down which was warned against in signage pretty much everywhere at Jungle Habitat.
According to a park spokesperson, Levy was literally “hanging out the window, beckoning the lion.” They say he tried luring the lion closer with food no doubt just to have a better look. Instead of a look, he got a full-on savage attack.
The great cat soon had its paw then head through the window and set in on Levy, biting and clawing his neck, face, arm and shoulder. Rangers freed Levy from the lion’s ferocious grip. He survived the attack and the park was not determined to be at fault.
The next month two wolves escaped. Imagine the neighbors hearing this news right on the heels of the savage lion attack. They were caught on the perimeter of the animal park.
A month later in December of 1972, TV host Jack Paar was filming a special there and ended up being cut by a 6-month-old lion cub.
Not a great first five months.
Then there was a strange lawsuit involving someone’s damaged Mercedes. It seems a huge rhinoceros tried to, well, mate with a Mercedes while it was in the middle of the drive-thru experience. Explain that damage to the body shop. Or to the kids who were in the car. They say the vehicle’s color was similar to the skin tone of a rhino and the rest is history.
In 1974 there was even an incident with a woman being attacked by an elephant. A 68-year-old lady was grabbed by the strong trunk of a baby elephant from inside its enclosure. The elephant slammed her into the fencing and bit her right hand. She was later awarded $200,000 in damages.
Minor incidents of baboons tearing off car antennas and tigers biting open tires were common.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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