The world’s wildest animal attractions
Wednesday 16 April 2008
Stephen Woollard, one of the team behind the Budongo Trail, names the zoo enclosures from around the world that helped inspire his project at Edinburgh:
1. New York's Bronx Zoo has won worldwide acclaim for its Congo Gorilla Forest. This realistic rainforest environment features over 300 animals, including one of the largest breeding groups of lowland gorillas anywhere. Woollard praises its "walk-through experience, where the forest is discussed before the gorilla is encountered". During this walk, visitors are introduced to creatures that share the gorillas' natural habitat, such as bush pigs, and the giraffe-like okapi.
2. Zurich Zoo has the particularly fine Masoala Rainforest Hall, an attempt to recreate a lush Madagascan habitat beneath a dome. "They have gone for a different approach to the Bronx," explains Woollard. "They have created an unobtrusive habitat and then introduced animals, such as lemurs. The visitor is given a book and is invited to explore it themselves. It is a means of creating something natural for the animals and the visitors."
3. Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands has a covered rainforest house spanning several acres. The zoo has won plaudits for its fences, which keep the animals safely enclosed, but, crucially, are not visible from the paths that visitors walk along. It also has what experts term an "integrated approach" to exhibits and visitor attractions – including an animal-themed rainforest café.
4. One of the world's largest primate enclosures, with orang-utans and bonobo chimps, Pongoland at Leipzig Zoo is a faithfully reproduced home for apes. "There is a bridge walkway running through it; and the animals are not caged, which was something we were keen to emulate in Scotland," Woollard says. "They have a lot of room to move around so it feels more like the wild."
5. In the Costa del Sol's Fuengirola Zoo, architects have employed clever "set design" so that, as visitors move through the zoo along a path, they are shielded from seeing their fellow zoo-goers at different points. "They have tried to keep the public hidden while opening up the experience. This is something a lot of us are trying to incorporate," says Woollard.
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