Cageless 'Zootopia' and Noah's Ark's zoo innovations
22nd August 2014
A Danish architect has draw up designs for an innovative new way of approaching the zoo environment – without cages. Bjarke Ingels’ ‘Zootopia’ reinvents the zoo by making it a space where humans are hidden from view and animals roam free in mixed habitats.
Zootopia imagines a zoo environment without cages or fences where human visitors go unnoticed by the animals
The fantastical designs are for a project to expand and redevelop Givskud Zoo. The 1960s park in Southern Denmark expects to open phase one of the new design in 2019. Natural borders will be created and visitors will be able to see animals from underground observatories, mirrored cable cars and hidden lookouts in piles of logs.
Here the Danish designs show visitors passing elephants in reflective river pods, getting quietly close to animals
Redesigning the typical zoo experience is certainly something we worked towards when conceptualising our innovative new elephant habitat. The £2 million Elephant Eden opened to visitors last year when Buta the African elephant arrived to settle into her new home. We wanted to offer something new in elephant husbandry at Noah’s Ark and when we look out at Buta enjoying her soft sand yards, mud wallows and acres of fresh, green grass, we know we have. Elephant Eden offers elephants already living in captivity greater freedom, space and comfort, with various special features allowing them to exhibit their natural wild behaviours. This includes the scale of the habitat – with 20-acres, Buta has the space to stretch her great legs and mimic wild elephant behaviour. Eden is a sustainable and enriched environment. Not only the biggest European elephant habitat, Eden has a pool, wallowing mud and winches to elevate feeds above the elephants, encouraging them to reach and stretch to graze, as they would on the savannah. We’ve also been focusing on spending more Keeper time doing enrichment work with our beautiful animals, from hiding treats for Buta through to running play sessions with our little Lowland Tapirs.
Enrichment is an important part of the management plans for all our animals at Noah’s Ark and gives them a chance to get active and stimulated. As most of our animals are motivated by food, enrichment activities often involve presenting food in a different way to normal to stimulate natural behaviours – such as stashing treats for our primates in hanging baskets, which encourages climbing and scavenging to get them down!
We regularly keep our Bengal tigers Tiana and Khan on their toes with everything from meat stashed in pumpkins through to fresh wood for them to test their claws on. The big cats also get to enjoy scent trails, allowing them to explore new smells and put their highly sensitive noses to good use tracking down the trails. Enrichment takes all forms – so along with smelling out food, we encourage our animals to play using all their senses. Around Christmas time our lions and tigers always love brushing up against the novel texture of the dozens of pine trees we bring into their enclosures!
At Noah’s Ark we pride ourselves on providing a unique experience for our visitors. One of our special and unusual features is the proximity of play areas to some of our animal enclosures.
Our play areas are scattered around the site, some of which allow the animals to enjoy watching children!
There are a variety of play areas near to some of the big African animal areas, fusing play with an animal visit. The lions and elephants aren’t forced to be close to people, but are given the choice to be if they wish. They are very comfortable with the set up and their curiosity often gets the better of them, causes them to choose to come over to the nearest public fence – entertaining both animals and visitors!
How about watching bears from a hidden cable car?
It’s an exciting time to be working in conservation and zoo animal management and we’ll certainly be watching the Danish developments to see how we can continue to make the animal-human experience at Noah’s Ark as mutually beneficial as possible. We’re open all summer and the rest of the year offering play areas, mazes and of course our fantastic wildlife, for a great family day out in Bristol.