Zoo Emmen ‘African Lakes’

Enclosures Without Fences

The Zoo needed a new landscape to match its philosophy of letting the animals live in as free an atmosphere as possible. That was the only brief we got, because not even the Zoo’s experts knew how to design optimal habitats. We began by observing the ‘African Lakes’ district inhabitants: the lemurs, the colobus monkeys, the marabous and the pelicans. For days and days.

In the end we created a wonderland of ponds, islands, bridges and waterfalls to hide other buildings behind.  We created exterior enclosures without fences, spaces the animals stayed put in because they were ‘home’ and because they never had to have their backs to the humans observing them.

At night the animals migrate to specially built enclosures designed to mimic their natural habitat. For example the windows high up in the lemur enclosure imitate the wild where light is high up, above the forest canopy.

We are most proud of the rivulet that allows the Pelicans to paddle freely from their day to night-time quarters, saving them the stress of walking. Before this new enclosure was built, the pelicans would not breed. Afterwards they mated successfully. Again and again.