Enclosure Design

Colchester Zoo has become well known for its modern, ground breaking enclosures for its animals and has won many awards for its innovative designs.

When designing a new enclosure, a number of factors have to be taken into account, including all the needs of the species that you are designing the enclosure for ie the number of animals the enclosure will house, its welfare and safety.

The needs of the visitor also need to be taken into account to incorporate covered areas for wet days, maximising the potential for animal viewing balanced with an animal's requirement for privacy.


All of the needs of the species are taken into account when designing an enclosure; such as their behaviour, reproduction, habitat, feeding, and activity budgets. For example, an animal that lives in the trees needs to be provided with lots of opportunities for climbing on ropes and branches.

Normal group size of a species is taken into account when deciding how many animals are to be housed in the enclosure, which in turn affects the design.

For example, a solitary animal, such as a tiger, will generally be kept on their own, while the aim is to keep social animals in suitable groups such as most primate species. It is important to provide them with sufficient space to sleep, feed, play and have enough space to reduce the chances of conflicts occurring within the group.

Considering the behaviour of the animal in the wild is also important, if an animal rears its offspring in a burrow or cave then it is important to provide them with similar surroundings in their enclosure. Ideally the enclosure should reflect the environment that the animal comes from which can be achieved by using furnishings, such as plants and rocks in the enclosure. This will encourage natural behaviours such as climbing, foraging and digging.

Temperature, lighting and humidity must also be suited to the specific animal and should relate to natural cycles, some animals that are found in hot deserts in the wild are not provided with access to an outside area.

Dragons of Komodo

The Komodo dragon enclosure is a purpose-built 30 metre by 10 metre enclosure which currently houses our two juvenile Komodo dragons. The large 'greenhouse-style' building incorporates multiple retreat and basking areas, a nesting area and a variety of visual barriers. The exhibit can be sectioned off into two fully complimented enclosures so the animals can be kept separately if necessary. The dirt floor consists of a variety of substrates including sand, soil and wood mulch. These allow natural digging behaviours and are non-abrasive to their feet.

The enclosure is equipped with a sliding roof system made from UV transmitting panels and can be opened or closed according to the weather conditions. The roof can be retracted to let in natural sunlight and to give the dragons the D3 rays that they need.The enclosure is heated with a mixture of underfloor heating systems and heat lamps. In combination with this underfloor heating, the keeping staff spray tepid water around the enclosure to create the correct levels of humidity that this reptile species requires.

Orangutan Forest


Work started on Orangutan Forest in July 2006. The enclosure is naturalistic in design, encouraging this arboreal primate to climb up high. Rainwater collection facilities have been incorporated into the design of the building allowing collected rainwater to then be used by the keepers to clean the enclosures and water the plants.

Other enclosures

To view a list of our other enclosures please click here.


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Last admission to zoo grounds at 4.00pm

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