We’re excited to share that the roof of the tropical dome - our new Indonesian swamp forest habitat for South East Asian crocodiles, fish, turtles and tortoises, to open next year - is now on!

This transparent EFTE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) covering over the dome’s curved steel ribs creates a stunning light-filled space and acts as a smart insulating blanket. Its 22 double-layered ‘cushions’ (each 0.5-1m deep) provide cosy double-glazing which along with computer-controlled heating, roof vents and destratification fans, will ensure this tropical habitat is a hot, humid 28-degrees Celsius year-round.

The ETFE is also specifically designed to transmit up to 80% visible light and 60% UV light to ensure that both the habitat’s plants and animals, like Sunda gharial crocodiles, will get the critical light they need to thrive.

“Even now in winter, it’s incredible to stand inside the dome, and experience how warm it can get with the sunlight coming through,” says the Zoo’s Head of Animal Care and Conservation, Richard Gibson. “It feels a bit like being inside a giant magnifying glass.”

Below the roof hangs a large ‘halo’ carrying additional lighting, sound systems, and a sprinkler system to provide the essential rainfall ubiquitous in the tropics, and which will fall on both the animal habitats and you, our visitors. Yes, it’s an authentic fully immersive wet and humid tropics experience!

Beneath the ETFE dome there’s also exciting progress, with the creation of pools and beach areas and the installation of enormous acrylic panels through which visitors will view the crocodiles, turtles, and a huge variety of fish species.

Adjoining back-of-house areas include a sophisticated life support systems room, an aquarist room for a range of large holding tanks to enable fish quarantine and breeding, and a dedicated space for crocodile management and training.

“The crocodile management facility behind-the-scenes is essential for quarantine, health-checks, and being able to move the three Sunda gharial crocodiles around as required for training and feeding. The pool in this space can be separated from the large pool in the main habitat by specially designed steel doors. They’re very ‘James Bond’ – slick and watertight and strong enough to take the weight of 200,000 litres (200 tonnes) of water,” says Richard, who with his fellow ectotherm specialists has led an intensely collaborative effort with the design team to ensure the animals’ best care.

Linking the swamp forest habitat to the rest of our South East Asia Jungle Track is a boardwalk, now under construction as you can see from these photos, which will snake its way across the Zoo’s lake from the high canopy primate habitat.  While the complex swamp forest habitat itself won’t be ready to open until a little later in 2022, visitors can look forward to being able to walk across the boardwalk over the lake to the new Sumatran tiger habitat by the end of this year!