We’re making exciting progress on our new South East Asia Jungle Track swamp forest habitat for stunning Sunda gharial crocodiles (already 3m long!), turtles, tortoises and many different fish species – to open next summer.

The time-lapse video below captures the past month’s hard mahi. We’ve now erected almost all the steel ribs for the roof of the tropical dome we’re building on the edge of the Zoo’s lake. The dome will create the hot, humid (and at times wet!) climate these animals thrive in, and give you, our visitors, a unique tropical immersive experience.

This summer the dome’s ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) roof goes on – the same roof material used for UK’s famous ‘Eden Project’ and our own Eden Park Stadium - so you’ll start to see our own ‘mini-Eden’ emerging.


Future Zoo - a timelapse of our Swamp Forest habitat!

This time-lapse was taken over the months August-September 2020 and shows the hard mahi that is going in to creating a first for New Zealand - an immersive climate-controlled tropical dome.

Supplied and installed by German company Vector-Foiltec, ETFE is super lightweight, long-lasting and doesn’t deteriorate in sunlight. It will act like an insulating blanket, helping to keep the habitat’s temperature at a balmy 28°C year-round and is highly transparent allowing plenty of sunlight to ensure our animals and plants get the critical ultra-violet rays they need.

Smart technology is a feature of this 639m2 ETFE roof. It’s made up of 22 double-layered cushions (produced using 3D modelling and cut out by a robot) welded together and fixed to a giant circular ring beam. Once installed, all the cushions are inflated to create cosy double-glazing!  Large vents at the very top of the dome are controlled by interior thermostats and external wind sensors to release excess hot air when required. The total carbon footprint to produce this hi-tech roof is just 10% of an equivalent glass system. Inside the dome, concrete foundations for the pools and giant acrylic viewing panels are progressing and plans for the ‘back of house’ crocodile quarantine and fish breeding areas are well advanced.

Like our lowlands habitat for Sumatran tigers and Asian small-clawed otters, the impacts of Covid-19 mean the swamp forest habitat is going to take longer to complete than originally anticipated and will now open in summer 2021-22. But as our Head of Life Sciences and reptile specialist Richard Gibson says, “it will definitely be worth the wait!”

“This will be a world-class habitat – and a first of its kind for New Zealand - which will totally transport visitors to a slice of Sumatra’s palm-rich swamp forest. There’ll be eye-to-eye viewing of the extraordinary Sunda gharial crocodiles, shimmering shoals of fish including the extraordinary Asian arowana or dragonfish, and eventually turtles and tortoises all living in together in the authentic tropical environment. To create the right climate, we’re maximising use of natural sunlight through the hi-tech ETFE roof, extending day length in the winter with carefully selected LED floodlighting and have designed complex heating, ventilation and rain and misting systems. Combined with lush plantings, deep warm pools and beach areas, it’ll be a habitat where these species can thrive, and one in which our visitors will feel fully immersed.

“Indonesia is an incredible part of the world, but its wildlife and wild places are being devastated by habitat loss and animal poaching. Auckland Zoo has long supported critical conservation programmes in Sumatra that are helping to conserve a great diversity of species and ecosystems, and with your support we can continue to do so.  Like the rest of the zoo, the South East Asia Jungle Track is about giving our visitors a meaningful glimpse of the wonderful world of wildlife and in doing so, growing a love for wildlife and taking action to save it. We can’t wait for everyone to come and see, sense and feel the swamp forest in all its tropical glory” says Richard.