A hot and steamy Indonesian swamp forest habitat teeming with plant and animal life – including one of the world’s largest crocodilians, opens at Auckland Zoo this Saturday 22 October.

The innovative new animal habitat and visitor experience, created within a large climate-controlled tropical dome, completes the build of the Zoo’s South East Asia Jungle Track – the largest and most ambitious renewals project in the Zoo’s 100-year history.

“Like all of the habitats within this Track, the swamp forest enables us to provide the highest levels of animal care, and at an international level, places us at the forefront of what a good modern zoo is all about – for both animals and people,” says Auckland Zoo’s head of animal care and conservation, Richard Gibson.

Visitors are immediately transported to the tropics on entering the 28-degree, 70-90 percent humidity environment - currently home to threatened Sunda gharial crocodiles, 13 different fish species (including Asian arowana), and thousands of plants from more than a 100 species.

“We’ve worked to create a really authentic habitat – down to the finest detail of the types of marginal plants growing along the riverbanks. And just like in the wild, the crocs have water with a range of depths for swimming and shadowy places for resting, as well as land areas where they can haul themselves up onto and bask in the heat,” explains Richard.

He says visitors are in for a rich, unforgettable, multi-sensory immersive experience that’s like nothing else in New Zealand.

“From the heat, humidity, sounds and smells, to the feel of the mist and rain, to seeing exquisite orchid species and stunning shoals of fish and the extraordinary Sunda gharials underwater, the swamp forest is a celebration of the abundance of life - of the biodiversity and biomass that can live in a verdant healthy tropical rainforest.

“We are now at a time in our history when humans are having an alarming impact on our planet, there’s huge loss of biodiversity, and increasingly, people are more disconnected from the natural world. As conservation organisation, we want people to connect in nature with each other – to enhance their own wellbeing, and to fall in love with wild places and wildlife like these and be inspired to join us and do what they can to help. This can be simple everyday things like only buying sustainable timber, fair-trade organic coffee and products that use sustainable palm oil, to donating towards the Zoo’s many conservation projects - which supports many Southeast Asian wildlife conservation projects,” says Richard.

The South East Asia Jungle Track also includes a high canopy habitat for orangutans and siamangs, and a lowlands habitat for Sumatran tigers and Asian small-clawed otters. At the heart of these interconnecting habitats is a lake and wetlands (with filtration and water-purifying functions) experienced via a visitor boardwalk, and via aerial pathways – extended climbing range/habitat for the orangutans and siamangs. When the Swamp Forest opens on Saturday, it will be the first time visitors can enjoy the track in its entirety. As part of this project, a wharekai and function venue, Te Puna café, which overlooks the Zoo’s lake, has also been built.



Sunda gharials arrive from Denmark!

Follow ectotherm keeper Julie as she discusses the arrival of the Zoo's two freshwater crocodiles.

Auckland Zoo’s acting director, Jooles Clements, says as part of the Auckland Council whanau, the Zoo is hugely appreciative of Council’s support to enable the undertaking of this vital renewals programme.

“With the support of Auckland Council, we have been able to transform almost one fifth of the visitor area in the Zoo. Along with world-leading upgrades to animal habitats, the South East Asia Jungle Track project has also enabled the essential renewal of century-old infrastructure, such as power and water. With the inclusion of new services such as natural stormwater filtration and data we are ensuring that the Zoo will continue to be a place for future generations to connect with wildlife and each other.”


  • Auckland Zoo’s South East Asia Jungle Track is currently home to 18 different wildlife species including primates (orangutans and siamangs); Sumatran tigers, Asian small-clawed otters, Sunda gharial crocodiles, and 14 different Southeast Asian fish species, including the threatened arowana.
  • Upcoming arrival of Sumatran tigers: Tiger lowlands is currently home to 14-year-old female Sumatran tiger Sali (who relocated from Hamilton Zoo in early 2022). Prior to Christmas 2022, Auckland Zoo will welcome two more tigers – a young male and a young female from zoos in the United States. Their arrival is part of a breeding recommendation as part of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) Global Species Management Programme (GSMP) for this critically endangered big cat – that numbers fewer than 400 in the wild.
  • Conserving wildlife in the wild: Southeast Asia is one of the most biodiverse and threatened places on Earth, and a region of the world where Auckland Zoo, with the support of our visitors (through their entry tickets), supports many conservation efforts to help wildlife in the wild. Key projects include the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), Sumatran Ranger Project, WildCats Conservation Alliance (for Sumatran tiger) and the Sumatran Rhino Rescue Alliance.
  • Indonesian swamp forest: Hot, humid (and at times wet!) this habitat has been created within a 400m2 (23 diameter and 14 metres high at its peak) climate-controlled tropical dome. Scientifically engineered to mimic the hot, humid environment near the equator, so both wildlife and plants can flourish, it is maintained at 28 degrees and between 70-90 percent humidity year-round.
  • Sunda gharial: The Sunda gharial is one of the world’s largest crocodilian species (males can grow up to five metres!) and is renowned for its distinctive snout. Once widespread throughout South East Asia, due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching, it is today primarily only found in Borneo and Sumatra, and classified as ‘Vulnerable’ (IUCN Red List). In September 2022, Auckland Zoo welcomed two Sunda gharials -12-year-old sisters, from Krokodille Zoo in Denmark in early September 2022. Both are around three metres long and weigh between 70-90kg. The Zoo has named them Malu, which means ‘shy’ in Indonesian, and Sumpit – which is Indonesian for chopsticks. Their long slender snouts are more than a little reminiscent of chopsticks!
  • EFTE roof: A transparent EFTE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) cover over the tropical dome’s steel ribs feature 22-double-layered ‘cushions’ to provide cosy double glazing – which along with computer-controlled heating, roof vents and destratification fans, maintains the dome’s temperature and humidity.
  • A dedicated Life Support Systems (LSS) room – the beating heart of the swamp forest, features pumps, heaters, biological filters, UV sterilisation and ozonation to maintain clear, clean water for the animals’ health and ensure great visitor viewing. Complex heating, cooling, humidity, and rainfall systems also help maintain the year-round tropical environment and a lighting system extends New Zealand’s shorter winter photoperiod up to a full 12 hours of daylight – for the health of both plants and animals.