Wellington Zoo Asia Precinct Hero

Wellington Zoo Asia Precinct: a built-for-purpose home for endangered species

The Zoo Capital Programme (ZCP) is a ten year, $21M plan to redevelop Wellington zoo into a unique, dynamic and accessible zoo – a zoo that provides the local community and national and international visitors with a place to celebrate the living world. Wellington City Council has supported the zoo to achieve its ZCP by funding three-quarters of the plan. The Asia Precinct is one project within this plan.


Wellington Zoo and Wellington City Council’s aims:

  • To encourage interest in endangered species, their importance to global biodiversity and the effect of our everyday choices
  • To create part of Wellington zoo’s contribution towards Wellington 2040, where it can demonstrate environmental leadership by providing a new home for some wonderful animals
  • To create a zoo we can all be proud of through engaging experiences and best practice conservation, sustainability, animal care and management.

What we did:

This project involved constructing the new Asia precinct at the Wellington Zoo, including the new sun bear enclosure and refurbishment of the existing tiger enclosure. The works encompassed the construction of:

  • the sun bear holding building
  • two new covered viewing platforms
  • a boardwalk connection to existing structures
  • the new public open space and pathways.

All fencing and caging works had to be completed to the Ministry of Primary Industries’ (formally MAF’s) requirements. This necessitated working closely with the zoo to ensure all works were documented and photographs recorded to confirm with the Ministry that all specifications were met.

Sustainable construction materials were used on this project:

  • timber structures were constructed from renewable New Zealand radiata pine
  • reecycled fill and aggregate from existing stockpiles were used throughout the site wherever possible to create a minimal/no waste project
  • the banks were constructed from a combination of engineering and recycled fill
  • the distinctive bamboo fencing is a renowned sustainable resource, which also helps to set the scene of the Asia Precinct.

Sustainable features include a gravel trap filtration system for keeping the waterfall and moat clean, rainwater harvesting for service areas, and using FSC for timber construction.

755m² of the site was transformed into new coloured concrete pathways and courtyards. The concrete was 125mm 39mpa stamped and coloured concrete or coloured exposed aggregate concrete to imitate a jungle trail.

The outcome:

Since the completion of the Asia Precinct in September 2012, Wellington Zoo has continued a month-by-month increase in visitor numbers, which has generated more than $84,000 in revenue above their target. They have benefited from developing unused steep terrain with no satisfactory gathering point into an area from which visitors can stop and watch the animals, where children can play and where we can share Wellington Zoo’s conservation messages about using FSC timbers to protect wild habitats.

Wellington Zoo expressed that one of the greatest values gained from this project is that the animals are now living in a built-for-purpose site that reflects their natural environment as much as possible and showcases their arboreal skills in a natural way. This precinct allows visitors to understand more about the animals and their wild habitats through state-of-the-art interpretation and visitor experience.

The overall result has been an outstanding success. Visitors can now see these amazing animals closer than ever before. Massive laminated glass panels bring visitors face-to-face with the Malayan sun bears and Sumatran tigers. 

The Asia Precinct is a terrific opportunity to encourage interest in endangered species, their importance to global biodiversity and the effect of our everyday choices. The Zoo is important in terms of our city’s biodiversity – it’s our window on the world and part of our connection to the planet.

Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown

Wellington Mayor