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First Zoo Design Day at Bioparque La Reserva in Cota, Colombia

Monika Fiby
Landscape Architecture, Zoo Design, Consulting
Vienna, Austria

Ivan Lozano-Ortega
Consultoria en Fauna E.U.
Bogota, Colombia

ZooLex Zoo Design Organization
Sobieskigasse 9/12, 1090 Vienna, Austria

On 25 January 2008 Monika and Ivan gave a joint presentation to zoo staff, officials and students in Colombia. The presentation took place at Bioparque La Reserva, a new zoological facility just outside of Bogota where visitors will be educated about the ecology of Colombian fauna and flora from its opening in March 2008 on.

Bioparque La Reserva

Ivan introduced the project philosophy and the intended interpretative message. Bioparque La Reserva will focus on the humans and nature and convey information about sustainable use of resources, conservation, and animal welfare. Ivan explained the concept design of the Bioparque and the exhibitions of the first stage, highlighting the sustainable use of resources on the site. The first stage of the Bioparque will include the following elements:

  • A butterfly exhibit which will also contain several species of birds and some reptiles.
  • A wetland exhibit which exemplifies a typical ecosystem of the Bogota savanna.
  • A minilab for display of typical fauna and flora of the Bogota savanna.
  • A walk-through aviary for Harpy eagle which will serve as a starting project for a future rescue and breeding facility for native raptors at the Bioparque.
  • A themed classroom for accomodating up to 60 people for multimedia interpretation.
  • An animal contact area with domestic species.
  • An orchid walk into the Andean forest which highlights the native flora.
  • A reforestation project for replacing introduced eucalyptus on the site with native trees.
  • Service facilities such as a cafe with a terrace and a shop.

The main target audience of the Bioparque will be school classes which will come for half or full day field trips.

Monika came to Colombia to assist Ivan in designing the next stages of the Bioparque, which willl make use of modern concepts of zoo design such as the immersion concept, mixed species exhibits, a central role of horticulture and a focus on endangered native species.

Characteristics of Successful Exhibits

Monika examplified some principles of exhibit design with sketches and pictures from various zoos. Characteristics of successful exhibits include:

  • Successful animal selection for intended purpose
  • Effective animal management
  • Guided visitor attention
  • Visibility of animals
  • Aesthetic appearance of the exhibit
  • Emotional proximity of animals
  • Diversified visitor experience
  • Visitor service

The Design of Zoo Exhibits in the Neotropics

Ivan presented key aspects of designing appropriate and low cost zoo exhibits in Latin American countries which promote animal welfare and take specific environment factors such as the absence of seasons, soil characteristics, species diversity and temperature variations into account. This approach requires proper planning and design of exhibits, awareness and avoidance of contradictory messages and the promotion of normal animal behaviors.

His recommendation were therefore to design animal exhibits on the basis of local landscape and biodiversity, with a preference for native species, and by using the science of animal welfare as a guideline throughout planning and design.

Site Visit

The group was guided around the construction site to see the work progress.


Bioparque La Reserva will be a place for educating people about ecology and wildlife in Colombia. It will also be a place for vocational training of people who are working with wildlife. The First Zoo Design Day therefore was a start of a series of lectures and workshops which are planned to take place at this new facility in Colombia.

Project partners Ivan Lozano and Sandy Zangen with construction co-ordinator Ivan Ramos, from left to right.
© Monika Fiby, 2008

The wetlands of the Savanna of Bogota exhibit with the butterfly exhibit in the background.
© Monika Fiby, 2008

A themed classroom at the Bioparque: nature is taking over human structures.
© Monika Fiby, 2008

Inside the classroom: Ivan and Monika delivering a presentation.
© Ivan Lozano, 2008

Group attenting the First Zoo Design Day at Bioparque La Reserva in Cota, Colombia.
© Monika Fiby, 2008

Revised 2017-05-17
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