About | Gallery | Service | Firms | Fun | Research

Environment enrichment incorporated into masterplanning.
"Examples from Paris Zoo" or "How to make anteaters happy".

Monika Fiby, Zoo Consultant
Jean-Luc Berthier, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Presentation at the ICEE in Vienna in August 2007
Published in ZooLex with permission of Shape of Enrichment and the authors


Environmental enrichment for captive animals often compensates for deficiencies of the holding system. Thus, enclosures should be designed to answer the animals' needs as well as possible beforehand. The first instant to consider environmental enrichment during planning is the masterplan. The masterplan decides on the size and form of the animal exhibit, the microclimate in it, its exposure to the sun, access to water and the availability of plants - outdoor and indoor. It also decides on the captive animals' neighbours and on potential interactions among them.

The goal of all planning for animals in captivity should be to provide a maximum of activity and behaviour choices for the animals that will be kept on a given site. The following planning decisions influence the animals' environment:

Strategic plan: Messages and types of exhibits
  1. Location of exhibits
  2. Layout of exhibits
  3. Features in the exhibits
  4. Relations between exhibit parts
Project plans: Construction details for exhibits
A masterplan for Paris Zoo

In 2006 the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle initiated a masterplan competition for Paris Zoo. The landscape architecture company TN+ in Paris assembled a team of specialists which Monika Fiby had the pleasure to support as a consultant. The team won the competition with the masterplan that is herewith presented in excerpts. It will illustrate how to provide for environmental enrichment in conceptual planning.

The client stipulated a list of animal species and their attribution to the following zones: European mountains, tropical African forest, African savannah, Madagascar, Patagonia and Guyana. An anteater exhibit was considered desirable.

The team proposes to change the whole zoo site from flat to rolling hills. The hills will block views and noise and create niches for various climatic needs. Additionally, water can flow, whereas today, it only sits in stagnant ponds.


Sun radiation is not easy to replace or prevent. Therefore it is useful to profit from or avoid the given radiation. For example, most cats like to bask in the sun, while tapirs get eye problems from direct sunlight. Site analyses are done to find locations that receive most or least radiation, depending on their exposition to the sun and existing trees.

At Paris Zoo today, there is a big geometric aviary for raptors on flat ground on the North side of the huge monumental rock. Although the structural condition of the aviary is still good we propose to move the raptors from the shade into a new aviary on the sunny side of the rock.

This is the concept plan for the raptor aviary:

  1. Location: The new aviary is built on the South side of the big rock.
  2. Layout: It is spanning over a valley that will be created by another artificial rock.
  3. Features: The new aviary will include a diversity of microclimates from a creek on the bottom of the valley to the hillsides with trees and on slopes with different sun exposure.
  4. Relations: Part of the aviary can be separated if necessary. Visitors can walk through on a covered path, or stay on the outside along the short sides of the aviary. The birds are not encircled by visitor paths.

The irregular form, height and stretch of the new aviary will allow more complex and longer flight patterns than currently possible and encourage investigative flights. The varied landscape will create better opportunities for hiding food. All in all, the new environment for raptors will be richer and offer them more choices than the present aviary.


On the existing site of Paris Zoo, water moats and ponds pose sanitation problems and are not always animal accessible. The new masterplan envisions different water bodies with various functions:

  • creeks to bath and drink from in bird aviaries;
  • accessible water moats that also work as barriers between exhibits and visitor areas for primates, wolf, lion, rhinoceros, giraffe, tapir, capybara, and anteater;
  • ponds to swim and dive for pigmy hippopotamus, beaver, otter, jaguar, bush dog, sea lion, and penguin.

The masterplan envisages circular water flows - up with pumps, down in creeks and moats - within groups of enclosures. One example is the creek in the raptor aviary which continues into the wolves moat and ends in a reed bed for purification before the water is pumped back into the aviary.


The enrichment value of mature trees cannot be emphasized too many times. Protection of existing trees from animals and from construction work is a must. Trees can contribute to environmental enrichment and to the well-being of many animals in various ways:

  • Trees provide shade and cover.
  • Topography, shrubs and trees create spaces. These allow animals to avoid each other.
  • Trees offer seasonal and yearly variation to the animal's surrounding.
  • Animals use trees for leaning, climbing, rubbing, marking and perching.
  • Physical contact with plants encourages natural behaviours.
  • Animals can forage many trees under appropriate conditions without destroying them.
  • Many species are more active in the shade or in diffused light than in full sun.

The allocation of intended biozones at Paris Zoo primarily resulted from the location of existing mature trees. Groups of pines will be preserved in and around exhibits for wolves, otters and lynx. Large deciduous trees will be incorporated into the biozones of tropical Africa and Guyana. The dry African biozone and the greenhouses are allocated to areas with few important trees.

The mangabeys will profit from this decision:

  1. Location: Their exhibit is planned in a location with mature trees.
  2. Layout: Water serves as a natural barrier around the exhibit.
  3. Features: The trees are climbing structures for the monkeys.
  4. Relations: The indoor enclosures are accessible via bridges at all times.
Mixing Species

Combining different species in one exhibit has advantages and challenges. From the visitor perspective it is obviously desirable to have more than one species in an exhibit. For the animals, sharing space can create enrichment, but also stress. Careful observation of the animals is necessary in each case to ensure a positive effect for them.

The African savannah is a common theme for mixed species exhibits. Typical masterplan considerations for this type of exhibit:

  1. Location: A flat area with well drained ground works best for ungulates.
  2. Layout: A stretched layout favours walking.
  3. Features: Groups of trees serve as visual barriers between agonistic animals and provide shade.
  4. Relations: Interconnected separation yards facilitate animal management.

One approach to avoid stress among animals is to choose species that use different niches (trees, ground, water) and food sources in the shared enclosure.

Several exhibits at Paris Zoo are designed to accommodate species that use different niches: One big aviary is designed for pigmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis), turacos (Tauraco persa), parrots (Poicephalus gulielmi fantiensis) and ducks (Pteronetta hartlaubi) which will have their own pond out of reach of the hippopotamus. Another exhibit can accommodate gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) and sitatunga (Tragelapus spekei gratus). A nearby island is designed for Roloway monkeys (Cercopithecus diana roloway) and blue duiker (Cephalophus caeruleus). (See image of proposed biozones.)

Exhibit rotation

The idea of rotating exhibits for species comes from the observation that novelty is a good method of stimulating animals in captivity. Investigating space is a frequent behaviour in the wild, but rare in zoos. This can be improved when animals are allowed to visit other spaces than those they usually inhabit. Since zoos are not able to keep empty spaces for temporary visits, the idea is to have groups of animals which can swap their exhibits. This requires suitable habitats and appropriate barriers in the exhibits concerned.

The masterplan for Paris Zoo proposes neighbouring enclosures for species that require similar exhibits. These enclosures serve one or several species and allow to shift or rotate them.

For example, baboons and lions have neighbouring exhibits which they can swap.

  1. Location: They are proposed on a hillside overlooking the savannah.
  2. Layout: Both exhibits have the same size and barriers.
  3. Features: Each exhibit has a rocky background, a grassy middle, and a water moat in the foreground.
  4. Relations: The two exhibits are attached to the same holding building. The indoor shift corridors are designed so that both groups of species can use both exhibits.

Animal rotation exhibits have been designed for many years. You can find Jon Coe's article on experiences with this concept on the ZooLex website www.zoolex.org.

A Problematic Anteater

"Overcoming Obstacles: A Case Study of Enriching a Problematic Anteater" was a topic of the latest edition of "Shape of Enrichment". When reading the article, I found that it was not the anteater which was problematic, but its enclosure. The obstacles to overcome where all inherent to the enclosure, and the keepers are having trouble compensating for the deficiencies caused by this unsuitable environment.

  1. The location of the exhibit is in a building without outdoor space.
  2. The layout of the building inhibits day light and natural plant growth.
  3. The features in the exhibit are all artificial, there is no natural substrate.
  4. The relations to the monkeys kept in the same enclosure are problematic as they take away everything interesting that may be given to the anteater.

Thanks to their imagination, the keepers found ways to remedy the worst.

  1. Features: They fixed a tub of dirt in the exhibit which the primates cannot empty out.
  2. Relations: They give the anteater various objects and food items when it is off exhibit in its own holding space.

However, the keepers cannot easily compensate the deficiencies caused by

  1. Location: an indoor environment and
  2. Layout: a lack of day light.
Anteater Environment

The anteater exhibit proposed for Paris Zoo has all the features previously mentioned:

  1. Location: The animal lives in a greenhouse and an outdoor exhibit.
  2. Layout: The outdoor exhibit is stretched and flat with trees. A water moat and a glass panel serve as the visitor barriers, rocks and a steep slope form the background barrier.
  3. Features: Various natural substrates and water are accessible outdoor and indoor.
  4. Relations: The anteater shares its exhibit with tapirs and capybaras, in the greenhouse also with free flying birds. The shift tunnel between indoors and outdoors connects to separate holding facilities for each species. The outdoor exhibit is next to the exhibit for bush dogs. The two groups can alternate in a separate common enclosure. The various species sharing space with the anteater provide it with different scents and stimulate investigative behaviour.

All these masterplan considerations set the ground for an enriched anteater life. Special feeding protocols then are the icing on the cake - or the termites on the mound.


While remedial enrichment measures are time consuming, costly, and can fail, natural exhibit features have the potential to answer animal needs that we are not even aware of. Thus, integrating suitable natural features into the masterplan for animal exhibits is the most efficient method of environmental enrichment.


I would like to thank the landscape architecture company Agence TN+ in Paris for the permission to use images of the masterplan for Paris Zoo.

I would like to thank the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle for the permission to use the presented materials of our masterplan for Paris Zoo.


AGENCE TN+ (2006) Projet de Renovation du Parc Zoologique de Paris. Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.

COE, Jon C. (2006) Naturalistic Enrichment. 2006 ARAZPA Conference Proceedings, Australia.

COE, Jon C. (2004) Mixed Species Rotation Exhibits. 2004 ARAZPA Conference Proceedings, Australia.

Schematic plan of Paris Zoo according to the masterplan
© TN+, 2006

Proposed change of surface from flat to rolling hills
© TN+, 2006

Proposed raptor aviary
© TN+, 2006

View of proposed mangabey island with mature trees
© TN+, 2006

View of proposed African savannah
© TN+, 2006

© Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, Salina, Kansas, 2005

Revised 2017-05-17
About | Gallery | Service | Firms | Fun | Research