Tokiwa Zoo
Asian Forest: Otters and Macaques

Kenji Wako (Professor at Osaka University of Arts and Zoo Designer, Author for Tokiwa Zoo)
Jonas Homburg, Monika Fiby (Editors for ZooLex)

Published 20 Jun 2018



3-Chome 4-1, Norisada, Ube, Yamaguchi Japan
Phone: +81 836 213541
URL: http:///www.tokiwapark.jp/zoo/


Habitat environment


Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
Mustelidae Aonyx cinerea Asian small-clawed otter 6
Cercopithecidae Macaca radiata Bonnet macaque 50


  • 2015 Urban Park Competition Director-General Award of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (Parks and Open Space Association of Japan)


Asian forest zone at Tokiwa Zoo displays several Asian primate species together with typical naturalistic environments. Its aim is to closely replicate the animals’ natural forest habitats promoting their original behavior and to show this to the visitors.

For the bonnet macaques, an existing concrete monkey mountain which had been a traditional exhibition style built to be looked at from above was completely remodeled by creating a small hill with soil retained by rocks and planting trees on top. Additionally, a part of the moat wall was replaced by glass panels so it can also be viewed from below. By adding a water area, a mixed exhibition with Asian small-clawed otters was achieved.
The exhibit is surrounded by concrete rock walls about 3m high, forming a moat from the hill of about 4m width that securely keeps the macaques inside.

New indoor quarters for both the monkeys and the otters were built adjacent to the renovated outdoor area.



The entire Asian Forest Zone comprises 6000m². The exhibit for the macaques and otters is overall about 800m².

Space allocation in square meters:

Use:Indoors:Outdoors:Total Exhibit:



Yen 688,000,000 including 5% for design.



21 March 2015


Beginning: 2011

  • Total design: Kenji Wako, Osaka, Japan
  • Basic plan, basic design, implemented design: Kukan-Soken. Co.,Ltd., Osaka, Japan


Beginning: 2012


walter.gif This is a climatic diagram for the closest weather station.



Tall trees such as Celtis sinensis, Quercus serrata, Ilex rotunda, and chinquapin are planted. An electric fence is placed under the tree crown to prevent monkeys from eating the leaves of the crown, making it possible to provide leafy shade underneath.
When designing the facility, the height, shape etc. of the fill was decided using a 1/50 clay model to confirm the location of the trees by arranging models which reproduced the shapes of trees.

Maintaining the planting in the enclosure is of a particular importance because many plants may be damaged by animals' feeding and braking branches. Periodic sowing and replanting are necessary. Trees that animals are not fond of are also introduced such as Fatsia japonica and evergreen lindera.

The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.


Tall trees with the crowns protected from the monkeys provide shade to soften summer heat to the animals. Apart from the living trees, the enclosures area also equipped and structured with fallen trees, tree stems, branches and rocks creating a three-dimensional environment for the primates.

The primates are also fed leaves of the trees called ‘green food’ to encourage this feeding behavior over time. Giving the leaves of selected trees for food and a smaller amount of conventional fruits also reduces sugar intake.

The mixed exhibition of bonnet monkeys and Oriental small-clawed otters seems to have the psychological effect of both sides being conscious of each other’s existence.

The macaques’ two indoor enclosures have wooden boards along the walls for the monkeys to sit on and are also furnished with branches and ropes.

The otters’ sleeping room is separated from the macaques’ indoor quarters. It is reached by the animals through a hollowed tree stem at the edge of the water basin.



Since the ground of the exhibit is mainly soil and ground covering plants, cleaning is basically only to remove feces. It takes less time and labor compared to cleaning with high pressure water. It is also safe from the sanitation aspect and there is less smell.

Pipes were installed for cleaning the pond.

The two macaque indoor rooms can be accessed through doors from a central corridor that also leads to the outdoor enclosure.

Keepers can access the otters’ sleeping box from an entrance room that also has a door to the outdoor exhibit.



The Asian forest zone is the first theme area on the visitors’ way through the zoo. The path leads along the exhibit and provides various viewpoints. The visitors first look at the animals from the traditional perspective at the upper edge of the monkey mountain and can spot the bonnets macaques in the rocky scenery at the height of their line of sight.

For the second view, the guests gradually descend to the half depth of the moat surrounding the hill. Here they watch the monkeys while looking upwards through a large glass panel in the wall of the moat. In the last view, the audience comes down to the bottom of the moat and enters a cave to watch the monkeys and Asian small-clawed otters gather on the water near the glass. The otter sleeping room can also be seen from here through a window in the rockwall.

After the cave the visitors arrive at the Latin American zone.

Sculptures of animals created by local animal sculptors from wood using a chainsaw are placed in the area and e.g. arranged as benches.



Since this zone is centered on primates living in Asian forests, the interpretive signs convey the structure and the social relationships of troop of bonnet macaques in an easy-to-understand manner. In the last interpretive sign, the theme is thinking about human society compared with the life of animals. A troop of primates looks like a human family at first sight, but they do not connect in a family unit including parents, children and grandchildren like humans, and one of the differences between humans and animals is whether they make a unit called a family. For this reason, in this zone, looking at a herd of primates and the question about family, an important thing for humans, is asked with the title "What is family?"

A voice guide explanation about the animals is also available for smartphones.



The two macaque sleeping rooms are connected by an overhead metal grid passage across the keeper corridor with slides on both sides. Both rooms have separate doors to the outdoor exhibit, so shifting and separating animals can easily be done.



Research is done on supplying feed for macaques.



The habitats in the park are investigated, including insects, aquatic organisms and wild birds.



Publicity activities were conducted with citizens, for example holding a workshop to make the plans public to citizens, incorporating their opinions and holding a backyard tour during the construction period. Furthermore, the zoo is attracting tourists from all over the country by organizing planned tours with local companies.



© Ube City, 2017


Site Plan

Site Plan

© Ube City, edited by Jonas Homburg, 2017


Picture Views

Picture Views

© Ube City, 2017


Bonnet macaque

Bonnet macaque

© Kenji Wako, 2017


Overview of the exhibit

1. Overview of the exhibit

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Macaques on top of the hill

2. Macaques on top of the hill

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Second viewpoint

3. Second viewpoint

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Climbing structures

4. Climbing structures

© Kenji Wako, 2015



5. Vegetation

© Kenji Wako, 2017


Tree protection

6. Tree protection

© Kenji Wako, 2017


Path to the cave

7. Path to the cave

© Kenji Wako, 2017


Waterside viewing

8. Waterside viewing

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Bonnet macaques at the water

9. Bonnet macaques at the water

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Otters and macaques

10. Otters and macaques

© Kenji Wako, 2015


Otter sleeping room

11. Otter sleeping room

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2017


Interpretation panel

12. Interpretation panel

© Kenji Wako, 2017


Keeper access to macaques

13. Keeper access to macaques

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2017


Macaque sleeping room

14. Macaque sleeping room

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2017


Keeper corridor

15. Keeper corridor

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2017


Shifting system

16. Shifting system

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2017


Floor plan of the cave and sleeping rooms

17. Floor plan of the cave and sleeping rooms

© Ube City, 2017


Bonnet macaque

18. Bonnet macaque

© Kenji Wako, 2017