Tokiwa Zoo
Central and South America's Waterside

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

Published 04 Oct 2018


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


Amazon, habitat environment exhibit, immersion


Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
Atelidae Ateles geoffroyi Geoffroy's spider monkey 2
Cabiidae Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris Capybara 4
Cebidae Saimiri sciureus South-American squirrel monkey 6


  • 2016 Urban Park Competition Director-General Award of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (Parks and Open Space Association of Japan)


The exhibits for spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys and capybara are part of the themed area ‘South America’s Waterside'. This area aims to closely replicate the species’ natural flooded forest landscape based on habitat surveys in the Amazon river basin and the Pantanal marsh in order to encourage natural behaviors and enhance the visitor experience. Exhibits for capuchin monkeys, tamanduas, sloths, macaws and flamingos complete the biogeographic display.
A complex of two islands for primates surrounded by water, a panoramic exhibit for the capybaras and two buildings display the three main species together in an integrated scenery. The movements of monkeys in the trees and capybaras swimming at the waterfront can be observed in one view. The exhibit area is slightly elevated by 70 cm in comparison to the visitor level so that even the ground-dwelling capybaras can be seen well.

Since many of the waterside houses in the Amazon River basin become floating houses on the river during the wet season, the animals’ indoor quarters were built like floating wooden houses along the waterfront. This way, an understanding for the Amazon river basin is promoted while the scenery suggests that the visitors look from windows at the animals which “appear in the garden”.

The capybara exhibit is located between two huts. It is raised about one meter above the rest of the area and has a large water basin along the front bordered by a continuous acrylic window. The wooden walls enclose the sides while the backside is fenced by a transparent metal wire net clamped at the corners of the buildings without any posts in between. The retaining wall underneath the fence is formed by artificial rocks simulating a river bank separating the spider monkey island located behind.

The capybaras can use the spider monkey island and the water area around as well as the shores along the visitor path. Here, the fencing is made of 1,2m high wire mesh with wooden posts. An extension of the river bank wall with electric wires on top runs through the water close to the surface between the two islands, preventing the capybaras from reaching the squirrel monkey island.

The spider monkey island is designed as a forest island with 8m high trees and palms surrounded by at least 4m of water. The island for the squirrel monkeys represents a shrub forest with 2-3m high vegetation and a 3m wide water moat. Both species reach their indoor quarters via “hanging bridges” made from a bunch of artificial vines. For the spider monkeys, an additional vine is arranged above so that they can move using their tail. The sides of the buildings facing these bridges are additionally secured by overhanging electric wires, so the monkeys cannot climb the walls and escape.



The entire South American Waterside zone comprises about 3.330m² of which the central exhibit for capybaras, spider monkeys and squirrel monkeys is about 800m². Each island has about 100m². The separate capybara exhibit measures about 50m². Indoors, the capybara den has 3m², the sleeping room of the spider monkeys 3,6m² and the squirrel monkeys have two rooms of overall 12,2m². The visitor path around the complex covers about 400m².

Space allocation in square meters:

Use:Indoors:Outdoors:Total Exhibit:



Yen 339,000,000 including 8% for design.



19 March 2016


Beginning: 2011

  • Overall design: Kenji Wako (Osaka university of arts), Osaka, Japan
  • Basic design: Kukan-Soken. Co.,Ltd., Osaka, Japan
  • Basic design: Land Brains. Co.,Ltd., Tokyo, Japan
  • Basic design: Suiko Technical Consultant.Co.,Ltd, Yamaguchi, Japan
  • Basic design: Yoshiki Toda Landscape & Architect Co.,Ltd., Tokyo, Japan


Beginning: 2012


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



In order to produce the scenery of an Amazon forest landscape, Dicksonia sellowiana, Cycas revoluta, Washingtonia filifera, Phoenix canariensis, Ficus superba, Elaeocarpus sylvestris, etc. were planted along the path. On the two islands, 2-3 m high shrubs such as Indian coral tree, Castanopsis sieboldii, etc. where planted for the squirrel monkeys, and about 8 m high Celtis sinensis, Ilex rotunda, Phoenix canariensis, etc. were planted in the back of the island where the spider monkeys live. Shrubs are also arranged under these trees so that the monkeys can easily move around without touching the ground.

Maintaining the plants in the exhibit is particularly important. Many plants wither due to animals' feeding and branch folding of trees. Periodic sowing and replanting are necessary. Additionally, trees were introduced that the animals don't like such as Fatsia japonica and Lindera aggregata. Capybara are fed fresh green food which helps to maintain the aquatic and emergent plants. They like to feed on Eichhornia crassipes, but this plant propagates very well and can sustain the foraging.

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


Artificial vines are arranged between the trees and shrubs on the islands. They are often hung from upper branches so the monkeys can gradually descend from the tree crown into the forest of the island making it easy for them to move along these “roads” without damaging the vegetation too much. Spider monkeys are moving around along replicated vines and trees that have horizontal branches. The fact that branches of trees and replicated vines are easy to bend seems to promote their activity.

The capybaras have a separate exhibit which is not shared by the spider monkeys. Their pond is deep enough for swimming and diving and has shallow entrances on both sides.
Feedboxes and feeders are provided for behavioral enrichment and hidden in natural objects like tree stems to blend in with the landscape.

The spider monkeys have one sleeping room in the same building that the capybaras have their den. There are two indoor rooms available for the squirrel monkeys. All indoor enclosures have concrete floor; the ones for the primates are furnished with branches.



Since the ground of the enclosures is mainly soil and ground covering plants, cleaning consists mainly of the removal of feces. It takes less time and labor compared to cleaning with high pressure water. It is also safe from the sanitation aspect. Water pipes were installed for using the water from the adjacent pond, leading to cost reductions.

The keepers access the island by boat. All slides are manually operated.



The visitors walk through a recreated mine tunnel from the Asian Forest zone to the South American Waterside zone. After leaving the cave, they are surrounded by dense tropical vegetation that aims to make the guests feel the atmosphere of the presented landscape. After walking along the flamingos and the macaws, they first see the squirrel monkey island and can observe the monkeys across the water moat without visual barriers. A swinging bridge crosses a shallow part of the water surface and offers another perspective. A raft is arranged at the water’s edge and can be used to get to the island of the squirrel monkeys. This opportunity is available to the guests with a guide during holidays. As long as the raft is not used, the rope is down in the water to prevent escapes.

The visitor path slightly rises on a boardwalk, leading to the ‘floating houses’. The visitors reach the capybara exhibit where they can observe the rodents from a very close distance above and under water. The raised exhibit facilitates seeing the animals right in the visitors’ line of sight while having a panoramic view of the spider monkeys in the back.

The visitors finally see the habitat of the spider monkeys with the capybaras along the shores. The slightly elevated ground level around the lake enables to see the capybaras on eye level.

The primates’ indoor rooms can be viewed by the guests through windows in the floating-style houses. Benches are installed at several places so the visitors can rest and observe the animals.



The interpretive theme of the signboards in this zone is "eating". They illustrate and explain how the species displayed in this zone eat their food. In addition, they illustrate that squirrel monkeys, Margarita Island Capuchins, and spider monkeys live in the lower, middle and upper parts of the rain forest, respectively, and that their food differs depending on their habitat environment and movement range.

One signboard indicates that wildlife spend a lot of time feeding and have evolved bodily features accordingly. Humans on the other hand, raise livestock and cultivate plants and have created a culture of cooking. This encourages visitors to think about how much we know about our food.



In the squirrel monkey building, a second indoor room is available for isolating individuals if necessary.

The capybaras reach both their separate exhibit as well as the area around the spider monkey island from their indoor quarters.

Usually animals are locked out during the day, but in cool weather, they can get in and out freely.



The behavior of the capuchin monkeys has been studied.



The natural habitats in the park are investigated for native wild species of insects, aquatic organisms and 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 accommodation companies.



© Ube City, 2017


Site Plan

Site Plan

© Ube City, 2017


Picture Views

Picture Views

© Ube City, 2017


Spider mokey

Spider mokey

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Squirrel monkey

1. Squirrel monkey

© Kenji Wako, 2016


View from the cave

2. View from the cave

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Path through tropical vegetation

3. Path through tropical vegetation

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Squirrel monkey island

4. Squirrel monkey island

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Water moat

5. Water moat

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Swinging bridge

6. Swinging bridge

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Rafting to the island

7. Rafting to the island

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Floating-style houses

8. Floating-style houses

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Capybara exhibit

9. Capybara exhibit

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Panorama viewing

10. Panorama viewing

© Kenji Wako, 2016


View towards the spider monkey island

11. View towards the spider monkey island

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Capybara and spider monkey

12. Capybara and spider monkey

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Capybara on the shore

13. Capybara on the shore

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Viewing from the path

14. Viewing from the path

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Signage 'Eating'

15. Signage 'Eating'

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Information panel about Amazonian primates

16. Information panel about Amazonian primates

© Yuka Nakai・Kenji Wako, Ube city, 2016


Amazonian landscape

17. Amazonian landscape

© Kenji Wako, 2016


Connection to indoor quarters

18. Connection to indoor quarters

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2016


Keeper access

19. Keeper access

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2016


Indoor rooms of the squirrel monkeys

20. Indoor rooms of the squirrel monkeys

© Tokiwa Zoo, 2016


Floorplan of the indoor rooms

21. Floorplan of the indoor rooms

© Ube City, 2018