The elephant park at the Zurich Zoo is planned as a topographical hill structure, which is only covered with a light, pneumatic roof in the area of the inner barrier. The visitors experience the facility by walking through the green crater landscape. Africa is the subject of the planned expansion of the zoo area by 2030. In comparison, the ’new continent‘ takes up almost half the size of the existing zoo. The planned savannah is the defining theme of the area. A continental leap takes place to the new enclosures for the Asian elephants, which are also settled there – the relatively small area of the elephants is regarded as a kind of implanted fragment of another continent, as an ‚Asian Island.‘ The new area is seen on a transferred scale as a segment of the Ngorongoro Crater – the famous landscape form of the Ngorongoro National Park in the area of the crater mountains of Tanzania. The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and borders the Serengeti National Park in the northwest.
The topography of the crater is divided into two vegetation zones according to its altitude – crater edge: evergreen mountain forests between heathland and long grass savanna – crater floor: short grass savanna with acacia forests and water holes. These zones will be transferred to the expansion area, bordering the existing Ethiopian highlands in the west. The continent is divided into sub-zones of different themes and vegetation. The dried up river bed is the connecting element that extends through all zones.
The enclosures of the Asian elephants which live in the wild, e.g. in the mountain forests of Southeast Asia, are embedded in the crater rim zone due parallels in the vegetation, the climate, and the topography. Both the indoor and outdoor enclosures for the animals are formed from the dry river bed following the slope of the crater. The ‚rocks‘ that have remained in between stand out as green hills in the landscape and, in combination, form a small mountain range, the iconography of which is reminiscent of the southern Chinese karst mountains.
In the hills, on the ground floor, there are the animal care areas and indoor stables, which are not allowed to be seen by the visitor – the areas of the visitor path are staggered according to their desired position as a vantage point, partly above and also occupy the ground floor zone in the eastern hill. Adventure trails run through the mountains with different gradients and create the educational path of the visitor with different perspectives on the animals of the elephant park and the savannah as an outstanding experience of nature.