African Forest: Wellness-Inspired Design 

Wellness begins with a deep understanding of the preferences and the needs of each species. Optimal wellness is obtained when every animal is thriving. The more an animal's behavior mimics the behavior of free-living wild animals, the more likely wellness has been achieved. The African Forest exhibit has been a huge success with both the animals and guests! With opportunities for the animals changing all of the time, this means that guests may have a new experience hour-to-hour and with every visit. 

From the moment guests approach the new African Forest entryway, they are captivated by a magnificent 40 foot Kapok Tree. This iconic tree serves as the heart and hub of the exhibit. The interior of the massive trunk is accessible to staff via a stairway so that caretakers may study and attend to the animals.

Building in choices, challenges, and variation is a key element of wellness-inspired design and a foundational principle of the new African Forest. With the help of a small force of dedicated students, guides, and volunteers, our Animal Wellness Department gathers and analyzes observational and behavioral data. This data was applied to the design of African Forest with the goal of creating environments in which animals thrive.

Animals are “talking” to us all the time, but it’s up to us to discover new ways to listen and to showcase their aptitude. Using computerized, cognitive learning stations or “Think Pods,” the apes will be able to communicate via symbols, shapes and colors. Even complex concepts such as preference and spatial awareness can be conveyed in this manner. Animals reason, remember, and employ what they learn, and it will be the animals helping us understand their own needs, capabilities, and capacities. 

With African Forest, we have combined the best in exhibit design, research, animal wellness, and interpretation; pushing our boundaries and charting a new zoo path. We aim to deliver a full and comprehensive experience for our animals, guests, and staff, and in the process, produce one more revolutionary, world-class habitat.



Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.


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