London Zoo redesigns kids' zone

Children are to be let loose in one of the world's most famous zoos to climb trees and walk among llamas and prairie dogs as part of a £3m new landscape.

The redesign of London Zoo's children's zone will include tree-canopy viewing platforms for children to look at racoon-like coatis jumping from branch to branch.

Landscape architect Jennette Emery-Wallis said: "We are targeting seven- to 11-year-olds, an age group notoriously difficult to attract to anything.

"The client wants to break down barriers between animals and children. Youngsters will climb trees to look at coatis and enjoy walk-throughs in zones for goats, prairie dogs, llamas and sheep."

The existing children's zone, a farmyard-type attraction, had been copied elsewhere and a new concept was needed, said Emery-Wallis, principal landscape architect at Land Use Consultants (LUC).

"We are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible and will use mostly native plants, with a few exotics to define the various enclosures, designed by artists and crafts-people."

Building work is due to start on the zoo's south boundary, next to Regent's Park, this summer. It is expected to be completed in 2009.LUC won a competitive tender to redesign the 5,000sq m site.

The project forms part of a major master-plan for the client, the London Zoological Society. A gorilla kingdom was opened last year and a new lions' enclosure is being designed.

"We have worked with English Heritage to ensure the children's zone ties in with the overall zoo design by Decimus Burton," said Emery-Wallis.

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