Designing an Enclosure

Designing an Enclosure

Groups to Consider

  • Animals: They are the most important, does it meet their four basic needs. Is there an environment similar to what they have in their native habitat? 
  • Visitors: Can they see the animals? Is there information to read about the animals? Can they see inside dens/keeper areas? 
  • Keepers: The enclosure should be made so that they can safely care for animals. Is there a place to prep and store food/ treats for the animal at the enclosure or somewhere else? Are there ways to move the animals to and from different places to allow for cleaning/maintenance without the keepers and animals being in the same place? 

Animal Considerations:

  • Size of the enclosure. How much room does the animal need? 
  • Type of habitat. Look into where the native habitat for this animal is and what is found there. 
  • How many animals will be in the enclosure. Will this animal live alone or have siblings/ companions? Will this be a multi-species enclosure?
  • The four basic needs of animals are: water, food, shelter, well-being. 
  • Safety: this includes animal to animal, animal to keeper and animal to visitor safety. 

Four Basic Needs of Animals 

  • Water: all animals needs water for drinking. Some animals use water in other ways. What ways does your animal use water? 
  • Food: what would they eat in their native habitat? What can you feed them at the zoo that would have similar nutrients? How much and how often would you feed them? 
  • Shelter: this can be from predators or weather. Do not just focus on rain and snow, think about extreme heat and the sun or high winds. Many prey animals like to know they have a safe and secure place to hide when something spooks them. 
  • Well-Being: how can animal express natural behaviors in the enclosure? What kind of enrichment can you give the animals to increase well-being? 

Informational Signs

  • Information must be correct. Visitors will believe what they read is correct so it is very important to ensure the information is accurate. Double check facts with multiple sources. 
  • Make signs educational. Make sure that the wording is easy to understand but also use the correct scientific language so that visitors ca learn that terminology. 
  • Signs should be easy to read! Make sure to use large, spaced out print that is easy to read. Add pictures for reference or when necessary and make sure signs are placed somewhere everyone can read. 

Designing an Enclosure Activity

Materials Needed:

  • Paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, and/or markers
  • Pencil
  • Ruler


  • Start by marking the outer edges of the enclosure.
  • If there is an indoor area for the animal and/or a keeper area, outline that space next.
  • Mark the side(s) where people will be able to view the animal(s) from.
  • Draw where the secondary fence, if you have one, will be.
  • While considering the animal’s native landscape, draw what the inside of the enclosure will look like. Don’t forget about the four main requirements of animals.
  • Color the enclosure, indoor space and/or keeper area.
  • On the back of the paper, draw a design for the informational sign.
  • Write out the facts that you want people to learn about the animal on the sign.