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Temple of Ancients will house all manner of slithery creatures, hoppers and creepy crawlies from South America, and an underwater tunnel will be a window on its amazing fish.
AMID Johannesburg’s verdant greenery rests an ancient temple. Inside this sanctuary dwells some of the animal kingdom’s most slippery characters, among them snakes, frogs and fish. Well, this is where they will live once the zoo has opened its Temple of Ancients in early 2012.


The anaconda enclosureThe anaconda enclosureThe zoo has conceptualised a way for it to display animals from all over the world. “The zoo plans to showcase five biodiversity zones such as Central Africa, Southern Africa, South and Central America, the eastern areas and a zone in general dealing with opposites: animals from very hot or cold areas,” says its acting brand and communication manager, Candice Segal.

“The Temple has been built to showcase South and Central America and to place emphasis on the threatened animals in those regions as well as highlighting the amazing animals found there, such as the arawana fish and the many species of frogs and spiders,” she says.

It is part of the zoo’s five-year development plan, which was drawn up in 2004. Completion of the plan has been extended to 2014 and it was renamed the Integrated Biodiversity Conservation Plan.

The other areas in the conservation plan are known as Heart of Africa, Southern Safari, Extreme Environments, Spice Route and Farmyard. All these projects have been completed and opened, with the temple the last one to be finished.

“It has been in construction since 2009; the construction was planned for two years, to be completed mid-2011, but there have been some delays,” Segal says. “It is a very ambitious project with an intricate design and will most definitely be a highlight for any visitor.”

It is now expected to open at the beginning of next year.


The Temple will be home to various Amazon amphibiansThe Temple will be home to various Amazon amphibiansOriginally called the Temple of Snakes, Segal says they changed the name because of the fear many people have of the creatures. It now bears the title Temple of Ancients, which stems from its design. It is based on the Mayan temples found in Central America and refers to the “historical cultures that once used to live in and around these temples”.

Up to 10 animal species are expected to take up residence in their R26-million home, including reptiles, amphibians, insects and aquatic animals. Frogs, snakes, birds, fish, primates and spiders are all on the guest list. A walk-through underwater tunnel will house freshwater fish, while the other inhabitants will find accommodation in the rest of the two-storey building in specially designed rooms.

The zoo wants to “portray a site in South America and to excite people to visit an unusual enclosure that will stimulate [their] imagination”, she says.

“We also look forward to the reactions of people when they will first be able to see it. This is an excellent draw card for more visitors, and an opportunity to educate about endangered species and habitats.”

Guided tours will be available, but zoo visitors will be able to explore the temple at their leisure as well.

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