The constructing of WILDLANDS Adventure Zoo

Are the boulders resistant to enthusiastic polar bears? Can the baboons climb over the retaining walls? These are important questions which the builders at VolkerWessels have to consider during the construction of the WILDLANDS Adventure Zoo in Emmen. ‘You learn to see the world through the eyes of a monkey.’


Following a construction period of over two years, the WILDLANDS theme park is ready to open its doors to the public. Building a zoo means doing things in a way that you would never normally do as a construction company. There are no standard rules. When is a boulder ‘polar bear-proof’? ‘Take the circumference of a polar bear’s paw and weight of an adult male and you can come quite some way,’ is what Jan Nijkamp, Quality Coordinator acting on behalf of the VolkerWessels construction group, has learned. 

Too tidy

Also very typical: the construction workers seemed to be too tidy. Roely Hofman of WILDLANDS worked on applying the themes and gives an example. ‘We wanted a circle of stones to provide shelter to the impalas. What we ended up with was a perfectly neat circle, while we wanted it to look lifelike and therefore a bit messier.’


Discussion of the action points on location. 

The last word

It’s something that characterises working relations on the construction site: zookeepers and art directors have the last word. If they reject a particular part, it has to be re-examined, even if it has already been completed. ‘Drawings don’t always provide an overview,’ explains Hofman. “For example, the walls of the meerkat compound met the height requirements, but it turned out that they could be climbed. This meant they had to be changed.’

Digitool Ed Controls

Managing all the snags was a huge job for Nijkamp. Keeping track on paper proved impossible. Digital tool Ed Controls provided results. Nijkamp creates so-called tickets (snags) digitally and sends them to the persons responsible. ‘With 140 items and six kilometres of boulders, that’s really something. At its peak, the counter stood at 3,300 tickets. Now we’re finishing the last few snags.’


Roely Hofman, Bertus Boers and Jan Nijkamp use the digital tool Ed Controls

Unique project

Everyone at the table agrees on one thing: this has been a truly unique project. ‘Zoos are, of course, renovated on a regular basis, and often have parts added to them, but creating a new, 22-hectare park is unique,’ concludes Bertus Boers, senior manager of the draaijer+partners consultancy firm. The official opening of WILDLANDS is set for 25 March.

This article has also been published in the Dutch magazines Industriebouw, March 2016 on page 46, and Bouw en Uitvoering, March 2016 on page 32.

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