Taronga Zoo’s Nocturnal House offers a unique chance to encounter some of Australia’s most elusive nocturnal creatures. Lighting was required to preserve animal welfare and at the same time delivering an engaging experience to guests which enhances aboriginal story telling.

Simulating reverse day/night cycles, seasons and photoperiods that are thought to impact on animal bio-cycles, was crucial to the design –

By day, guests experience an immersive and dramatic nighttime environment.

The low level circulation lighting is aimed away from the animals and the display areas have darker zones where they can retreat; enclosure backdrops disappear into darkness.

In interaction mode, when some visitors are allowed to step into the enclosure, a temporary increase of light enhances the interaction.

Significant time was spent one-to-one with the zookeepers, fine-tuning the aiming, lensing, and intensity of the spotlights, considering the visual field of the animals to minimise the impact on foraging, nesting, and breeding activities.

By night, tuneable white, high colour rendering LED panels simulate daylight, maintaining circadian and circannual rhythms in a reverse day/night cycle.

A world-first tailored reverse circadian function was created in the bluetooth control programming, to support animal welfare and cater for operational needs of the facility. The daylight simulation is programmed to finish for a consistent ‘wake-up’ time for the animals each day, allowing zookeepers to operate safely in the morning before guests arrive.

Nocturnal House is where the unique night-time fauna meets aboriginal story telling –

A tide of light wraps the perimeter, transitioning in colour and intensity in response to the Indigenous storytelling etched into the walls, designed by Indigenous artist Jacob Nash. Upon entry between old tree trunks the warm tones of dusk draw guests inside, travelling over the red dunes of the hopping mice and dunnarts, between the ancient granite tors washed gently in pink and orange, entering into the deep and moody bat cave and emerging into the rich deep night sky above the desert plains of the bilby, stars twinkling amongst the rich purples and blues.

As guests transition into the leafy forests and dappled light of dawn, leaf projections on the floor continue the narrative. The journey is completed by the flowing water and dawning light of the platypus pools and riverbanks.

The lighting and lighting control solution allows Taronga to become a leader in nocturnal house lighting and facilitate opportunities for Taronga’s Institute of Science & Learning and other researchers, to utilise the user-friendly control interfaces and programmable capabilities to conduct further research into the effects of artificial light on animal welfare, breeding patterns and their sensitivities and responses to light.

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