City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Johannesburg Zoo


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Joburg Zoo's innovative wetland system not only hosts a large number of bird species that are sensitive to climate-related changes - it also serves as the Zoo's own water purification project.

Joburg Zoo's wetland system purifies Zoo Lake water
Kids learn about the importance of wetlands at Joburg Zoo. (Photo:

Comprising a graded series of tanks and reed formations, the Zoo's wetland system plays a major role in cleansing water from two tributaries of the Braamfontein Spruit before it flows into Zoo Lake on the other side of Jan Smuts Avenue and beyond.

The two tributaries, one coming from the south and the other from the east, merge at the Zoo, carrying large amounts of dirt and pollution. The purpose-built wetland system purifies this firstly by means of a sieve tank for catching large pollutants and a catchment tank for smaller pollutants, which sink to the bottom and are pumped out into the City's sewer system.

The partially cleansed water then flows through three wetland reed bed ponds planted in row formation to maximize the natural biological filtration process, and through gravel layers to filter it further. Fish and bacteria have also been released to feed off the nutrients in the water.

The beauty of the system is that, besides purifying the water, it attracts birds, insects and other wildlife. A large number of free-flying birds have settled in the area, creating a fantastic display for Zoo visitors while augmenting the Zoo's extensive resident bird collection, which includes a large number of water fowl, cranes and storks.

The Zoo's next project will be to redirect the flow of some of the water back into the Zoo, helping to #savewater by cutting back on the Zoo's consumption of water supplied by the City.