Wildlands Adventure Zoo

From construction site to innovative theme park

Setting up an entirely new adventure park where animals are the stars is a very challenging large-scale project. Frankwin van Beers, director of Emmen Zoo [Noorder Dierenpark Emmen] since 2010, took on that challenge. And he did so with success: on 18 March 2016 King Willem Alexander officially opened the new park and visitor numbers have skyrocketed. Wagenborg was able to make a significant contribution to constructing and fitting out the park.


We talked to Frankwin Van Beers about the work, from A to Z. 

“When you see how Wagenborg used its cranes to install the beams of the covered jungle, you realise just how professional they are.”

Action plan
“In 2010, I was asked to relaunch Emmen Zoo,” says Mr Van Beers. ”I accepted the challenge. There was already a good plan for a new zoo and, as the new management, we adapted that plan. We opted for a theme park philosophy, with animal as the stars in a total experience comprising attractions, entertainment, education, nature, and culture. 

That’s now become our new Wildlands Adventure Zoo. So you can now go on an expedition in Emmen!”  

From plan to park 
Construction of the new theme park started in 2013, and it opened to the public in early 2016. That was a relatively short time in which to set up and fit out a park of no less than 22 hectares.

After a lot of preparatory study, we were able to set out a really great, ambitious plan,” says Mr Van Beers. “To turn a plan like that into reality, you need to assemble the right people and the right companies. We had less than three years’ construction time, so to get everything done according to plan it was important to operate as partners." 

Wildlands Adventure Zoo exists of Nortica, Jungola and Serenga - photos Wildlands Adventure Zoo

You have to allow one another to do what’s necessary, help one another, and share a passion for reaching the target that you’ve set and that you’re all working towards. The fact that we succeeded means a big compliment for everyone who contributed to constructing the park. And it was all done within the scheduled time and budget, and with even greater quality than we expected.”

You said that partnership is important when tackling such a big project. What were the key factors in selecting the right partners? “On the one hand, we thought it was important for regional companies to assist us during construction, and on the other we also thought it important to select companies that had already worked a lot for the zoo in the past, such as Wagenborg.


Wagenborg has been a partner of ours for a very long time and has already done a lot of jobs for us. During a project like this it’s nice to have expertise in house – Wagenborg knows us and we know Wagenborg. That means we can work together easily and effectively.”

During construction of the new park, Wagenborg carried out various transport and lifting operations, including placing and fitting out the largest tropical glasshouse in Europe, positioning animal houses, and relocating a large number of animals. “When you see how Wagenborg used its cranes to install the beams of the covered jungle, you realise just how professional they are. It was beautiful to watch. But Wagenborg’s help with transporting of the animals was also magnificent. There were pauses when necessary, all in the interest of our animals. Animal welfare at Wildlands is state of the art.” 


The future

Visitor numbers at the new Wildlands have been enormous. Mr Van Beers is clear about the future of the Adventure Zoo. “In ten years’ time, we’ll still be unique and distinctive. We’re also one of the top three theme parks in the country. That’s true now and it’ll remain so.”


What the project manager has to say - Harrie Klingenberg

Harrie Klingenberg has been with Wagenborg for 20 years now, for the past five as a work planner/project coordinator. He was also company’s coordinator during construction of the new Wildlands Adventure Zoo in Emmen. Working partly from the office and partly onsite, Mr Klingenberg kept a tight hold on the reins. As they say, “a good start is half the battle”. He tells us a bit about the project. 

“Wildlands Adventure Zoo. From A to Z a huge project, for which we deployed many different types of cranes to tackle some very interesting jobs. The most spectacular and challenging part of the whole project was positioning the main beams of the large covered glasshouse. Our operators used all their knowhow and skills to achieve a really excellent result, in collaboration with the other companies that had been deployed. Excellent cooperation with all the stakeholders was therefore extremely important during this project. We did a great deal of work in just a short time. That’s only possible if you work well together and adopt a problem-solving approach. 
Wagenborg has been working successfully with the zoo in Emmen for a long time now. Over the years, we’ve carried out a lot of very interesting jobs, including during construction of the new Wildlands. We were in constant touch with one another during the project. Close coordination was particularly important in the final phase, when the animals had to be relocated. We were in direct contact with the zookeepers, because the welfare of the animals was of course paramount. 

We put in a great performance together with everyone who worked on construction of the new Wildlands, and the result is a magnificent theme park."