Plans for a $36 million zoo in Western Sydney have just been given the green light. Located off the Great Western Highway, past Westmead and near Wetherill Park, it will occupy 16.4 hectares overlooking Bungarribee Park.

Sydney Zoo plans to make the site a “safari-like experience” without cages, allowing visitors to view native and exotic species, roaming in their natural habitat, from an elevated walkway.

There are plans to feature animals from the African savannah, including lions, tigers, rhinoceroses and cheetahs; primates from the African highlands and Asia; and Australian natives including mammals, marsupials, reptiles, fish and insects. There will also be an underwater glass viewing facility for hippos, crocodiles and aquatic life.

Sydney-based Aspect Studios is behind the zoo’s design, which will aim to mimic the landscape. It will also include a large show arena, gift shops, restaurants, cafes, kiosks, waterways, gardens and picnic areas.

An integrated Indigenous and natural heritage program will focus on the Darug people of Western Sydney.

Sydney Zoo has vouched to “identify suitable species of Australian animals where we can make a meaningful contribution to the expansion of breeding programs to provide ‘insurance populations’ for threated species.” This will include an aquarium, reptile house, nocturnal house and insectarium.

The Sydney Zoo project is proposed to create 59 full-time jobs and 160 construction jobs.

Sydney Zoo is slated for completion in 2018.

The zoo will be open to the public from 9am to 6pm, Mon to Fri.