The appeal of taking a date to the zoo is pretty high, we reckon. And lovers in Western Sydney will soon be afforded this romantic option, with the approval of the new Sydney Zoo in Blacktown.

The $36 million project will involve the construction of 30 open-plan enclosures, providing homes for hippopotamuses, crocodiles, cheetahs and chimpanzees. The exact fauna selection is yet to be finalised, although Jake Burgess (Sydney Zoo’s managing director, founder of Sydney Aquarium) tells us how enclosure design will ensure visitors and animals see eye-to-eye.

“Because we’ve got this blank sheet of paper to work with, we have the opportunity to redefine the way zoos exhibit their animals,” Burgess says. “What we’re trying is extensive moating, which allows us to lower fence heights and provide better immediacy and interaction between people and the animals.

“Unlike many zoos, you won’t be able to consciously see that there’s a fence there. At least that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” says Burgess. These “typographical tricks” aren’t new to zoo design, just new to Sydney. Burgess notes that Sydney Zoo will also go for a smaller number of enclosures – featuring large animals – rather than assembling hundreds of different species.

“We’re going for the big animals you really expect to see in a zoo, like lions and elephants,” Burgess says. “These enclosures will be significantly larger than the minimum [legally] specified, so it will create a lot of open space. That enables us to enhance animal husbandry and feeding strategies, because we have more room to move.”

The 16.5-hectare piece of approved land is in the Bungarribee precinct on the Great Western Highway, in Blacktown. Burgess hopes that Sydney Zoo will fill a much-needed gap for families from Western Sydney and wider New South Wales. This new attraction might even draw Sydney’s city-dwellers away from their natural habitat.

Sydney Zoo is set to open in late 2017 in Blacktown.