Auckland Zoo opens brand new orangutan enclosure to the public

Visitors at Auckland Zoo got up and close with the orangutans in their brand new enclosure for the first time on Wednesday.

Melur, Charlie and Wanita's new home is stage one of a major modern design overhaul at the zoo, and it's part of its new South East Asia development.

The orangutans were living at Christchurch's Orana Park while work was completed, and moved back to Auckland Zoo in January.

After more than two years away, the zoo's primates team leader Amy Robbins says the three orangutans have warmed to the new space that's filled with plenty of structures for climbing.

"Just being able to see them utilising all the canopy climbers which are these structures behind me, and also seeing them in live trees, which is the first time we've ever been able to do that, has been amazing."

Charlie, the 39-year-old male of the group, has also taken a liking to some of the other purpose-built props.

"Charlie's sporting another design feature from this whole process. So orangutans like to shelter, particularly Charlie, he hates the rain he hates the cold."

Next door, the zoo's two siamang gibbons Kera and Intan also have a new home. The plan is two eventually bring them together with the orangutans, just as they would live in the wild.

There are other exciting features still to come. An aerial pathway will open in the next phase of the zoo's development so the orangutans can climb 25 metres in the air and swing over the top of zoo visitors.

With construction still being completed, the South East Asia section of the zoo will also have a new habitat for its tigers, and a tropical dome will house tropical crocodiles as well as fish and turtles.

Visitors to the zoo were excited to see the orangutans up close.

"Looks so nice, we've been looking forward to seeing it open," one told Newshub.

"We've missed them, we haven't seen them for ages," another said.

It's the largest project the zoo has undertaken in its 98-year history. The zoo's director Kevin Buley says it's been a "massive" journey.

"[It was] 10 years in the concept and two-and-a-half years in the building, so to be able to actually open it today is absolutely incredible."