Written by root. Posted in FEATURES


Published on September 10, 2018 with No Comments

As Singapore Zoo celebrates its 45th anniversary, it continues to reinvent itself to be the best open-concept zoo this side of Asia.



Over the decades, zoos have evolved from merely being a place where animals are put on “display” to being much more focused on active conservation efforts. My earliest memory of going to the zoo was actually in Tokyo – Ueno Zoo, to be exact. I remembered the strong animal stench as I got closer to the elephant enclosure, but also how excited I was to see them and witness their feeding time. Many years later, volunteering with a children’s home, the same sight of the elephants in captivity saddened me.

There remains today continuous debate on whether animals should be kept in zoos or allowed to live in the wild. I like a healthy debate. More importantly, I do believe that the future generation needs to be able to see the different species of wildlife for them to understand the importance of conserving their habitat. And one of the zoos that I find is working hard towards this is the Singapore Zoo.

When Singapore Zoo first opened in 1973, it was among the pioneers of the open concept zoos, in which the animals are housed in open enclosures landscaped to resemble their natural habitats. In doing so, it breaks the barrier between visitors and animals while giving the animals room to roam freely. It was the first zoo in the world to have a free-range orangutan habitat. Today, Singapore Zoo remains committed in providing these moments of connection, but it has also gone to invest in other ways, seeking to further conservation, education and scientific understanding of animals.

Its Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre, that arranges special group visits to its viewing gallery for real-time observation of animal surgery, was set up to also provide better healthcare to the animals while promoting research. The facility, opened in 2006, is also one of the ways visitors get to discover firsthand the work of zoo vets.

Endangered animals also get a new lease of life at Singapore Zoo. The zoo was the first to successfully hatch the Komodo dragon in Asia, outside Indonesia where the dragon is native – a feat that was made possible through meticulous planning and some cutting-edge technology intervention. Singapore Zoo is among only a handful of zoos that have invested on expertise and facilities to include a diagnostics lab that can analyse semen and monitor females’ fertility cycles – resources that have helped create success in breeding other endangered animals such as the Sumatran orangutan, Celebes crested macaque, Proboscis monkey, cheetah, pygmy Hippopotamus and Douc langur, to name a few.

When Night Safari opened, it also created a first – allowing visitors to observe nocturnal animals at their most active. This separate gated park has its own unique collection of animals. Meanwhile, annual events such as the Safari Zoo Run, now in its 10th installment, has grown in such popularity with funds raised going back to support the zoo and its research and conservation works. There are both competitive and non-competitive categories, with a route that takes runners through the jungle-fringed pathways of Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, with plenty of opportunities to stop and photograph the animals along the way.

This year to mark Singapore Zoo’s 45th anniversary, a seasonal nighttime attraction has been introduced, the Rainforest Lumina. This time, virtual creatures come out to play along a kilometre of trail that features interactive light and sound installations. Rainforest Lumina covers nearly half of the zoo’s area with 11 mist-filled zones and is a collaboration between Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Moment Factory, a Canada-based multimedia entertainment. The aim? To spread the message of wildlife conservation using technology that is both fun and easily understood. The installation runs until 31 December, 2018.


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