Saturday, 5 July 2014

Singapore Zoo

People of the Forest. King of the Jungle. The Artistic Stroke of a Trunk. The Pale of Colour.

 29 °C

Singapore Zoo ad at MRT
Singapore Zoo ad at MRT
Can't remember the last time I went to the zoo. Etta got free zoo tickets from her office. Since we had never been to the zoo in Singapore that we heard so much, we thought we should check it out.

One of the reason why we didn't go was the hassle of getting there using public transport from Commonwealth - 2 MRT interchanges, got off at Chua Chung Kang MRT and take another bus. It can take up to an hour. We decided just take the taxi, and got there in 17 mins.

As we traverse the island northwards, I realise how green and unspoilt this middle part of Singapore is. Most of Singaporean populate around the southern shore of the island.

Singapore Zoo lies in the middle of the evolution of 3 types of zoos.

The oldest types of zoos are still could be seen in Singapore's neighbours where all animals are enclosed in cages. The newest types are based on the safari concept. One example of that is the Werribee Open Range Zoo near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. I haven't been to that zoo. My uncle, who lives in Melbourne, did. In his own words, this is the type of zoo where animals come to look at human in a cage. The cage he referred to is the bus he was in. They drive you in a bus into an open range where the animals roam.

While this concept is interesting, because of the space it demands, not many countries can implement it. Australia happens to be the least densely populated continent on earth, and it's big on ecotourism. The Werribee Open Range Zoo is about 200 hectares while Singapore Zoo is 28 hectares, which is no small potato by any means considering Sydney's Taronga Zoo is only 21 hectares.

Singapore actually has a Safari type zoo called River Safari that occupies 12 hectares. The park features a boat ride that gives this river-themed zoo its safari title. So instead of enjoy viewing the animals in a human cage  (as my uncle insisted on calling it), the visitors viewing them in a river boat. I haven't been there yet. I'm in no hurry. I'm waiting for free tickets, which are either dropped from the sky (or more likely coming from Ada's office) and land into my grateful, cheapskate, beautifully sculpted hands.

map of Singapore Zoo
map of Singapore Zoo
(click to enlarge)

Singapore government manages a wildlife reserve area the size of 220 hectares (similar size to Werribee Open Range Zoo) but it's used to house 4 zoos - Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and River Safari.

Singapore Zoo (and Sydney's Taronga Zoo) is sandwiched between these 3 types where most of the zoos in the world today would be belonged to. Most animals aren't in cages, except for such creatures as snakes. All mammals in the Singapore Zoo have their open enclosures except for leopard and the polar bear.

Emerald Tree Boa
Emerald Tree Boa, nicely housed a glass case

People of the Forest

If you guess the orangutan (or orang utan) is the star of Singapore Zoo after looking at the poster ad above, you ain't wrong.

In fact, there's an activity offered by the zoo called Breakfast with Orangutan. I should know because my very first acting role I had with my amateur film group was playing a TV personality selling this idea with a line that starts with, "Singapore Zoo is the only place in the world where you can have breakfast with orang utans..." (my very maiden line).

Orangutan free-ranging area, Singapore Zoo
Orangutan free-ranging area

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that they have one of the largest free-range area with more room than you can swing a white tiger.

Orangutan with 2 babies hanging on both sides as it hangs around some wire, Singapore Zoo
Orangutan with 2 babies hanging on both sides as it hangs around some wire

Orangutan feeding time
Orangutan feeding time. Here comes the milk, here comes the milk...

The Largest Animal on Land

 Not to be upstaged by its star attraction, the elephants are also quite popular.

Painting done by an elephant in Singapore Zoo

Painting done by an elephant in Singapore Zoo

These 2 photos are examples of elegant elephant paintings. By that, I don't mean paintings of elephants. If they're, then these paintings must be done by toddlers. No. These are paintings done by elephants. And Jati is one of the oldest, and largest elephant in the Youtube video if I'm not mistaken. The elephant performance is quite entertaining, so don't miss out. This is the 1st of a series of 7 youtube clips.

Elephant trunk is truly amazing - and very wacky - piece of anatomy. It can pick up object as small as a pin, as large as a tree trunk, and pick up rumbling sounds from the ground; it can lift food into its mouth and the performer onto its back.  It can also be used as snorkel as elephant moves under water, or suck up water and pour it into its mouth (like a bucket).

Now, let's add painting into another skill that the elephant trunk can master. Man, there's nothing a trunk can't do except making telephone trunk call (I think we can probably train an elephant to make a trunk call. I could make a trunk call on my smartphone with my nose, I'm sure the elephant trunk is 100 times more "dexterous" than my nose. I have yet learn to paint with my nose. I could only play harmonica with it. The question is, there's no such thing as a trunk call in Singapore).

Elephant rides
Elephant rides are popular with visitors

Polar Bear at the Equator

I guess the only way to see a polar bear near the equator is in Singapore Zoo. There's a block of ice in the middle of the pool to keep the bear nice and cold. The only time it springs into action is during the feeding time. And then you can see a polar bear's diving and swimming, which is surprisingly graceful in a lumbering way, like an elephantine ballerina dancing in water.

Orange Bengalese Losing its Color

Speaking of white tiger (earlier), it too is one of the popular attraction. While they're not in cage/case, I think captivity make them restless. They pace back and forth all day long, prowling for preys among the visitors (the one holding a Nikon DSLR looks delish).

I guess the next stage of evolution of zoo is a museum where holographic animals roam around visitors freely. Hope I live that long to see it.

The python showing in "Rainforest Fights" show at the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre, Singapore Zoo
The python showing in "Rainforest Fights" show at the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre

The queue for the taxi was 1 hour long. So the best thing would either be leaving the zoo much earlier, or catch a bus, any bus, and get off at a place that looks like you can hail a cab.

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