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Singapore Zoo visit 19 September 2009

Discussion in 'Singapore' started by Chlidonias, 27 Sep 2009.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    With a couple of days stop-over in Singapore I made a long-overdue re-visit to Singapore Zoo. I’ve been to Singapore many times and to the Jurong Bird Park about six times but for some reason I’ve only ever been to the zoo once and that was back in 2004 so it was definitely time to go back and see what was what. I enjoyed the visit very much, but because the zoo has been discussed on here many times and has many threads, rather than do a review I’ll just give my impressions of what I thought.

    The first impression one gets when entering the zoo (apart for how popular it is!) is how lush the vegetation is: it really does deserve its self-proclaimed moniker of “rainforest zoo”. However the over-riding impression I get, both on the original visit and on this one, is how very small so many of the cages are. Everyone raves about Singapore Zoo and says how wonderful and natural it all is, but many of the cages are no better than those in any other Asian zoo. You can dress up a tiny cage with mock-rock and put plants around the outside, but its still a tiny cage. The babirusa pen for instance is tiny, the white tiger island is a joke, most of the cat cages (especially the ocelots’) are miniscule, the guanacos really look like they’re in a holding pen before being boxed for shipment somewhere else. Its quite sad because Singapore Zoo really is the best zoo in Asia, and compared to all the others it is very well-financed. The other major criticism I felt while there was that the hamadryas baboon enclosure is grossly overcrowded. Baboons may live in large troops in the wild but they’re not confined in one area together all day long every day. There was a huge amount of aggression amongst troop members. But the main thing about this exhibit is that it appeared to me that the poor Nubian ibex are basically confined to the small upper edge of the rock-work because of the sheer number of baboons in the lower area.

    Having said all that though, there are good enclosures here as well. Many of the reptiles have large areas which is good to see as reptiles often get a raw deal in zoos, space-wise. Most of the monkey islands are of a reasonable size and quite attractive, apart for the awful-looking one for the lion-tailed macaques. (I could also bring up the aggression displayed by the patas monkeys towards the colobus that share the same island - just because two monkeys live on the same continent doesn’t mean they should be stuck on the same island together in a zoo!). My two favourite areas in the zoo were the Critter Longhouse (a series of indoor enclosures for small mammals) because I like small mammals and there were some species in here I’d never seen before such as the spotted mouse deer, Sri Lankan giant squirrel and Goeldi’s monkey (I know the latter is common in zoos but not over in my part of the world); and the Fragile Forest. For those not familiar with it, the Fragile Forest is a big walk-through aviary that houses not only birds but also an eclectic mix of butterflies, fruit bats, ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs, two-toed sloths, tree kangaroos, mouse deer and other animals.

    A lot of money and time has been spent on the interpretation at the zoo. The signage isn’t of a standard format but differs throughout the grounds, which actually works quite well. Conservation messages are everywhere but they aren’t hammered into the visitors so they are probably better absorbed (I always think that if signage is too heavy-handed it just turns people away). There are animal statues all through the gardens which look good although the kangaroo has obviously had a few thousand kids posed upon its back for photographs!

    My little camera has a video function which I never think to make use of but here are a couple of videos I made, of a leopard cat and spotted mouse deer. (I hope they work – the internet in Jakarta is so bad that each video took TWO HOURS to upload to youtube!!!)

     
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  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Nice mini-review! It doesn't take much for a zoo to be the best in Asia as the quality of zoo's in the world's largest continent is so poor. The Singapore Zoo is regarded as one of the most beautiful zoos of all time, but as has been pointed out before on ZooChat there are flaws to even the most gorgeous, naturalistic exhibits.
     
  3. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    Glad to see you made it here! Singapore Zoo can never claim to have the biggest enclosures, period. The whole country is a dot on the world map!

    Interestingly I have rather differing views on the enclosures you mentioned. I thought the tiger exhibit is decent and the baboon exhibit is just large enough to house the present 6 harems (80 or so individuals). The ibex can't descend from the cliffs to the front area - the baboons will probably kill them - but they can retreat behind the cliff to an off-exhibit pen at all times. The babirusa exhibit was an afterthought to house surplus males, hence its small size (not a valid excuse though). The Colobus have actually existed well with Patas, but recently the Patas population grew (it used to be only a pair), maybe its time to move some out. I've noticed positive interactions between the young Patas and adult Colobus on many occasions.

    On the contrary, i think Critters Longhouse enclosures are way too small especially for the tamarins and kinkajous. But the collection there is indeed quite special.

    I agree though on the cat enclosures, remnants of the past that still exist because of ever-changing development plans. I'm guessing the jaguars, pumas and ocelots will be shifting out in the next couple of years to either Night Safari or the new River Safari. There are plans for a S.American exhibit, but I don't know at which park.

    Signage is a key focus since the zoo positions itself quite firmly as an "outdoor classroom". The zoo works very closely with the education authorities and schools here.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree the Critter Longhouse enclosures are mostly too small (the reason I liked the exhibit was just because of the interesting species there), and the others we can agree to disagree on. It basically comes down to (in some cases, not all obviously) what one person considers small another considers adequate. Some of my observations were of course based on one short visit. I didn't know for example if the ibex have an off-display area or are permanently on the cliff top, and the patas/colobus interaction could easily have been unusual (although I do stand by my notion that just because they're from the same continent doesn't mean they should be housed together). I did enjoy the zoo a lot.

    One question you may know the answer to. The sugar gliders in the Australian Outback house, are they put into a proper enclosure at night when they are active?
     
  5. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    Always healthy to have different opinions :)

    The sugar gliders actually have constant access to a proper cage (not particularly big nor fancy though) behind the tank. There's a small opening at the top of the cut-out trunk in the tank that leads to the cage. The cut-out trunk display is only a nest box.
     
  6. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I thought that would be the case. I tried to see up the top to see if they could access another area but couldn't get a good look
     
  7. Goretex

    Goretex Well-Known Member

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    How big is their elephant enclosure? I do get the impression its small although attractive and fairly naturalistic. Have the elephants ever bred?
     
  8. Zooish

    Zooish Well-Known Member

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    @Goretex: The whole Elephants of Asia habitat (including visitor areas) sits on a 10,000 square metre site. My guesstimate is that the usable space for the 5 elephants (including the pools and stable) is around 6,000 to 7,000 square metres.

    There had been 4 births; 2 died while they were infants. Of the remaining 2, both males, the older one is in Cologne Zoo while the younger one lives at Night Safari. The 2 groups of elephants (total 10 eles) at the day Zoo and Night Safari are managed like an extended herd, with the breeding age females from the Zoo herd walked over to mingle with the males at Night Safari regularly.
     
  9. Goretex

    Goretex Well-Known Member

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    @Zooish thank you very much on the information on the elephants. Their enclosure does actually sound as though its of a reasonible size.