Singapore Zoo frequently ranks as one of the best zoos in the world (if not the best) and it’s not hard to see why. As an adult I’ve become more questioning and uncomfortable about the general concept of zoos and keeping animals in captive but, as zoos go, Singapore is outstanding when it comes to the animals’ habitats.
The big underlying concept in Singapore’s zoo is to minimise fences, glass walls and generally ‘encased’ enclosures for the animals. A lot of the animals actually roam free amongst zoo guests! For those that need to be separated from guests, natural barriers are used such as moats, streams, rocks and wooden fences. (The only glass I saw being used were for those kept in water and escape artists like snakes and insects, or dangerous ones such as polar bears and leopards). This set-up gives a feel of you being on ‘their’ property, rather than them being imprisoned for your entertainment.
Hands-down my favourite part of the zoo is the orangutans that swing freely high above your head all over the zoo! Organgutans, elephants and giraffes are my absolute favourite animals and I was lucky enough to get very close encounters with two of those species!!
For a very reasonable SG$5, guests have the opportunity to feed the giraffes themselves! I did this before when I came in 2011 and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I had a particularly hungry giraffe this time and he gave me fingers an accidental nibble! I can’t complain. I was delighted to get that close with a giraffe. The staff who run the giraffe ‘meet and feed’ are great and will take photos of you for free on your camera so you don’t have to pay for an official photo if you don’t want to.
Another favourite up-close encounter is the opportunity to have your photo taken with organgutans. At scheduled times throughout the day, organgutans are tempted down from their sky-high trees with treats. They then sit patiently chomping while guests sit in front of them and have their photos taken. There’s a strict no-petting rule but when I went to the zoo in 2011, a very cheeky orangutan tried to slip his hand into my bag and I accidentally touched his lovely leathery fingers! I know, not a big deal, but I’m still delighted about it. And a baby orangutan reached out to my camera at a perfect moment! Sadly I didn’t get any unique encounters like that this time round but I was still giddy with excitement to be up close with orangutans again.
Again, I have a tonne of photos but I’ll just pick a few of the best ones. I had an incredible time at Singapore Zoo but my one regret (from an amateur photographer’s point of view) was only bringing an 18-55mm lens with me! I can’t believe I decided to leave my 55-100mm lens in my room! (I did seriously consider paying for an extra day’s entrance fee just to get good photos with a longer lens but I decided I should make the most of my time in Singapore and do other things too haha).
Needless to say, Singapore Zoo does some brilliant conservation work in addition to being one of the most humane zoos out there. You can read about all their conservation work on their website. One of their main conservation programmes is called ‘Change Their Fate’ which has the message ‘You Buy, They Die’. It focuses on putting an end to illegal animal trafficking and the slaughter of species, like tigers, whose body parts are used in traditional Asian medicine. Check out their website to learn more and donate. I found their billboards around Singapore Zoo, like the one below, to be particularly powerful.
In addition to conservation work, Singapore Zoo has partnered the social enterprise ‘The Animal Project’ which allows young local artists with learning difficulties (or, as The Animal Project calls them, ‘differently-abled’ artists) to create a variety of animal-based artworks that are then turned into merchandise for Singapore Zoo’s gift shop (and other shops in Singapore). They’ve produced a huge range of products in order to celebrate, support and showcase artists with special needs. The Animal Project is supported by Pathlight School’s Art Faculty, a local studio and training ground for special artists. I bought so much Animal Project merchandise! Their designs, some shown below, are so lovely! I bought as much as I thought I could fit into my luggage…
Aside from the main zoo, Singapore Zoo also has a Night Safari, River Safari, and a Bird Park. In 2010 I went on the Night Safari which was almost as impressive as the ‘day time’ zoo. You essentially get to see all the nocturnal animals wandering around the zoo that you wouldn’t see during the day. I didn’t go again in 2016 but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting! It just depends on what types of animals you want to see and obviously how many days you’re in Singapore for and what other non-zoo activities you have planned.
So that’s a wrap on Singapore Zoo and all it’s wild residents! Make sure you visit! I promise you won’t be disappointed.