BB.com Goes To Singapore 1: Singapore Zoo
I know Pandas. Pandas are bamboo-eating, fat and furry, soft and squishy, cute and cuddly, black-and-white bears. I love pandas. I love pandas even before there was Kung Fu Panda (the movie actually made me love pandas even more because I like Kung Fu, as well). These monotone-coated fur balls are irresistibly adorable regardless if they’re Kung Fu masters or not. But that’s just me, I guess. Anyway, when I found out that Singapore Zoo will house a pair of giant pandas, I made sure that the zoo was on high priority in my SG itinerary. Unfortunately during my visit, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the two pandas, won’t be coming until a week after my departure. Yeah, that was sad, nevertheless I still have my personal reasons to visit this world-class zoo.
Mandai Zoo, as it is locally called, has been home for many kinds of animal species since the park opened in 1973 with only 270 animals living on landscaped enclosures designed to be as natural as possible for the animals. The park was built on a 28-hectare forest reserve which is more than hour away from the city. Today, there are 314 species of animals in residence, many from all over the globe, and some of them, close to extinction, like the most intelligent primates, the orang utans, being hunted for reasons such as animal trade and poaching. The second largest land mammal, the white rhinoceros, nears extinction because of its horns, skins, flesh, and for being a trophy kill in hunting.
Visitors are kept safe from aggressive animals by either a wet or dry moat. Big cats like the rare white tigers and African lions roam vast open space of their “natural” environment but confined with a moat. Enclosed in thick solid glass are fierce predators like the stealthy hunter, the leopard, and the fastest land carnivore, the cheetah, for their good climbing and high leaping skills. Singapore Zoo ensures safety of spectators while they enjoy the sight of beautiful creatures.
Animals are sectioned in Singapore Zoo’s 9 zones wherein each simulates their natural environment or place of origin. Treetop Trails Zone proposes a lush rainforest enveloped in thick foliage of greens just like a jungle. Visitors will see the tree-dwelling Saki monkey roaming around or maybe the brown lemur gracefully jumping from tree to tree. There’s also the cotton top tamarin just “hanging around” or “swinging by”.
Cotton top tamarin.
And of course, a rainforest wouldn’t be complete without those vibrant eclectus parrots adding more hues to treetops and canopies. The beautiful colors of these fruit-eating bird actually tell the sex of this animal. Males’ are dominantly bright green and its beaks are yellow or orange. On the contrary, the female’s head is painted red and its breast, blue.
Eclectus parrot. Could you tell if its male or female?
One of the zoo’s many spectacles is the Great Rift Valley of Euthopia Zone which imitates the 80-kilometer wide Ethopian rift caused by tectonic plate movement. This award-winning rocky landscape display is home to more than 90 Hamadryas baboon, distinct for their “emphasized” red genitals, I’m sure you wouldn’t miss. Opposite the Great Rift Valley is the Australian Outback Zone where our animal mates thriving here hail from down under. Here you’ll see the Australian famous grey kangaroos hopping freely, or maybe the bearded dragon, kept in a glass-covered box, located within the confines of the weathered shack. The late Steve Irwin was part of the team that designed the Australian Outback Zone and officiated the opening in 2006.
Hamadryas baboons in Great Rift Valley of Ethopia Zone.
Great apes like orang utans and gorillas referred gibbons as lesser apes in terms of size. But what they lack in size, gibbons make up for their mastery in high speed branch swinging, like the white-handed gibbon and agile gibbon (also referred to as black-handed gibbon), found in Gibbon Island Zone. These mammals are displayed in pairs and the cheesy fact about them: they’re monogamous. Surrounding Gibbon Island is a small body of water where viewers could spot greater flamingos standing on one leg to conserve their body heat as they spend long hours on water.
Giraffes, white rhinos, zebras, the king himself, the lion, and other casts of the Lion King grazes on Wild Africa Zone. The cold-blooded creatures of the reptilian world can be seen in the zoo’s Reptile Garden Zone while 36 species of primates are granted with their own fiefs in Primate Kingdom Zone. Other zones include Critter Longhouse, Fragile Forest, and the botanical section, Tropical Crops & Orchid Garden. Every zone was carefully studied and built in accordance to every animal’s natural habitat, as close as possible.
Another attraction that brings animal enthusiasts to Singapore Zoo is their special exhibits featuring animals like the chimpanzees, and Pygmy hippos. The chimpanzees are the closest mammals comparable to human DNA, possessing 98% of genetic human blue prints, including intelligence. To exercise their body and mental capacity, they are placed in large jungle gymnasium of multi-tiered platforms and scientifically designed obstacles.
Pygmy hippos are the smaller cousins of the regular hippopotamus. Without any sweat glands, this downsized hippopotamus love swamps and rivers to keep their bodies cool. Though not swimmers, they tiptoe gracefully like obese ballerinas in the water which can be seen from a large viewing aquarium in Singapore Zoo. Other animals featured in exhibits are the white tigers, elephants of Asia, proboscis monkey, orang utans and many more.
Singapore Zoo allows visitors to interact with the animals through feeding under caretaker supervision. I had the chance to see children enjoying feed one of the largest tortoise species in the world, the Aldabra giant tortoise. It weighs 5 times an average man no wonder kids would be afraid at first. But once they feed their first apple, the smile on their faces tells me they were loving it.
Aldabra giant tortoise.
Child was hesitant to touch the tortoise at first.
Feeding fruits to a giant tortoise
Singapore Zoo’s “open concept” gives a more intimate approach on wildlife and nature appreciation without compromising the safety of both spectators and animals. The landscaped environment exhibits were designed to simulate the natural habitat of the animals instead of showcasing them in a cage. Animal interaction is kept under close supervision to ensure the safety of visitors. Animals, the stars of the show, display their beauty and abilities to an audience but at the same time raise animal awareness. Singapore Zoo gives animals, a home and proper care, and the audience, a unique wildlife experience.
Male eclectus parrot
Who wouldn’t love zoos? For me, it’s a meet-and-greet opportunity with animals I usually see no more than Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet. My trip to Singapore Zoo was not just a leisure destination but a learning experience as well. It was my second time here but still I didn’t find it boring. This time I was prepared and equipped with a longer telephoto lens. I was frustrated with my shots during my first visit, and these animals are just lovely subjects every photographer would definitely love shooting. I’d definitely visit the zoo on my next Singapore visit and hopefully next time, see those pandas with my own eyes.
Visit parks and gardens on the next on BB.com Goes To Singapore Series: Singapore Botanic Gardens & Fort Canning Park.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. Singapore Zoo is located at 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826. Directions and possible commuting routes are also posted in their website.
2. Gate opens 8:30 AM and closes 6:00 PM.
3. Adult tickets cost SGD 20, about Php 700.00
4. STRICTLY Observe park rules and regulations to avoid accidents, aggressive animal encounters, or even death.
5. I hope you like the photos. These animals are really beautiful.
6. Read more about the BB.com Goes To Singapore Series.
7. More Singapore destinations in Biyaheng Singapore.
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9. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
10. Happy travels everyone.