When I left work to start this adventure my workmates gave me a travel money card and told me that I should spend it on some sort of experience while we were travelling. They may well have had ideas of me slipping a parachute on my back, or tying a bungy cord around my legs but that’s not my style. Instead I chose to use the money to fill the gap that my workmates absence has created in my life by having breakfast with the Orangutans at Singapore Zoo.
We joined a family of Orangutans for breakfast and were able to observe them, from a distance, as they ate sunflower seeds and fruit with the baby playing alongside the older ones. I was mesmerised by them and felt an affinity with the mother who reached out repeatedly to reign her baby in when he moved too far away from her. There was an opportunity for a photo in front of the Orangutan family and while I ached to cuddle the little one, no touching was allowed, quite rightly so, I wouldn’t want them to be mauled by hundreds of tourists.
Later in the day we were lucky enough to see a family group cavorting in the trees and ropes of their free ranging enclosure. We were on a treetop walk and they were next to us. They were funny and engaging, just like my work colleagues.
I always have mixed feelings at a zoo. Singapore Zoo plays an important role in the conservation of endangered animals through their breeding programs and this is essential work. They have bred 41 Orangutans over the last 40 years, but I have no way of assessing whether this is a significant contribution to the population and whether any were released into the wild. The free ranging primate enclosures appear to replicate natural habitats and the animals seem happy, but how would I really know. The single polar bear, in the 34 degree humid day, while protected by shade and swimming in his pool, looked sad beyond words.
Steven captured great photos of the magnificent white tigers but they too seemed like they needed to be more than just a pair. Apparently all white Bengal tigers originated from one tiger, so I guess they have all been bred for captivity.
We watched a “Splash” show which consisted of one lone sea lion, the highlight of the show was hearing the delighted screams of a group of seven year olds on a school excursion. Zoos certainly have an educational role to play and they did talk about conservation and endangered species at every opportunity.
Singapore zoo is situated in beautiful tropical gardens and, thanks to the generosity of my colleagues, I had a hot, humid and interesting day out. I was left hoping that the zoo’s breeding programs will flourish, with the aim of releasing the majority of animals into the wild.