Singapore Zoo and its sister wildlife parks run by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (i.e. Jurong Bird Park, River Safari and Night Safari) have long been recognized as pioneers of a new world of ethical open-range wildlife parks that are deeply committed to ensuring the long-term survival of the Earth’s biodiversity. Not only are the animals extremely well treated (they even have their own personal nutritionist!) but their breeding and local and regional conservation programs for endangered species have boasted impressive results. Although there is no better place for wildlife than in the wild, well-run wildlife parks, such as those run by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, play an integral part in ensuring the survival of endangered species that are becoming increasingly under threat due to habitat loss and climate change. The four parks promote a consistent message of conservation and education, with a focus on educating visitors on current threats to species, particularly the threat of climate change and the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling to help mitigate this change. Even the fine details of the parks are tuned into this message of proactive sustainability with the park offering ample water refilling stations and utilizing limited disposable food service items across the on-site restaurants.
Each of the four parks run by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore are unique and worthy of visiting in their own right. What follows is a guide to each of the parks and why visiting them is sure to not only entertain the whole family but also to enrich the mind and warm the heart.
Singapore Zoo is about as far removed from your traditional zoo as you can get. Across the 26 hectare park, the animals live in spacious and landscaped environments that closely mimic their natural habitat, with only natural barriers, such as moats, separating them from the park visitors. Under this open concept, some animals, such as the orangutans, are even able to swing freely around the park! The park also offers visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the animals on the feeding trails. It is important to note that although visitors are offered the chance to assist with feeding, touching is strictly prohibited and at no point are any animals offered as rides to visitors.
Highlight: As I explored the park, an aspect I found particularly intriguing was the newest exhibit opened at Singapore Zoo, Zoo-rassic Park. While at first I was confused as to why there was a valley of animatronic dinosaurs in a zoo, I soon realized the genius of this. Through information posters and interactive games, guests were encouraged to draw similarities between the physical features of particular dinosaurs and current species. In doing so, they were allowed a way to comprehend the possible sixth extinction event that we face today* through understanding the fifth extinction event that resulted in the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In allowing visitors this perspective, Wildlife Reserves Singapore seek to encourage guests to act to save the world’s biodiversity before it is too late.
* In the past 50 years alone, we have lost over half of the world’s biodiversity!
Rivers are the arteries of our planet, serving as the driving force of the water cycle that continuously provides the Earth with a sustainable supply of freshwater. The steady flow of clean, fresh water is an essential element for vast ecosystems and the health and survival of billions of people, animals and plants. With this, it is only fair that the rivers of the world deserve their own wildlife park to celebrate their notable role and the diverse ecosystems that habituate in them.
With eight river habitats in the one park, entering the River Safari park is like entering a parallel universe where all of the Earth’s rivers and the wildlife that they support are joined in one giant river. Visitors can stroll along freshwater aquariums, enter walk through exhibits (one in which spider monkeys frolic free around you!) and embark on boat rides (15% of the park’s animals are seen on boat rides). It also encompasses the Giant Panda Forest, where visitors can witness the intense sleeping rituals of the parks resident Giant Pandas – Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
Highlight: Be sure to check out the Amazon River Quest boat ride. This is similar (though a more tranquil version) to the water rapids rides you often find at theme parks, however with the very welcome addition of wild Amazonian animals around you as you cruise down the Amazon river. Perhaps I’m biased by my intense desire to explore the Amazon but I could have sat on the ride all day going round and round eyeing off the capybaras, tamarins and JAGUARS (!!!) on the banks.
Jurong Bird Park
At Jurong Bird Park, every day is a birthday party for all of the bird species of the world. The park, Singapore’s first wildlife park, features four large free flight aviaries that mirror the natural habitats of birds from all over the world. The park is also home to close to 100 penguins across five species and the most comprehensive collection of pelicans in the world. In hand with the Wildlife Reserve Singapore’s message of conservation and education, the Jurong Bird Park features a breeding and research centre. Through this centre, the Wildlife Reserves Singapore have successfully bred an impressive list of threatened species including the Bali mynah, blue throated macaw, black palm cockatoo and the red tailed black cockatoo.
Highlight: The iconic waterfall aviary is the park’s largest walk in aviary that houses over 600 birds as well as a 30 metre high waterfall. The tranquil sound of the falling water alongside the gentle songs of the birds unite harmoniously to form a soundtrack by Mother Nature that will relax and impress even the ornitophobians (i.e. those with a fear of birds) out there.
Night Safari, the world’s first safari park for animals, takes you on a moonlit tour through seven geographical zones to see the weird and wonderful creatures of the night. The park can be explored either on foot via four walking trails or on a 40-minute tram ride with live commentary. The Night Safari currently supports over 130 species and over 2,500 animals – 38% of which are recognised as threatened. Captive breeding of threatened species is one of Night Safari’s focus areas and over the last few years it has successfully bred Malayan tigers, Asian elephants, fishing cats, clouded leopards, anoas, markhors, bantengs, Malayan tapirs and Asian lions.
Highlight: If you can afford to, definitely upgrade to the premium safari adventurer tour. This tour takes you on an intimate VIP buggy-and-walking tour of the park in the company of an expert guide. This personalized experience allows you the opportunity to get all your questions about the park, its animal residents and the parks wildlife conservation programs answered personally by a knowledgeable guide. Excitement levels increase tenfold as you hop off your buggy for the included elephant encounter. In case you failed to be convinced by all the other demonstrations of the importance of conservation and proactive sustainability, this experience of being face-to-face feeding the most magnificent of creatures is sure to convince you to foster sustainable and ethical behaviors by inspiring a profound love and respect for Mother Nature on par with that of David Attenborough.
I was invited to visit the Wildlife Reserves Singapore as a guest, but as always all opinions are my own.