Singapore Zoo

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Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo Logo.png
Singapore Zoo entrance-15Feb2010.jpg
Entrance of the Singapore Zoo
Date opened27 June 1973; 47 years ago (1973-06-27)
LocationMandai, Singapore
80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826
Coordinates1°24′14″N 103°47′39″E / 1.403782°N 103.79414°E / 1.403782; 103.79414Coordinates: 1°24′14″N 103°47′39″E / 1.403782°N 103.79414°E / 1.403782; 103.79414
Land area28 ha (69 acres)
No. of animals2,530
No. of species315
Annual visitors2,132,270 (FY 2019/20)[1]
WebsiteSingapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo, formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens or Mandai Zoo and now commonly known locally as the Singapore Zoo, occupies 28 hectares (69 acres) on the margins of Upper Seletar Reservoir within Singapore's heavily forested central catchment area. The zoo was built at a cost of $9 million granted by the government of Singapore and opened on 27 June 1973. It is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, who also manage the neighbouring Night Safari, River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16 percent are considered to be threatened species. The zoo attracts over 2 million visitors every year.[1]

From the beginning, Singapore Zoo followed the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalistic, 'open' exhibits with hidden barriers, moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. It houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world.[2]


Chomel, a Sumatran orangutan, at the Singapore Zoo (Lionel Lee, 2009)

Prior to the establishment of Singapore Zoo, there were other short-lived zoos in Singapore's history, including the first recorded zoo founded in the early 1870s at the present-day Singapore Botanic Gardens,[3] a zoo opened in the 1920s in Ponggol (present-day Punggol) by animal trader William Lawrence Soma Basapa and two zoos run by two brothers by the surname of Chan during the 1960s.

The conception of the Singapore Zoo dates from 1969. At the time, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) decided to use some of its land holdings around reservoirs for parks and open recreational facilities. The executive chairman of the PUB, Dr Ong Swee Law, set aside 88 ha (220 acres) of land for the construction of a zoological garden.

In 1970, consultants and staff were hired, and in 1971, the construction of the basic 50 enclosures was started. Animals were collected from dealers and donated by sponsors. The director of the Colombo Zoo in Sri Lanka, Lyn de Alwis, was hired as a special consultant to work out the problems inherent in tropical zoos.[4]

On 27 June 1973, the Singapore Zoo opened its gates for the first time with a collection of 270 animals from over 72 species, and a staff of 130. By 1990, 1,600 animals from more than 160 species lived in social groups, housed in 65 landscaped exhibits with boundaries conceived to look as natural as possible.

In 1987, the zoo began to display rare animals loaned by other zoos. The first animals displayed in this manner were the rare golden snub-nosed monkeys from China in 1987, which attracted more than half a million visitors. This was followed by white tigers from Cincinnati Zoo in 1988 and giant pandas from Wolong National Nature Reserve in 1990.[2]

On 1 August 2000, Singapore Zoological Gardens, Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari were integrated under Wildlife Reserves Singapore, under the umbrella of Temasek Holdings. The zoo underwent a restructuring to improve its efficiency and branding which included merging of shared services and expansion of consultancy services overseas. Night Safari, which began under the zoo, became a separate branding entity.

The restructuring of the zoo was not without controversy. Several key staff, including CEO Bernard Harrison, left as a result in 2002, citing differences in management style. In 2003, Wildlife Reserves Singapore launched a massive rebranding exercise, which was shelved due to widespread public disapproval. The name of the zoo was simplified to Singapore Zoo sometime by 2005.

As a result of the restructuring, more facilities were launched, such as a S$3.6 million Wildlife Healthcare & Research Centre in 2005. Existing infrastructure was revamped to further enhance the experience of visitors. The growth in revenue continued on an upward trend.


Animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures separated from the visitors by dry and wet moats. The moats are concealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of sight. Dangerous animals that can climb well are housed in landscaped glass-fronted enclosures.

The zoo has not expanded beyond the original 28 hectares. However, 40 hectares of secondary forest were later developed into the Night Safari. The remaining undeveloped land has been kept as wooded land. This and the waters of Upper Seletar Reservoir contribute to the zoo, giving it a sense of natural, unrestricted space.

The zoo also offers various modes of rides available within the premises: trams, animals, boat, pony and horse carriage rides.

Strollers, wagons and wheelchairs can also be rented.

Animals:[5][needs update]

Treetops Trail

The first exhibit at the very beginning of the zoo, the Treetops Trail is a boardwalk themed on a rainforest habitat and showcases wildlife on at different layers of the rainforest in a free range setting. In the free-ranging rainforest, there is a large islands for siamangs, while in the moat surrounding the siamang islands there are false gharials. There is also an exhibit for greater mouse-deer, while visitors can interact closely with cotton-top tamarins , brown lemurs and white-faced sakis, who free-range in the entrance courtyard. Feeding sessions are held daily at the treetops trail when visitors can have a closer look at the siamangs. After the end of the boardwalk is a two tiered exhibit with an underwater viewing gallery for the zoo's Asian small-clawed otters. Beside the otter enclosure is a Bornean marsh themed exhibit with an underwater viewing gallery for a large troop of proboscis monkeys, who are housed together with oriental pied hornbills, Indian muntjacs, Asian arowanas, painted terrapins, clown loachs and bala sharks.

Wild Africa

Wild Africa is located on the southeastern flank of the zoo and displays African wildlife. Unlike most of the exhibits at the zoo which are tropical rainforest themed and densely vegetated, the exhibits in Wild Africa have very little shade. There are exhibits for Grévy's zebras, Nyalas, black wildebeest, ostriches, Rothschild's giraffes, and southern white rhinoceroses. Visitors can feed the rhinoceroses and giraffes in the morning and afternoon feeding trails. On the other side of the hoofstock are exhibits for carnivores. The zoo has a very large exhibit for African hunting dogs and has a designated area where visitors can watch the conditioning of the hunting dogs done by the zookeeper. There is a cheetah exhibit as well and an observation hut for an array of African artifacts. Then there is a glass viewing window and moated exhibit for African lions. Red river hogs and meerkats live nearby. Next to the lion viewing window are glass fronted displays for fossas, a Sri Lankan leopard and naked mole rats. Token feeding session for carnivores are done when the animals are extensively active.


Earlier called Australian Outback this exhibit underwent a long construction to display marsupials native to the Papua New Guinea region of Asia. The exhibit features a walk-thru for free ranging eastern grey kangaroos and agile wallabies from Australia. Besides, there are also exhibits for Goodfellow's tree-kangaroos and a southern cassowary from Papua New Guinea. A group of Branderhorst's snapping turtle housed in the moat of the outdoor tree kangaroo exhibit. Apart from Australasian species, there is a riverine themed exhibit displaying a large number of freshwater fishes and turtles like Vietnamese pond turtles, southern river terrapins and Roti Island snake-necked turtles, which lead to the underwater viewing window for the zoo's pygmy hippopotamus.

Primate Kingdom

A large number of the zoo's large collection of primates are exhibited in the Primate Kingdom where the primates have their own islands surrounded by moat. The exhibit is themed in a free range rainforest setting and ginger, palms and wild grass have been planted to make the exhibits look dense and replicate their natural habitats. There are islands for Javan langurs, red-shanked doucs, eastern black-and-white colobuses, black-handed spider monkeys, common squirrel monkeys, Venezuelan red howlers, black howler monkeys, western purple-faced langur, black-and-white ruffed lemurs and tufted capuchins. The moat surrounding the Primate Kingdom is filled with arapaimas.

Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia

This exhibit is based on The Great Rift Valley showcasing native Ethiopian wildlife in a setting designed as a rugged rockscape, rocky terrain and cascading waterfalls. The main exhibit costs around 4.2 million S$ has a waterfall and large troop of more than 80 hamadryas baboon and Nubian ibex. The exhibit also recreates the local life in traditional Amharic and Konso villages with African artifacts and rustic huts. Smaller exhibits include saddle-billed storks, blue-winged geese, meerkats, rock hyraxes, Greek tortoises and African pygmy goats. The exhibit is filled with waga sculptures, coffee ceremony huts, traditional pottery, and stone walled village huts to depict Amharic and Konso village lifestyle.

Fragile Forest

Fragile forest is one of the best exhibits at the zoo. It is a 20,000 cubic metre biodome that mimics a tropical rainforest. The animals are in through various strata of the rainforests, like the forest floor, rainforest understorey and canopy. Visitors can interact and get up close with denizens of tropical forest animals. At the beginning is a freshwater pond for ocellate river stingray, pig-nosed turtles and spotted whistling ducks. In the rainforest understorey, lesser mouse-deer, Victoria crowned pigeons, green iguanas, great argus pheasants, and Malayan peacock-pheasants can also be seen. In the elevated platform featuring canopy life visitors can interact with ring-tailed lemurs, white-faced sakis, Linnaeus's two-toed sloths, Prevost's squirrels, toco toucans and Malayan flying foxes swooping above. The fragile forest biodome also houses denizens of avifauna species who always fly past visitors and can be seen from the canopy platform as well. There are eclectus parrots, red lories, blue-crowned hanging parrots, white-rumped shama, green junglefowl, Chinese hwameis, pied imperial pigeon, Nicobar pigeons, Indochinese green magpie, Common green magpie, Wonga pigeon, Sulawesi ground dove, zebra doves, Baer's pochards, white-faced whistling ducks, wood ducks, Pinon's imperial pigeons, pink-necked green pigeon, Bruce's green pigeons, red-billed blue magpie, Violet turaco, Maranon pigeons and dozens of other bird species flying freely. At the end of the biodome is a glass fronted display for golden lion tamarins. Beside fragile forest is SPH foundation conservation centre which has a glass fronted exhibit for Celebes crested macaques. Outside the conservation centre is a glass fronted exhibit for pygmy marmosets, Goeldi's marmosets and white-lipped tamarins.

Discovery Outpost

After the Fragile Forest is an interactive invertebrate display where various species of invertebrates are housed in naturalistic terrariums. Visitors can interact with the creepy crawlies with the assistance of a keeper and let them crawl down their hands. There are terrariums for pond skaters, Chinese crocodile lizard, Chinese fire belly newts, three-horned rhinoceros beetle, Gooty sapphire ornamental, Malayan horned frogs, four-lined tree frogs, common green frogs, big-headed turtle, Borneo river toads, jungle nymphs, golden silk orb-weavers, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and dozens of invertebrates like various species of tarantulas, insects and caterpillars that visitors can interact with. There is a mangrove display with hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, banded archerfish, cardinal tetras and giant mudskippers.

Butterfly Aviary

Between the Fragile Forest biodome and Discovery Outpost is a butterfly walk thru aviary home to a large number of butterflies and occasionally Atlas moths. The aviary houses species like the blue glassy tiger, plain tiger, yellow glassy tiger, blue moon butterfly and many other butterfly species native to Singapore.

Elephants of Asia

Elephants of Asia is a 1 hectare exhibit featuring Burmese style architecture for the zoo's herd of Asian elephants. The herd consists of five female elephants. Komali is the herd's Sri Lankan elephant, Intan and Aprilla are the critically endangered Sumatran elephants and Jati and Gambir are the female Indian elephants. The exhibit has a waterfall, a large pond and a large yard. Feeding sessions and elephant demonstrations are held daily for visitors to interact with elephants and to display elephant behavior, conservation, educate people about elephant labour.

Free-Ranging Orangutan Island

Singapore zoo is the first and only zoo in the world to have the feature of free ranging orangutans. The free ranging orangutan area is spread throughout the zoo, including Wild Africa. It houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world. Orangutans have access to live trees and can move from tree to tree through overhanging wines and ropes placed high above the ground while the visitors watch from below. The orangutans can rest at various nets hanging above the ground while people can watch them and come down at various points for feeding sessions where visitors can interact with them. The free ranging area is accessible for the zoo's large troop of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. Besides there is an house for Charlie, the zoo's male Sumatran orangutan.

Frozen Tundra

Frozen Tundra is the exhibit modelling the frozen sprawl of the Arctic region with a size of 2 1/2 basketball courts. There are exhibits for the zoo's raccoon dogs and wolverine. Frozen Tundra also used to house Inuka, the world's only polar bear to be born in the tropics and Singapore zoo's mascot. But the exhibit has been empty since he died on 25 April 2018. Thousands of people from Singapore and outside the world came for his memorial. The exhibit will be revamped to house California sea lions and African penguins.

Chimpanzee island

Chimpanzee Island is an exhibit with a tropical hillside forest and a waterfall, for the zoo's troop of chimpanzees. The exhibit is equipped with fallen tree trunks and overhanging vines placed carefully which create a multi-tiered jungle gymnasium. Beside the chimpanzee exhibit is a moated enclosure for mandrills. The chimpanzee exhibit was originally intended to house western lowland gorillas but many gorillas died of a tropical disease due to which the remaining had to be sent back.

Reptile Garden

Reptile Garden is an exhibit complex at the centre of Singapore zoo with more than 150 species of reptiles from around the world on display through various exhibits. The reptiles are showcased through exhibits like Reptopia and the Tortoise Shell-Ter.

In the reptile garden complex is an exhibit for Komodo dragons. Nearby is a mixed exhibit for rhinoceros iguanas and African spurred tortoises, an exhibit for Aldabra giant tortoises and a glass fronted exhibit for Indian gharials.

Reptile garden's largest exhibit is a 100-seater underwater viewing gallery for saltwater crocodiles. The underwater viewing window is very large, giving the viewers and up-close and close encounter with the crocodiles. The crocodiles are housed with giant snakeheads and southern river terrapins.

Outside the reptile garden complex is a moated and a glass fronted exhibit for sun bears.


The Reptile Garden complex further leads to one of the best attractions and exhibits of the zoo, RepTopia. RepTopia is the zoo's reptile collection which houses reptiles from different geographical regions of the world under one roof. The reptiles are divided into different sections- Indo-Pacific, Neotropical Rainforests, African Jungles and Deserts of the World.

The Indo-Pacific area houses species like Burmese and reticulated pythons, king cobras, dog-toothed cat snakes, gold-ringed cat snakes, Lau banded iguanas, New Caledonian giant geckos, green tree pythons, oriental whip snakes, Emerald tree monitor, Prehensile-tailed skink and dozens of more Asiatic reptile species. African jungle exhibits include Gaboon vipers, African rock pythons, emperor scorpions, panther and Parson's chameleons, flat-backed spider tortoises and Malagasy leaf-nosed snakes amongst others. Neotropical Rainforests has a reptile walk through housing Cuvier's dwarf caimans, green iguanas and channel-billed toucans. Neotropical Rainforests' reptile displays have viewing windows that fold open for visitor interaction, up-close encounters and feeding sessions. Animals include caiman lizards, eyelash vipers, plumed basilisks, mata matas, emerald tree boas, Waxy-monkey treefrogs and a variety of poison dart frogs like the golden poison frog, blue poison dart frog, green and black poison dart frog and the dyeing poison dart frog just to name a few. Deserts of the World houses desert species like Mexican beaded lizards, western diamondback rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, bearded dragons, frill-necked lizards and many other species of reptiles found in deserts.

Tortoise Shell-Ter

Tortoise Shell-Ter has the Singapore Zoo's glass fronted displays for tortoises. The exhibit houses extremely rare and critically endangered species of tortoises like the ploughshare tortoise, radiated tortoise, Indian star tortoise, Burmese star tortoise, leopard tortoise, red-footed tortoise and many other species of tortoise. The tortoises are housed together with other animals to show ecological inter-relationship between species like golden coin turtles, Solomon Islands skink, sun conures, Namaqua doves, nyasa lovebirds, green-cheeked parakeets, rock monitors, Argentine tegus and green iguanas.

Splash Safari Amphitheatre

The Splash Safari Amphitheatre is where the sea lion show used to be held. The exhibit has an underwater viewing gallery displaying coastal species. When not performing in the Splash Safari show, the zoo's California sea lions reside here, next to African penguin and shorebirds like great white pelican, great cormorants, painted storks and many other birds. This area was the former home of the zoo's West Indian manatees before they were moved to the River Safari.

Other exhibits

Other animals in the collection include white tigers, Malayan tapirs, white-handed gibbons, agile gibbons, yellow-cheeked gibbons, red ruffed lemurs and babirusas.

Education and conservation[edit]

The Wildlife Healthcare & Research Centre was opened in March 2006 as part of the zoo's efforts in wildlife conservation. The centre further underscores Singapore Zoo and Night Safari's commitment to conservation research, providing the infrastructure for the parks and overseas zoological partners to better execute their research programmes. The Singapore Zoo is the first zoo in the world to breed a polar bear in the tropics. Inuka was born on 26 December 1990, died 25 April 2018 (aged 27).[2]

The zoo also embarked on various rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife. Steve Irwin, the animal activist and conservationist known as "The Crocodile Hunter", admired the Singapore Zoo greatly, adopting it as the 'sister zoo' to Australia Zoo. He was at the Singapore Zoo in 2006 to officiate the opening of the Australian Outback exhibit.[6]


"Breakfast with an Orangutan" allows visitors to meet and interact closely with the orangutans in the zoo, which has included Ah Meng (died on 8 February 2008) who was an icon of the Singapore tourism industry. Animal shows, as well as token feedings coupled with live commentaries by keepers, are also the daily staple in Singapore Zoo.

The "Rainforest Fights Back" show is housed in the Shaw Amphitheatre, the main amphitheatre in the zoo. Actors and performers act alongside the animals: in-show, a villainous poacher attempts to mow down a section of tropical rainforest for land development, and is foiled by the native people and the animals of the rainforest—orangutans, lemurs, pea-fowls, otters and cockatiels.

The "Elephants at Work and Play" show demonstrates how elephants are used as beasts of burden in south-east Asian countries. The animal caretakers are referred to as mahouts, and the show simulates how a mahout would instruct an elephant to transport logs or kneel so that they can be mounted.

The "Splash Safari" show exhibits the zoo's aquatic mammals and birds. Seals and sea lions perform tricks, and pelicans demonstrate how they catch fish in their beaks, while dolphins swim in the pond.

The "Animal Friends" show, housed in the Kidzworld amphitheatre in the zoo's children's section, features mostly domesticated animals such as dogs and parrots performing tricks with the aim of teaching young children about pet responsibility.

Organising events[edit]

There are three events venues in the zoo: Forest Lodge, Pavilion-By-the-Lake and Garden Pavilion. There are also three cocktail venues: Elephants of Asia, Tiger Trek and Treetops Trail. The Singapore Zoo also caters for birthday parties and weddings.


On 7 March 1973, a black panther escaped from the zoo before it had opened.[7]

In early 1974, a hippopotamus named Congo escaped from the zoo and spent 47 days in the Seletar Reservoir.[8]

Other escapes in 1974 included an eland and a tiger.[9]

On 13 November 2008, two Bengal white tigers mauled a zoo cleaner to death after he jumped into a moat surrounding their enclosure and taunted the animals.[10]


Awarded to Singapore Zoo:[11]

  • Travellers' Choice Awards - Top 3 Zoos in the World, 2018
  • Singapore Tourism Awards, 2017
  • Traveller's Choice Awards - Zoos and Aquariums, 2017, 2015 and 2014
  • Best Customer Service (Retail) Award, 2014
  • Meritorious Defence Partner Award, 2013
  • Singapore Experience Awards, 2013
  • Singapore Service Award, 2013
  • Singapore Service Excellence Medallion - Organisation, 2013
  • Meritorious Defence Partner Award, 2012
  • Most Popular Wildlife Park, Asian Attractions Awards, 2011
  • Michelin 3-star rating, 2008
  • Best Breakfast, 40 Jewels in ASEAN's Crown, 2007
  • One of the World's Best Zoos,, 2007
  • Bronze, Singapore H.E.A.L.T.H Awards, 2004
  • Leisure Attraction of the Year, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 20th and 22nd Singapore Tourism Board Awards
  • Best New Attraction for the hamadryas baboons exhibit, ASEAN Tourism Association, 2002
  • Cleanest Toilet, Ministry of Environment, 1997 and 1998



Public transportation[edit]

Singapore Zoo is not served directly by any MRT line, with the nearest station being the upcoming Springleaf MRT station.

There are three bus services operated by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses which calls at the bus stop near to the Zoo.[12]

Service Destination Notes
SBS Transit Services
138 Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange
SMRT Buses Services
926 Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange Suspended till further notice
927 Choa Chu Kang Bus Interchange


A shuttle service, known as the Mandai Khatib Shuttle, plies daily between Khatib MRT station and the Zoo. A one-way trip cost $1 for everyone above the age of three.[13][14] A separate service, known as the Mandai Express, operates on weekends and holidays to and from three locations in Bedok, Sengkang, and Tampines. A one-way trip cost between $1 and $3 for everyone above the age of three.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b "WRS Yearbook 2018/2019" (PDF). Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
  2. ^ a b c Catharine E. Bell (January 2001). Encyclopedia of the World's Zoos. Taylor & Francis. p. 1155. ISBN 978-1-57958-174-9.
  3. ^ "Fortnight's summary". The Straits Times. 5 March 1870.
  4. ^ Vernon N. Kisling (18 September 2000). Zoo and Aquarium History: Ancient Animal Collections to Zoological Gardens. CRC Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-1-4200-3924-5.
  5. ^ "Map of Singapore Zoo" (PDF). Singapore Zoo. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  6. ^ "Remembering Steve Irwin" (PDF). Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Headlines that shook Singapore (since 1955)". Remember Singapore. 24 January 2011. Archived from the original on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Flashback: 40 Years of The Singapore Zoo". The Straits Times. 2013. Archived from the original on 16 June 2015.
  9. ^ "Bernard Harrison interview (part 2)". The Independent Singapore. 20 September 2013. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014.
  10. ^ "White tigers maul man to death in Singapore zoo". 13 November 2008 – via
  11. ^ "About Singapore Zoo". Archived from the original on 22 March 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Getting here".
  13. ^ "Getting here - Mandai Khatib Shuttle".
  14. ^ Chew, Hui Min (9 March 2017). "New daily express bus from Khatib to Mandai wildlife parks". The Straits Times. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Getting here - Mandai Express".
  16. ^ "Mandai Express".


  • Véronique Sanson (1992). Gardens and Parks of Singapore. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-588588-0
  • Ilsa Sharp (1994). The First 21 Years: The Singapore Zoological Gardens Story. Singapore Zoological Gardens. ISBN 981-00-5674-5

External links[edit]