Saturday, October 10, 2009

Singapore Zoo

Animals! Bryan and I both love them, which is one of the reasons that this blog is overflowing with photos of lizards, snakes, monkeys, turtles, and other animals. We particularly enjoy seeing animals in the wild, but the zoo is nice too. Having heard lots of good things about the Singapore Zoo, we decided it was about time that we check it out. The zoo is often advertised as the "best zoo in Asia," and although it is the only Asian zoo I've ever been to, I think it would be really difficult to compete! The Singapore Zoo beats out any American zoo that I've ever been to, that's for sure!

One of the coolest things about the zoo is the orangutan habitat. The orangutans have lots of space to move around in, including lots of ropes and nets up in the trees, so they can walk back and forth. The exhibit was ingeniously designed to maximize space- the orangutans can walk on ropes that go over paths that the people are walking on. It's neat for the orangutans because they have a lot of room, and it's pretty cool for the people too, to see them swinging over their heads! We had lunch at a spot near the orangutans, and got to watch them while we we eating, which was really nice. The zoo does a good job of posting information about the animals in lots of places too- we learned that "orangutan" is Malay and means "man of the forest" (orang= man; utan= forest). And there was a BABY!!!! Who doesn't love a baby orangutan? He was super cute and had that awkward, wobbly toddler walk that I can't help but love.

Bryan and I are both big fans of the primates, so we ended up spending a lot of time watching the orangutans, and then the chimps, and then the gibbons. The chimp exhibit was spectacular. I think that chimps often look bored in zoos, but these guys were super active and rambunctious. They had lots of room to run around and the zoo seems to do a lot of enrichment programs for them. While we were there, some keepers were tossing fruit to the chimps, who were expert at catching- it was strange to watch because it looked a lot like people playing catch! It was especially interesting to see chimps that hadn't been tossed fruit in a minute or so- they put their hands out and gestured at the keepers with a "gimme" kind of motion. The chimps had a successful breeding program going on too, so there were several darling little ones wandering around. Props to Bryan for the photography skills that resulted in the heartwarming picture on the right.

And then there were the gibbons, Bryan's favorite. Hopefully sometime we'll get to go somewhere to see these guys in the world. It really is fascinating to watch the way they move with their huge arm muscles and tree-swinging agility.I always love turtles and tortoises, so we spent a little extra time with them. And I sat on the giant tortoise statue like a little kid.
One of the most unique exhibits was one that you walked into and the animals roamed free. It was a mixed-species exhibit, so there were huge iguanas, crowned pigeons (the largest pigeon in the world; they're about the size of chickens), two types of lemurs (the ringtailed lemur is pictured on the left), mousedeer with their strange little toothpick legs, ducks, sloths (SO WEIRD), Malayan flying foxes (which are actually bats and not foxes at all), tree kangaroos, parrots, and butterflies. I've been in exhibits like this before, where you're actually in the enclosure with the animals, but I've only really seen it with birds and once (at the Bronx Zoo) with Egyptian fruit bats. This was totally different- it was so strange to be right there with the lemurs, so close that you could reach out and touch them (but we didn't). At one point Bryan and I were standing on an observation deck watching the bats, when we heard a strange honking sound. We turned around to see a lemur perched on the railing right behind us, leaning forward and making terrifying sounds while looking right at us and the other people on the platform. We backed up pretty fast, but it was still a little scary. After the lemur chilled out a little bit we noticed a sign that said "Some new lemur babies and their mother are starting to explore the area. Please give them lots of space!" That would have been nice to know... Below is a super mellowed-out sloth and below that is me with a butterfly on my face. It first landed on my back, then migrated to my leg and eventually ended up on my face where it decided it was perfectly happy. There are no pictures of Bryan at the zoo because I relinquished control of the camera and let him do the photographing.Some more faves- this insanely lovable meerkat, working hard on sentry duty and totally looking like he's wearing pantaloons, a gangly giraffe, the first polar bear ever born in the tropics, a surprisingly colorful Komodo dragon, and a formidable-looking rhino.Overall, I can't really say enough good things about the zoo- the animals had a lot of space and looked healthy and happy; the signs were interesting and informative; the staff was helpful; even the food was good- unlike the usual American zoo fare, this zoo had healthy, affordable options (Indian food!!). The zoo made great use of more naturalistic enclosures- using moats and cliffs whenever possible instead of the traditional, depressing metal bars and panes of glass. And the place is huge- we spent so much time watching the chimps and the orangutans that we didn't make it through the whole zoo. But we did get passes through Bryan's company to go back on October 31st, which should be fun- we can visit the bats on Halloween! I can't wait to go back. From what I've seen so far, I really do think it's the best zoo that I've ever visited!

I leave you with these absurdly adorable little otter. We got to them right around feeding time, and I was shocked to see how much noise these little guys could make. So cute.

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