Zoo, formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens and commonly known locally as the Mandai 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 S$9m 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
and the Jurong BirdPark. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16% are considered threatened species. The zoo attracts about 1.6 million visitors each year.
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
. In 1977, primatologist Dr Francine Neago lived inside a cage with eighteen orangutans for six months to study their behavior and communication.
Animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures separated from the visitors by either dry or wet moats. The moats are concealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of vision. 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, electric scooters and wheelchairs can also be rented.
Education and conservation
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 conceived on 26 December 1990.
The zoo also embarked on various rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife. Steve Irwin, the animal activist and conservationalist known as "The Crocodile Hunter", admired the Singapore Zoo greatly, adopting it as the 'sister zoo' to the Australia
Zoo. He was at the Singapore Zoo in 2006 to officiate the opening of the Australian outback exhibit.
"Breakfast with an Orangutan" lets 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 the Singapore zoo.
The "Rainforest Fights Back" show is housed in the Shaw Amphitheatre, the main amphitheatre within 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 down so that they can be mounted.
The "Splash Safari" show showcases the zoo's aquatic mammals and birds. Seals and sealions perform tricks and pelicans demonstrate how they catch fish in their beaks, while dolphin swim in the pond below. The "Animal Friends" show, housed in the Kidzworld amphitheater in the zoo's children's section, features mostly domesticated animals such as dogs and parrots performing tricks.
There are three event venues available 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 facilitates birthday parties and weddings.