Over thirty years have gone by since that summer morning in (about) 1978 when Daniel and Chloe sang ‘we’re all going to the zoo tomorrow’ all the way to London Zoo. It turns out zoos have changed a LOT since then, and today we visited one of the best examples in the world.
Whether you love them or hate them, Singapore Zoo is hitting a lot of the right buttons in terms of animal enclosures and conservation programmes. Part of the effort that increased wild white rhino numbers from only 50 to over 10,000 today, they are also part of the transformation of the living conditions of captive animals.
Gone are the square, concrete pens filled with pacing lions. Instead, they stare out at us from barely 10 metres away, only a trench and some fencing disguised by vines separating predators and lunch. Most disconcerting.
The orangutans we saw were visibly better nourished and relaxed than those we saw in the jungle of Borneo (of course, they didn’t have to compete for habitat with the global demand for Kit Kats). Even the big cats, which always seem the cruellest of animals to cage, were lively but not manic.
Overall, Singapore Zoo was a fascinating experience. The only animals we were separated from by glass were venomous or extremely good at jumping. There was not a bar in sight. Extraordinary.