ROOTING FOR A REPTILE ROMANCE AT SINGAPORE ZOO

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KEEPERS RELOCATE FEMALE FALSE GHARIAL TO MEET POTENTIAL MATE

SINGAPORE, 27 Jul 2010 – It took the strength of more than 10 keepers at the Singapore Zoo to move a 3 metre long false gharial from her Bornean Marsh home early this month.

The 160kg reptile that has resided in the Zoo for the past 10 years was relocated to another exhibit because she was being bullied by a larger female. To keep the two females apart, keepers decided to move her to the Treetops Trail exhibit which is home to a 5m long, 600kg male. They hope the two massive crocodilians will take a liking to each other, and start breeding.

“By introducing these potential mates, we hope to diversify the gene pool and increase our numbers. Not much is known about the biology of this species in the wild. Currently, the estimated wild population is fewer than 2,500 individuals, so captive breeding could play a vital role in the recovery of this species” said Mr Subash Chandran, Curator, Singapore Zoo. Currently, Singapore Zoo houses 11 false gharials.

The false gharial or tomistoma, is a unique crocodilian that shares features with both the
Indian gharial and other crocodile species, including the saltwater crocodile. These reptiles have slightly thicker snouts compared to the Indian gharial, whose thin snout helps it catch fish underwater. Unlike the Indian gharial which feeds exclusively on fish, the false gharial also preys on small mammals such as monkeys and fruit bats. The false gharial is one of the largest crocodile species, reaching lengths of 5-6 metres and it also produces the largest eggs of any crocodile species.

Throughout zoos around the world, there has been little success with the captive breeding of false gharials. Following efforts to breed this species at the Singapore Zoo in recent years, mating of these unique crocodiles and egg laying by the females has been observed. However, the Zoo has yet to successfully hatch a baby false gharial.

The false gharial has a low population density and is classified as an endangered species. Once widely distributed in Indonesia, Malaysia and possibly Thailand, this species has declined throughout its range. Small remnant populations remain in Java and Peninsular Malaysia and there are low densities of the species in Sarawak, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The false gharial is now extinct in Thailand.

While the main threat to this species is habitat destruction, intensive hunting in some areas has also contributed to its decline. Other threats come from fishing practices, with false gharials either becoming tangled in fishing nets or losing their food source to local fisherman.

Singapore Zoo keepers hold the false gharial in place to calm and restrain the animal to ensure it doesn't injure itself or anyone around it

Singapore Zoo keepers moving the false gharial into a transportation container

Singapore Zoo keepers transporting the false gharial from the Bornean Marsh exhibit to the Treetops Trail

RED-FRONTED MACAWS AND HORNBILL CHICKS ADD TO THE JOY THIS BREEDING SEASON AT JURONG BIRD PARK

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Singapore, 12 July 2010 – It’s a full house, as far as the breeding season goes, at the Jurong Bird Park, with successful hatchings by four different species of birds, one of which is highly endangered. The park, which is the world’s largest bird park and one of four wildlife attractions by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the others being Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, recently hatched four red-fronted macaws, a great pied hornbill, an oriental pied hornbill and a black hornbill. The hatchings are part of an on-going award-winning breeding programme at the park, which is dedicated to the conservation of avian species.

“We are thrilled to welcome a nest-full of chicks into the park. The last hatching for the red-fronted macaw was 10 years ago. This time round, we had the rare occasion of having four eggs in one clutch, and we have successfully hatched all four eggs, which is quite an achievement,” said Mr Raja Segran, General Curator, Jurong Bird Park. “To add to the joy, we also welcomed three hornbill chicks, which greatly aid our ex-situ conservation efforts for these enigmatic species. Our award-winning breeding programme is a clear demonstration of our role and capabilities in the preservation of avian biodiversity.”

The red-fonted macaw is a highly endangered parrot species native to the mountainous area of south-central Bolivia. They are captured for the illegal pet trade and coupled with rapid habitat destruction, there are only a few hundred of them left in the wild.

Breeding season for the hornbills takes place annually from November to May the following year. Visitors to the Bird Park during this time may be able to catch a glimpse of the sealed-in nestbox, which typically signifies that the female hornbill and her eggs are in there. A narrow slit is left for the male hornbill to feed the female and eventually the chicks, until the female and chicks break out of the sealed-in nestbox. The great pied hornbill is the heaviest Asian hornbill and is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, due to their extreme selectivity for mates, as well as the long and strong pair bonds they form. It is listed as a threatened species because of hunting and habitat loss. The oriental pied hornbill was last sighted in Singapore more than 150 years ago, but it was only recently that they were once again sighted in 1994. They are the only truly wild hornbills found here. The black hornbill is a common species of hornbill found in various parts of Asia, such as Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

A recipient of many firsts, the Bird Park was the first globally to successfully breed the black hornbill in captivity in 1995. The Bird Park was also the first in the world to breed the Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise in captivity and received the Breeders’ Award from the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society in 2001.  They were also a recipient of the Conservation & Research Award for Oriental Pied Hornbill Conservation Project by IV International Symposium on Breeding Birds in Captivity in 2006.

Courtesy of Bjorn Olesen - Our newly hatched red-fronted macaw hatchlings

An oriental pied hornbill at Jurong Bird Park

A row of black hornbills at Jurong Bird Park

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE AND NGEE ANN POLYTECHNIC LAUNCH SINGAPORE’S FIRST COURSE IN ANIMAL MANAGEMENT

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Singapore, 5 July 2010Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), Asia’s leading operator of world-class wildlife attractions, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), one of Singapore’s leading institutions of higher learning, today launched the Certificate Programme in Animal Management course.

This is Singapore’s first and only such programme that provides training in the care, handling and husbandry of animals.  The comprehensive curriculum will cover mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians as well as exotic animals encountered in wildlife theme park settings. The principles of animal management and wildlife conservation will also be emphasised.

Launched with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between WRS and Ngee Ann’s School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology, the programme will be the first of many exciting collaborations between the polytechnic and WRS, the parent company of award-winning attractions, such as Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari.

The new course will be jointly administered by the two parties.  Ngee Ann will provide a strong foundation for the course, while more in-depth classes on topics such as wildlife nutrition and diet, social groupings and animal behaviour, as well as quarantine management and prophylactic medication will be conducted by WRS experts. The programme also includes modules on research techniques, public relations, conservation marketing and wildlife conservation.

WRS and Ngee Ann will also collaborate on Research & Development, staff exchange programmes, as well as internships and off-campus classes for students in Ngee Ann’s Diploma in Veterinary Bioscience (VBS) programme. WRS and Ngee Ann are also exploring the possibility of involving the VBS students as Volunteer Rangers, Conservation Ambassadors, Wildlife Buddies and Education Volunteers.

“The MOU marks an important step for WRS as we seek to develop the next generation of individuals who are passionate about wildlife and conservation,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of WRS. “A pillar of this partnership is the Certificate Programme in Animal Management course, which will be the only qualification available in Singapore and Southeast Asia that provides a foundation in the management skills required to run a successful wildlife institute. Animal management is an extremely specialised career and those in the industry often face unique challenges. We hope that by lending our expertise and vast experience in managing successful wildlife parks, we can provide keen and passionate students in Singapore and across the region, an opportunity to acquire the foundation and skills for conserving our world’s priceless animal species.”

”Ngee Ann Polytechnic is very proud to partner Wildlife Reserves Singapore to enhance the professionalism of the industry. The collaboration promises to be beneficial on several fronts, including education, training, and research. We will spare no effort to ensure the success of the new Certificate in Animal Management course, and look forward to launching a number of other exciting joint initiatives with Wildlife Reserves Singapore in the months ahead,” said Mr Chia Mia Chiang, Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

The one-year, part-time Certificate in Animal Management course will start in October 2010 with an expected intake of 25. Participants will need to complete six modules over the course of two semesters. To qualify for the course, participants need to have:

  • At least 2 GCE ‘O’ level subjects, including English, with a minimum grade of 7, excluding CCA, and/or
  • NTC-2/NITEC or ITC/Higher NITEC
  • Course fee: $2,600 per participant, excluding GST. WDA funding is available for this course.

    Website: To find out more about this course, please visit http://www.np.edu.sg/cet/Pages/default.aspx

    Mr Chia Mia Chiang, Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore at the MOU signing ceremony to launch Singapore's first certificate in animal management.

    Mr Chia Mia Chiang, Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic tour the Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre, where Dr Ng Weng Yan is conducting a health check on a Sunda pangolin.

    (front row, from left) Ngee Ann Polytechnic's first year Diploma in Veterinary Bioscience students Pamela Ho, Tan Shun Jing and Muhammad Haniff B Mohamad S learn about caring for an otter from Wesley Paul, Assistant Supervisor at Wildlife Reserves Singapore

    WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE SENDS 36 EXOTIC TORTOISES TO FORT WORTH ZOO IN TIE-UP WITH US CONSERVATION GROUP

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    Singapore, 1 Jul 2010Wildlife Reserves Singapore, parent company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, recently sent 36 Indian star tortoises to Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, in a first-time partnership with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA).

    TSA, a US-based conservation group, supports and manages recovery programmes for endangered turtles and tortoises around the world. Mostly donations from the public or confiscations from the police and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, some of these tortoises have been kept at the Singapore Zoo for nearly two years, as it is illegal to keep Indian star tortoises as pets in Singapore.

    This first shipment of Indian star tortoises marks the start of a long-term exchange between WRS and TSA to re-home exotic and endangered turtles and tortoises. The tortoises, which have arrived in Texas, will be distributed to TSA partner zoos across the United States, such as the Fort Worth Zoo, to be integrated in breeding programmes and educational animal exhibits.

    Native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Indian star tortoise is one of the most prized breeds in the international exotic pet trade because of its beautifully coloured patterned shell. It fetches a high profit margin and is very popular in overseas markets such as the United States and other European countries. One tortoise can cost as little as $5 in India, over $100 in Singapore, and as much as $1,000 in the United States.

    Raising these animals in captivity is challenging and usually leads to the demise of these precious tortoises as they are picky eaters.

    “Such exotic animals should not be kept as pets and their well-being should be left in the care of experts,” said Ms Fanny Lai, WRS’ Group CEO. “WRS continues to work with other institutions to ensure confiscated or donated animals are well-placed in reputable wildlife institutions, repatriated or where possible, rehabilitated and released into the wild.”

    A box of Indian Star Tortoises en route to Fort Worth Zoo from Singapore. Their black shells with striking yellow ridges make them popular exotic pets.

    Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) assistant curator, Bernard Santhosh, scans one of the tortoises to ensure it’s the correct one slated for this shipment. All WRS animals are microchipped for easy identification across borders.

    Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) assistant curator Bernard Santhosh gently places the tortoises into compartmentalised boxes to ensure their safe and comfortable journey to the United States. These tortoises can grow to as long as ten inches. One of its unique traits is the shape of its shell which naturally assists the tortoise to return to a stable stance after it has been turned over.

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