New system deemed to provide higher degree of safety; Overhaul to be implemented in phases

Singapore, 15 December 2014 – Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) will be phasing in the protected contact elephant management system for all elephants in Night Safari and Singapore Zoo over the next few years.

When fully in place, all staff training and interaction with elephants under the protected contact system will be conducted through a physical safety barrier. The protected contact management system is based on positive reinforcement where animals are motivated by rewards such as food.

The two parks will be among the first zoological institutions in Asia to implement the protected contact management system for all elephants in its collection. Among the modern zoo community, this method is currently deemed to be the safest way to manage elephants while ensuring proper animal care and welfare.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, WRS, said, “The decision to adopt the protected contact management system was made after an internal review by our elephant managers and healthcare experts, who found that this system of management offers a safer work environment for the elephant keepers. Importantly, the new system will continue to allow our keepers access to the elephants for their daily care, although separated by a safety barrier.”

The complete implementation of the protected contact system will take three to five years as it will involve major redesign and construction of the elephant exhibits, back-of-house facilities as well as re-training of our elephants and elephant keepers.

The first phase of moving towards the protected contact system will be the cessation of programmes involving direct visitor contact with the elephants. From 5 January 2015, elephant rides and other activities where elephants are taken out of their exhibits will cease at the zoo. This is to allow the elephants to spend more time in the exhibits and to socialise among themselves.

Visitors to Singapore Zoo will still be able to enjoy the Elephants at Work and Play show (available twice daily at 11.30am and 3.30pm), and take part in elephant feeding sessions which happens after each show.

Dr Cheng continued, “Providing meaningful interactive opportunities with our animals is one of the most valuable services we bring to our visitors. Our new elephant exhibits will be designed to enable up-close encounters, and give us the chance to offer new behind-the-scenes experiences.”