Lovingly raised by human caregivers as a calf, Canola makes a big splash with her special story; June is Manatee Madness month at River Safari with new behind-the-scenes tour with Canola

Left: Canola, the first manatee to be hand-raised by keepers in River Safari, is now the park’s animal icon who will act as the wildlife ambassador for her kind and threatened animal species in the wild.
Right: For the month of June, guests to River Safari can sign up for a special behind-the-scenes tour with Canola, where they can observe how aquarists feed baby manatees and conduct operant conditioning with Canola.

SINGAPORE, 25 May 2016 – Canola the manatee has a dramatic life story, to say the least. Abandoned as a calf, her keepers came to the newborn’s rescue to ensure her survival. Today, barely two years old, her fortunes have taken another upswing as Canola is named the animal icon of River Safari.

Born 6 August 2014, Canola was abandoned by her mother. Without her mother’s milk, the infant’s life was in serious danger. To give her a chance at survival, River Safari’s aquarists dived in to render round-the-clock care for the newborn. Canola had to be bottle-fed every two to three hours during the first three months of her life. To increase her fat intake and substitute her mother’s highly nutritious milk, Canola was given a special milk formula infused with canola oil, which inspired her name.

Canola was successfully reintroduced to the manatee herd under the doting care and great team effort of her human caregivers in 2014, and can now be seen swimming along with the herd in the world’s largest freshwater aquarium—River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest.

In her new role as River Safari’s animal icon, Canola will be the wildlife ambassador for her species and all threatened wildlife in the wild. River Safari is home to 14 West Indian manatees, six of which are male while the rest are female. Manatees are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers have declined in the last century due to hunting pressures, entrapment in commercial nets and collisions with propellers and motorboats.

Through captive breeding of manatees, River Safari hopes to contribute to the species’ population. Over 10 manatees have been born in Singapore. The park has plans to repatriate two manatees to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean as part of a breeding programme to repopulate the region where wild manatees have become extinct for the past 100 years.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “Canola is the first manatee hand-raised by aquarists in River Safari. To ensure her health and wellbeing, her keepers have maintained a very close bond with her through ongoing medical training sessions. By making Canola an icon and ambassador animal, we hope her life story will inspire our guests to join in our conservation efforts to save threatened freshwater wildlife.”

As a hand-raised manatee, Canola is accustomed to close contact with humans. Guests at River Safari can get an up-close encounter with Canola over the June holidays if they sign up for a special behind-the-scenes tour. Aquarists will demonstrate how they hand-raise baby manatees, and work with Canola on operant conditioning exercises where the manatee is trained to roll over for medical procedures such as injections and ultrasound scans.

Mr Keith So, Deputy Head Aquarist, River Safari, said, “Canola has a special place in our hearts. Despite having a rough start to her life, she has developed a very gentle, kind and patient nature. It was a unanimous decision to select her as our animal icon.”
In line with Canola’s new role as River Safari’s animal icon, a series of illustrations which depict various facets of her personality has been developed. These capture her in different poses and should endear Canola to people of all ages.





Left: Canola the manatee is River Safari’s new animal icon and a series of illustrations depicting various facets of her personality has been developed.


On weekends from 4 to 26 June, members of the public can join Manatee Madness in River Safari, which offers a series of manatee-themed activities, a manatee mascot meet-and-greet and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with Canola.

Dates: 11, 19, 25 June 2016
Time: 9.30am to 11.00am
Maximum capacity: 20pax
Fee: $18 per pax
Note: This tour is open to sign ups only and subject to availability. Admission charges of $30 per adult, $20 per child (3 to 12 years old), and $15 per senior citizen (above 60 years old) apply

To sign up for the tour, visit Signups open on 31 May 2016.

Dates: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 June 2016 (weekends only)
Time: 10.00am to 7.00pm (various timings)
Venue: River Safari (activities at various locations around the park)
Fee: Activities are free but admission charges of $30 per adult, $20 per child (3 to 12 years old), and $15 per senior citizen (above 60 years old) apply
For more information on Manatee Madness, visit

manatee madness



Pangolin baby had 50 per cent chance of survival under human care;
Guests can find out more about the elusive creature at park’s upcoming keeper interaction programme

IMAGE 1 (left): Found weak, hungry, and wandering alone at Upper Thomson Road on 22 February this year, the abandoned critically endangered Sunda pangolin was taken to Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s rescued wildlife centre where vets made a desperate attempt to hand-raise him. To encourage his natural behaviour, the baby pangolin is taken for walks every morning and evening. Foraging exercises the critically endangered animal’s keen sense of smell and strong claws.

IMAGE 2 (right): The abandoned baby pangolin was bottle-fed kitten milk replacer (KMR), a substitute for his mother’s milk, before being introduced to ants’ eggs, which he now relishes. Eventually, the pangolin will progress to the captive diet, a protein-rich formula which includes minced beef, ants’ eggs, mealworms and insectivore supplements.


SINGAPORE, 7 April 2016 — Hungrily lapping up ants’ eggs, vigorously burrowing around his play tub and stubbornly clinging on to his caretaker’s arm despite being coaxed off—all heartening signs that the abandoned critically endangered baby Sunda pangolin was flourishing under the doting care of his human foster parents. This was a cause for celebration, for the robust creature today is a far cry from the wisp he had been weeks before.

Found weak, hungry, and wandering alone at Upper Thomson Road on 22 February, the four-month old pangolin was taken to Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s (WRS) rescued wildlife centre where vets made a desperate attempt to hand-raise him—a mammoth task as the delicate species generally does not thrive under human care.

The first and biggest challenge was his diet. While healthy, the baby rejected kitten milk replacer (KMR) as he was used to his mother’s milk. In addition, the scaly anteater was at a crucial point in his life of weaning off milk onto solid food, a diet of ants and termites. This change in diet caused intestinal issues and vets had to provide 24 hour care to the precious, critically endangered baby.

After a precarious one and a half week period, the pangolin proved resilient. He started drinking KMR four times a day and now relishes ants’ eggs. His milk intake has been reduced to twice daily and he is being eased into a specialised diet which the adult pangolins at Night Safari take.

Apart from diet, to encourage his natural behaviour, the baby pangolin is taken for walks every morning and evening on forested grounds. Foraging exercises the critically endangered animal’s keen sense of smell and strong claws.

Having grown from 776g to 1.1kg, the young pangolin’s makeshift quarters was upgraded to accommodate his growth. He now resides in the veterinary ward with a roomy tub for play and rest, complete with a large branch to climb on. When fully grown, a male Sunda pangolin can weigh up to 7.5kg.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said, “Successfully raising a Sunda pangolin from such a young age is a real achievement. This critically endangered species has notoriously low survival rates under human care, and this experience has given us invaluable knowledge on how to care for the species.”

Once the baby pangolin is independent and graduates to the captive diet, he will join the seven Sunda pangolins at Night Safari’s Fishing Cat Trail, two of which were born under human care. Night Safari opened the world’s first Sunda pangolin exhibit in 2009.

The Sunda pangolin is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species. Globally, all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction as a result of unsustainable illegal trade to supply human consumption and traditional medicine in East Asia. In Singapore, the Sunda pangolin is threatened with habitat loss and motor vehicle accidents. WRS is funding ecological and genetic studies of this species whose natural history is not well understood.

As part of WRS’ efforts to highlight the plight of this dwindling species, Night Safari will begin its new keeper interaction cum feeding programme in mid-May. During the session, a keeper will educate visitors on the pangolin’s history and situation in the wild while pangolin feeding takes place in the exhibit. Due to their secretive nature, few know about the world’s only scaly mammal, so the session will provide rare insights of this creature’s natural behaviour, such as climbing trees and foraging for food.

*IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of NatureImage 3_Baby pangolin climbs tree_WRS

 IMAGE 3 (left): Learning to climb trees exercises the tree-dwelling Sunda pangolin’s strong claws and semi-prehensile tail (tails which are capable of grasping), which it uses to grip bark and scale trees. Having grown bigger and stronger, he has taken to wrapping his tail around his caregiver’s arm, unwilling to let go.






Image 4_Snoozing baby pangolin_WRS




IMAGE 4 (left): The baby pangolin curls up as he snoozes soundly. He only learnt to curl fully on 3 March 2016, as pictured. Curling up into a tight ball is the pangolin’s best defense against predators but ironically its worst defense against human beings, as it allows poachers to easily pick it up and toss it into a bag.

Image 5_Baby pangolin eats ants eggs_WRS

IMAGE 5 (left): The pangolin’s caregivers add his favourite ants’ eggs to the captive diet to encourage him to take it, but the sneaky baby would pick out just the ants’ eggs and leave the rest untouched.




A pair of fishing cat kittens (left) and a pair of bearcat cubs (right) PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

24 April 2012 – The world’s first Night Safari recently celebrated the birth of a pair of fishing cats and bearcats. The fishing cats were born on January 13 while the bearcat litter joined approximately two weeks later, on January 26.

The young fishing cats, one male and one female, are currently being hand-raised to increase the kittens’ chances of survival, as their four-year-old mother is relatively inexperienced. At three-months-old, the kittens weigh approximately 3kg and are growing strong and healthy.

The two other cubs – both currently weighing 2.5kg – are binturongs, also known as bearcats. Over the years, the park has successfully bred 60 bearcats. This secretive animal has a face like a cat’s and a body like a bear’s. Despite its name, the bearcat is neither a bear nor a cat. It is actually a member of the civet family. Found primarily on treetops in the rainforest of south and southeast Asia, bearcats have a mixed diet of fruits, leaves, birds, carrion, fish and eggs.

Due to habitat destruction, the numbers of fishing cats and bearcats are declining in the wild. In addition to habitat loss, over-exploitation of local fish stocks threatens the survival of fishing cats. Bearcats are captured for the pet trade, and their skins and body parts are traded for traditional medicine in some Asian countries. Fishing cats are listed as endangered on the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species while bearcats are classified as vulnerable.

Night Safari displays the bearcats and fishing cats in the Fishing Cat Trail.

Being one of the few cats that love water, fishing cats eat primarily fish but will also prey on crustaceans, frogs and snakes. The cat attracts fish by lightly tapping the water's surface with its paw, mimicking insect movements. It then dives into the water to catch the fish.
A curious fishing cat kitten explores its area. Fishing cats are commonly found near densely vegetated areas near the marshes, mangrove swamps and rivers of Asia.
In Malay, the bearcat is also known as “musang manis” – the word “manis” means sweet and this relates to the animal’s pleasant scent, which is said to smell like pandan leaves or popcorn. The bearcat is actually a civet, which is characterised by an elongated body and anal scent glands that produce secretions for scent marking.
A bearcat cub demonstrates its ability to hang upside down with its long, prehensile tail to grip on the tree branch. The tail is also equipped with a leathery patch at the end for extra grip.