Leave a comment

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.



1 Comment


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.


1 Comment


The newborn, christened Valentine, can already be seen comfortably gliding the waters of the Caribbean manatee exhibit in Singapore Zoo. PHOTO CREDITS: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore, 3 April 2012Singapore Zoo celebrated the latest addition to the family on 13 February 2012 when one of our grand dames, Eva the 20-year-old Caribbean or West Indian manatee, gave birth to male twins.

Unfortunately only one of her offspring survived. The other died soon after birth and was found to have a heart defect. Twin births are extremely rare for manatees, which are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN# Red List of Threatened Species

Female manatees reach sexual maturity as young as three years, and typically give birth to a single calf every two years, after a gestation of 12 months. It takes a further 12-18 months to wean the calf. With seven children and two grandchildren to her name, Eva is truly a star. Singapore Zoo now boasts nine of these fascinating creatures, the largest collection among the world’s ISIS institutions.

Valentine, the Caribbean manatee poses next to a bigger family member. PHOTO CREDITS: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Although manatee babies seldom stray from their mothers for the first one to two years of their lives, Valentine is comfortable exploring the safe haven of his habitat by himself. PHOTO CREDITS: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The newborn has been christened Valentine, and can already be seen independently exploring the pool although calves usually do not stray from their mothers for the first one to two years of their lives. The last manatee birth was in 2010, a male named Junior that is often seen playing with his baby brother.

“This birth represents another feather in our conservation cap and is the result of the hard work of our keepers and vets, who ensure the highest standard of husbandry and care for all our animals. Although we mourn the loss of his twin, we hope this young one will play an important role in the global captive breeding programme for manatees in years to come,” said Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, Assistant Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo.

The manatee is a fully aquatic marine mammal that can grow up to four metres and weigh 590kg. Although resembling a cross between a hippopotamus and a seal, it is actually most closely related to the elephant. Manatees spend six to eight hours a day grazing aquatic plants, which is why they are also known as sea cows. Adults can consume 50-100kg a day (equivalent to 10-15 per cent of their body weight).

West Indian manatees like the ones in the Zoo inhabit the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Though bulky in size, they are able to hit up to 30 km/h in short bursts of swimming.

In the wild, manatees are particularly threatened by human activity due to dense coastal development in their habitats, which has led to the entry of propeller-driven boats and ships. These propellers can scar, maim, or even kill manatees. Those that are not killed instantly may die of infections from their wounds. Scientists however, have found that the situation can be improved when boats in the area have higher frequencies that will alert the manatees to danger and allow them to swim away. Other human-related threats include entrapment in floodgates, canal locks and fishing lines.

Guests to Singapore Zoo can already see the baby in its habitat, and also come up close to these amiable animals during the daily feeding session at 1.30pm.

*ISIS: International Species Information System
#IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature


1 Comment


Singapore, 05 October 2011 – Less than a year after moving to a new home, a pair of African penguins are proud parents of a feisty penguin chick. The couple, who were originally residents of Singapore Zoo, started breeding and nesting soon after relocating to their new home in Jurong Bird Park.

The cuddly chick was hatched on 22 August 2011 and at just 10 days old, weighed 425g; a desirable weight for an African penguin hatchling. Unlike adult penguins, a hatchling usually dons a grey juvenile plumage after its first moult of feathers which occurs between its second and third month of life.

“We are delighted to welcome Bird Park’s first African penguin chick. Birds normally breed when they feel safe, happy and secure in their environment. Although the penguins have been here for only 9 months, they have already acclimatised to their new environment under the watchful eye of the keepers. The hatchling is the first for the five-year-old female penguin, Mate,” said Mr Raja Segran, General Manager, Jurong Bird Park. “While Mate and the male African penguin, Captain, have very good chemistry, they required some help from our keepers when it came to nesting at their new home at the Park.”

As part of the husbandry procedures in the Bird Park, avian keepers provided sand and hay as nesting materials to encourage them to breed. Diet also plays an important part, and all the above, coupled with tender loving care from the keepers, were key in making the African penguins feel comfortable and secure to engage in breeding.

Previously categorised as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List for bird species, African penguins are now recognised as an endangered species. The decline in the population is attributed to lack of food due to over-fishing in surrounding waters. Other reasons include hunting by predators and egg-collecting.

Commonly found in the offshore islands along the coast of South Africa and Namibia, these penguins are also widely known as Jackass penguins because of their donkey-like bray. Easily seen with black stripes and spots similar to the Humboldt penguin, African Penguins are the only penguin species which are adaptable to temperate climates.

The Penguin Coast, consisting of an outdoor and an indoor exhibit spanning 1,600 metres, is home to six penguin species at the bird park. The indoor climate-controlled den features the Humboldts, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Fairy and King Penguins, while African Penguins bask in the outdoor enclosure.

Mate and Captain

Mate and Captain


Leave a comment

Singapore, 28 December 2010 – Only a handful of these elusive and rare giant river terrapins are known to be left in their native homeland Cambodia – but the Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four of them, with more expected to join the family of eight in the months to come.

Both female terrapins at the zoo were recently found to be gravid with eggs, which are due to be laid anytime now. X-ray examinations on 13 December 2010 revealed that they were carrying over 40 eggs between them. The incubation period for these terrapins ranges from 68 to 112 days.

Giant river terrapins lay their eggs only once a year and the Singapore Zoo has successfully had four hatchlings to date in 2007 and 2009 – two of which are now on display at the Proboscis Monkey pool, while the others are behind the scenes in our turtle hatchery facility. The park is currently home to the two adult females, two adult males and the four hatchlings. Considered an extremely rare species, this breed, also known as Batagur affinis, is native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sumatra.

“It is relatively easy to get the terrapins to mate but the challenge is getting them to nest on an artificial beach. In the past, the terrapins have laid their clutches of eggs in water and we were only able to rescue a few of the eggs. This is why we have had only a small number of hatchlings despite each clutch consisting over 20 eggs,” said Biswajit Guha, Director, Singapore Zoo. “Similarly in the wild, as they migrate to their nesting beach, they can be deterred from laying their eggs by disturbances on or around the beach.”

During the mating season, the males’ head, neck and legs turn black and their irises change, from yellow to pure white, with the colours reverting at the end of the mating season. Females swim far upstream from their usual estuarine habitats, as far as 80km, to nest communally on sand bars and river banks.

Due to their picky breeding requirements and obscure nature, conservationists have tried very hard to rebuild their dwindling populations. In fact, this species was thought to be extinct in Cambodia until some specimens were rediscovered in 2001. They play a key role in the overall ecosystem by aiding in seed dispersal and vegetation management, controlling insect and snail populations, and keeping freshwater systems clean by scavenging on dead animals.

The giant river terrapin is listed as critically endangered in the 2009 IUCN Red List and in CITES Appendix I. This species and other Asian turtles are in grave danger for a number of reasons including the thriving illegal wildlife trade, and their appeal as a delicacy in Asia.

Earlier this year, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which operates the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to embark on joint studies in the region, including a project to conserve giant river terrapins in Asia. WRS also works closely with local authorities and conservation groups such as Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to re- home confiscated wild turtles and tortoises or distribute them to partner zoos to be integrated into breeding programmes and educational animal exhibits.

A giant river terrapin nesting on an artificial beach at Singapore Zoo’s Bornean Marsh exhibit

An x-ray showing the terrapin’s eggs


Leave a comment

Singapore, 17 September 2010 – The Singapore Zoo recently welcomed a baby siamang early this year on 15 March, marking the first successful birth in 17 years.

Born to parents Anna and Elmo, the six-month-old baby belongs to a sub-species of gibbons, which are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity due to their solitary and monogamous nature.

“This first-born by Anna demonstrates Singapore Zoo’s success in conserving a sustainable population of endangered animal species in captivity,” said Biswajit Guha, Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo. “We have also bred other endangered primates such as the orang utan, proboscis monkey and Douc langurs. And now, visitors to the park can spot the baby siamang at its Treetops Trail exhibit, while enjoying the calls made by the other siamangs in the morning.”

Siamangs are the largest of the lesser apes and are found mostly in the forests of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. They are typically black in colour with reddish-brown eyebrows and have webbings between their second and third toes. Another unique trait of the siamang is the amazingly loud vocal sound it makes which includes booms, hoots and barks. These sounds are amplified to ear-splitting levels by its large grey or pink throat sac. In the wild, their call has been known to carry a distance of up to three kilometres.

Anna and the baby male primate were released into the exhibit on 24 August, joining Elmo, the father of the baby. Among gibbons, siamangs form the closest bonds within the family unit and members are rarely separated from one another by more than 30m.

These arboreal primates which depend heavily on the forest for existence are listed as ‘endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species. Nearly 40 per cent of their habitat is being damaged or destroyed as a result of human encroachment and other threats such as hunting and poaching. Although the species is currently protected throughout its home range, they can still reach a critically endangered status in the future if these threats continue to escalate.

Anna, and her six-month old male baby, Simbu. Equipped with remarkable vocal ability, adult pairs sing elaborate duets to each other, which last 30 minutes or more. This vocal display demarcates the pair’s territory and can be heard by rivals up to 3.2km away.

While the great apes tend to build nests in which they sleep, siamangs use the tough, horny pads on their bottoms to provide cushioning for a comfortable night in the treetops.

The baby stays close to its mother and makes some exploratory attempts at reaching for his father. The family will now be at Treetops Trail every day, dependent on the weather. The siamang disperses seeds through defecation as it travels across its territory. It can carry seeds and defecate over 300 m from the source, and this supports regeneration of the forest.


1 Comment


Singapore, 17 April, 2009 – In a continuous effort to breed threatened species, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) today received an Indian rhino from Oklahoma City Zoo, USA, for its animal breeding programme. The rhino, which flew in via Singapore Airlines Cargo accompanied by a veterinarian and a keeper, arrived in Singapore on April 18. The female rhino, Mary aged 19, will be quarantined for one month. Visitors can look forward to view her on exhibit during the upcoming June school holidays.

“Wildlife Reserves Singapore is pleased that Mary arrived safely. Singapore Airlines Cargo has been a trusted partner in transporting our precious and priceless animals to and from our parks. We are pleased to add Mary to the Indian rhino family as it will allow her to mingle, and we hope she will find the right partner in our male rhino that is currently on exhibit at the “Nepalese River Valley‟,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, the Indian rhino is “vulnerable” meaning that it is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Indian rhinos are among the largest of all rhino species, similar to the white rhino. Their natural habitat ranges include tall grasslands, alluvial plains, adjacent swamps and forests of India and Nepal. They are becoming endangered due to habitat loss, coupled with the regard in some culture that rhino horns are an aphrodisiac.

In the first half of the year, WRS parks Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, have scheduled several animal exchanges with other zoos globally. This is in line with WRS’ objective to raise awareness and conservation of species whose population are currently under threat. On 25 March, Night Safari received three Asian lions from Sakkarbaug Zoological Gardens, India. In exchange, Singapore Zoo sent two pairs of cheetahs on 28 March, all on Singapore Airlines Cargo.

“As a supporter of wildlife conservation, we are pleased to be a carrier and logistics partner of choice in this worthy endeavor. Our advanced B747-400 freighters, equipped with the necessary equipment to regulate temperature and cabin pressure, help towards the safe and successful delivery of these animals,” said Mr Tan Tiow Kor, Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing, Singapore Airlines Cargo representative.

Older Entries