Ah Meng’s legacy lives on in granddaughter and annual run at Night Safari and Singapore Zoo; Safari Zoo Run 2016 marks public debut of newly crowned Ah Meng

Singapore, 27 February 2016 — Over 8,500 participants will pay homage to Singapore Zoo’s newly crowned animal ambassador Ah Meng over the weekend of 27 and 28 February 2016 as they race through the lush forested trails of Mandai in the eighth instalment of Safari Zoo Run, a race conceptualised to celebrate the life of the first Ah Meng.

Guest of Honour, Mr S Dhanabalan, Chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings, flagged off the first race before meeting with Ah Meng, who was officially crowned only one day earlier in a private event. Lucky runners also got a closer glimpse of the new queen of the jungle as she descended from her treetop throne.

Mr Mike Barclay, CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, joined the action and ran alongside runners in the 10km competitive category. Families could enjoy the more manageable 5.5km run. Races on Day 2 include the 5.5km competitive and family runs, and 2.5km kids and family dashes. Participants over both days also get to enjoy appearances by animal mascots, educational show and tell sessions and animal photography opportunities after their races.

Safari Zoo Run was conceived eight years ago and celebrates the life of Ah Meng, Singapore Zoo’s iconic Sumatran orangutan, who died of old age in February 2008. Her popularity was so great that to many Singaporeans, the name Ah Meng is synonymous with orangutans. Singapore Zoo introduced a new Ah Meng, eight years after the first passed on, in hopes that her legacy will live on and her descendants can continue to be animal ambassadors to inspire people to care for orangutans and other threatened species.

A part of the proceeds from Safari Zoo Run 2016 will go towards aiding the conservation efforts of Singapore Zoo and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Image 1 - Safari Zoo Run 2016_WRSImage 1: Guest-of-Honour Mr S Dhanabalan, Chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings (extreme left), flags off Safari Zoo Run’s first run of the day – the 10km competitive race. He is accompanied by Ms Isabel Cheng, Chief Marketing Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (third from left) and the Ah Meng mascot.


Image 2 - Safari Zoo Run 2016_WRSImage 2: Mr S Dhanabalan, Chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings (extreme right), meets Singapore Zoo’s freshly minted royalty, Ah Meng (second orangutan from left), who will carry on the legacy of her grandmother and be an ambassador for the park and her species. Looking on are Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, primate specialist, Singapore Zoo (second from right), and Kumaran Sesshe, head keeper, great apes, Singapore Zoo (third from right).


Image 3 - Safari Zoo Run 2016_WRSImage 3: Kumaran Sesshe, head keeper, great apes, Singapore Zoo, points out the new Ah Meng to excited participants who were taking a breather from their 10km race in this year’s instalment of the wildly popular Safari Zoo Run.



– Over 8000 runners show up in race to pay homage to the late Ah Meng, Singapore Zoo’s orang utan as elephants, lions, and rhinoceros watch on.

Singapore, 16 February 2014 – Unlike the usual lazy Sunday morning spent lounging in the treetops, the orang utans in Singapore Zoo watched curiously as runners raced in the Safari Zoo Run 2014, which was conceived six years ago to commemorate their most famous matriarch, Ah Meng.

Over 8000 runners arrived at Singapore Zoo for the run to pay homage to the late Ah Meng, one of Singapore’s most loved and iconic animal personalities, which died of old age in February 2008. The race spans across Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, taking runners through lush green paths and enthralling animal exhibits.

The Safari Zoo Run also aids in wildlife conservation; a portion of the proceeds from this year’s race will go towards the care of endangered animals in Night Safari and Singapore Zoo.

(Centre, on stage) Guest-of-Honour Mr Ching Wei Hong, Chairman, National Family Council, flags off the annual Safari Zoo Run. He said, “I’m delighted to see the many families and happy faces today participating in the Safari Zoo Run. These families have created special family moments today, which will stay with them for life. This is in essence what we hope to promote through ‘Families for Life’ – to encourage families to spend more time together and strengthen family bonds. The Safari Zoo Run is an excellent event for families, and the Families for Life Council hopes to work with more like-minded partners to create opportunities for family bonding.” PHOTO CREDITS: PINK APPLE
(Centre, on stage) Guest-of-Honour Mr Ching Wei Hong, Chairman, National Family Council, flags off the annual Safari Zoo Run. He said, “I’m delighted to see the many families and happy faces today participating in the Safari Zoo Run. These families have created special family moments today, which will stay with them for life. This is in essence what we hope to promote through ‘Families for Life’ – to encourage families to spend more time together and strengthen family bonds. The Safari Zoo Run is an excellent event for families, and the Families for Life Council hopes to work with more like-minded partners to create opportunities for family bonding.” PHOTO CREDITS: PINK APPLE
A spirited crowd over 8000-strong, which included these enthusiastic children, participated in the Safari Zoo Run 2014, and ran amidst the lush greenery of Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as lions, rhinoceros and elephants, among other wild creatures, watched on. PHOTO CREDITS: PINK APPLE
A spirited crowd over 8000-strong, which included these enthusiastic children, participated in the Safari Zoo Run 2014, and ran amidst the lush greenery of Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as lions, rhinoceros and elephants, among other wild creatures, watched on. PHOTO CREDITS: PINK APPLE



Singapore, 8 March 2012 — This International Women’s Day, Singapore Zoo pays tribute to the fairer sex, albeit not of the two-legged kind. Of particular interest is female Sumatran orang utan Chomel who, following in her famed grandmother Ah Meng’s footsteps, is caring for an orang utan baby that is not her own.

Although a first time mother, Chomel has always shown nurturing qualities. In her younger days, she would often be seen helping the younger orang utans navigate the free-ranging areas with ease, teaching them how to test their weight on the branches before moving ahead. She thus became a natural choice for surrogate mother, when keepers made the decision to remove the baby from her mother Sayang, who was gravely ill. Incidentally, Sayang is Chomel’s aunt, which means Chomel is fostering her cousin.

“When we took the baby away, Chomel was outside Sayang’s den. The baby cried as it had never been away from its mother, and Chomel’s instinct was to immediately reach for her. We cautiously gave the baby to her, and she held her close. That’s when we knew things would be okay,” explained Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, Assistant Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo.

“Like Ah Meng, after a few days of fostering, Chomel actually started to show more loving care to her foster child. During feeding, if the baby cries, she quickly offers the food she is eating. During interactions with visitors, she happily allows Bino, her own son, to explore on his own while holding the adopted one close to her. This is truly a heartening sight to witness, and it almost feels like Ah Meng is back with us” continued Mr Chellaiyah, who was Ah Meng’s primary caretaker during her residence in the Zoo.

Chomel bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, whose name was synonymous with Singapore Zoo for almost 35 years before she passed on of old age in Feb 2008. Ah Meng too cared for two young orang utans whose mothers were unable to look after them; Anita, a Bornean female still residing here, and a Bornean male called Inoki which now lives in Taiping Zoo, Malaysia.

To mark International Women’s Day the Zoo held a private naming ceremony for the baby, which turns one today. She has been christened Ishta, which means the cherished or desired one.

“International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s and celebrates the achievements of women everywhere. Chomel is certainly one of our inspiring females and Singapore Zoo wanted to pay tribute to her this momentous day. It’s made doubly special as it also happens to be Ishta’s birthday” said Isabel Cheng, Director, Marketing and Communications, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Sumatran orang utans are critically endangered and wild populations are said to number fewer than 7,000 individuals. Their Bornean cousins are also considered endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Most recent estimates place their numbers at about 50,000.

Singapore Zoo, home to 26 orang utans, has an excellent worldwide reputation of having the largest group of captive orang utans in a social setting which also features the world’s only free-ranging habitat. It contributes to the conservation of Asia’s only great ape through captive breeding. A total of 37 orang utans have been successfully bred since the Zoo opened in 1973. Of these, some have been sent to various zoos in Malaysia, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka as part of a global exchange program me.

Chomel proudly shows off her babies: Bino, her own son, relaxes on his mother’s right arm, while adopted female Ishta clings comfortably to her left. PHOTO CREDITS: Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Portrait of a loving mother: Chomel, with Bino on her shoulder and Ishta cuddled in her embracing arms. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE


Singapore, 14 March 2011 – The legacy of Singapore Zoo’s most iconic resident, Ah Meng, continues to grow with the recent birth of her first great grandson earlier this year. Chomel, Ah Meng’s granddaughter, gave birth to the male orang utan on 31 Jan at about 4.20am. Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) is inviting Singaporeans to pick his name via an online voting system on Facebook.

The Zoology team at the Singapore Zoo has shortlisted four names for the newborn and is asking members of the public to choose their favourite. The names are:

1. Ah Boy: A common term of endearment for many boys at home in Singapore
2. Bino: Meaning ‘Brave’ in Bahasa Indonesia
3. Terang: Meaning ‘Bright’ in Malay
4. Xing Xing: In Chinese, this means both ‘star’ and ‘ape

The contest on the WRS Facebook page is open to everyone who is a fan of the page. Voting will end 31 March 2011 and the name which earns the most number of ‘likes’ on Facebook will be the chosen name for the baby orang utan.

A lucky participant will be selected at random from the winning votes and will win a dining experience for five at Singapore Zoo’s Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife. The winner will also have the opportunity to take an exclusive photo with mother and baby.

The little orang utan made his public debut in February during Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife with mother Chomel, and will make regular appearances at this special wildlife breakfast programme. Singapore Zoo, operated by WRS which also runs other award-winning parks such as the Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, and the upcoming river-themed attraction River Safari, is the only zoo in the world that offers this unique dine-with-wildlife experience, which allows visitors to get up close to animals like orang utans and snakes during a breakfast buffet.

In celebration of the baby orang utan’s appearance on Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife, one child dines for free with every two paying adults from now until 20 March 2011.

The newborn is the 36th orang utan and the fourth descendant of Ah Meng to be born at Singapore Zoo. Keepers say he is a very amiable and expressive baby, and always looks like he has a smile on his face.

A total of 26 of these charismatic apes live at the zoo and are displayed as a large social group in a spacious naturalistic enclosure. Singapore Zoo is the first zoo in the world to create free-ranging areas for these arboreal creatures to swing, climb and play. These exhibits comprise tall trees, thick branches, abundant foliage and vines which replicate the animals’ natural environment.

There are two species of orang utan – Bornean and Sumatran. The population of Bornean orang utan is estimated at 55,000 while there are only 7,500 Sumatran orang utan left in the wild, making this species critically endangered. Ah Meng was a female Sumatran orang utan that was smuggled illegally into Singapore and given a home at the Singapore Zoo in 1971. She lived to a ripe old age of 48 (or approximately 95 orang utan years) and was the first to host the Zoo’s Breakfast with Ah Meng programme.

To vote, please visit:

Chomel gently cradles her son, the first Sumatran orang utan to be born at Singapore Zoo in more than a decade. Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen
Chomel and her newborn


Singapore, 3 December 2010Night Safari, the world’s first wildlife park for nocturnal animals, was the birth place of a baby giant recently. The first elephant to be born in nine years, it arrived on 23 November 2010 at an auspicious time of 8.08am.

Considered large for a newborn at 1.5 times the average size, the 151-kg calf arrived after 3 hours of labour, making it the fifth elephant to be born at the Night Safari. His mother, Nandong, is 25 years old and is also the mother of the previous two elephant babies – Sang Raja which is currently in Cologne Zoo and nine-year-old Sang Wira which still resides at the Night Safari. The baby elephant is sired by Chawang, the only bull elephant in Night Safari and Singapore Zoo’s collection of Asian elephants. The birth brings the total number of Asian elephants at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), parent company of Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, to 11.

The active calf, which has yet to be named, is already developing a character of its own. While most baby elephants stick close to their mothers in the early stages, zookeepers have noticed that this brave little one likes to wander from his mother to explore his surroundings.

“These elephants have such unique personalities. They are highly intelligent and self- aware,” said Mr Kumar Pillai, Director, Zoology, Night Safari. “We have been fortunate enough to witness 5 elephant births at our parks, as there can be a 4-5 year interval before a female will breed again. Her pregnancy lasts about 22 months, and she will not mate until the first calf is weaned, and this takes up to 2-3 years.”

Asian elephants are endangered – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant – with an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 left in the wild. They are found in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Many of them are widely domesticated and are used for forestry, harvesting, or ceremonial purposes.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development.

WRS has a very successful captive breeding programme and has bred other endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others.

For a video on the birth of the elephant, please click here. The video shows the mother giving birth to the baby and the natural process of the adult elephants removing the amniotic bladder from the newborn.

The young 151-kg calf is the fifth elephant to be born in the Night Safari.
Nandong, the 25-year-old mother, watches closely as the team of zookeepers and vets from Wildlife Reserves Singapore weighs the calf.



Singapore, 21 May 2010Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the parent company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, celebrates a significant milestone today with the ground-breaking of Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park.

River Safari, which will be the world’s largest repository of fresh water animals and many critically endangered animals like the giant panda, marks a new chapter of growth for the 10-year-old company, bringing it closer to its vision of being the foremost wildlife institution in the world.

WRS’ three attractions – Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo – attracted 3.6 million visitors in 2009, and the numbers have been growing every year. These parks rank among the best leisure destinations in Singapore and are well-known for their successful captive breeding programmes for endangered species such as the Bali mynah, Asian elephant and orang utan.

“We aim to offer the best wildlife experience in Asia and part of this effort is the expansion of our unique product offerings,” said Ms Claire Chiang, WRS’ Chair. “Being a first in Asia, River Safari will not only bring the rich biodiversity of the freshwater systems around the world right to our doorstep, it will be home to many endangered and threatened species, which we hope to preserve through our captive breeding programmes.”

River Safari is expected to draw at least 820,000 visitors annually. The 12-hectare park located between the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari in Mandai, is scheduled to open in the first half of 2012, and will house one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater aquatic animals, with more than 300 plant species, 500 animal species and over 5,000 individual animal specimens.

Comprising boat rides and displays of freshwater habitats of the famous rivers of the world like the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong and Yangtze, the River Safari will provide a close-up, multi-sensory experience for visitors. For example, the indigenous wildlife at the Amazon River will be showcased at the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit, which will be home to deadly river creatures like the anaconda and electric eel, as well as the elusive giant river otter, one of the most endangered animals in South America.

One of the star attractions – the giant pandas – will live in a specially designed, climate-controlled exhibit along the “Yangtze River”. Different species of bamboo, which is the panda’s staple diet, will be planted throughout this 1,600 sqm landscaped enclosure. Sheba and Inuka, the Singapore Zoo’s pair of mother-and-son polar bears, will also have a new home at River Safari’s Frozen Tundra, which comprises over 1,400 sqm of living space that will mirror conditions in the Arctic. Other animals like the tanuki, a raccoon dog native to Japan, will join the polar bears at this new exhibit, which will feature permafrost, frozen caves, and icy pools of water.

“Biodiversity in freshwater habitats is disappearing at a faster rate than marine and forest environments. By bringing visitors up close to the fascinating underwater animals and terrestrial animals that live in such ecosystems, we aim to highlight how our survival is dependent on their well-being,” said Ms Fanny Lai, WRS’ Group CEO. “We expect people to be awed by many of these strange and interesting fresh water creatures including the ‘giants’ of river habitats. These include the giant catfish and the giant freshwater stingray from Mekong river, giant river otters from Amazon river; and not forgetting the giant pandas from China. All of these charismatic animals are disappearing at an alarming rate due to habitat destruction.

The ground-breaking ceremony this morning will be held at one of the actual development sites fronting the reservoir and will be graced by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Education.



Singapore, May 16, 2008 – The total number of animals donated to the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari rose to 460 in 2007, a sharp increase from the 118 animals donated in 2006. Jurong Bird Park received a total of 177 donations in 2007.

The majority of these were either brought in by the police or confiscated by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Confiscations from AVA constituted a seven-fold jump from 25 to 175, over the previous year. The animals were mainly reptiles, and included star tortoises, green iguanas, fly-river turtles and Southeast Asian soft-shell turtles.

Donated animals are quarantined upon arrival, to prevent the potential spread of diseases to the rest of the parks’ animal collection. During the quarantine period, the animals are cared for and administered by the parks’ team of vets and keepers. The team inspects the animals for signs of injury and illness and provide them with a diet comprising appropriate food, nutritional supplements and medication, if necessary.

The need to feed and care for donated animals is a responsibility that the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) institutions take in their stride. Designated as Singapore’s official wildlife rescue centres, the Jurong BirdPark, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo are able to provide expert specialist care to a spectrum of exotic animals that enter the facilities. Over the last three decades, WRS parks have cared for and rescued more than 10,000 animals from all over the world, including Singapore.

The expertise to provide this assistance comes with years of experience in handling over 4,000 animals and 7,000 birds on a daily basis through the running of the three parks. WRS enjoy excellent relations and maintain constant communication with zoological institutions all over the world to keep abreast of the latest veterinary know-how. Staff are regularly sent on numerous overseas learning attachments, ensuring we are able to deal with anything from tarantulas to orang utans.

Ms Fanny Lai, CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “We see many cases each year of exotic animals brought in and subsequently abandoned when the host family realises they do not have the necessary skills or resources to care for them. These animals can be extremely difficult to upkeep and I strongly urge members of the public and animal lovers not to buy or raise exotic animals as pets.”

Management of donated animals
WRS’ parks manage these donations and confiscations in a variety of ways. Integration into the parks’ animal collection is one method. For example, a 2-week old slow loris that was donated by the public in August 2007 was hand-raised and is now in Night Safari’s collection. Slow lorises are listed on CITES Appendix I, which means trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

In August 2007, a total of 139 confiscated Southeast Asian soft-shell turtles were brought in. Thirty-two had to be euthanased and 107 housed in Singapore Zoo. Of these, 61 are now surviving and the population have since stabilised. These turtles are on CITES Appendix II, which includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. Also listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, these turtles are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Native wildlife that were donated to the parks, such as the pangolins, have been microchipped, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Some exotic animals have also been repatriated to the various countries of origin or to other zoo collections to participate in breeding programmes. For example, 15 star tortoises were sent to Lisbon Zoo for display and breeding purposes in March this year. Another donated slow loris will be making its way to Augsburg Zoo in Germany this June. Two male-female pairs of white-handed gibbons were sent to Canada and Sri Lanka respectively in 2006. Two thousand star tortoises were sent back to India in 2002 and 15 shingle-back skinks, a green tree python and a crocodile skink were sent to Detroit Zoo for re-homing and breeding purposes.

WRS would like to urge the public not to import or keep exotic animals as pets. To reiterate, under The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act (ESA) it is an offence to import and export any endangered species without a permit from AVA. It is also an offence to possess, sell, offer or expose for sale, or display to the public any of these species, if it has been illegally imported. Any person or company caught violating the ESA is liable to be prosecuted in Court and fined up to a maximum of S$50,000 for each animal or plant, and/or imprisoned for a term up to 2 years.