Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Singapore Zoo Adventure

Meet Inuka, the first polar bear to be born in the tropics. He is one of the main attractions of the Singapore Zoo, the place where his mother, Sheba, gave birth to him in 1990, the day after Christmas.

Thanks to relatives and friends who visit us here in Singapore, we get to go places where we'd normally use work as the excuse not to visit. The zoo is one of those places.

I couldn't even remember my first visit to the zoo. Either my parents brought me or it was due to a school field trip. But I'm sure I had a lot of fun. Kids normally do, as demonstrated by my 6-year old cousin and the countless kids we encountered on that day we visited the Singapore Zoo.

It happened on a Saturday, a sunny day at that, which was perfect for the short adventure we had thought of only a few days earlier. We got there, the six of us -- one of which is Mr. Matthew, my cousin, the other characters are not important -- at around 8 a.m. We had some time to go around before we entered as we waited for our two other companions, only one of them showed up.

Upon our entry, we were taken to spot near the entrance where our picture was taken by the zoo staff. We were informed that we could buy the photo if we chose to, but otherwise we were under no obligation to do so. We had our cameras in hand, so we passed up on the offer.

The monkeys were the first creatures we came upon. We saw a lot of them and their distant relative, the apes, in the course of our visit. The best way to tell them apart is through the tail -- monkeys have tails while apes don't. You can read more about the difference between apes and monkeys here and here.

The monument shown above is a tribute to Ah Meng, a female Sumatran Orangutan that was once the poster girl of the Singapore Zoo. Ah Meng's fame went far and wide, enough to attract visits from dignitaries and celebrities such as Prince Philip and Michael Jackson. She was previously smuggled from Indonesia and kept illegally as a domestic pet before being recovered by a veterinarian in 1971 and subsequently donated to the zoo.

These white-brownish monkeys wanted their photos taken separately; they didn't want to be facing the camera simultaneously so they took turns. I obliged. If you know what type of monkeys they are, drop me a line at singaporefountainpen[at]gmail.com.

Sheep and giraffe. This is quite a view, especially with the pristine water as the background. Hmm... I don't think my shot did it much justice though.

This is of course, the great white tiger, fast asleep.

The zoo offers three shows. It didn't seem feasible for us to see them all in one day. However, we did get to see the elephant show before we went for lunch. It was a show of strength as these mammals lifted huge logs, rolled giant rocks and pulled heavy stuff. Of course, there were elements of fun but they're better experienced than read about.

It was difficult to find an empty table in the restaurant during lunchtime. Also, the queue for food was very long. It's advisable to go for either an early (i.e., before noon) or late (i.e., after 1 p.m.) lunch.

Tummies filled, feet rested, and fully awake from a doze of coffee, we were ready to see the Splash Safari show at 2:30. The stars of which included the penguins and the irresistibly cute and witty sea lioness. It was difficult not to think of the films Happy Feet, Madagascar and Batman Returns when I saw the penguins. Here's a web page that lists some movies where penguins have a starring role.

I passed up on the chance to feed the elephants earlier. But I figured I may not get too many chances trying to feed the manatees or sea cows, so I grabbed the opportunity when it was presented. As a matter of hygiene, we were asked to wash our hands with soap and water before and after the feeding. We bought two baskets of boiled carrots and potatoes for the marine mammals (and herbivores at that) and were instructed to continually give them food once we've started to keep them from swimming away. I was amazed to discover that their whiskers weren't as hard as I perceived them to be.

We were off to see the tortoises...

and the iguanas after that. There were scratches on the shells of the tortoises but they appeared to be very tough. It was very tempting to try knocking a few times on its carapace just to get a feel of how hard it is.

There wasn't a contest between a tortoise and hare. But it might have been interesting to see who makes it first to the finish line between a Rhinoceros Iguana and a turtle. In this particular scene, it looked like the turtle had a bit of an edge.

At some point after I have posted this, someone identified this huge lizard as a Komodo dragon, so I checked again. It's not easy to tell them apart if you're not used to seeing the two a lot; they’re both lizards but they belong to different genera. Anyway, the crest of pointed horned scales extending from the nape of the Rhino Iguana's neck to the tip of its tail is one distinguishing factor. If you click on the picture so that you’re zoomed in, you’d see the bony -plated pseudo-horn or outgrowth which resembles the horn of a rhinoceros on the iguana's snout where its name is derived from.

Like Indiana Jones, I don't like snakes very much. Although I'm not sure if I have ophidiophobia and I don't intend to find out. What do you feel about seeing something like the snake in the photo below? It might not be as scary looking as a cobra and it might not even be poisonous, but it still gives me the creeps and I'd avoid getting close to it anytime of the day. I think a lot of people fear snakes for good reason.

I'd appreciate it if you can help me identify this animal. And I'm not referring to the snake above. If you're interested to learn more about venomous snakes, this should be a good start. I am referring to the guy with the big ears below.

For some people, the photo below was more terrifying than the snake. Someone commented that the statue looked like a real human being that successfully climbed out of the big jar, now by its side. I did get to see mummified human skeletons taken from jars in a museum exhibit years ago. There's little resemblance between those and the one below, who, standing in his own two feet, looks alive to me.

Below are the usual suspects. But a zoo would not be complete without them.

Our plans of having dinner at home were derailed after waiting for two Maxi Cabs to arrive but failing to haggle with their drivers to take us home for the same (or near enough the) amount we had previously paid getting there. With no more reason to rush home, we took SBS Transit bus 138 going to the Ang Mo Kio Station and took the MRT from there.

Long day? Definitely. Good day? Absolutely.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home