Singapore might be small; its area is only about 791 km2, which is about 0.03% of Indonesia, or 0.007% of the USA! With such a small area, Singapore has several parks and gardens, including four wildlife reserves: Night Safari, River Safari, Singapore Zoo, and Jurong Bird Park.
In the past week, I had a chance to visit two of them: Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park. It was such a great experience, I want to compare their management to Indonesian’s approach to national parks and gardens. You might still remember when one of the elephants in Kebun Binatang Bandung (Bandung Zoo) died because the managing company could not provide a vet when the elephant got sick. Yani was 37 years old, but she did not die in vain. As soon as the words reached the mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil, the mayor decided to punish the company and watch their management from that time on.
There was also an issue that a lion in Taman Safari Indonesia (Indonesia Safari Park) was being drugged to keep it ‘tame’ during photo sessions with the visitors. However, the management denied this issue. Regardless of that, the lack of funding and government watch seem to be the causes of these things to happen.
So, what can we learn from Singapore?
First and foremost, as a visitor, we have to understand and respect the animals. The fact that the animals are caged, instead of let free in the wild, is really sad and frustrating. I understand that some people are really against it. When the animal wants to hide, don’t tap the glass just to make them come out. When we need to be quiet, don’t talk loudly near the animals. Also, don’t litter.
Of course, this is not only for the animals, but also for everyone’s comfort. Don’t you hate it when you see water bottles or food packages laying around everywhere? Don’t you also hate it when you cannot hear what the tour guides say or the animals go away because some people are loud (cough, cough, what happened to me last night)?
Disclaimer: The last time I went to a zoo in Indonesia (the Bandung one) was in middle school. I believe so many things have changed, but I want to reflect on my experience there a decade ago, regardless.
The wildlife reserves management gives shows every hour. This means, the visitors can choose the time that works the best for them. This also means, the animals do not need to be standby for visitors the whole time, when they want to show off their skills.
The shows also carry an educational purpose. This is especially effective, because most of the visitors are children and babies. In the Night Safari, for instance, the otter is trained to choose a specific waste and put it in corresponding recycle bin. Isn’t it both cute and amazing at the same time?
They also have a specific campaign this month/ this year (?) to promote the protection of specific cockatoo species. This species is considered to be exotic, and the smugglers put them into a plastic water bottle (!) and transport them across the borders. What breaks my heart even more, this smuggling happens across Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. One of the picture shows a cockatoo bird inside a botol Aqua (Aqua is a specific brand for water bottle in Indonesia; it is so widely known that Indonesians call water bottle as Aqua itself).
The parks are also really accessible, and very children-oriented. In some parts, where the fence is too tall, there is a little stool where a 5-year old can go up and see the animals closer. There is also a ramp everywhere, which makes it accessible for our disabled friends. This makes it easier for the parents to push around their strollers, too!
They are also very considerate of their senior citizens. They understand that most people who hit 60 cannot stand or walk for too long. Therefore, they provide tram rides, with the stations as well. So, if they want to see a specific animal at the very end of the park, they can go to the closest station, and walk from there.
I also love the feeding sessions that they have. It is a smart way to create interactions between the visitors and animals.
In some parts, they also try to mimic the habitat of a specific place. This means a giant cage for the animals and more room to move around. For the visitors, it means that they can immerse themselves in a specific habitat, with its flora and fauna.
Sometimes, private companies around Singapore also support these wildlife reserves management, and they donate a specific ‘animal collection’ to the zoo. I guess it is also a reason why people still coming back to this place even though they are older.
Another reason people keep coming back is the constant upgrades happening around the reserves. They know really well the characteristic of tourists in general: we like taking pictures, we like to bring something back for our friends/ families, we spend more on our foods and beverages. We can easily find spots to take pictures (in some parts, they even made their own waterfalls), or find foods in case we get hungry. There are also gift shops everywhere.
One complete experience, I must say. This is what we should thrive for in Indonesia.
In case anyone is interested in visiting Jurong Bird Park/ Night Safari soon, I also have a few advice:
- Book your ticket online and get the discount, especially if you are a resident of Singapore (25% for Jurong!).
- Come early and avoid the crowd for a better experience (or come late, depending on your experience).
- The Night Safari is free on your birthday (or 7 days within your birthday), if you are accompanied with a paying guest.
- Dress appropriately, because it is warm and humid. Also, please wear a comfortable walking footwear.
- Be prepared to spend at least 3 hours inside. Don’t come if you’re in a rush.