Singapore Zoo Zoo Review

Singapore Zoo – Zoo Review

The RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review is a quick but informed guide to the quality of places where the public can see animals, including zoos, dolphinariums and other attractions.

We’ve used a range of measures, taken from information available online, to judge how well the animals at the particular zoo or animal attraction are looked after. More than just a ‘review’, the results are actually a Quality Index which will allow tourists and the attractions themselves to judge how well the attractions are performing.

Please note, the information we use is taken from what we assume to be genuine and factually correct comments from reviews, blogs and news stories. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let us know and we will make the relevant changes.

RIGHT-Tourism Zoo Review Rating for: Singapore Zoo

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Good

Summary

Singapore Zoo is rated Number One in Asia by TripAdvisor, and is clearly loved by visitors due to the number of positive reviews. Clearly a lot of investment has gone into the design of the zoo, allowing the animals plenty of space to roam, interact and perform natural behaviours. The Zoo must also be commended for its conservation work, which includes breeding programmes to help species survive in the wild, research and funding conservation programmes.

Singapore Zoo doesn’t get a Best in Class review however because of concerns, particularly involving the interaction public can have with the animals, and the public shows the animals are made to perform. Allowing interactions can be stressful and even harmful to some animals, and should only be carried out for educational reasons and in the correct way, if at all. Animal performances almost always involve cruelty in both the training of the animals, and in the performances themselves. Elephants are also made to give rides to up to five people at a time, when it is known that an elephant’s spine is not strong enough to bear this kind of weight.

Overall, Singapore Zoo clearly offers a good experience for zoo visitors and puts time and effort into conservation, but should take a look at some of their key practices which are undermining their overall performance.

Singapore - Ele Rides Up to 5 People

 

Section One: Social Media and News

This section looks at how the attraction is rated by people on key reviewing sites, and in blogs/the media. The reviews are often not concerned with animal welfare, so this section has a lower influence on the overall mark than other sections. However, it is an important measure of the way the attraction is viewed by visitors.

Number of negative TripAdvisor reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the official TripAdvisor page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  2/20                                         Score: 2.5 Points

TripAdvisor named it the #1 Zoo in Asia in 2014, but this is based on all positive comments, not just animal welfare. Over half the reviews mentioned animal welfare positively. The most common comments were large natural surroundings instead of fences; overall cleanliness & hygiene; and healthy/happy-looking animals. Many visitors enjoyed the “open concept” the zoo is famous for, as they could get close to and touch some animals. This interaction however can cause stress to many animals.

Negative comments were elephants gave rides to up to 5 people at once; the existence of animal shows; and some animals exhibited repetitive swaying behaviour which suggests emotional/physical trauma of some sort.

Number of negative Google reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the Google search page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  1/20                                         Score: 2.5 Points

The negative review was the white tiger looked lonely as it is all by itself. The positive ones were for the same attributes mentioned in TripAdvisor.

Number of negative news articles and blogs

For the most recent 10 independent blogs or news articles for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative mentions:  1/10                                       Score: 5 points

Notes: 6 of 10 articles didn’t mention animal welfare at all. Positive articles: the $8 million polar bear enclosure and successful births. Negative article: animal escapes (but the most serious ones happened before 2005).

Total Score for Social Media and News Section:  10/10

Section Two: General Quality of Life

This section looks generally at how the animals, as a whole, appear to be treated. It is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms, which focus on key aspects of animal welfare including feeding, housing, health, behaviour and protection from fear/distress.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Probably. (The Probably category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Absence of prolonged hunger and/or thirst

Score: Yes   2 Points

Reviewers comment on the good health of the animals

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Yes   2 Points

Comments on diet listed a variety of foods that would be eaten if the animal was in the wild.

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: Yes   2 Points

Note: The enclosures are generally large, natural and varied, including pools, rock cliffs, waterfalls, forested areas, etc. – often in the one enclosure.

Enrichment in living quarters (eg climbing frame, toys etc)

Score: Yes   2 Points

Jungle gyms, netting, toys, tyres and other enrichment is available.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: Possibly   1 Points

One white tiger was recently euthanised due to a terminal tumour.

Absence of pain (eg being not being chained, or not being hit by staff)

Score: No   0 Points

Generally yes, but photos of the elephant performance showed staff using bull hooks, and training involving punishment will most likely also be used, so this has to be a No.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: Yes   2 Points

The enclosure size and range of terrain allows running, foraging, etc.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Difficult to say. The staff seem to use “open contact” with a lot of the animals which is potentially dangerous for them and could cause stress to the animals. However it is possible that quieter, tamer animals enjoy the contact. Reviews suggest staff take good care of the animals.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: Yes   2 Points

Visitors claimed the animals appeared to be healthy and happy, while there are no obvious reports of fear/distress/apathy in the reviews.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: Possibly   1 Points

On one hand, the large enclosures with caves, trees, brush, etc. suggest animals can retreat if desired. On the other hand, the elephants, sea lions, seals, parrots, dolphins, otters, orangutans, etc. in the five shows would not have that choice.

Total Score for General Quality of Life:  15/20

Section Three: Interaction with the Public

This section focusses on the way the attraction allows the public to touch, play with, photograph, feed or otherwise interact with the animals. The focus is on whether or not the interactions are causing harm or stress/discomfort to the animals, and if they could be dangerous to the public. Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Probably. (The Probably category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the animal’s welfare

Score: No   0 Points

Prior to 2005 (and possibly after) baby chimps slated to be photography props were permanently separated from their mothers. Current events such as “Breakfast With an Orangutan” and photos of children playing with baby tigers still suggest a high level of human interaction which could be harmful. The orangutans live free-range in 2 areas, so can easily be touched by visitors. Also elephant rides can be damaging to the elephants’ backs.

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the public’s welfare (any previous history of dangerous incidents)

Score: No   0 Points

There were worrying escapes when the zoo first opened: a black panther (escaped in 1973 for 11 months!, accidentally killed during capture attempt), 2 sun bears (in 1973 for a few days, 1 accidentally killed), a hippopotamus (1974 for 2 months, retrieved), an eland (1974 for 2 weeks, returned on its own), and a tiger (1974, walked on top of its fence but jumped back down). The inexperienced staff were then trained overseas.

Recent incidents include a chimpanzee (2004, accidentally drowned during capture), an orangutan (2005, returned same day, was free inside zoo), a jaguar (2005, darted after ½ hour free in zoo), 6 deer (2010, one outside the zoo, all retrieved) and a African wild dog (2014, darted after ½ hour free in zoo).

Also reported is a cleaner being killed by two tigers, however it was ruled as suicide as he allegedly entered the enclosure on purpose and aggravated the tigers.

The animals are not forced to interact with the public – they can refuse

Score: No   0 Points

While this is unknown in some cases and it may be possible for some animals to avoid contact, however organised attractions including breakfast wit hthe orangutans, animal shows and elephant rides do not allow any refusal on the part of these animals.

The public are not allowed to handle the animals and touch them

Score: No   0 Points

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Only in some cases.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  1/10

 

Section Four: Conservation and Education

This section looks at whether or not the attraction has a focus on conservation – for example does it support animals in the wild through breeding programmes, research or donations; and education – are visitors informed about the animals so they are not simply seen as objects for human amusement/entertainment.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Probably. (The Probably category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Are some of the animals part of international breeding programs?

Score: Yes   2 Points

They are known for their successful breeding programs for some of their endangered animals. To date, they have bred 40 orangutans, 13 white rhinos, 3 sun bears, and even a polar bear (first born in the tropics).

Is there evidence of them having released animals into the wild?

Score: Yes   2 Points

Singapore Zoo’s parent company provided funding and consultation advice for the breeding and reintroduction of the endangered Mynah bird in Bali.

Do they actively undertake scientific research into conservation/behaviour of their animals?

Score: Yes   2 Points

The Wildlife Healthcare & Research Centre opened in 2006. The Zoo’s Conservation Fund sponsored 16 research and conservation projects in the past 5 years. They also creatively raise awareness of conservation issues like the illegal pet trade, rhino poaching,

Does the attraction give money to conservation or animal protection programmes?

Score: Yes   2 Points

The zoo has several rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife, such as funding ElefantAsia to provide free veterinary care and micro-chipping to elephants in remote areas of Laos.

Does the attraction provide educational talks or written displays to inform visitors about the animals?

Score: Yes   2 Points

Total Score for Conservation and Education:  10/10

Zoo Review Final Score: Singapore Zoo:  36/50

Rating: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well.

Do you agree or disagree with this Zoo Review? Please let us know in the Comments below.
If you are from this attraction and would like to comment on this Zoo Review, we’ll be happy to publish your response. Please email info@careforthewild.com or click
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Notes

  1. This report was compiled on: 21st November by Leanne Fogarty and EH. Find out more about our Zoo Review campaign here.
  2. Zoo Review Final Score is given out of 50 as a sum of the four sections, then a RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review rating is awarded based on this score:

0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern
11-20: Poor – it appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards
21-30: Average – the attraction scores well in some areas but improvements would be welcome
31-40: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well
41-50: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

  1. TripAdvisor and Google scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (20) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 2.5 as follows:

0-19% negative 2.5 points
20-39% 2 points
40-59% 1.5 points
60-79% 1 point
80-89% 0.5 point
90–100% 0 points

  1. News and blog scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (10) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 5 as follows:

0-19% negative 5 points
20-39% 4 points
40-59% 3 points
60-79% 2 point
80-89% 1 point
90–100% 0 points





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