Saturday, October 31, 2009

eSingapore Zoo is Having a Primate Banner Breding Year

Singapore - Singapore Zoo is celebrating the new arrivals of eight threatened primates – a Goeldi’s monkey, a purple-faced langur, two pairs of cotton-top tamarin twins, a lion-tailed macaque and a chimpanzee. These births are significant as they are a boost to the global captive population of these primates.

The Goeldi’s monkey is classified as vulnerable; the lion-tailed macaque and the chimpanzee are classified as endangered, and the purple-faced langur and cotton-top tamarins are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Mr Biswajit Guha, Assistant Director of Zoology says, “We are elated to have successfully bred these threatened primates, one of which is listed as one of the 25 most critically endangered primates. Captive breeding of endangered animals is an important pillar of Singapore Zoo’s mission towards wildlife conservation. The births reaffirm the work of our zoologists and vets, who have created ideal living conditions for the animals by carefully observing their behaviour and managing the diet and habitats. This is even more reason to visit the park as this strengthens our reputation as the zoo with the largest collection of primate species globally.”

Captive breeding of endangered animals is a cornerstone of conservation. Singapore Zoo has an active programme to increase numbers in captivity so a sustainable population can be maintained. To date, it has successfully bred a long list of animals, including endangered ones such as the orangutan, proboscis monkey, king cobra, rhino iguana, Malayan tiger and Malayan tapir. Many have been exchanged with other reputable zoos for coordinated breeding programmes.

Both notoriously hard to breed, the births of the zoo’s third purple-faced langur and the seventh Goeldi’s monkey is a huge boost to the conservation and animal management efforts undertaken by the Singapore Zoo. Guests can catch a glimpse of the young primates with their mothers at their respective enclosures, with the exception of the purple-faced langurs, which are housed in the Primate Breeding Complex, off-exhibit.

Goeldi’s monkey
Also known as Goeldi’s marmoset. This petite primate is found in the Upper Amazon basin region. It is usually dark brown or black in colour with an average body length of between 20-23cm, and a tail length of between 25-30cm. An adult weighs only about 0.35kg.

Goeldi’s monkeys share similar traits with tamarins — they have claws instead of flattened nails on their fingers. It is the only small primate with 36 teeth; other marmosets and tamarins have 32. Their diet consists primarily of fruits, insects and small vertebrates.

IUCN reports that the species will decline by at least 30% over the coming 18 years (three generations) due primarily to habitat loss.

Purple-faced langur
The purple-faced langur is a long-tailed arboreal primate. Characterised by its loud barking call, it is sometimes mistaken for the roar of a predator such as a leopard. Unlike its name, the langur is mainly brown, with a dark face-mask and paler lower face. The purple-faced langur is found in Sri Lanka and was once a common species, found even in suburban Colombo and in the wet zone villages.

However, rapid urbanisation has taken a toll and the population is predicted to decline by more than 50% over three generations (36 years, given a generation length of 12 years) due to a combination of habitat loss and hunting, according to IUCN.

Lion-tailed macaque
Found in the dense tropical forests of the Western Ghats Mountains of India, the black and white lion-tailed macaque not only has a tail that resembles that of a lion but also an impressive white mane. Highly vocal, the lion-tailed macaque has at least 17 different calls to communicate with one another. It feeds on fruits, leaves, bark, insects, eggs, tree frogs and lizards. When gathering food, it has to leave the safety of its treetop home and forage at all levels of the forest. It has cheek pouches to store food and these allow it to gather a large amount of food in a short time, thereby reducing its exposure to predators.

The lion-tailed macaque is endangered because of habitat destruction.

Cotton-top tamarin
Endemic to South America, the cotton-top tamarin is so named because of the crest of white fur on its head. This strikingly coiffed tamarin is one of the smallest and most endangered primates, having lost 75% of its original habitat to deforestation.

These tamarins travel in groups of two to 13 individuals and defend small home territories. Twins are born after a gestation period of about 140 days. The male and older offspring help the female to carry the babies until they are old enough to forage. To obtain moisture, tamarins lick wet leaves instead of descending to the ground to drink so as to avoid terrestrial predators. Their diet includes fruit, insects, leaves and buds, small lizards and nectar.

Current populations are estimated at about 1,800 in captivity. Cotton-top tamarins are threatened by rapid deforestation and collection for the illegal pet trade.

Highly intelligent and among the few animals known to use tools, chimpanzees (chimps) are one of four great apes found in the African forests. Their diet comprises mainly plant matter but they are not herbivorous. They have been known to hunt smaller primates such as colobus monkeys.

Chimps can be affectionate and at times a little callous. Gestures displayed by chimps include hugs, kisses and pats on the back. Hunting for bushmeat and the illegal pet trade are serious threats to their survival.

Set in a rainforest environment, Singapore Zoo's world famous "Open Concept” offers the opportunity to experience and be inspired by the wonders of nature. Home to over 2,500 specimens from 315 species, 16% of which are threatened, the Zoo has attained a strong reputation internationally for its conservation initiatives and breeding programmes. To better meet the healthcare needs of its animals and working towards its aspiration to become a leading global centre of excellence for veterinary healthcare and research, a purpose-built Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre was set up in March 2006. In 2008, 1.6 million visitors enjoyed the experiential learning experience at the 28-hectare award-winning Zoo. Singapore Zoo is part of Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The Zoo is designated a wildlife rescue centre by the governing authority. Singapore Zoo is located at 80 Mandai Lake Road Singapore 729826. More information can be found at

Photo credits:
Cotton top tamarins Bjorn – Mr Bjorn Olesen
Goeldi’s monkey Bjorn – Mr Bjorn Olesen
Purple-faced laungur WRS – Wildlife Reserves Singapore

To view Singapore Zoo's web page on Zoo and Aquarium Visitor, go to:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Singapore advises travellers to use checkpoints during Deepavali holiday

With the Deepavali holiday coming up on 17 October 2009, traffic flow through the land checkpoints at Woodlands and Tuas is expected to be heavy over the coming weekend. For departures, the traffic build-up is expected to start from Friday (16 October).

For arrivals, traffic is expected to be particularly heavy on Sunday and Monday (18 and 19 October). Travellers intending to use the land checkpoints during the peak periods should take note of the following messages.

Travellers Have a Part to Play

The best way to avoid the congestion is to adjust your travel plans and avoid the peak periods altogether. With enhanced security checks, traffic build-up is inevitable, particularly when a large number of travellers want to use the checkpoints at the same time.

If you really need to travel during the peak periods, you can play a part to ease congestion at the land checkpoints by maintaining lane discipline. To avoid the congestion at the checkpoints, you are also encouraged to car-pool or make use of public transport. Singaporean travellers with valid passports and who are registered with the National Registration Office can use the eIACS (Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System) lanes at the Bus Halls for immigration clearance. The eIACS allows you to clear immigration through automated lanes within 12 seconds at no additional cost.

Travellers are reminded to ensure that they are carrying their own passports before presenting themselves for immigration clearance at the checkpoints. ICA has detected a number of cases where travellers presented the wrong passports for immigration clearance. This has affected clearance efficiency and caused inconvenience to other travellers.

In addition, travellers should also make sure that they do not bring unlawful or prohibited goods into Singapore. The list of controlled and prohibited items is set out on ICA’s website

Traffic Information

Travellers departing Singapore by land will be able to know in advance the traffic situation at Tuas and Woodlands Checkpoint from the LTA’s Expressway Monitoring & Advisory System (EMAS) installed along AYE and BKE respectively. You can also call the traffic information hotline at 6863-0117, listen to TrafficWatch on the radio or visit LTA’s One Motoring website ( to check on the latest traffic conditions at the land checkpoints before embarking on your journey.

Security is Our Utmost Concern

Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore’s security. The enhanced security checks are critical to our nation’s security. ICA will put in every effort and continue to take the necessary measures to improve clearance efficiency as much as possible without compromising security. We seek your understanding and cooperation, as your security is our utmost concern.


Singapore is not the first addition to most Westerners' "countries to visit in Asia" list, but I urge you to give it a fair chance. They're a major airline hub, so it's easy to get there from almost anywhere -- and here are a lot more reasons you should visit this young, developing-at-light-speed country.

The Lion City was named hundreds of years ago when an Indonesian prince passed by the untitled island on a ship and thought he saw a red animal, which he assumed to be a lion, on the beach. He called it Singa (lion) Pura (city). Unfortunately, archaeologists have found that there have never been lions in that part of the world, but Singapore has carried on -- just as they've carried on through occupation, colonization, and finally achieved their own independence from Britain in 1965. This young country boasts low crime, low unemployment, low homelessness, and frequently their spokespeople declare that "Everything works." In the midst of the global economic crisis, they are building a casino, major hotels, a Universal Studios, and more. Is that not fascinating? Don't you want to see this magic kingdom for yourself?

Singapore has a mercantile history. Known as "The Gateway to Asia," they've been a trading post for merchants around the world since before Shakespeare. Their reputation continues today; people all over Asia continue to visit Singapore to purchase their Louis Vuittons and Chanels (and The World's Most Expensive Tea) at the best prices, as well as electronics -- which has led Singapore to become a completely wireless island (a feat yet unachieved by the only slightly larger Manhattan).

Among other things, there is legendary shopping to be had in Singapore. Orchard Road is stocked with everything from the best haute couture lines to department stores like Tang's, and savvy shoppers know the off-the-beaten-path malls like Far East Plaza, where you can get discounts on "non-discount" designers and locally-made fashions at rock-bottom prices. They even have stores like "Best of Blogshops," which carry items from independent online distributors, allowing you to see their wares in-person at last.

I had the luck of meeting a 13-year-old insider named Gladys, who also told me about "my little secret, Haji Lane. It's a small, secluded place, only known to a handful of people. Don't give up if you only see fabric shops, go all the way in until you see something. It's like a maze."

Other tips from Gladys (and these are actual quotes from the .doc she sent me) include:

* "Eat. Go to this hawker center called Maxwell Hawker Center and they have the longest queues for food at almost every stall.
* Sentosa. Take the ski lift up to the top of the hill and take the luge down the hill and do not, I repeat do not, wear flip-flops. Also take the megazip, it includes abseiling, rock climbing and the longest flying fox.
* The night safari is surely not to be missed. It's the world's first night safari.
* You have to check out the Singapore Botanical Gardens. We are known as "The Garden City" for a reason. But please do not go in the afternoon, as it would be as hot as the Sahara Desert."

I've already written about some of this, including the food (10 Things to Eat in Singapore), the fine dining, and the Night Safari. If you want to check out Sentosa (where they're building a Universal Studios), start here, and for the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which were going through a major expansion during my visit, click here. Thanks, Gladys!

For those of you who are over 13, you'll also be impressed by Singapore's nightlife. Clarke Quay, once a bunch of warehouses for the shipping industry and now a community of clubs, has ideas you've never heard of: outdoor air conditioning, and a bar which provides "shots" and IV drip bags full of booze, as well as outdoor seating with golden wheelchairs (see gallery -- so wrong, but so right).

As for hotels, there are a number of wonderful places to stay. My favorites include The Fullerton (which used to be the post office), The Capella (a new, very fancy resort-style hotel on Sentosa) and The Quincy (which I dubbed The Best Hotel for Traveling Alone in Singapore). I don't recommend the St. Regis; their customer service lags far behind that of the previous three, and you won't find anything Singaporean there.

And what is "Singaporean"? Well, it's many different things. Singapore only became an independent country in 1965, and is still establishing itself, both as a culture and as an international financial force, despite its overwhelming economic success. I would highly recommend a visit to the Peranakan Museum, which I wrote about here. One of my Singapore Tourism Board guides, Danny, told me that Singaporeans have to have "The Five C's: cash, car, condominium, career and credit card."

Despite all their by-the-rules behavior, Singaporeans are incredibly open with each other about their customs and holidays, even amongst a diverse assortment of religions. Different religious holidays are celebrated all over the country and, unlike in America and other Western cultures, everyone is invited to everything. No one says "Don't invite them, they're not Hindu;" instead, everyone invites their whole office or their whole network over for whatever holiday they're celebrating, resulting in a lot of celebrating for everyone. And why not, right? It makes so much sense. I really, really loved that about Singapore.

I found Singapore to be one of the most well-behaved and cleanest countries I've ever been to, and perhaps that's because of their famously strict government. According to Danny, things you can be arrested for in Singapore include:

* Chewing gum in public
* Not flushing the toilet
* Being caught naked -- even in your own apartment
* Cutting plants that have grown larger than 8 cm
* Eating durian fruit in public
* Littering

With all these strict regulations, Singapore continues to boast practically no crime. Part of me wonders if that's just "no crime we care to speak of."

Still, as I said earlier, you should totally put Singapore on your list of Asian countries to visit. If nothing else, it's really easy to get to -- but I think you'll find there's a lot there to see, experience, and learn. This young city-country has such a unique history, acquiring forefathers from all over the map (again, see The Peranakan Museum). One thing we should take away from them? Their openness, as I mentioned above.

Even if you don't get invited to Ramadan, The Hungry Ghost Festival and Deepavali in one afternoon, there's a lot worth seeing in Singapore. Let us know if you get there, and tell us what you think!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Visit Singapore – Rainforest Kidzworld

f you are visiting Singapore with your family for the first time, a place I would like to recommend is our Singapore Zoo located at Mandai Lake Road. Set in a tropical rainforest environment, it is a not-to-be-missed attraction that houses some of the region’s most rare and endangered animals.

(80, Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826)

One of the attractions for children, especially which offers oodles of fun; is Rainforest Kidzworld, a discovery area which creatively fuses fun and exciting features. It is a 3-hectare attraction which offers appreciation for animals and nature through games, and interaction sessions with keepers and animals.

Launched in November 2008, this new attraction at Singapore Zoo not only promises fun-filled activities for kids, but it also incorporates learning and educational elements to invoke an early appreciation for animals and plants among young children. What I find interesting is that creative interpretives have been thoughtfully placed throughout the attraction, especially around the animal-centred area, making for interactive learning. Highlights include a Kampong House with nooks and crannies to discover, a Creative Plants section which features plants with animal names, a petting corner, Rainforest Challenge (an obstacle course for young children), paddocks for the ponies and falabellas (a kind of miniature horse), a Birthday Pavilion, Wild Animal Carousel, pony and horse carriage rides, and the central Water Play area with the main feature themed like a wet animal wonderland.

The Water Play area has many water-sprouting points dotting the play ground where waves of fun are ready to be explored. Children can also zoom from one point to another via the Cableway or insights on how to groom a falabella at the keeper demo area at the paddock. Children are encouraged to get up close and personal with domestic animals, such as dogs, goats, guinea pigs and rabbits. In fact, the education department has also collaborated with Ministry of Education’s Teachers Network to develop activity books for upper and lower primary students. “The new activity books,” according to Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, “will help young visitors learn more about animal conservation and nature in an interactive manner.”

You can say that the Singapore Zoo has evolved from being a viewing zoo to a learning zoo offering an extraordinary fun experience, outdoor classroom style, amidst nature.

Opening hours : 8.30am – 6.00pm
Rates : Admission – S$18 (Adult)
S$9 (Child)
Pony ride – S$4 per child
Horse carriage ride – S$8 (Adult)
S$4 (Child)
Carousel ride – S$4 per person

While at the Zoo, another day tour you can look forward to is the Wild Discoverer Tour. It is especially tailored for a small group of 7 guests (maximum) and has a personal guide to bring guests around the zoo in a buggy car. For the month of September and in conjunction with the Singapore Grand Prix, there is a promotion being offered on this tour. In total, there are 3 specially selected themed habitats to choose from, and there are a maximum of 3 tours per day at 11.00am, 2.00pm, 4.00pm. However, advance booking is required.

The 3 types of Wild Discoverer Tour are:

1. Fragile Forest Behind-the-Scenes
Here you go behind the scenes to the breeding complex of Fragile Forest and discover how butterflies are bred and maintained. It is very interesting and exciting especially for the young to see the beautiful, colourful butterflies and other spineless friends.

2. Reptile Garden Behind-the-Scenes
If you are not afraid of slithery, slimy reptiles, you will find this tour pretty fascinating. Plus you can even have pictures taken with some of the cold-blooded friends.

3. Great Rift Valley of Ethiopian Feeding Tour
You will definitely love this tour, as you can come close to the hamadryas baboons and you can get to feed them and learn more about these fascinating primates. At the same time, immerse yourself in the history and culture of the beautiful Ethiopian landscape.

You will truly enjoy all the 3 themed habitats. You can take your time to appreciate the “inhabitants” at your own pace.

Usual price : S$25 (Adult)
S$15 (Child)

Special price : S$20 (Adult)
S$12 (Child)

*Please note the following terms and conditions for this promotion:
1. Promotion price excludes admission charge.
2. Child is defined as 3 – 12 years old.
3. Valid for the month of September 2009 and is only applicable to ticket holders of the Singapore Grand Prix (proof of Singapore Grand Prix ticket or pass is required).
4. Tour operates on a daily basis except on eve of and on public holidays.
5. Tour dates & times are subject to availability and weather conditions.
6. This promotion is not valid with other promotions or discounts.

For enquiries, please contact:
tel : (65) 6269 3411
or e-mail :

If you are in Singapore for the Night Race, pay the Singapore Zoo a visit. Your family or kids will love it. Take advantage of the promotion. But if you are here for a holiday, you must pay the Zoo a visit too. Go to Rainforest Kidzworld and take a ride on the Wild Discoverer Tour.



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