Iconic Singapore Zoo celebrates its 40th birthday
Despite hard lessons along the way, zoo is now one of the world's best
THE thought of a panther or bears escaping from the Singapore Zoo - regarded as one of the top zoos in the world today - and its staff keeping quiet about it may be hard to fathom now.
Yet that was exactly what happened 40 years ago, when its staff were still inexperienced, said one of the zoo's pioneer zookeepers, Mr Alagappasamy Chellaiyah.
But the iconic zoo, which celebrates its 40th birthday today, has come a long way, he added.
The 62-year-old, who joined the zoo in 1971 and is now the assistant director of zoology, recalled when two sun bears and a black panther escaped about four months before the zoo opened its doors to the public in June 1973.
Milestones in 40-year history
1968: Dr Ong Swee Law, chairman of Public Utilities Board, conceives the idea of a Singapore Zoo in the catchment forests around the Upper Seletar Reservoir.
June 27, 1973: Singapore Zoo officially opens with a collection of 272 animals from 72 species.
1974: Congo the hippopotamus escapes on Jan 14 and stays in Upper Seletar Reservoir for 52 days, until March 7.
1982: Breakfast with an orang utan programme begins.
Dec 26, 1990: Inuka becomes the first polar bear to be born in the tropics.
1998: The Fragile Forest, Singapore Zoo's first immersive exhibit, opens.
Feb 6, 2008: Zoo icon Ah Meng dies at the age of 48. More than 4,000 people attend the funeral. The orang utan becomes the first zoo resident buried on the park's grounds.
May 29, 2013: The new $8 million polar bear exhibit, Frozen Tundra, opens.