Reduce interaction between animals and zoo visitors

I was saddened to read that Inuka the polar bear will be put down if its health continues deteriorating (Inuka may be put down next week if no sign of recovery; April 21).

The news serves as a reminder of how welfare for animals has progressed in Singapore.

There have been debates on whether Singapore's tropical climate is suitable for polar bears to live in.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) advocated for a better environment for the Singapore Zoo's polar bears in 2004, and also called for a stop to Arctic animals being brought in.

Acres even went undercover at the zoo to do a detailed behavioural study of the polar bears.

It was later announced by the zoo that it would no longer import Arctic animals, and that it would construct a better enclosure for its existing polar bears.

The zoo also ended the use of chimpanzees in photography sessions, as it caused the separation of baby chimpanzees from their mothers.

Such changes in policy have increased the quality of the animals' welfare tremendously.

However, I feel more can be done.

To ensure that animals have sufficient space to express their natural behaviours and that they will not feel distressed, I believe that there should be reduced interactions between animals and visitors.

For animals, such as the kangaroos, which are rarely caged to simulate their natural environments, I suggest that the staff be trained to look out for any signs of distress in them during visitor interactions, and handle the situation appropriately.

Tham Si Mun (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2018, with the headline 'Reduce interaction between animals and zoo visitors'. Print Edition | Subscribe