Spend quality time virtually with animals from Singapore's four wildlife parks

My Animal Buddy programme aims to help children build a deep connection with animals virtually.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Children who miss seeing their furry friends at the four wildlife parks in Singapore can now catch up with them virtually.

They can watch videos of the animals and read about their quirks in activity books available for download.

These are some of the free activities of the My Animal Buddy programme which Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) launched on Friday (Oct 9). WRS manages the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

The programme - designed for children aged between four and 10 - aims to help them build a deep connection with animals, said Ms Belina Lee, chief strategy and innovation officer of Mandai Park Holdings, which oversees WRS.

"My Animal Buddy is our way of bringing our beloved wildlife parks to reach out to every child, and this element of inclusivity extends to those who are unable to be physically in our parks," she added.

Besides bringing nature closer to children, the programme also hopes to teach them compassion and impart essential life skills, Ms Lee added.

To this end, WRS consulted a panel of experts including early childhood specialist Beth C. Fredericks and Ms Yeo Sha-En, founder of positive psychology firm Happiness Scientists.

These experts helped to shape the pedagogical framework by suggesting, for instance, seven essential skills such as perspective-taking and communication, which children need to thrive.

WRS began prototyping the programme since June last year, based on feedback from parents and children who visited the Singapore Zoo or who are Friends of Wildlife members.

SPH Brightcove Video
Children who miss seeing their furry friends at the four wildlife parks in Singapore can now catch up with them virtually.

As at Friday, 25,000 parents and children have signed up on the My Animal Buddy website to register for the programme.

Currently, there are three animal buddies: Rudy the Rabbit, Pedro the Californian sea lion and Khansa the Bornean orang utan. More will be introduced in the coming months.

Friday's launch was attended by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also deputy chairman of Mandai Park Holdings.

Four families who were part of the programme's prototyping process were also at the launch, including Ms Sarah Toh, 33, who accompanied her two daughters aged five and seven.

Ms Toh, who runs an enrichment centre and is trained in early childhood education, said she appreciates the programme because her younger daughter "finds it easier to pick up information through educational videos", unlike the elder one who can read independently.

Another parent was Mr Sonny Prithviraj Naidu, 51, who was with his wife Andrea and their three children aged four, six and nine.

Calling My Animal Buddy a "perfect complement to visits to the Zoo", he hopes his children can extend their "love and care for animals" to people.

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