Get up close with animals, keepers as zoo's virtual programme returns

A baby rhinoceros getting a scrub from his keeper, Ms Siti Nurindah Aliyah Ali. From this month to August, Zoo Explained! will be rolling out question-and-answer sessions with the keeper, and with animal trainers behind the Animal Friends Show.
A baby rhinoceros getting a scrub from his keeper, Ms Siti Nurindah Aliyah Ali. From this month to August, Zoo Explained! will be rolling out question-and-answer sessions with the keeper, and with animal trainers behind the Animal Friends Show.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Singapore's animal parks are expanding behind-the-scenes offerings amid the pandemic, with a new virtual activity featuring keepers and their charges.

Zoo Explained! kicks off its Zoom sessions today with a look at the River Safari's emperor tamarins, a species of small monkeys, and conversations with their keeper Ken Chu.

The new segment opens the second season of Hello From The Wild Side, a package of customised virtual interactions with animals from Wildlife Reserve Singapore's (WRS) Singapore Zoo and River Safari.

Ms Irene Lin, chief marketing officer of WRS, said the virtual offerings are born out of the circuit breaker last year. "As our parks were closed, virtual experiences became the only option for us to continue engaging our audiences of all ages and connect people to wildlife in a meaningful way."

The virtual events first opened for public bookings from May to December last year, featuring several activities that will return this year. These include a virtual backstage pass to the Elephants Of Asia enclosure and a live feeding and enrichment session with a great white pelican and capybara, a species of rodent, which are available only for corporate bookings this year.

Members of the public who wish to send a personalised video message to their loved ones can get it relayed by a zookeeper alongside a hornbill, a capybara, a pair of penguins, or a yellow naped amazon parrot that can sing a birthday song.

Mr Chu, 30, plans to take virtual visitors through his daily tasks that keep the emperor tamarins physically and mentally strong. "Through these sessions, I hope people learn to appreciate wildlife and take action to protect them."

From this month to August, Zoo Explained! will also be rolling out question-and-answer sessions with the keeper of a baby rhinoceros, and with animal trainers behind the Animal Friends Show.

On the difference between virtual sessions and in-person visits, Ms Lin said: "This season has been curated to put the spotlight on our animal caregivers and let them give participants a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their day-to-day work. It also focuses on bringing you up close to animals, learning about their quirks and behaviours in a way you may not be able to through a physical visit."

Hello From The Wild Side will remain a part of the zoo's offerings for some time, said Ms Lin.

The zoo is also working on an integrated visiting experience, offering guests virtual interactions before and after their physical trips.

For more information, visit www.wrs.com.sg/en/hello-from-the-wild-side.html

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2021, with the headline 'Get up close with animals, keepers as zoo's virtual programme returns'. Subscribe