No more elephant rides, as Singapore Zoo adopts way of caring for elephants

A zookeper walking with elephants at the Singapore Zoo. Visitors to the Singapore Zoo will no longer be able to get as close to the elephants there or take rides on these animals, starting from Jan 5. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN
A zookeper walking with elephants at the Singapore Zoo. Visitors to the Singapore Zoo will no longer be able to get as close to the elephants there or take rides on these animals, starting from Jan 5. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Visitors to the Singapore Zoo will no longer be able to get as close to the elephants there or take rides on these animals, starting from Jan 5.

The Singapore Zoo is introducing a new way of caring for the elephants that offers greater safety for elephant keepers, like other zoos around the world.

Said Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, chief life sciences officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore which runs the zoo: "The decision to adopt the protected contact management system was made after an internal review by our elephant managers and healthcare experts, who found that this system of management offers a safer work environment for the elephant keepers."

While no recent accidents involving elephant keepers have been reported, in 2001, a bull elephant gored a keeper in the Singapore Zoo. The keeper survived.

Currently, visitors to the Singapore Zoo are able to ride elephants and see them make special appearances.

Under the new management system, all contact with the elephants can take place only with the elephants within their enclosure and the visitors standing outside the safety barrier to their exhibit.

This new system will take three to five years to fully implement as the elephant enclosures will have to be redesigned. However, from Jan 5 onwards, activities in which the elephants are taken out of their exhibits will be stopped.

But the twice-daily Elephants At Work And Play show will continue and visitors will still be able to take part in elephant feeding sessions after each show.

cherylw@sph.com.sg