TV channel on zoo animals airs at KKH to inspire young patients

Caiden De Silva, two, and his mother Isabelle Lim interact with Toast the hedgehog. Also with them are Ranger Ooz (left), Dr Squawk (centre), Animal Care Officer Ade Kurniawan, Girl Girl the sulphur-crested cockatoo and Dash the ferret.
Caiden De Silva, two, and his mother Isabelle Lim interact with Toast the hedgehog. Also with them are Ranger Ooz (left), Dr Squawk (centre), Animal Care Officer Ade Kurniawan, Girl Girl the sulphur-crested cockatoo and Dash the ferret.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Neha, a young elephant at the Singapore Zoo at risk of getting a viral disease,has to be pricked by a needle regularly as part of itsroutine health check-up.

Its story may not be one that resonates with the public, but is one that the children in KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) can relate to and even learn from.

By showing how Neha overcomes its fear through conditioning, KKH hopes that the children undergoing similar ordeals can be inspired by its resilience.

It is such inspiring animal-care stories that the San Diego Zoo has been trying to bring to the screen in hospitals worldwide.

It has teamed up with KKH and Wildlife Reserves Singapore to introduce San Diego Zoo Kids for the first time in Asia, a closed-circuit television broadcast channel that offers family-friendly, entertaining and educational programming centered on creatures at the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

The channel is available in all paediatric wards at KKH and will progressively be available throughout the hospital.

"The stories we tell through this channel not only entertain children and their families during a stressful time, but provide a resource of calm and comfort for the young patients," said Mr Douglas Myers, the president and chief executive officer of San Diego Zoo Global.

The collaboration uses the San Diego team's expertise in creating child-friendly animal content to make local wildlife more easily relatable to children here. The channel debuted at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego in 2013 and has since been installed in countries such as the US, Australia, Pakistan, Canada and Mexico. The channel is funded by San Diego Zoo Global.

KKH chief executive officer Alex Sia said of the programme, which started at the beginning of the month: "I'm very encouraged, having already begun to see the positive effects on patients here."

Mr Oliver Junus, 46, whose three-year-old son Ethan has been watching the channel for at least 45 minutes daily since he was admitted last week for pneumonia, said that "for Ethan to be able to see and identify with animals which he likes helps with his state of mind. He is very excited and will shout out the names of the animals he knows, shouting louder as he feels better".

KKH announced the collaboration on Monday (April 2), inviting Singapore Zoo staff and also some animals - a ferret, cockatoo, bearded dragon and a hedgehog - to the hospital to meet the patients.