The Night Safari completes its fourth year of operation in May 1998, which means it is still very young and still a novelty in the zoo world. External factors, however, are rapidly changing the environment in which it operates. It is timely, therefore, to both introduce the Night Safari to a wider zoo audience and review its current state and future development.
The Night Safari is a separate, self-contained entity operated by Singapore Zoological Gardens (Figure 1). It is sited on 40 Hectares of land adjacent the original Singapore Zoo within the catchment of a major reservoir.
The site was mostly covered with secondary rainforest prior to development. In 1988, we asked Lyn de Alwis, who planned the original Zoo some 15 years earlier, to suggest ways to develop this land reserve. A nocturnal park was a dream of his and the last idea he expected to be realised. Our Chairman of the time and founder, the late Dr Ong Swee Law, thought differently and saw it as unique enough to break away from the image of zoos as mere recreational amenities and not tourist attractions.
With patience and zeal, and what these days is trendily called ‘networking’, we received Government support first for a master plan and then financial support to implement it. In the course of planning, the concept changed from being an upmarket experience for ecotourists modelled on a national park to a themed experience for both tourists and Singaporeans (Figure 2 ). Exhibits were grouped in zones with habitat or geographical themes. Since the funds came from public sources, we had to provide both an amenity for residents and be viable so that the Night Safari would not be a burden on the public purse.
The release of dangerous animals at night goes against every instinct of zoo personnel. No zoo person would normally leave such animals outside at night when staff presence is minimal. This led us to design barriers safer than we would have accepted for daytime exhibits, despite operating hours from 6 p.m. to midnight. We began with design methods and principles (apart from lighting) that were otherwise the same as for a day zoo.
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