Asia’s best zoo, 50 years in the making


Growing up, many of us have had fond memories of the Singapore Zoo as a place for school excursions, family outings or even a romantic date night. 

But what truly captured our hearts are the large, charismatic animals with whom we are on a first-name basis. There was Ah Meng the Orang Utan, Inuka the Polar Bear, and our favourite family of pandas – Kai Kai, Jia Jia, and Le Le. More than just exhibits, these animals are national icons, deeply loved by locals and visitors of all ages.

In a few days (June 27), the Singapore Zoo will celebrate its golden jubilee. However, one of our most enduring and popular attractions almost did not materialise.

Going back to the year 1968, Singapore was a very different place. Faced with an existential crisis of creating enough jobs and overhauling public housing, building recreational facilities was hardly a priority. Our then-prime minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew was in fact horrified by the idea of a zoo in the middle of a catchment area, potentially polluting our reservoirs. 

But thankfully, perseverance, passion and a well-researched proposal paid off, and Singapore’s first public zoo became a reality when it opened its doors in 1973. Over its 50-year history, our zoo has welcomed nearly 60 million visitors from all over the world. So how did a relatively young zoo from a tiny island grow to become one of the best in the world?

Daring to be different

Over the decades, the Singapore Zoo has gone from strength to strength, introducing programmes for visitors to observe, engage and learn about wildlife in meaningful ways. One example is Breakfast with Ah Meng, which not only turned our resident Orang Utan into a superstar but also helped to raise their profile and shine a light on their dwindling habitats. 

The Night Safari is another ground-breaking idea. As the world’s first zoo that opens exclusively at night, it allowed visitors to observe nocturnal animals at their most active. 

Today, the Singapore Zoo is one of four wildlife parks in the Mandai area, creating a green oasis within our urban environment. But more than just a recreational spot, our zoo is also a bastion of conservation with its breeding, research and education efforts. Last year alone, nearly 800 animals (including 38 endangered species) were born and hatched in our wildlife parks. 

In many ways, the development of the Singapore Zoo is also a reflection of how Singapore has evolved. After all, here is a story about a young nation (and zoo) willing to innovate, dream big and seize new growth opportunities to stand proudly on the world stage. 

A time for celebration

From now till August 27, the Singapore Zoo will be holding a series of exciting activities to celebrate its 50th anniversary. There will be larger-than-life inflatables and animal sculptures scattered around the park on a specially designed trail and a return of the Mandai Wildlife Run after a three-year hiatus. 

In addition, the zoo is offering a $50 ZOObilee Bundle for Singaporeans, which include admission for one adult and one child. With over 4,200 animals from over 300 species, there is no better place than the Singapore Zoo to educate our little ones about the wonders of wildlife and spark their passion for conservation, biology and the environment. 

So what are you waiting for? Take advantage of the Golden Zoobilee promotion and visit the zoo this weekend for a lovely family day out! 

Photo Source: Wildlife Reserve via Facebook