The Singapore Zoo, also referred to as Mandai Zoo and formerly known as Singapore Zoological Gardens, is one of the most famous zoos in China. The Singapore Zoo opened the 27th of June in1973. Singapore Zoo is built on a 28 hectares piece of land with a grant from the Singapore government. The zoo applies a modern method of displaying animals in almost natural habitats providing the visitors a chance to view the wide range of specie’s behavior.
The Singapore Zoo is visited by a large number of people of both local and international origins. The popularity of the zoo and the large number of visitors creates a problem that hampers an adequate service delivery. This problem is the problem of overcrowding and consequential problems resulting from it (Barr, 2005).
Overcrowding of Visitors in the Singapore Zoo
Due tothe popularity of the Singapore Zoo, the zoo has been experiencing large visitor numbers, thus, resulting to inefficient service delivery. Overcrowding in the Singapore Zoo has resulted to various problems such as littering, which causes stress to the wild animals, poor manning of the animal enclosures, which causes the Singapore Zoo to become a risk zone. This is so since any unnoticed open cages of the wild animals would result to the visitors being attacked by the wild animals.
Causes of Overcrowding
In the Singapore zoological gardens, the problem of overcrowding can be attributed to various factors. These factors include:
Purchase of entry tickets at the zoo.
Lack of adequate guides into the park.
Small size of the zoo premises.
Lack of special tracks for the disabled who use wheel-chairs.
Few visiting hours of the zoo premises.
Lack of an adequate viewing space for various species of interest to the visitors.
These causes of overcrowding affect the zoo in the following way:
a) Purchase of Entry Tickets at the Zoo
The purchase of entry tickets at the zoo by incoming guests has resulted to overcrowding at the entry points for the incoming visitors. This paints a negative image of the zoo with the new visitors who at times have short schedules ending up in having little time to view the diverse species in the zoological garden. The act of purchasing entry tickets in the zoo also causes fatigue to the visitors, especially during the very hot days as they await either to be served or to have their tickets processed. Purchasing of the entry ticket at the zoo also contributes to an increased overcrowding, since the more visitors the more the number of support staff required in the zoo at any given time.
b) Lack of an Adequate Guides in the Park
The lack of enough support staff in the Singapore Zoo also contributes to overcrowding. This happens as a result of haphazard movements in the zoo by various visitors. This results in the visitors utilizing more time per individual. The continuous time wastage causes the visitors in the zoo at any time of the day to face congestion.
c) Small Size of the Zoo Premises
Since 1973 the size of the Singapore botanical gardens has remained constant, despite the growing local and international popularity. This has resulted in the unavoidable overcrowding, since the same location is visited by more visitors at any given time. Lack of an adequate space has also caused overcrowding due to the lack of adequate parking spaces in the zoo. The congestion is also worsened by poor parking in the available parking slots. This has greatly contributed to overcrowding.
d) Lack of Special Tracks for the Disabled Who use Wheel-chairs
Over the past, the global recognition of the rights of the disabled has led to more visits by people on wheelchairs and other disabled carriages. The influx of the disabled and their assistants on the same paths as the other individuals at times causes overcrowding, since the varying terrain causes slow movements for the disabled, thus, causing congestion(Kisling, 1988).
e) Lack of an Adequate Viewing Space for Various Species of Interest to the Visitors
The park setup has also contributed to overcrowding by not matching demand and supply. This is so, because the viewing space for various unique and interesting species should not be the same as for the animals with fewer viewers.
f) Few Visiting Hours of the Zoo Premises
The visiting hours of the Singapore zoological gardens have become a contributing factor to the overcrowding being experienced. Due fewer hours of visiting all local as well as international visitors tend to schedule their visits during particular periods. This timing often results to large numbers of visitors to the zoo over the particular time, thus causing overcrowding.
Impacts of Overcrowding
The effects of overcrowding in the Singapore botanical gardens have wide reaching effects on the tourists, the wildlife and the zoo infrastructure and image. The various impacts include:
Loss of Revenue
Due to the overcrowding in the park, the intrinsic beauty of the park is lost, causing some of the visitors to opt for other zoos in the region. This results in the zoo loosing revenue to other competing locations. The continued loss of revenue by the zoo may lead to inability to cater for the needs of the zoo, hence the consequent closure. The closure of the zoo may lead to the loss of employment opportunities, thus, negatively affecting various individuals and their families (Kisling, 1988).
The overcrowding of the Singapore botanical gardens results in a variety of environmental pollution. The noise from the consequent overcrowding of the zoo results in the great distress to the wild animals due to the interference to the animal space. Great levels of stress to the wild animals can result in poor health, as well as death of some valuable animal species. Overcrowding has also contributed to the rise in the levels of litter in the Singapore botanical gardens.
This has resulted in the loss of the internal beauty of the zoo. Litter has also found itself in the enclosures of the wild animals, leading to consequential ingestion of the litter, which causes poisoning of the animals. This may lead to the loss of various important species. Pollution in the zoo has stolen the intrinsic worth from the park. This has contributed to people opting to choose other locations, hence, causing a downshift move in the status of the Singapore botanical gardens.
Overcrowding of the Singapore botanical gardens has led to the straining of the available support staff. This has caused increased instances of insecurity which have manifested as frequent thefts of visitors’ items, individuals crossing over the set barriers, hence, the occurrence of events such as mauling by big cats. Overcrowding has also caused the increased incidences of insecurity such as attempts to steal important animal species(Innes, 2006).
General Poor Service Delivery
The overcrowding in the Singapore botanical gardens leads to the general straining of the available amenities. This results in poor delivery of services, hence, the consequent loss of popularity. This contributes to a decline in the number of visitors, hence, loss in the income of the zoo.
Recommendations to Fight Overcrowding
The problems the Mandai Zoo faces can, however, be addressed, and the effects of the existing problems can be mitigated. The recommendations to overcome the problems are the following:
The administration of the Mandai Zoo should ease the ways of getting tickets in other places than within the zoo. Some of these methods include the use of online marketing companies and partnering with tour providers to offer tickets to their clients on behalf of the Mandai Zoo. This will help to reduce congestion by improving service delivery (Graefe,1990).
The Singapore Zoo should look for additional space to allow decongestion of the zoo and help the zoo to accommodate more clients at the moment, since the number of visitors and animal species in the zoo have greatly increased.
The Singapore Zoo should employ guides to assist visitors of the zoo .This will help to ease the congestion. The Singapore Zoo should also utilize various guides such as well illustrated maps. This will help to reduce congestion as well as save time utilized in waiting for available guides to be assigned to groups of visitors (Kisling, 1988).
The Singapore Zoo administration should try to match the viewing space of the various species with the popularity of the particular species. This will enhance the viewing of the particular animals and reduce the resulting overcrowding. The Singapore Zoo administration should also construct suitable tracks for the physically challenged. This will help to reduce the overcrowding caused by the moving of wheel chairs on the various terrains and using the available amenities.
Contact with the Animals
Part of the code of conduct of theSingapore Zoo is that there should not be any contact with animals, yet this still comes up as one of the visitor related issues at the zoo. It is stated very clear in this code of conduct that there should not be any attempt to tease, capture, feed, and touch any animal in the zoo.
However, this has been largely repudiated in the recent past. Part of the jungle breakfast experience in this zoo is the chance for visitors to hold a snake, curl them around their neck in the name of posing for a memorable photograph. This unfortunate close interaction is promoted by the zoo management. If this habit is not controlled, then there is obviously going to be a huge negative impact on the zoo in the nearest future. This is because it easily makes the visitors think that they can hold any other animal in the zoo.
This is atAh Meng restaurant that all this happens. Included in Ah Meng’s unique breakfast experience is getting close and even having breakfast with the orangutans and the mischievous red-handed marmosets. The visitors end up touching, feeding and even teasing them. It is true that these animals are well trained, but this could adversely affecttheir habitats and eco-systems. It makes them in the long run not to be able to live devoid of human beings (Miller, 1981).
Impact of the Visitors’ Contact with the Animals
As a result of the seemingly close interaction between the animals and the visitors, criticisms have arisen regarding the safety in the zoo. Recently, there were incidents of carnivores escaping and attacking the members of the public at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. This incident involved a day time attack of a member of public by an eloping jaguar during one of the shows at the Night Safari.
Animal attack at the Singapore Zoo is not a recent phenomenon. There have been past incidents were a chimpanzee bit into a girl’s finger very deep, it was nearly detached. In addition to that, in 2001 an elephant is reported to have gored a keeper, fracturing his ribs and puncturing his lung. There have also been several previous escapes apart from the one cited above. A panther, tiger hippopotamus, chimpanzee and orangutan have all run away from their cages to the crowd before.
If the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), parent company of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, does not improve its safety protocols or guarantee the safety of their visitors, then in the nearest future it is more than evident that it will lose out approximately one million people visiting it a year.
In addition to the consequences mentioned above, in 2002 a local ban was imposed performing wild animals in traveling circuses by the Agra-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). This was in the interest of public safety and animal welfare. The restriction is attributed to the so many incidences of accidents that have been cited over the years. These accidents in some cases have led to serious injuries and death both to the trainers and the public. If this ban is to be looked at in an economic perspective then it has led to a huge loss of revenue to the Singapore Zoo.
The other impact from the increased interaction between the animals and the visitors is that the welfare of the animals could be hugely affected. This could explain why the animals keep on escaping and attacking the visitors and the employees of the zoo. Perhaps, the escaping animals are seeking space, stimulation and different surroundings that they are not enjoying at the moment.
Recommendations and Strategies
Visitor Activity Management Process
Visitor activity management process (VAM) focuses on managing visitors through their activities. It is the effective visitor management process that leads to successful captive wild animal management. Meaning, the objective of zoo management is not likely to be met unless people appreciate the contribution of zoos towards wildlife (Graefe,1990).
There are two known approaches to visitor management, and they are policing approach and inspirational approach. The policing approach is preferred at the ticket window, entry and exit gate, while the inspirational approach is suitable inside the zoo. Part of the inspirational approach that can be adopted is displaying information on the signboard that shows the visitors that they should treat the captive wild animals as guests from nature and accept the duty of making their stay as natural and comfortable as possible.
In summary, visitor management should focus on presenting zoo as learning centres. This can be done by providing information about wild animals and their habitat. Also inclusive, should be a reflection of their universality and rights. This will encourage the participation of visitors in maintaining and improving the zoo (Anderson,1998).
Visitor Impact Management
Visitor impact management (VIM) focuses on the influence of visitors, and is usually location specific. To manage the impact that stream as a result of the visitors’ activities, there is a need to always seek to improve the welfare of the animals at their custody. Also, as part of mechanisms to improve safety measures, there should be increased patrols by the zoo’s keepers and operational staff. This goes along the way in improving their safety protocols. They could also adopt international best practices such as OHSAS 18001 and encourage visitors to record their suggestions in the register kept at exit gate for the improvement of captive animal management (Giongo,1994).
Some of the direct visitor management strategies that could be adopted in regard to this issue include the increased surveillance to enhance proper interactions between the visitors and the animals. There should also be zoning. This could be done by always keeping the children away from the majority of the animals. The indirect management strategies to be adopted include charging extra fees, especially when the visitors want to engage in risky activities (Giongo,1994).
The Singapore Zoo, being a wonder of the Chinese country, should be made as efficient as possible. This can be achieved by utilizing the stated recommendations to ensure that future generations benefit from the zoo.