austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

There's a clearing in the jungle floor

And more news from a former home: the Singapore Zoo is planning a fairly substantial change in its focus. Part of this I knew about already, as they had come to the conclusion that while it's really neat to have a polar bear on the equator, it's really not the best place for one. For now they're keeping the two -- Sheba, the mother, and Inuka, the first polar bear known to be born in the tropics -- together, but when Sheba does die (she's already 29, older than the average lifespan for captive polar bears) the son will be transferred to someplace that has ever been within twenty degrees celsius of natural ice forming. I don't know whether the recurring algae problem turning them green was specifically in mind. (Of course, while one data point doesn't make a proof, Sheba has lasted four years longer than anticipated.) The polar bears used to be sponsored by the Government of Canada.

It can't be an easy part of zoo planning. On the one hand you really do want the animals to be in as nearly natural an environment as they can have. But if you don't move at least some things out of their original habitat then you end up with a zoo that looks like it's just whatever animals happened to be on the zoo property when they put up the fence, and no matter how good an interpretive display or informative staff you have it's not going to draw any support from the public, companies, or government.

The specific new focus they're looking at now, though, is a ``Rainforest Zoo'' -- rezoning the zoo to specialize in eight different rainforest types. That should at least avoid really absurd climate incompatibilities, since once you've got 88 degrees Fahrenheit and heavy afternoon rains you're not far off any decent rainforest. Intended types of rainforest include those of Indonesia, Malaysia, Australasia (I wonder if they'll draw in a Wallace Line for kids to hop over and tourists to photograph. There's a longitude line outside one of the westernmost malls on Orchard Road that draws surprisingly many pictures, and a compass rose showing distances to places like Chinatown, Tokyo, and Betelgeuse that's a similar minor draw on nearby Scotts Road), China, and the Amazon. And now that last has got me riled up.

Raccoons have been in the Singapore Zoo for as long as I visited and they've always been popular, what with being good-sized, cute, reasonably easy to distinguish as individuals, and reasonably active during the day for nocturnal creatures. But if you go to the Amazon rainforest you get creatures with all of those zoo-friendly features of raccoons, aren't hugely different in their upkeep requirements, plus which are more naturally social and are day-active by nature. This is entirely my speculation, but if they were bringing coatis in now .... oooh. They couldn't do that to me. I'm paid up as a Friend through the end of July.

Trivia: The second month of the Babylonian calendar was Ayaru. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Inside Star Trek, Herbert F Solow, Robert H Justman.


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