Singapore Zoo stops making elephants perform in new format for show

The water moat between the keepers and their elephants acts as a physical safety barrier separating elephant and keeper. (PHOTO: Wildlife Reserves Singapore)

The Singapore Zoo has revamped its elephant show to focus on exhibiting the animals’ natural behaviour instead of making them perform on command.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which manages Singapore’s animal attractions, announced the new format on Friday (21 September), saying it was part of “continuing efforts to provide world class care for her animals through improved animal welfare”.

The revised show will be launched on Saturday, which is Elephant Appreciation Day.

During the new elephant show, keepers will employ positive reinforcement methods to engage the elephants and encourage them to display natural behaviours such as laying in the water or leveraging on a log to reach fruit.

There is also a new interactive volunteer segment, where a lucky visitor can get up close to the elephants.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, WRS’ Deputy CEO and Chief Life Sciences Officer, said, “The new elephant presentation is a clear departure from the former show where the keepers directed the elephants to perform certain actions. In the reimagined show, the elephants are given free rein to show off their range of natural behaviours and personalities. The idea is that elephants are amazing, engaging and interesting to watch just by being themselves.”

The move also marks the next phase of WRS’ protected contact elephant management system, which has been implemented since 2015.

Protected contact management ensures that there is always a physical safety barrier between the keepers and the elephants.

Steps towards implementing the protected contact system include stopping elephant rides, allowing the elephants to free-range within their exhibit and stables at night, discontinuation of painting sessions and re-training the elephants and their keepers to the new system.

Visitors can watch the new elephant show at Singapore Zoo’s Elephants of Asia exhibit twice daily at 11.30am and 3.30pm and take part in elephant feeding sessions after each show.

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