WRS parks hold a myriad of species that can contribute to improved knowledge on conservation and animal management issues through in-park research activities. Wildlife research on local species outside our parks is also supported through the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF) with complementary in-park research. We conduct these activities through staff-initiated research, support of student projects and collaborations with external experts and academic institutions.
Cognitive abilities of Orangutans
WRS has been supporting research by Dr. Nick Mulcahy from the University of Queensland since 2009. This research is focused on testing the cognitive abilities of orangutans using puzzle-solving tasks. It aims to provide novel enrichment to captive orangutans and to raise public awareness of the intelligence of these great apes. This work has also contributed to improved scientific knowledge on their cognitive abilities.Relevant publications
Nicholas NJ & Suddendorf T. 2011. An obedient orangutan (Pongo abelii) performs perfectly in peripheral object-choice tasks but fails the standard centrally presented versions. Journal of Comparative Psychology 125: 112–115.
Mulcahy NJ, Schubiger MN & Suddendorf T. 2013. Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo abelii) understand connectivity in the skewered grape tool task. Journal of Comparative Psychology 127: 109-113.
Mulcahy NJ & Schubiger MN. 2013. Can orangutans (Pongo abelii) infer tool functionality? Animal Cognition 1-13.
Testing the abilities of Orangutans to use tools
Enrichment of zoo animals
Enrichment of captive animals is an integral component of modern zoo husbandry, widely implemented to improve the welfare of zoo animals. At WRS, we conduct studies on the effectiveness of enrichment used for a variety of animals. Such research assists the zoology team in evaluating and identifying best methods for animal enrichment activities.Relevant publications
Sha CM, Han NY, Marlena D & Kee QL. 2012. Effects of group-use and single-use enrichment on stereotypic and aggressive behaviour in a group of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) at the Singapore Zoo. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 15: 358-371.
Marlena D, Meriange G & Sha CM. 2013. Effects of three food enrichment methods on stereotypy and investigative behaviour of a Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) at the Singapore Zoo. International Zoo News 60: 276-285.
Food enrichment for Malayan Sun Bears at the Singapore Zoo
Animal management and exhibit design
Zoo animal management and exhibit design straddles a delicate balance between animal welfare, conservation, and visitor stimulation and education. Maintaining and displaying animal species in naturalistic settings has been recognized as an important aspect in enhancing the value of modern zoo exhibits for both animals and visitors. At WRS, we aim to achieve these objectives by improving our practices for exhibit design and related animal husbandry through scientific evaluations.
Choo YT, Todd PA & Li DQ. 2011. Visitor effects on zoo orangutans in two novel, naturalistic enclosures. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 133: 78-86.
Sha CM, Alagappasamy S, Chandran S, Khin-Muang C, Guha B. 2013. Establishing an all-male group of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) at the Singapore Zoo. Zoo Biology 32: 281-290.
Sha CM, Bhavani K, Alagappasamy S, Guha B. 2013. Benefits of free-ranging primate displays and implications for increased human-primate interactions. Anthrozoos 26: 13-26.
Left: Free ranging Orangutans
Right: Mixed exhibit of Proboscis Monkeys.
Local biodiversity surveys
WRS parks are nested within the main nature reserve area of Singapore, home to a wide diversity of animal species. We contribute to knowledge of local wildlife species through conducting surveys of different taxa of animals like birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, reptiles and freshwater crabs and fishes found within the vicinity of our parks.Relevant publications
Lim FLK. 2009. Asthenodipsas laevis (Reptilla: Squamata: Pareatidae), a snake record for Singapore that was almost forgotten. Nature in Singapore 2:463-465.
Leong TM, Yeong C & Subaraj R. 2009. Attempted predation on a tadpole by a painted bronzeback, Dendrelaphis pictus (Reptilla: Squamata: Colubridae). Nature in Singapore 2: 361-364.
Lim KP, Leong TM & Lim FLK. 2011. The king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor) in Singapore. (Reptilla: Squamata: Elapidae) Nature in Singapore 4: 143-156
Jaffar AR. 2012. Observations of the dragonfly, Camacinia gigantea (Brauer) at the Night Safari, Singapore (Insecta: Odonata: Libellulidae) Nature in Singapore 5: 7-11.
Left: Dragonfly (Camacinia gigantean) found at Night Safari.
Right: King Cobra
Common Palm Civet Project
The Common Palm Civet Project was started in 2009 to mitigate the escalating human-civet conflict situation. This is a multi-faceted project which involves community engagement, outreach and rescue and research activities. Forums and outreach activities to address concerns of residents facing conflict are organized; and rescue and rehabilitation efforts in collaboration with AVA and NParks have been on-going, and involved the rescue and relocation of a total of 158 civets to date. Research activities on the monitoring of wild and relocated civets are also being supported through WRSCF.
Left: Civet cat in the day.
Right: Civet cat at night.
Reptile research at WRS
A lot still needs to be learnt about reptilian biology and behaviour. Having one of the largest reptile collections in Asia , WRS has conducted many research projects that contributed to a better understanding of the physiology, anatomy, pathology and behaviour of reptilians.
One of the on-going flagship projects is the research conducted in regards to the reproductive physiology and urban ecology of Reticulated Pythons.
The reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus) is one of the most common snakes encountered in Singapore and similar to civets and other native species like long-tailed macaques are now in conflict with humans due to habitat loss in an increasingly urban landscape. Reticulated pythons are rescued by local partner agencies like ACRES, NParks and AVA, rehabilitated and released back to the wild. Public education activities are also conducted to raise awareness on the conflict issue and to increase appreciation for native snake species.
A snake identification application for mobile phones was developed and launched at the Biodiversity Festival in July 2013. Non-invasive research projects are currently being conducted at WRS with the aim to deepen the understanding of the reproductive biology and anatomy of reticulated pythons. Research activities on the monitoring of wild and relocated reticulated pythons are also being supported through WRSCF.
Luz S., Dorrenstein G.M., Zwart P., Hildebrandt T., Goeritz F., Van Koten J.W., OH S., Oh S.: Management, diagnostic and treatment of an Inland Taipan (Oxyuranus Microlepidotus) with a tumor-like swelling in the heart region at Singapore Zoological Gardens, Verh. Ber. Erkrg. der Zootiere (2009)
Luz S., Tan W.K., Yasin Y.B., Rosier A., Taramizi M. R., Ahmad A., OH S., OH S.: Hematology of the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus), Verh. Ber. Erkrg. Der Zootiere (2009)
Fry, B., Wroe, S., Teeuwisse, W., van Osch, M., Moreno, K., Ingle, J., McHenry, C., Ferrara, T., Clausen, P., Scheib, H., Winter, K., Greisman, L., Roelants, K., van der Weerd, L., Clemente, C., Giannakis, E., Hodgson, W., Luz, S., Martelli, P., Krishnasamy, K., Kochva, E., Kwok, H., Scanlon, D., Karas, J., Citron, D., Goldstein, E., Mcnaughtan, J., & Norman, J. : A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) priscus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810883106; (2009)
Top: Reticulated Pythons are still found in the forests of Singapore.
Bottom: Dr. Abraham conducting an ultrasound on a captured python.