Singapore Zoo assures visitors that white tiger exhibit is safe
By S. Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 14 November 2008 1615 hrs
SINGAPORE: A day after a cleaner was mauled to death at the Singapore Zoo's white tiger enclosure, officials assured the public that the exhibit is "very safe".
It held a news conference on Friday to clear any doubts even as it opened its latest S$12 million attraction called the Rainforest Kidzworld.
Visitors streamed in to view the attraction, which opened in time for the school holidays.
Executive director and CEO of Temasek Holdings, Ms Ho Ching, who launched the new attraction, said: "The zoo has deepened its own knowledge and expertise through the years.
"I have full respect for the team at the WildLife Reserves for their hard work, passion and constant care. It is amazing how their dedication and imagination have created a natural and safe wildlife habitat only half an hour away from the city lights."
Meanwhile, the chairperson of Wildlife Reserves - which owns the zoo - took the opportunity to speak about Thursday's incident at the white tiger enclosure.
Claire Chiang, non-executive chairman, Wildlife Reserves, said: "Let me take a few minutes to address the unfortunate incident at the white tiger exhibit yesterday. Our sympathies and condolences go to Mr Nordin Bin Montong's family.
"I would like to reassure all visitors that the white tiger exhibit is very safe and is as safe as any part of the zoo. The safety measures we have implemented exceed the standards recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
"AZA is the internationally recognised organisation that accredits only institutions that have achieved rigorous standards for animal care, education, wildlife conservation and science."
Visitors, too, seemed to agree that the white tiger exhibit does not pose any danger.
Aaron Tan, a visitor, said: "The enclosure is actually quite safe as long as you don't go... into the enclosure itself. So I can still bring my kid here."
At a news conference later, zoo officials addressed other concerns raised, including the five-minute response time it took the sharpshooters to reach the scene.
Biswajit Guha, assistant director, Singapore Zoo, said: "The five-minute situation is essentially sufficient to go to a hotspot in the case of an animal escape. This was an extraordinary situation whereby someone had actually jumped in.
"Even if it had been a fall and the person was trying very hard to avoid the tigers and had gone to the deep end, we are quite confident he would have been able to move in, in time."
He added that firing tranquilisers would not have saved the cleaner as it could have further provoked the animals.
He added: "Tranquilisers don't work instantaneously. So it will take about five minutes before having an impact on the animal. And to have such a sharp impact coming into contact with an animal, it could provoke the animal more and there might be a more drastic reaction."
Meanwhile, the Singapore Zoo said it will not be stationing armed officers at the enclosures which are deemed dangerous. But it will definitely be increasing its patrols by the zoo's keepers and operational staff.
Staff who witnessed the incident or need counselling will also be taken care of.
The zoo hopes to re-open the white tiger attraction within the next few days. - CNA/vm