Pick at panda poop

Pick at panda poop
Education executive Vera Yang explaining to students the components of panda poop, which include chunks of apple and bits of carrot that they are sometimes fed at the River Safari.

Visitors curious about the unseen side of the River Safari can now take part in its new behind-the-scenes tours.

The two tours, Be A Panda Researcher and Fishy Business, are now available for reservation online. They are recommended for adults and children who are at least nine years old and can be booked at education.riversafari.com.sg/ whatshap.html.

Fans of the resident pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, can become "panda researchers" by taking apart panda poo and learning about their dietary needs. They will also be able to examine paw prints and other markings of the pair, and learn more about how researchers track pandas in the wild.

Fishy Business takes visitors into the back rooms of the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit, where they can experience the job of an aquarist.

Besides preparing food for river giants such as manatees and arapaimas, participants can feed the silver arowanas. This involves putting pre-cut pieces of fish on a long stick and dangling them above the arowana pond. The arowanas will leap out of the water to strike at the "prey".

Yesterday morning, members of the media and a group of 11 students from the Canadian International School attended a preview session of the two tours.

Feeding the fishproved to be an exciting experience for the students. "You never know when the arowanas would jump up and eat the fish," says nine-year-old Riley Obach.

Several of the students say they areanimal lovers and are curious about how to care for the creatures.

"It's fun. I've never done things like that before," says nine-year-old Ella Paris Furner of the food preparation process and feeding experience.

Besides cutting fish into bite-sized pieces for the arowanas, she and her classmates also prepared vegetables for the manatees, and rolled pellets to form chunky balls for the arapaimas.

The tours are a first for the River Safari, though its cousin the Singapore Zoo has two behind-the- scenes programmes, one on veterinary and nutritional care, and the other on breeding invertebrates such as butterflies.

"Visitors are often curious about our work," says Ms May Lok, 52, director for education at Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which runs both zoos. "Our team is also eager to share the passion and joy in the day-to-day care of our 6,000 animals."

She hopes that these programmes will spark the interest and curiosity of visitors, taking them a step closer to playing a part in the conservation of wildlife.

byseow@sph.com.sg

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