Singapore Zoo to get makeover: 5 fun facts about the zoo and how it has transformed

Singapore Zoo to get makeover: 5 fun facts about the zoo and how it has transformed

Singapore Zoo will be transformed into a "bigger, better zoo" as part of a massive makeover for the Mandai area, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed on Thursday. The zoo, which now sits on a 26ha plot about the size of 23 football fields, will be overhauled and could expand to take up available land next to it.

Jurong Bird Park could also migrate to Mandai, said Mr Lee, adding that the plans should start coming together soon and could be rolled out by as early as 2020.

As the zoo, which turns 41 this year, gears up for the major facelift, we look back at its transformation through five fun facts and pictures from The Straits Times archives:

1. It's the No. 1 zoo in Asia

The idea of setting up a Singapore Zoo in the catchment forests around the Upper Seletar Reservoir was conceived in 1968 by then Public Utilities Board chairman Ong Swee Law. He envisioned a modern haven for animals kept in open-type enclosures amid landscaped gardens resembling their natural habitat.

The zoo officially opened on June 27, 1973, with a collection of just 272 animals from 72 species. Over the last four decades, it grew into a wildlife haven with more than 2,800 specimens representing over 300 species, some of which are threatened, such as the orang utan, manatee and malayan tapir.

The zoo, which attracts 1.7 million visitors annually, was recently ranked No. 1 in Asia by TripAdvisor in its Travellers' Choice Awards 2014. It was ranked fifth overall in the world.

2. Guess which is the oldest animal at the zoo?

Astove the tortoise, which turns 76 this year. The Aldabra giant tortoise from Seychelles has been at the zoo since August 1989. Aldabras are one of the largest species of tortoises in the world and can live to between 150 and 200 years old.

Astove, which has blue eyes, measures more than 1m long and weighs almost 300kg. A vegetarian, eating different types of grass, sweet potato, carrots, tomato and cucumber, it is tame and friendly with visitors.

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