Animal trainer: I put a tiger in bed with Chow Yun-Fat

Animal trainer: I put a tiger in bed with Chow Yun-Fat
ANIMAL INSTINCTS: Mr Richard Pillai now works as a trainer with the animal presentations section of the Singapore Zoo.

SINGAPORE - He has trained an amazing variety of creatures - from houseflies to tigers to elephants - for movie scenes and animal shows at the zoo.

You could say that Mr Richard Pillai understands animals.

The 50-year-old has spent about 30 years of his life observing their behaviour and learning their instincts, as part of his job as an animal trainer.

"I'd say I'm more comfortable with animals than human beings. People are complicated. They can be grinning at you, but saying something else when you're not around, but animals are straightforward," he says.

"You just need to observe their behaviour and they will show you signs."

These days Mr Pillai works as a trainer with the animal presentations section of the Singapore Zoo, where he trains birds and reptiles behind-the-scenes, so that they are ready for the shows visitors enjoy.

But a considerable part of his career was spent working on movie and theatre sets.

"It can be as simple as teaching a rat to run from point A to B, and in the process knock down a series of cosmetic bottles on a vanity counter top, in a movie scene where the actress is meant to scream and look scared," he says.

There were more memorable assignments, like the time he worked on a commercial starring Chow Yun-Fat, which required him to train a tiger.

"The scene was one where a woman lying next to Chow in bed had to morph into a tiger. The first challenge was to make sure the tiger stayed where it needed to be while they filmed, to make sure it didn't attack.

"Then, I had to teach the tiger to stay on the mattress without tearing it up. That was one of the biggest challenges as cats like to yank at sheets," he explains.

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