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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Birds, Bats, but Few Cats
Paul and I spent the day exploring two of Singapore's famous wildlife parks: the Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Zoo. The Zoo had a couple of cats, but the closest we got to any Asian species were a couple of white tigers...very unsatisfying! However, that's not to say we didn't have a great day. The Bird Park has an amazing collection of Asian hornbills - 18 species - including a Great Hornbill that they fly in their show and feature in their keeper talk. What a stunning bird! They also had some wonderful raptors in their show, all free-flown. I have also never seen more Victoria crowned pigeons or flamingos (hundreds) in one place. They also had some amazing birds of paradise.

The favorite part of our day, however, was our visit to the Singapore Zoo. It was like walking through a lush rainforest with animals magically appearing, posed just so. As zoo people, Paul and I were blown away by how visible and active all the animals were, despite the sweltering conditions. We got great views of pygmy hippos, "free-ranging" orangutans (able to climb in the overhead canopy - very cool), huge fruit bats just inches away in the canopy, an AWAKE sloth, tree kangaroo, and much more. They also had a wonderful working elephant show.

But the highlight of our zoo visit was an encounter with native wildlife. As we were coming down the path we found a monitor lizard locked in battle with a frog. It was amazing! The frog was all puffed up full of air so the monitor couldn't swallow it. Instead, it kept just bashing it around, occasionally loosing its grip and then grabbing again as the frog made a break for it. It went on and on. Finally the tussle migrated into the long grass so I can't report on the outcome. I'm betting on the monitor, but he sure had to work for it.

The other wildlife institution in Singapore is the Night Safari. It's a separate part of the zoo, open only at night with a tram ride and nocturnal animal show. They also have a tropical trail with cloudies, fishing cats, and other Asian species. We're really looking forward to that, but won't visit until we return to Singpore after Borneo. We leave for Kota Kinabalu tomorrow afternoon. Next report: Borneo!


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