How much do you love your job? Probably not as much as these five essential workers at Mandai Singapore Zoo. Leading up to National Day and in celebration of the Singapore Zoo’s 50th Golden Zoobilee, we speak to five individuals about their role in Mandai, and the importance of what they do.
Lim Yi Xuan, Junior Veterinary Nurse
Above: Lim Yi Xuan, Junior Veterinary Nurse
Yi Xuan is a Junior Vet Nurse who helps with treatments and any medical care that the animals in the zoo require. While she’s still pretty new at her current role (she transferred about two months ago but has been with Mandai for two-and-a-half-years), she still hopes for the day that the zoo’s clinic will not have a single patient, because ultimately, everyone wants the animals to be healthy. Her job sees her administering injections or oral medications, and getting things ready for Senior Vets to handle operations.
Above: baby Masked Palm Civet getting treatment. the Little guy cut his tail by accident.
When asked about her reasons for joining Mandai, she says, “It’s a dream of mine, actually. Since young, the zoo has always been one of my favourite places to visit. My dad used to being me often and he was the one that made me like animals; he exposed me a lot to wildlife — and then the interest grew from there. I realised that hey, you can actually become a vet nurse, so I started pursuing that sector. A lot of this [job] is actually quite new to me as well, so I’ve been learning a lot. After all, it’s a wide variety of animals.”
Above: Masked Palm Civet receiving medication and a new bandage on his injured tail.
Hikmat Siliwangi, Senior Keeper, Animal Care (Herbivores)
Above: Hikmat Siliwangi, Senior Keeper, Animal Care.
Hikmat is the zookeeper who is in charge of all the herbivores, and that includes the giraffes that he was feeding during this interview. While a zookeeper may sound like a pretty generic job title, he has the fulfilling role of taking care of all aspects of the animal’s welfare — their habitat, meals, emotional wellbeing and even guest interactions.
Above: Hikmat feeding carrot sticks to a giraffe who’s feeling snacky.
He says, “Some days, you know, the animals have their moods. So we as a zookeeper… we need to know how to handle it. We need to anticipate their moods every day. And it’s a good experience; every day is a learning journey for us. Animals are unpredictable; zookeepers need to assess them and react fast to their needs and to know what to do.”
“For me, the most challenging part is when the animals give birth. Even though the baby is out and seems fine, we need to see more than that. Whether the mother rejects the baby and what’s happening with the baby; so we really need to observe them closely.”
Rahman Bin Yusoff, Senior Executive, Horticulture
Above: Rahman Bin Yusoff, Senior Executive, Horticulture.
Uncle Rahman — as he’s known — is one of the zoo’s longest-serving staff. He’s worked at Mandai for more than 50 years, and this is his 30th media interview. While he’s served in almost every area of the zoo including being a keeper, Uncle Rahman has found his calling in horticulture; in particular, growing and harvesting bamboo for the pandas.
Above: Uncle Rahman cutting bamboo for the panda’s meals.
He knows which bamboos are popular, such as Flat Bamboo, Buddha Belly Bamboo, and Yellow or Green Bamboo, and he knows just how much and where to cut. It’s a laborious job but Uncle Rahman goes about it full of joy and expertise.
Above: Uncle Rahman showing us the cut bamboo.
Pedro Shiu, Manager, Education
Above: Pedro Shiu, education Manager on the content team.
Pedro’s job is to create educational content about the animals that are found in all of Mandai’s parks (Singapore Zoo, River Wonders, Night Safari and Bird Paradise). Together with a team of five, he conceptualises, shoots and produces educational videos for the public to see on Mandai’s website and social media platforms.
He does get special requests from other departments as well, such as “when there’s a special event, like a special keeper talk, or they want to highlight some animal and they need publicity, then we work with them to film it down. We also document really important animals of high conservation value coming in or going out. So instead of just creating video for social media, we also have the job of kind of being documentarians of the life events happening in the organisation.”
Above: Pedro taking videos of pigeons for Mandai’s social media platforms.
Pedro certainly considers this his dream job, and a question he wrestles with himself is, “What next? Because I’m so happy and fulfilled working here, I am worried that I would get too comfortable.”
“I think the most difficult and the most challenging part of my job is also the most fun part of it, which is working with animals. Animals are not always the most cooperative. They’re not like humans, where you can give them the script. And I think as an organisation, we also don’t force our animals to do stuff. So that comes as a challenge because it takes a lot of patience and understanding. And while it’s infuriating at times, it’s also very exciting. Sometimes just forcing myself to be still and waiting for the right moment.
Recently, I filmed a video where I was also in the video where my colleague Mark and I were promoting guest etiquette in Bird Paradise. And then we were talking about what to do if a bird ever lands on your shoulder; and just at that moment, a bird landed on my shoulder. So it was almost on cue that I was able to lean down and show the proper way to react, but that was unexpected.”
Natalie Chan, Manager, Animal Behaviour & Programmes
Above: Natalie Chan, Manager, Animal Behaviour & Programmes.
Natalie is a Manager at the Singapore Zoo’s Animal Behaviour Programmes, and her job covers animal care, training, enrichment, presentations (two a day!) and interactions with the animals. Pretty much everything in Rainforest KidzWorld.
The dogs and cats in her team’s care are all rescues; for example, the retrievers and the Japanese Spitz were being smuggled into Singapore from the Causeway, so they were rescued and adopted as puppies. In fact, few people are aware that the Singapore Zoo has an initiative with the SPCA and AVS to train, rehabilitate and rehome animals, and this is part of Natalie’s job — one that she absolutely loves and cherishes.
Above: Natalie with rescue dogs.
Natalie says that many of the animals acquired can be trained — even cats. “A lot of people don’t realise that actually cats can be trained. So [in the show] the cats go from point to point, and when they are more comfortable or more agile, so to speak, we actually got them to walk on the planks, or to display their sensitive whiskers by going through hoops. I think the message that we’re trying to drive home is not so much what tricks they can do, but what suits the behaviour of the individual animals. So this cat can do all that but the other cat prefers interaction. So it’s more about suiting it to the animal so that ultimately they’re happy and comfortable to do what they’re doing. And I guess the take home message is, hey, look at what rescue animals can do. It’s giving them a second chance.”
Above: rescue dogs getting ready for the animal friends show.
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