Entries in Singapore (2)
After a delicious late dinner in Little India last night, we started off today having breakfast with a family of orangutans in Singapore Zoo. The larger primates, gentle vegetarians, calmly picked open their food and shared it with each other, while the littlest primate oscillated between delight at the company, sulking and full temper tantrums.
I especially enjoyed watching the Hamadryas baboons, of which Singapore Zoo has a large band of more than 100 individuals. They beautifully illustrate the social nature of primates, having a multi-level society (harem, clan, band) and elaborate hierarchies within each structure. With so much potential for lethal aggression, the dominant activity of the baboons is social, constantly responding to each other, both respecting the hierarchy and benefiting from it. The larger males stalked around their territory, followed by a gaggle of females and smaller males. The mothers with the youngest offspring sat there eating, calmly reigning in their too-adventurous young by holding onto their tails as a make-shift leash. And the juveniles raced around as a vortex of trouble, pushing and pulling each other off rocks and down cliffs.
Singapore Zoo is beautifully set out, a delight to stroll around. There is not a cage in sight, with an open plan of moats. I don't get too carried away with distaste at bars, as the concept of animal imprisonment is a human conceit; a beautifully layed out enclosure to human eyes could be hell to a species if it lacked a vital ingredient, whether it is sight, sound, texture or smell, while ugly bars will be meaningless to a territorial species as long as they enclosed access to all the primal urges. Nevertheless, it is much more pleasing to visit animals without bars, and the concern the zookeepers have for meeting every need of their animals is obvious.