Campaign to End the Use of Animals in Animal Shows at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari

In April 2005, ACRES launched a campaign to end the use of wild animals in shows at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. This was due to concerns that not only was animal welfare probably being compromised, but also that public safety could be at risk during the shows, following an incident in which a member of the public was injured by a serval during a show at the Night Safari. We also strongly felt that watching animals, such as the orang utan, performing circus-style tricks was of no educational value, simply reinforcing the outdated idea that animals are for humans to use as tools for entertainment.

In April 2005, ACRES went to observe and document the orang utan’s performance in the “Spirits of the Rainforest” show at the Singapore Zoo and found that most of the acts that the orang utan was made to perform were far from natural.

Read Press Releases here.

Why ACRES called for animal shows at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari banned:

  • Watching animals performing circus-style tricks teaches the audience, especially impressionable children, that animals are ours to be used for entertainment and humiliated at our will. In many cases they also give a totally false impression how animals behave naturally.
  • Training methods may involve cruelty to the animals.
  • Animal shows are not a form of enrichment if the animals are performing the same routine everyday.
  • Using animals in shows poses a great risk to public. Animals in such close proximity to the audience could attack at any time.


In 2002, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) imposed a local ban on performing wild animals in travelling circuses. According to AVA’s press release, “AVA is initiating this restriction on travelling circuses in the interest of public safety and animal welfare. AVA has been monitoring the incidences of mishaps and abuse associated with performing wild animal in travelling circuses in recent years. The number of such accidents has been increasing. In some cases, the accidents have resulted in serious injuries and death to both trainers and the public.”

AVA’s ban, however, did not include the performances involving wild animals at captive facilities in Singapore. In light of a 2005 attack of a member of the public by a serval during an animal show at a WRS establishment, clearly AVA’s rationale for the ban on performing wild animals in travelling circuses should be applied to WRS establishments as well and the wild animal performances should be banned.

ACRES wrote to the AVA urging the government to extend the ban on performing wild animals in travelling circuses to include performances involving wild animals at WRS establishments. ACRES also appealed to WRS to take the initiative to end the use of wild animals in their shows.

ACRES created an online petition calling for an end for the use of animals in circus-style shows at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

ACRES also wrote to the press and articles on the campaign were published in The Straits Times, Today and the New Paper and letters on the issue from ACRES and members of the public were published in Today.

The campaign received strong local and international support. At the Asia for Animals Conference held in Singapore in May 2005, a resolution was adopted by all delegates supporting the call by ACRES for the ban on the use of wild animals in circuses to be extended to captive facilities in Singapore where circus-like shows are performed, including Singapore Zoo and Dolphin Lagoon.

ACRES remains strongly against the use of all wild animals in shows. However, in an effort to reach an amicable solution with the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, ACRES went on to propose the following guidelines to the management of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.


If the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari continue to use wild animals in animal shows, they should:

  • Enforce a policy of the display of only natural behaviours by the show animals.
  • Ensure that the show animals live in naturalistic enclosures when they are not performing.
  • Ensure that each animal performs not more than once every two days, allowing them to rest at least a day after every performance. (Performance is no longer enriching if it is performed on a daily basis at a specific time. It merely becomes a routine and clearly does not meet the guidelines on enrichment.)
  • Use only training methods that do not involve the physical and mental abuse of the animals.
  • Install barriers at the show areas which make it physically impossible for all show animals to come into contact with the public at all times.


Most of the guidelines are in line with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) conditions for animal performances which include:

  • The animals must not be forced to perform acts considered unnatural for the animal.
  • The animals must not pose a danger to the public.

ACRES urged the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari to ensure that all the above guidelines were met. If these guidelines were not met, ACRES pledged to continue to campaign for a ban on the use of wild animals in animals shows at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

In May 2005, the Singapore Zoo put an end to the existing long-standing “Spirits of the Rainforest” show and introduced a new “Wonders of the Wild” show. The show appeared to be more focused on making the animals display natural, species-appropriate behaviours.

ACRES was invited to view the new show and also inspect the areas where the show animals are housed on a temporary or permanent basis.

We were pleased to see that the circus-style tricks previously performed by the orang utan, our main concern, had been removed from the show. The orang utan’s performance now involves him swinging across hanging ropes and peeling a coconut.

The other animals in the show were also seen to perform predominantly species-appropriate behaviours.

Although we feel there is still room for improvement, the removal of many of the unnatural behaviours from the show is a good start and a step in the right direction, in terms of both animal welfare and public education. However, our concerns for public safety by allowing wild animals to come into such close proximity to visitors during the shows and photography sessions at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari remain.

We look forward to continue working together with Wildlife Reserves Singapore, who run both the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, and hopefully in the near future seeing an end to the use of all animals in animal shows in Singapore.

Sadly, the use of intelligent, sentient animals in circus-type shows is still rife in zoos and theme parks throughout Asia. We hope that other zoos and parks will follow the example set by the Singapore Zoo and take heed of the message that the exploitation of animals purely for entertainment in circus-style shows belongs in the past and has no place in modern, forward-thinking establishments.