As part of an ongoing effort to cut costs and avoid duplication, the Singapore Zoological Gardens announced that Ah Meng the orang utan has been laid off.
Zoo official Mr Boh Kang Cho : “Since the merger of the Zoo, Night Safari and Bird Park, the zoo is finding ways to cut costs. We have asked all the older animals to consider voluntary early retirements since they are less productive. For example, Ah Meng consumes more food than a young orang utan and is less energetic. She sometimes even eats up visitors’ breakfasts. Also, we have so many orang utans, we can afford to cut down on the duplication.”
The Zoo is also tightening up its management of animals who are not performing.
Talkingcock understands that the two “green” polar bears that developed fur fungi have been given warning letters for exceeding their annual sick leave quota.
The Zoo has also exiled one of the tigers back to Malaysia, accused of trying to incite the animals to establish a union. “Foreign-born animals are always a problem in the Zoo because their loyalties are questionable. They simply do not have our country’s interests in mind. They also tend to be less obedient than locally bred animals.”
The restructuring seems to be affecting the morale of the animals. Visitors complained that recently, the animals appear “sian-sian” in their enclosures. The elephants seem to be moving slower than usual. The lions seemed resigned to their fate and are spending all their time lying in the sun. Even a 3-hour pep talk by SM last week failed to raise spirits. Rumour has it that the Zoo has threatened that if they don’t pull up their socks, the Zoo will bring in animal robots to take their places.
Hong Bao, the daughter of Ah Meng, told TalkingCock using sign language that she is “very concerned”. “I joined the zoo because I thought, hey, this is civil service – I can just laze around whole day and lead a secure life. Beats going out and fending for myself in the Johor forests, right? Now things are different. For example, my bananas ration is now tied to the number of visitors at my enclosure – part of what management calls ‘performance-based compensation’. Now I have to do monkey business in order to attract attention. Damn siong.”
Mr Boh Kang Cho was confident that with retraining, the animals will adapt to new uses.
He said that for example, the Ministry of Community Development and Sports has already shown interest in hiring and retraining Ah Meng, mother of numerous orang utans, to be the ambassador of their campaign to encourage Singaporeans to have more children. The Ministry of Manpower is retraining monkeys to clean the windows of HDB flats, a chore now deemed too dangerous for maids.
Mr Boh warned that the animals have to take responsibility for their fate. The zoo has already received numerous requests from Chinese restaurants and medicine shops to purchase ‘redundant’ animals - bears, tigers, antelopes and rhinos are the most popular.