Nothing to see

Engsiong Tan
3 min readFeb 15, 2022

Or why modern zoos are so boring

When I was young most kids wanted to go to the zoo. If you ask kids today if they want to go to the zoo, you need to make sure that the tablet or smartphone is not competing. It is not just kids. Their paying guardian are also complaining that the prices have gone up without any visible benefits.

Man Eaters

When I was a child, the zoo was a place where the apex predators were kept. (The other animals were living specimens of the apex predators’ diet.) Lions, tigers, pythons, polar bears and many other animals. I saw more animals at the zoo recently but the increase in marmosets and tamarin (Read smaller animals) are not going to offset the fewer apex predators. Adding fishes and insects do not help. I recalled the fear I had when I saw piranhas for the first time. Today, there are signs explaining that piranhas do not transform living animals into skeletons in seconds. Furthermore, zoos have adopted the habits of their corporate breadthen by literally downsizing their workforce. Now we have to look at pygmy hippos and dwarf crocodiles.

I understand that it is increasing unpopular for attractions to keep animals like dolphins and killer whales. Singapore gave up polar bears even though its last polar bear was actually born in tropics. This means keeping only mild mannered herbivores or small critters. Seeing a sloth is not a highlight in anybody’s books. I certainly did not count the toes on the sloth.

This little piggy went ZZZZ. (Image by Author)

Natural Behaviour

Eat, sleep, groom. I would add play but the constant circling by some animals is pretty pitiful. It is reminiscent of prisoners walking around their cells. Or how passengers in the cattle class stretch their legs.

Even feeding time is pretty child friendly. You will only see the vegan option. To be fair, the herbivores are the ones that make dining an activity by grazing. Carnivores and fructivores make meal time look like pit stops.

Then there is sleeping. No animal is going to stand in the sun at noon. Apparently, every animal know that shade and siesta goes together. If the animal wants some privacy, it can always turn its back on the public.

Seriously, this is my best view (Image by Author)


So the zoo is not as entertaining as it is supposed to be. It is a place that gouges you for high priced food and souvenirs. And then still ask for donations. This is on top of getting illegal (Read free) wildlife as part of its exhibits. To be fair, most wildlife do not have passports so it is not like you can just send them home. Plus no travelers wants “support” animals on their next flight. Or even in the cargo area. It is ironic that the lion decided to transit in the Lion city

Lion sleeps tonight. (From

Zoos are trying to pivot from entertainment to education. Animals stop being eye candy and are now things to be understood and respected. The entire idea is that zoos are not supposed to last chance salons to see who or what survives but to understand that no man is an island.

When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money- Native American saying