How much are Singaporeans willing to do for wildlife conservation? Who should play the biggest role in protecting biodiversity? Are zoos simply a leisure destination?
On Oct 1, 2020, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) released its findings from a commissioned Conservation Sentiments Survey, conducted to shed light on the attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of Singaporeans on the topic of conservation and sustainability.
Dr Cheng Wen Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “As a mission led organisation, wildlife conservation is core to our work. We embarked on the Conservation Sentiments Survey to gain a better understanding behind the attitudes and motivations of Singaporeans when it comes to conservation, and the results were insightful.
“Zoos have made great advances over the past few decades and today, modern zoos like ours play a crucial role in the fight against species extinction through contributions in animal care, education, public engagement, research and protecting wildlife in their native habitats. By connecting people to animals via meaningful wildlife experiences, we hope to inspire as many people as possible to play a part to save wildlife.
“It is reassuring to know that a majority of Singaporeans have a heart for wildlife and conservation issues, and it reaffirms our commitment to continue reaching out and developing suitable platforms for everyone to join us in this endeavour.”
Wildlife conservation – A generational preference?
One of the survey’s key areas of focus was to determine how people in Singapore perceived wildlife conservation, and the factors that would motivate them to do more.
While one in two of those surveyed has participated in wildlife conservation efforts, the top reasons cited for those who have never been involved in such efforts include not having the time (40 per cent) or not knowing where to begin (39 per cent). However, nearly two in five (38 per cent) of those who have not, indicated that they are motivated to take steps towards it.
In fact, of those who actively support social causes, it was found that Generation Z respondents aged between 16 and 24 years old are nearly twice as inclined to support wildlife conservation compared to Singaporeans above 45 years old. Top actions they cited include taking steps in their daily life that would help the environment and wildlife (61 per cent); donating to wildlife organisations (58 per cent) and visiting wildlife parks/zoos or signing a petition/pledge (51 per cent).
When asked what might motivate them to do more for wildlife conservation, Generation Z’s top driver was having more financial resources (45 per cent).
Meanwhile, the top motivator for millennials aged between 25 and 34 years old is knowing how their actions would create impact (47 per cent), while those above 55 years old cited watching an inspiring documentary or movie about wildlife (35 per cent) as their top motivator.
Learning about wildlife through modern zoos still critical in the digital age
With the availability of technology and online resources in today’s digital age, it is no surprise that three in four Singaporeans learn about wildlife from watching television, movies and documentaries. However, this does not replace the valuable experience that modern zoos bring as revealed in the survey, with almost eight in ten (76 per cent) people who visited WRS parks (Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park) describing it as a great place to learn more about wildlife.
The study also revealed that the impact of these experiences extends beyond the visits – with nearly two third (60 per cent) of those surveyed being inspired to do more for wildlife conservation after their visit to a WRS park. These include actions such as reading up about wildlife and/or conservation (36 per cent); making sustainable lifestyle/behavioural changes (22 per cent) and exploring ways to contribute to wildlife conservation (21 per cent). In addition, the study also found that regular visitors of WRS parks are seven times more likely to participate more regularly in wildlife conservation efforts, compared to those who don’t visit as often.
Zoos expected to be more than leisure destinations
Apart from being an educational resource and a leisure destination, modern zoos play an important role in safeguarding biodiversity – and public expectations are high on that front. For WRS parks in particular, survey respondents looked towards them to provide a protective habitat for animals (69 per cent); encourage people to take part in wildlife conservation (61 per cent); save animals from extinction (54 per cent), and help animals in the wild (39 per cent).
Beyond the parks’ boundaries, WRS contributes to local and regional conservation efforts through funding and support in the areas of enabling wildlife-friendly livelihood for local communities, capacity building, education, and awareness-raising. This includes the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF) that was introduced in 2009 to support projects that contribute to Singapore’s biodiversity research and conservation.
Over the last five years, WRS has also supported and funded more than 100 field projects in Southeast Asia, working in collaboration with conservation partners to positively impact more than 68 threatened species and their habitats. As accredited members of international and regional zoo associations, WRS also works closely with the global zoo community to support species-conservation management plans and raise awareness on wildlife conservation issues.
Whether it is contributing to wildlife conservation efforts through monetary donations, volunteering time or even making sustainable lifestyle changes, WRS offers various ways in which Singaporeans can play an active role. Some examples include donating through micro-sponsorships or adopting an animal; participating in WRS programmes such as Hello from The Wild Side – a virtual interaction session with animals; volunteering as a Conservation Ambassador, docent or Wildlife Buddy or simply visiting one of the four wildlife parks.
WRS also recently introduced its Conservation Included campaign to raise awareness of the impact of each guests’ visit to its conservation efforts in Singapore and the region.
Dr Cheng added: “Our four wildlife parks have a combined 129 years of connecting people to wildlife, and we hope to be able to continue this engagement to build affinity for wildlife and spread the message of wildlife conservation. We are constantly looking for ways to bolster our efforts for the conservation of threatened species and their wild habitats, but we cannot do this alone. Everyone can play a part. We hope that the meaningful experiences at our wildlife parks and the variety of initiatives we have available for Singaporeans to be a part of can help to encourage more people to take action today, for tomorrow.”