In February 2005, Singapore Zoo asked me if we could catch and relocate an absolutely enormous Crocodilian species known as a False Gharial (Tomistoma Schlegelii). To be perfectly honest I was shocked at the size of the animal when I saw it, and by crikey he had the power and attitude to match.Steve visited Singapore Zoo again in March this year to open the zoo's Australian Outback. From Singapore Zoo:
The False Gharial is a highly endangered species throughout the majority of it’s range, which is in freshwater swamps, rivers and lakes on the Malay Peninsula to Indonesia.
Singapore Zoo wanted to translocate the huge saurian into a new enclosure with a couple of females, and needed our expertise to handle the massive animal. When I heard he was 15 feet long I was a little shocked, as this species has only previously been measured at 4m, which is 13 feet.
We got the shock of our lives when we measured him during capture – he was a cool 15½ foot, which is closer to 5m! Captivity was obviously to his benefit, and at 40 years of age he was excessively strong and healthy.
I sent Briano (Head Crocodile Keeper) and Laura (Marketing) over a couple of days prior to my arrival to sort out logistics. This gave them a good opportunity to check out the location where it was being moved to, and check the dimensions of the all important carry crate. Briano didn’t think that the crate was quite long enough, so we asked them to add another couple of feet.
As luck would have it, Dr. Jon Hanger (Australia Zoo’s vet) and Giles Clark (Senior Big Cat Handler) were in Singapore and joined us for the capture. Jon and Giles had been working on our conservation project in Indonesia, assisting the elephants and their mahouts that were affected by the tsunami, and were on their way home. It was good to get a couple more Zoo Crew on board.
The relocation went without a hitch! The False Gharial was keen to get into his new home, and with more space he will be able to get more exercise and also breed, as there are a couple of good looking female crocs already in the enclosure.
Singapore Zoo and Australia Zoo have been working together harmoniously – they’re our sister zoo in principle, and I couldn’t wait to help them out!
On 9 March 2006, Australian High Commissioner Mr Miles Kupa together with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin officially opened Singapore Zoo’s Australian Outback. Steve not only came face to face when handling the taipan – the world’s deadliest snake – he also received a cheque donation of S$20,000 on behalf of Australia Zoo from the Wildlife Research & Conservation Fund. This donation aims to contribute to Australia Zoo’s conservation and education programmes.I'm sure Singapore Zoo has lost a great friend in Steve.
The Australian Outback is also now home to seven female grey kangaroos, cassowary, emu, wallaby, blue-tongue skink, frilled-neck lizard, and the carpet python. This latest exhibit reflects the rugged beauty of “Down Under”. The middle area of the exhibit is interspersed with semi-arid and marginally fertile ground; whilst the side entrances stand two sheds which enable visitors to see the animals and read more about them from some educational interpretives.
Previously: The day my hero died