Ah Meng The Orangutan And Conservation In Singapore

With Mother’s Day recently passed, I thought it fitting I talk about about Singapore’s most famous non-human mother, Ah Meng, the Sumatran Orangutan.

Ah Meng, the Orangutan on her walks

Ah Meng, the Orangutan on her walks

Ah Meng, was the poster girl for Singapore’s conservation efforts and tourism industry.  She starred in more than 30 documentaries, including one with the legendary Steve Irwin.  She also made the impression on many other famous visitors including Prince Philip, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Bo Derek- just to name a few!

Although she died in 2008, many still think of Ah Meng when they think of our Singapore Zoological Gardens.  She was the star attraction at the still hugely popular Breakfast with Ah Meng (now changed to Breakfast with Wildlife since her passing) at the Zoo.  Many tourists still flock to Singapore just for the experience of dining with one of these lovable creatures. 

In 1992, Ah Meng became the first and only non-human recipient of the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board’s (STB) Special Ambassador Award for her contributions.  A special sculpture now stands proudly at the zoo in her memory.

Ah Meng didn’t have an easy start in life.  She was born around 1960 and smuggled from Indonesia and illegally kept as a pet until she was rescued in 1971.  Despite her difficult start, her gentle nature attracted those she met, ultimately advancing the cause of conservation in her own way.  Beyond her public role, Ah Meng also had four children, two males and two females named Hsing Hsing, Satria, Medan and Sayang respectively, and six grandchildren and now one great-grandson, Bino. 

Ah Meng and her daughter

Ah Meng and her daughter

She was the epitome of a working mother.  With a strong cause, wit and charm she influenced many people and won them over to the side of conservation.

This May, we may be celebrating our real mothers, but let’s spare a thought for the millions of animal mothers out there who are working hard to look for food their babies and to keep their babies safe.  Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate destroying the homes of many animal families.  Orangutans are listed as endangered by the WWF with many asserting that numbers have fallen by more than 50% in the past 60 years.  It is important Ah Meng’s legacy live on and the message of conservation with it.`

If you are interested to learn more about Singapore’s conservation efforts and to have breakfast with the wildlife, our Personal Assistants at Capella Singapore will be more than happy to make arrangements for you.  The Zoo is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore.  Please contact them at +65 6591 5035/34 or email them at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.  


Image via yesterday.sg 

Ixtapa’s Baby Turtle Release

When the rainy season comes to Ixtapa in June, I look forward to nights of listening to the raindrops on my window.  But most of all, I love the rainy season, because this is the time when turtles come to our beaches and lay their eggs.  The best part of turtles nesting for me is from August till the end of December, when we all can be part of one of the most emotional events – release of baby turtles to the ocean.

In Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo we are very fortunate to have one of the preferred lands on the Pacific coast for the sea turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs.  Our beaches are home mostly to the Olive Ridley turtles, but also to Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles.

 Dedicated organizations, trained volunteers, and several employees from hotel industry all around the area, carefully “rescue” the eggs and place them in corrals where the incubation is monitored.  Turtles come out of their eggs after 40-50 days.

However, the preservationists don’t stop there!  After hatching, the turtles are kept well fed and cared for in seawater tanks.  Two to three weeks later the turtles are released into the ocean.  With this, the endangered hatchlings are able to grow a bit more, protecting them from natural predators.  Through this process, the specialized organizations in Ixtapa-Zihatanejo count more than 75,000 baby turtle released every year!

 If you are planning a vacation between August and December, I suggest a trip to Ixtapa to partake in a turtle release.  Your Capella Ixtapa Personal Assistant can arrange participation in a release.  Speaking from experience it is truly a special experience.  Hopefully this year we can cheer on the turtles together!

Tortugas Bebés De Ixtapa

Cuando en junio llega la temporada de lluvias a Ixtapa, espero con ansias las noches cuando escucho las gotas de lluvia en mi ventana. Pero mas que nada, me encanta la temporada de lluvias, ya que es la temporada en la cual vienen las tortugas a desovar en nuestras playas. Para mi la mejor parte de la temporada de desove de tortugas es de agosto a final de diciembre, cuando todos podemos ser parte de uno de los momentos más emotivos – liberar las tortugas bebés al océano.

En Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo tenemos la suerte de tener unas de las playas favoritas de desove para tortugas a lo largo del Océano Pacífico. Nuestras playas son hogar mayormente de tortugas del tipo “Golfinas”, aunque también encontramos Laud y Carey.

Organizaciones especializadas, voluntarios entrenados, y muchos empleados de la industria del hospedaje en el área, cuidadosamente “rescatan” los huevos y los colocan en pequeños corrales donde se monitorea su incubación. Las tortugas salen de los huevos después de 40 a 50 días.

Sin embargo, la preservación no termina aquí! Después de salir del cascarón las tortugas son cuidadas y alimentadas en tanques con agua marina. Después de 2 a 3 semanas son liberadas al océano. Con esto, las frágiles crías son capaces de crecer un poco más, protegiéndose así mejor de los depredadores naturales. A través de este proceso, las organizaciones de protección en Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo cuantifican en más de 75,000 tortugas que liberan cada año!

 Si estás planeando unas vacaciones entre Agosto y Diciembre, te sugiero un tour para tomar parte de una “liberación de tortugas”. Tu Personal Assistant de Capella Ixtapa puede arreglar tu participación en la liberación. Es una experiencia muy especial. Ojalá este año podamos celebrar a las tortugas juntos!

Changing Tides: The Shark Fin Controversy

American author, Aldo Leopold once wrote, “conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.”  Recently it has become clear that this quote also applies to the sea and its occupants.

Over the past couple of weeks, our local Singapore news has focused on the controversy of serving and selling shark fins.

Historically, Chinese have considered shark fin one of the eight treasured foods from the sea.  Fins were seen as a noble and precious commodity—fit for the tables of the emperors.  Because of the association with luxury and wealth, shark fins are traditionally served only at important events.

However, the shark population has suffered a rapid decline.  With more than 73 million sharks killed each year (mostly for their fins) many of the species are facing extinction.

As a result, many shops and restaurants have announced their ceasing to sell sharks fin as part of efforts towards environmental sustainability.  Capella Singapore is also offering alternative to the Shark Fin Soup.  Among the options are Braised Bird’s Nest, Braised Superior Dried Seafood Broth and Double-boiled Abalone Soup.  In addition to offering these alternatives, we are also offering incentives for those who select these options.

I hope that our contribution will help to maintain the very fragile balance of life in our seas.  Tradition is nothing if we can’t find a way to live in harmony!


Photo Credit: ©Conservation International/photo by Emilie Verdon