Jurong Reptile Park, defunct zoo in the late 1990s

From the Singapore Zoo to Bird Paradise, a trip to Mandai Wildlife Reserve will more than suffice if you’re an animal enthusiast looking to galavant amongst fauna from all over the world.

But, did you know that there used to be a reptilian sanctuary that had various cold-blooded critters for all to ogle at? Known as the Jurong Reptile Park, this zoo used to house animals like 18ft-long crocodiles that would be sure to impress even Steve Irwin himself. Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like in the late 1990s, and more on its eventual closure in 2006.

What was the Jurong Reptile Park?

Main EntranceThe main entrance of Jurong Reptile Park.
Image credit: Baldur via ZooChat

Also known as the Jurong Reptile and Crocodile Paradise, the Jurong Reptile Park opened in 1988, and was located just 1km away from the OG Jurong Bird Park. Entry tickets were going for $7, and visitors got to see over 50 different species of reptiles, with almost half of the animals here being venomous.

Crocodile And Giant Tortoise EnclosuresThe estuarine crocodiles and giant tortoises found at Jurong Reptile Park.
Image credit: The Others Site Of Singapore (T.O.S.S) via Facebook

The 2-hectare reptilian zoo was the largest in Asia at the time and featured exhibits showcasing animals like estuarine crocodiles, Komodo dragons, and king cobras. Not all of them were as menacing though, as the Jurong Reptile Park also had ambling giant tortoises grazing on their greens, while iguanas lazily sunbathed in their enclosures.

Jurong Reptile Park BrochureAn old scan of Jurong Reptile Park’s brochure.
Image credit: Les Zoos dans le Monde

Other zones within the zoo included a walk-through iguana enclosure and a footbridge that suspended visitors over a compound which contained hundreds of crocodiles – it wasn’t for the faint of heart. The place was also surprisingly pretty kid-friendly; the young’uns would have a blast at the longkang fishing area and they even got to pet the giant tortoises.

Activities At Jurong Reptile ParkImage credit: Appie Stoelwinder via Flickr

Speaking of which, if visitors weren’t too creeped out by the zoo’s scaly friends, they could interact with some of the less fearsome critters on a closer level. Popular activities in the zoo included snapping pics with adorable baby crocs and hand-feeding the iguanas inside their enclosures.

Crocodile Feeding At Jurong Reptile ParkImage credit: Normann via Flickr

Of course, the stars of the zoo had to be their huge family of crocodiles, with some even growing up to lengths of 5.4m. Visitors could swing by their enclosures to catch feeding sessions conducted by zoo keepers during designated times, but it was their crocodile live performances that stole the show.

Crocodile PerformancesThe performers would also regularly court death by daringly placing their heads in between the jaws of the crocodiles as part of the show.
Image adapted from: ABBATRAVEL via YouTube

These shows would feature trained performers who’d pull off stunts which got them up close and personal with the crocs. These include planting a kiss on their snout, as well as hugging the surprisingly tame beasts while waving to the crowd as if they were the best of mates.

With performances as brazenly dangerous as this, it’s no surprise that murmurs of croc-related mishaps regarding the show have cropped up over the years. Apart from cases that resulted in missing fingers, a visitor recounted a particular accident involving an Indonesian trainer, who lost a part of his left cheek after a brush with a crocodile affectionately named Hulk Hogan.

Why did the Jurong Reptile Park close down in 2006?

Amphitheatre At Jurong Reptile Park
What the amphitheatre that used to host said live performances looked like, years after the premises were vacated.
Image credit: u/AtlasDark via Reddit

Unfortunately, the zoo’s unconventional inhabitants were not enough to draw customers away from other widely popular animal-centric attractions such as the Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park. As such, the footfall at Jurong Reptile Park dwindled over the years, and in the early 2000s, the initial team of 12 zookeepers was whittled down to a measly 2-man team.

Another factor that contributed to the zoo’s eventual shuttering in 2006 was the fact that it was a privately-owned establishment, and this meant that it had no financial backing from the government. While attractions like the Singapore Zoo were relishing in state funding and publicity, Jurong Reptile Park had to build and maintain everything itself.

Abandoned ExhibitsImage credit: u/AtlasDark via Reddit

Urban explorers used to be able to enter its premises to sneak a peek of the zoo’s derelict ruins, but the original buildings that housed the Jurong Reptile Park have recently been demolished. In its place stands The Village @ Jurong Hill, a commercial property which is also now permanently closed.

No official sources have confirmed the fate of the zoo’s beloved reptiles. However, forum users on the Internet have speculated that the zoo’s crocodiles were sold to crocodile farms in the country – yes, those do exist, even to this day. The other exotic reptiles, like the giant tortoises, were said to have found a forever home in the Singapore Zoo.

Remembering the novelty of Jurong Reptile Park

Image credit: Penguinmo via Flickr

It’s a shame that the Jurong Reptile Park didn’t last too long after the turn of the millennium. It was a noble venture to spread appreciation for reptiles, which the masses perceived to be far more intimidating than their furry counterparts, as stated by a zookeeper in a 2008 YouTube documentary.

Although you can’t quite head down to Jurong Reptile Park today to experience its eccentricism, you can explore it vicariously through photos and videos on the web. Its legacy still lives on though; then head right to the Reptile Garden in the Singapore Zoo, you just might recognise a familiar pair of chompers.

For more animal-related activities in the region:

Cover image adapted from: Penguinmo via Flickr, u/AtlasDark via Reddit, ABBATRAVEL via YouTube


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