Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state in Southeast Asia. The country is situated one degree (137 kilometres or 85 miles) north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south and Peninsular Malaysia to the north. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 square kilometres or 50 square miles).
Although its history stretches back millennia, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British East India Company. After the Company’s collapse in 1858, the islands came under direct British control as a crown colony known as the Straits Settlements. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan, following which Britain occupied it again. Singapore gained independence from the British Empire in 1963 by joining Malaysia along with Sabah and Sarawak, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a fully sovereign state in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
The city-state is home to 5.6 million residents, 39% of whom are foreign nationals, including permanent residents. There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil; most Singaporeans are bilingual, with English serving as the nation’s lingua franca, while Malay is the national language. Nonetheless, only about 10% of the population speaks Malay, with the most commonly spoken language at home being English. Its cultural diversity is reflected in its extensive ethnic cuisine and major festivals. Pew Research has found that Singapore has the highest religious diversity of any country. Multiracialism has been enshrined in its constitution since independence, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing and politics. The city-state’s historical district features dozens of landmarks such as The Esplanade, Fort Canning Hill, the National Gallery Singapore, Raffles Hotel and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. There are also numerous famous attractions within the city-state, notably Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Island, Orchard Road, Jewel Changi Airport and the Singapore Zoo, which was ranked the best zoo in Asia. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is the only tropical garden in the world to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. According to the Democracy Index in 2018, the country is described as a “flawed democracy”.
(Pictures taken in 2008)
The Singapore Zoo, formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens or Mandai Zoo and now commonly known locally as the Singapore Zoo, occupies 28 hectares (69 acres) on the margins of Upper Seletar Reservoir within Singapore’s heavily forested central catchment area. The zoo was built at a cost of $9 million granted by the government of Singapore and opened on 27 June 1973. It is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, who also manage the neighbouring Night Safari, River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16 percent are considered to be threatened species. The zoo attracts 1.7 million visitors each year.
From the beginning, Singapore Zoo followed the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalistic, ‘open’ exhibits with hidden barriers, moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. It houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world.