News Reporter November 16, 2008 Sunday, 01:48 AM
Jessica Lim detects a kind of hush in the aftermath of a zoo cleaner's death.
ON the surface, it seemed to be business as usual at the Singapore Zoo on Friday - a day after cleaner Nordin Montong was mauled to death in the white tiger exhibit, shocking visitors and Singaporeans.
Tourists armed with maps explored the gardens with their cameras and sunshades, while children let out shrieks of excitement as they bathed in jets of water in the children's play area.
But look deeper, and it is another story.
On the visitor's tram, we drive past the white tiger enclosure and people start to whisper.
'This is where that Nordin guy got eaten by a tiger,' one said.
'Yes, that is why it's shut today. It is all over the news,' said another, as he craned his neck in an attempt to look into the enclosure.
In front of the enclosure, others are taking photos of the sign that read 'exhibit closed', and keepers speak to each other in hushed voices.
Tourists look at an empty white tiger enclosure at the Singapore Zoo after a man was mauled to death there. Source: AP
I ask them if they knew the 32-year-old Mr Nordin.
'We can't say anything, you better talk to the management,' they reply.
Behind the scenes, a team hurries to deal with what has happened.
Already, the management has met the victim's family. We were told that some form of compensation was offered.
And to prevent a recurrence, a slew of new safety measures would be rolled out in coming months. Think alarm buttons, more patrols and CCTV cameras.
But in the same breath, zoo officials reiterate that current measures are sufficient.
At the white tiger enclosure, for one, thick wooden railings and a plant bed overhang minimise the chances of a visitor falling into trouble.
What happened on Thursday, said zoo officials, was extraordinary.
'We cannot account for someone who intentionally scales the railing,' said official Ms Isabel Cheng with a sigh. 'We can do what we can for careless visitors, but it would be difficult for us to be 100 per cent secure for someone who wants to break into the exhibit.'
She brings up the analogy of a person with the intention of jumping off a block of flats.
'You can't stop them in that kind of situation can you? If the person wants to do it, they will find a way to,' she said.
The day after the tiger attack
Straits Times, Singapore