SINGAPORE – Many had been to the zoo before – some up to seven times – but the 27 beneficiaries with the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) had a special treat on Friday.

They were taken on the Wild Discoverer Tour for an exclusive look into an area at the back of the zoo where insects found on the forest floor are bred and maintained, including the jungle nymph, now an extinct species in the wild in Singapore.

The behind-the-scenes trip included an informative tram ride and into the insect room, which is not accessible to regular zoo visitors.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Wong Hong Chak, 11, a pupil from Red Swastika School, who had bravely cupped the insects in his palms, surrounded by cages filled with them.

“We live in a city so an experience like this, getting so close to animals, is invaluable,” said Ms Tan Li  Lan, a 26-year-old Samsung assistant marketing manager, who took care of Hong Chak.

He was among the beneficiaries selected for the outing on Friday (Dec 22). All were accompanied by ST staff volunteers and 20 Samsung staff.

The zoo visit was the final of three outings jointly organised by ST and Samsung. First organised in November last year, HeadSTart is an ST initiative to bring journalists and beneficiaries together.

At the white tiger enclosure, the children, who are in the upper primary levels, were inquisitive, asking about the lifespan of a tiger and its weight. Zookeepers also touched on animal conservation facts.

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund beneficiaries take pictures of the white tigers.  ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 

After lunch, the children got to take a tram ride to the Fragile Forest, a biodome of free-ranging animals.

Ms Tan Bee Heong, STSPMF’s general manager, said: “It was a memorable one for the children, who may not have the means to visit the zoo in their own time. Getting the behind-the-scenes tour was also special, they were very excited to be there.”

(From left) Mohd Elfrian Bin Abdullah, Rifqi Irfan and Nur Fadiah Binte Abdul Mutalib look at a stick insect during a tour of the Fragile Forest. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

During the outing, each beneficiary also received a Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet with S Pen, worth $498 each. They snapped away throughout the outing, hoping to win a photo competition set by the organisers.

“The interaction between the children and volunteers was heartwarming,” said Ms Esther Low, head of public relations and corporate marketing in Samsung.

“For them to know that there are adults, outside of their circle of friends and family, who do care as well will really touch them for a long time.”

Chan Soon Keong, 10,  who has been to the zoo seven times, summed up the day by saying every exhibit was as exciting as ever.

“I never get tired of the zoo,” the Stamford Primary School student said, while snapping pictures at the white tiger exhibit.

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