Not many of us can say that we get to see wildlife in our backyards everyday, but Gurusamy Permalo, acting curator for carnivores at Singapore’s Night Safari, certainly can—and he paints us a vivid picture of his exciting life growing up surrounded by the wild. "It was such a unique childhood experience, waking up in the morning to calls from the gibbons, birds, and lions, breathing in the fresh air and seeing the morning dew. Aside from this, it was fulfilling to be given the task of hand-rearing orphaned gibbons and monkeys that my dad brought home to nurse.”
He has always been fond of animals: “It all began with my father working at the Zoo and we were living at the Singapore Zoo’s quarters at that time. Being brought up in such an environment made me develop a strong connection with nature. Nature and the animals complete me, they are my world.”
Guru (right) and family with an elephant
Anyone who has been to Singapore can attest that their Night Safari is one of the most beautiful in the world, and a definite must-visit place in the country. And Gurusamy was there to witness the development of the the Night Safari that we know today from a mere concept. “It was exciting to have seen it come from vision to reality. This was from how the zoology team planned the workflow and animal conditionings, to working in the night in complete darkness once operations was over, to staying overnight to observe the animals or new shipments. Overall, my memories revolve around watching animals being happy in the enclosure and breeding, which stimulate feelings that can’t be expressed by words.”
Now, as the Night Safari’s acting curator for carnivores, Gurusamy sees to it that the animals are well taken care off, making their safety and wellness among his top priority. “I work closely with my team to ensure that we develop ourselves beyond international standards. I work with a team of keepers and I want to cultivate a stronger sense of passion in them by helping them develop new skills so that they will feel confident and good about themselves. We regularly share and discuss ideas internally to ensure that everyone grows together as a team. I want to be able to not only motivate them but also keep them excited and thrilled over their job.”
Guru at previous Primate Kingdom
Despite having spent most of his life in the zoo, Gurusamy never gets tired or bored with what he's doing because, “There is something to look forward to every day." But what really keeps him going? "The sense of fulfilment that drives me to continue doing what I do. A job can be especially meaningful when you can learn so much from others, and at the same time impart a positive impact on those around you. In my case, I work with a great team and we all share a mutual goal to create a better living environment for the animals as well as enhancing visitor experience at the parks."
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“Not many people realise how intelligent carnivores are," he says on the many misconception s people have about the zoo. "These animals live and survive using their instincts. For example, if you scare them with something, [like] a stick, they will learn to fear it and move away from the danger. They understand voice commands and remember your smell and body odour, so they can differentiate one person from the other. It’s always a challenge at the beginning but once they socialize with you, the bonding comes easily."
Guru on a pony
For all the animal lovers out there, working at a zoo must be your dream job, and Gurusamy couldn’t agree more to that. “It goes without saying that passion for animals is a must for anyone keen to go into this line of work.” He adds, “Being able to work closely with the animals is enjoyable and to be able to do something for them, such as creating better living environments for them, adds a whole new level of purpose and meaning to my role. After all, animals are living things too, and they deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect and care.”
His ultimate dream for animals in general? “For them to always be provided with proper shelter and care.”
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