To fulfill the wishes of wildlife enthusiasts who want to observe the night life of animals, the National Zoo (Zoo Negara) will soon offer the public the opportunity to view animals of the wild using night-vision goggles.
Zoo Negara Director, Dr Mohamad Ngah said the move would make the National Zoo one of the first in the world to offer visitors such an experience.
He described the goggles as being shaped like binoculars, but with additional functions which allow zoo visitors to see clearly in the darkness. Night-vision goggles are usually used by military forces during special operations.
“I got the idea (of using goggles) from watching American war movies. These movies showed me how the goggles were used and I developed the idea of how to apply the gadget’s use”, said Dr Mohamad.
“The (night-vision) goggles allow visitors to move around in darkness and observe the antics of the wildlife at night without the need of light, as before”, he said.
Further, Dr Mohamad noted that using the goggles at the national zoo, which will be available beginning in May, came from the interest expressed by wildlife enthusiasts who wished to observe zoo animals at night. He said a similar programme was tried in 2003, but was scrapped after five years due to the high cost.
At that time, the night visit programme was a ‘temporary’ fixture of the national zoo, when the programme was staged to commemorate the zoo’s 40th anniversary.
However, due to the overwhelming public response the night visits were extended until 2007. Yet the lighting at Zoo Negara was not on par with the lighting system at the Taiping Zoo or Melaka Zoo, which was noted by many visitors. “At that time, many visitors had complained that the zoo was too dark at night.
“The initial plan was to hold the night visits for only one month, as the cost was only RM30,000. That was the reason behind the limited lighting capacity, unlike the Taiping Zoo or Melaka Zoo”, Dr Mohamad remarked. “This was in contrast to Taiping Zoo or Melaka Zoo, where each allocated RM1 million for night visits”, he said.
However, after many requests from the public for the night visits to be offered again, its director decided to seek a new approach, knowing that the zoo’s lighting facilities are limited. “We feel that there is no need to compete with other zoos. That is why we use the darkness as the zoo’s strength under this new concept. The nightlife at the zoo would be like that in the jungles”, he said.
Regarding safety, Dr Mohamad said detailed discussions and studies had been carried out to ensure that visitors remain safe. He said visitors would be split into groups of five or 10 each, and each group would be accompanied by a guide.
“The goggles would be with the guide. If given to all, it is feared that they may get carried away and fail to realise that they have lost their group. “But no worries, the guide will allow all visitors to use the goggles to watch the activities of the wildlife at night”, he said.
Dr Mohamad said the charge for the visit is between RM150 and RM180 for a visitor.