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Canola The Manatee Is River Safari’s New Animal Icon

May 30, 2016 Attraction No Comments Print Print Email Email

Canola the manatee has a dramatic life story, to say the least. Abandoned as a calf, her keepers came to the newborn’s rescue to ensure her survival. Today, barely two years old, her fortunes have taken another upswing as Canola is named the animal icon of River Safari.

Born 6 August 2014, Canola was abandoned by her mother. Without her mother’s milk, the infant’s life was in serious danger. To give her a chance at survival, River Safari’s aquarists dived in to render round-the-clock care for the newborn. Canola had to be bottle-fed every two to three hours during the first three months of her life. To increase her fat intake and substitute her mother’s highly nutritious milk, Canola was given a special milk formula infused with canola oil, which inspired her name.


Canola was successfully reintroduced to the manatee herd under the doting care and great team effort of her human caregivers in 2014, and can now be seen swimming along with the herd in the world’s largest freshwater aquarium—River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest.

In her new role as River Safari’s animal icon, Canola will be the wildlife ambassador for her species and all threatened wildlife in the wild. River Safari is home to 14 West Indian manatees, six of which are male while the rest are female. Manatees are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers have declined in the last century due to hunting pressures, entrapment in commercial nets and collisions with propellers and motorboats.

Through captive breeding of manatees, River Safari hopes to contribute to the species’ population. Over 10 manatees have been born in Singapore. The park has plans to repatriate two manatees to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean as part of a breeding programme to repopulate the region where wild manatees have become extinct for the past 100 years.
Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “Canola is the first manatee hand-raised by aquarists in River Safari. To ensure her health and wellbeing, her keepers have maintained a very close bond with her through ongoing medical training sessions. By making Canola an icon and ambassador animal, we hope her life story will inspire our guests to join in our conservation efforts to save threatened freshwater wildlife.”

As a hand-raised manatee, Canola is accustomed to close contact with humans. Guests at River Safari can get an up-close encounter with Canola over the June holidays if they sign up for a special behind-the-scenes tour. Aquarists will demonstrate how they hand-raise baby manatees, and work with Canola on operant conditioning exercises where the manatee is trained to roll over for medical procedures such as injections and ultrasound scans.

Mr Keith So, Deputy Head Aquarist, River Safari, said, “Canola has a special place in our hearts. Despite having a rough start to her life, she has developed a very gentle, kind and patient nature. It was a unanimous decision to select her as our animal icon.”
In line with Canola’s new role as River Safari’s animal icon, a series of illustrations which depict various facets of her personality has been developed. These capture her in different poses and should endear Canola to people of all ages.

On weekends from 4 to 26 June, members of the public can join Manatee Madness in River Safari, which offers a series of manatee-themed activities, a manatee mascot meet-and-greet and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour with Canola.

Dates: 11, 19, 25 June 2016
Time: 9.30am to 11.00am
Maximum capacity: 20pax
Fee: $18 per pax
Note: This tour is open to sign ups only and subject to availability. Admission charges of $30 per adult, $20 per child (3 to 12 years old), and $15 per senior citizen (above 60 years old) apply

To sign up for the tour, visit https://estore.wrs.com.sg/education-public-programmes. Signups open on 31 May 2016.

Dates: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 June 2016 (weekends only)
Time: 10.00am to 7.00pm (various timings)
Venue: River Safari (activities at various locations around the park)
Fee: Activities are free but admission charges of $30 per adult, $20 per child (3 to 12 years old), and $15 per senior citizen (above 60 years old) apply
For more information on Manatee Madness, visit http://www.riversafari.com.sg/events-promos/manatee-madness.html.

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