BBC’s Mishal Husain talks to Zoologist Bernard Harrison about the Future of Zoos in Mishal Husain Meets

I think 90% of the zoos in the world are horrible...but there are some great zoos and Singapore is one of them. Bernard Harrison
Date: 16.08.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.11
Category: BBC World News
A new six part series on BBC World News, Mishal Husain Meets profiles six well-known Asian personalities. Fronted by BBC presenter Mishal Husain and filmed at the NYU Tisch School of The Arts in Singapore, the series goes in depth with leaders from the arts, science and sports from across Asia Pacific to find out what it takes to launch a successful career.

In the fifth episode of the series, scheduled to air on 25th August, Bernard Harrison, the man behind the world famous Singapore Zoological Gardens and Night Safari, the World’s first nocturnal safari park, talks to Mishal Husain about how animals came to play a significant role in his life.

Born to a British zoologist father in Malaysia, Harrison credits his father with instilling in him a great respect for animals from a young age. After attending boarding school and university in England, Harrison returned to Southeast Asia in 1973 armed with a degree in Zoology and Psychology. Although he was registered to start a Ph.D in Animal Psychology back in the U.K., he applied for a job with the Singapore Zoo after chancing upon a newspaper advertisement. While he was not offered the original job, he was hired instead for a junior administrative role. Thus began a career at the Singapore Zoo that spanned 29 years. He rose to become CEO in 1983, and is widely seen as the man who revolutionised the way animals were exhibited in zoos. He left Singapore Zoo in 2002 to start his own zoo planning and design consultancy, “Bernard Harrison and Friends”. He has gone on to consult on wildlife projects and zoos in different parts of the world from Myanmar to Armenia.

On how he started out, Harrison said: “They said, well since we don’t know what to do with you, why don’t you go and look after the animals. So I became a curator which is actually the best job in the zoo. I got to be in charge of the animals.”

His opinion of zoos in general is blunt: “I think 90% of the zoos in the world are horrible. And I think most of them should be shut down, but there are some great zoos and Singapore is one of them.”

He thinks well-designed zoos do have an important role to play: “I think they can get certain closeness of contact with animals which you can’t get through documentaries and which you won’t get through keeping them in the wild. It’s that bridge; it’s not the best but it is sort of a springboard to get people to get some kind of passion and warmth for animals.”

Mishal Husain Meets, broadcast in association with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, airs weekly on BBC World News on Saturdays at 01.30 and 08.30, and again on Sundays at 14.30 and 20.30 (all times GMT).

For more information contact:

Shivani Sundralingam: +65 6507 4234 / shivani.sundralingam@bbc.co.uk

Shammi Anand: +44 (0) 7718 120 065 / shammi.anand@bbc.co.uk