Coney Island: The life and death of a lonely Singapore cow

Coney Island cow Image copyright NParks
Image caption Rest in peace, Coney Island cow

Singapore's favourite - and only - wild cow died this week. The Coney Island Cow lived for years on a small north-eastern island, but as Heather Chen explains, its origins were as mysterious as its death was sad.

Nameless and elusive, no-one really knows how the lonely bull wound up on Coney Island.

"The animal may have wandered in. It was only noticed after dam crossings were built," said Singapore's National Parks Board (NParks), responsible for managing the city state's greenery.

"But as no-one has reported a lost cow, its presence on the island remains a mystery."

Image copyright AP
Image caption No, not this Coney Island. Entrepreneurs wanted to turn Pulau Serangoon into Singapore's version of the New York amusement destination

The 133-hectare island was once owned by the Haw Par brothers, the wealthy entrepreneurs behind Tiger Balm who have left such a sizeable footprint on Singapore's modern history.

They sold it in the 1950s to an Indian businessman who wanted to turn remodel it after the popular New York amusement destination.

But nothing materialised despite a name change, and the land was slated for government redevelopment.

It will be missed

One year ago, the island became Singapore's newest national park, being opened up to tourists for hiking and cycling, on a short network of paths.

It was then everyone became aware that the island already belonged to one magnificent beast: The Cow.

With it solitary stoic presence, it quickly became a local legend among Singaporeans, most of whom live in the city or suburbs and have little interaction with livestock.

Image caption Coney Island offers a peaceful escape from busy Singapore city life

No trip to Coney Island was complete without trying to track down the cow, heeding the strict warning signs about not feeding it, provoking it or trying to photograph it.

Sadly, his life came to an unlucky end this week, when he failed to wake up after a routine veterinary check-up.

Officials said he had likely died of heart and lung complications while necessarily sedated.

"The cow was a recognisable part of Coney Island Park and will be missed," said NParks.

Image caption There were even signs announcing the beast's humble presence

Singaporeans from all walks of life came together on social media to mourn the passing of their favourite cow.

"He was a real gangster, roaming about the island without caring about anyone," reminisced Xun Low on Facebook.

"I am actually saddened to hear this," shared Julie Low. "I saw it once when I visited Coney Island. My sons were so excited. How often do you see large animals roaming around freely in Singapore?"

"So sad, I haven't even gotten the chance to meet you during my last two trips to Coney Island," said Selin Sim.

"RIP Mr Cow," said Ahmad Ishak. "Though I never met you and have missed you during all my visits to Coney Island, I bet that you will be missed by many."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brahman cattle are a common sight in India - but a rarity in urbanised Singapore

Others like Benjamin Seah, questioned the need for sedating an old animal. NParks said given its size there was no other option.

"It was living there peacefully for so many years and now it can't be be revived," he said.

But many Singaporeans like Ahmed Alshahab found a bit of humour in the situation.

"The cow was roaming around happily. So what killed it? A health screening!"

While some compared the news to the death of Cincinnati Zoo gorilla Harambe, others like Zulkifli Rokhim offered a cheeky suggestion.

"Rename the place 'Cowney Island' as tribute," she said.

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