The first person in Singapore to carry the surname Basapa (in the past, sometimes misspelled “Bassapah” or “Basapah”) was William Lawrence Soma Basapa (1893-1943), who distinguished himself in Singapore’s history by building the island’s first major public zoo and bird park, at Punggol on the northeastern coast.

He was the scion of Hindu forebears, but converted to Christianity (Anglican) when he was a young man. It is speculated that this might have resulted from some years he spent as a student at the prestigious Anglo-Chinese School, a Christian facility.

In converting, Basapa broke away from a family tradition of devout Hinduism, which apparently invited some grudge and resentment from a few relatives, although not from his father, Hunmah Somapah.