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In about three years, birdwatchers can enjoy watching feathered fowl from the rainforests of Africa, the flooded savannahs of South and Central America and the Australian bushland, all in Singapore.
They need only to pay a visit to the new Bird Park in Mandai, when the park, relocated from its current premises in Jurong, opens its doors to the public.
The new park will allow visitors to be immersed in multiple landscapes and vegetation so that they can see the birds just as they would in the wild. The birds will also be flying freely in large aviaries within the new park, a move that will heighten the experience for visitors.
Oct 12, 2017Related Stories
The Bird Park, as well as a new Rainforest Park, will join the existing trio of attractions there - the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari.
The hub, which will also include accommodation options, is expected to fully commence operations by 2023, with earlier phases, including the opening of the Bird Park, to be done by 2020.
The Bird Park, Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari offer visitors the experience of walking through habitats from all over the world. But at the Rainforest Park, the focus will be on South-east Asian biodiversity.
Animals that live in rainforests - from below the ground to the tree canopies - will have their time in the spotlight. The park will take visitors on a journey from an underground cavern to boardwalks at the ground level and up ramps to aerial walkways that reach the tree canopies, where they can interact with arboreal apes. There will also be trekking and adventure activities at the new park.
"We plan to offer highly differentiated experiences at each of our five wildlife parks, augmented by indoor displays and a variety of food and beverage offerings," said Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings.
The massive Mandai makeover will include public spaces, such as green landscaped decks for picnics and boardwalks along the edge of Upper Seletar Reservoir, which can be used by the public free of charge.
These plans, as well as the results from an Environmental Impact Assessment, have been approved by the Government.
"Reviews and discussions on Mandai's rejuvenation have been going on for several years with various stakeholders. With the necessary government approvals now obtained, we are delighted to mark this milestones with our partners today," said Mandai Park Holdings chairman S. Dhanabalan.
The Mandai area sits right outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and nature groups had voiced concerns that development works could negatively impact the wildlife. But Mandai Park Holdings stressed that the development will be done sensitively. For one, the development will take place on degraded land.
It also voluntarily commissioned an Environment Impact Assessment, following which changes were made to development plans.
One of the most significant is the swopping of locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park - this puts the bulk of the Rainforest Park to the north, instead of the south of Mandai Lake Road, where there are more mature trees that can be incorporated into the park.
It also agreed to have a vegetated buffer area between the park boundaries and the nature reserve, ensuring that the development will not go right up to the fringes of the reserve.
Picture walking on an aerial walkway that reaches the tree canopies and seeing orang utans up in their natural environment.
That is what visitors to the new Rainforest Park in leafy Mandai will get when the park opens in 2021.
As visitors wander through the South-east Asian forest, they will see the animals in a seemingly cage-less environment.
Other than the aerial walkways, where visitors can interact with arboreal primates, the park will have boardwalks on the ground level and an underground cavern with geological formations.
Said Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings: "The philosophy we want to have is that visitors will be in this environment with the animals... and get really close to them."
While the animals may appear close enough to touch, there will be measures to ensure the safety of both humans and wildlife. These include keeping the aerial walkways far enough from the trees where the primates live.
There will also be trekking and adventure activities at the new park.
Watch birds from around the world in Singapore, at new Mandai wildlife hubMandai Park Holdings provided details of the park yesterday during a ceremony to celebrate the start of work on the hub of five wildlife parks it is building in Mandai.
Besides the Rainforest Park, the hub will include the Bird Park, which will be moved from its current premises in Jurong, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari. The concept of a cage-less zoo for the Rainforest Park was first mentioned in January 2015.
Mr Barclay said: "There are 5,000 South-east Asian species which are facing extinction in the wild, and we want to tell some of those stories and encourage people to build an affinity with these species, as we also do work in the field to try and protect them."
When the new Bird Park is opened in 2020, visitors will have access to large aviaries with a variety of birds flying freely.
The hub - inclusive of accommodation options - is expected to fully commence operations by 2023.
Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), who was at yesterday's event, said: "With a strong focus on conservation and sustainability, Mandai will be a hub for nature education and research, as well as a leading nature destination in Asia. Visitors will be able to retreat from the bustle of city life, be reinvigorated by nature, learn about animal conservation, and spend quality time with family and friends while cycling or hiking."
Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai welcomed the South-east Asian focus of the new Rainforest Park. He said: "It educates the public on the value of South-east Asian wildlife and, more importantly, on the perils and vulnerability they are in, including the ones in Singapore."
Primate researcher Andie Ang is concerned about the mix of native and non-native primates as the Rainforest Park sits so close to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. This is especially so as the critically endangered Raffles' banded langurs have been sighted in the area.
Dr Ang said: "The mixing of native and non-native primates within a confined space could result in interbreeding or competition, both of which could cause a decline in native populations."
Mandai to host 5 parks in one location by 2020
Mandai will be home to the new Bird Park and the brand new Rainforest Park from the year 2020.
At a press conference held earlier today (June 1) at the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) revealed that the two parks will be part of the 126ha integrated nature wildlife park which also houses the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Night Safari and River Safari.
This comes after MSPH, Temasek Holdings and Singapore Tourism Board announced a partnership to revamp the zoo in January last year.
The inclusion of the new Bird Park at Mandai, which will be situated at where the now defunct Mandai Orchid Gardens used to be, will be home to the species of birds at the present Jurong Bird Park.
This means that Jurong Bird Park will be closed down when the species of birds are fully brought over to the new 17ha park, although the exact date of the closure has not been confirmed. Its name has yet to be finalised.
The new Bird Park will centre around nine large walk-in aviaries and each aviary will feature a different habitat and birds associated with that habitat. Visitors can expect to see tropical birds flying freely.
A walk-in trail will be designed around water courses and visitors will have a close view of some red birds like the Carribean flamingoes and Roseate spoonbill.
According to Mr Mike Barclay, Chief Executive Officer of MSPH, the new Bird Park will "amplify parts of Jurong Bird Park which are enjoyed by the public".
New Rainforest Park
For the new Rainforest Park installation, visitors can enjoy a "mulit-layered" experience. There will be elevated walking trails to allow for different perspectives when viewing the flora and fauna.
According to Ms Neo Gim Huay, Managing Director of Enterprise Development Group of Temasek Holdings, public utilities will mostly be kept underground as hard structures could be an "eyesore" in the nature park. The carpark will be kept "submerged" as the area is meant for visitors to view greenery and not be interrupted by infrastructure.
Resting pods will be available for visitors to the Rainforest Park.
A rehabilitation centre will also be set up where agencies and the public can bring in injured or abandoned wildlife for the veterinarian team to treat and if appropriate, release back into the wild.
Eco-accommodation and new bird species
The area for development of the two new parks is situated outside of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. It occupies about 35ha and used to house settlements and farmers in the past.
There will be an eco-bridge for wildlife to move freely and help prevent roadkill.
There will be eco-accommodation options too. After requests from the public about lodging, WRS said that it is considering this option for tourists in the future.
A representative from WRS said that the Rainforest Park will have new species of birds which are undecided as of now.
There will be two phases to the development of the new parks, which will be separate and gated.
Construction of the new Bird Park will fall in the first phase which costs $1 billion, while the second phase is still subject to government approval and a budget has not been set aside as yet, according to Mr Barclay. Construction is expected to take place at the end of this year.
Accessibility to the area, however, seems limited for now. Mr Barclay said that public transport is currently "a bit patchy" but when the Thomson-East Coast line is ready from 2019, WRS will introduce shuttle buses from Springleaf MRT station and direct bus services from key regions that are not well-connected to Mandai.
In this new development project, there will also be public spaces that are not gated or ticketed, and seating places will be incorporated for a view of the reservoir. There will be a playground for children, nature trails and boardwalks along the edge of the reservoir.
According to Ms Neo, there might also be a potential introduction of a heritage trail in Mandai documenting the place's historic and memorable moments.
Mr Barclay said: "We're really excited by the idea of having five wildlife parks at one location where guests can hop between all these different parks.
"Visitors have asked for more novel, engaging and immersive experiences and we hope the new Mandai nature precinct will provide all that and more," the 49-year-old added.