Eco-bridge among measures to safeguard wildlife

The Eco-Link@BKE was built to reconnect the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve to allow wildlife in both areas to safely cross the BKE.
The Eco-Link@BKE was built to reconnect the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve to allow wildlife in both areas to safely cross the BKE.PHOTO: NPARKS

The Mandai makeover may turn the place into an eco-playground for people, but developers are also implementing measures to safeguard wildlife in the vicinity.

Among the plans for the 126ha Mandai nature precinct announced yesterday is an eco-bridge for wildlife crossing, similar to the one over the Bukit Timah Expressway.

The bridge will span the width of Mandai Lake Road, a section of which separates the central and northern swathes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve - the largest reserve in Singapore with a rich biodiversity.

Ms Natalia Huang, principal ecologist at consultancy Ecology Matters, said wild boars, leopard cats and sambar deer have ended up as roadkill along this stretch of road, and an eco-bridge could help reduce such deaths.

As the bridge aims to provide a continuous habitat through the landscape, it could also be used by other endangered animals within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, such as the Sunda pangolin, she added.

  • Mandai Safari Park Holdings

  • Plans for the massive Mandai makeover were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in September 2014 during a live television forum.

    In January last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said the project would be led by the Singapore Tourism Board and investment firm Temasek Holdings, which is a majority shareholder of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

    WRS operates the existing stable of zoos as well as the Jurong Bird Park.

    Subsequently, in October, Mr S. Dhanabalan was appointed chairman of Mandai Safari Park Holdings - a wholly owned unit to oversee the "concept development" for the estate's makeover.

    Mandai Safari will have 10 other directors besides Mr Dhanabalan, who was the former chairman of Temasek and now chairs its philanthropic arm Temasek Trust. They include former WRS chairman Claire Chiang and WRS' new chief executive officer Mike Barclay.

Wildlife experts and ecologists said such bridges could also help increase the areas for animals to forage for food and look for mates, and thus prevent in-breeding in forest fragments.

But they cautioned that for the bridge to work, certain ecological concepts must be followed.

"General aspects that need consideration would be understanding the diversity of wildlife present, and their movement in the area, so that the right location for the bridge is selected as well as size and type of bridge - whether it is an overpass or underpass," said Dr Nanthinee Jevanandam, a sustainability specialist from Earthys Sustainability Consulting.

Mr Mike Barclay, group chief executive of Mandai Safari Park Holdings, said the exact details of the bridge will be worked out after the environmental impact assessment is ready within the next few weeks.

Other than the eco-bridge, the plans for Mandai announced yesterday span five wildlife parks, free-access public areas and eco-lodges.

But even as tourism experts welcomed the rejuvenation of Mandai as an eco-tourism destination, nature groups and experts have expressed concerns that more development could negatively affect the surrounding wildlife.

Ecology consultant Ong Say Lin, 29, said: "As naturalistic and immersive of an experience this development can provide, I think it is safe to assume that it is still an enclosed development, with fences and walls, which the wild, original inhabitants of the area cannot traverse."

The developers have given the assurance that care will be taken in the development of the area, pointing to the environmental impact assessment, and saying development will take place on previously occupied and already impacted land.

"We are concerned in general for the effects of the development on the native fauna that have been using the site as a linkage between two fragmented sections of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, a spokesman for the Nature Society (Singapore), adding that the society is working with developers on the matter.

Audrey Tan

Read about Eco-Link@BKE, the bridge built for animals: http://str.sg/ZzmH

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Eco-bridge among measures to safeguard wildlife'. Print Edition | Subscribe