New mane attraction at the Night Safari

White lions Mandisa and Sipho at the Night Safari (about), which is offering Singaporeans and permanent residents tickets at $20 this weekend as part of its anniversary celebrations. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
White lions Mandisa and Sipho at the Night Safari (about), which is offering Singaporeans and permanent residents tickets at $20 this weekend as part of its anniversary celebrations. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
White lions Mandisa (in front) and Sipho at the Night Safari, which is offering Singaporeans and permanent residents tickets at $20 this weekend as part of its anniversary celebrations. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
White lions Mandisa (in front) and Sipho at the Night Safari, which is offering Singaporeans and permanent residents tickets at $20 this weekend as part of its anniversary celebrations. -- PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

South African white lions on show, to mark park's 20th anniversary

The Night Safari turns 20 this month, and is celebrating this with a new mane attraction.

For the first time, it is exhibiting a pair of South African white lions: Sipho, a five-year-old male, and Mandisa, a four-year-old female. Despite their name, they are neither snowy white nor albinos. Instead they are a light yellow, the result of a recessive gene, according to park bosses.

There are also plans to expand facilities to cater for rising visitor numbers. The park will be adding fans and an overhead shelter at its entrance after visitors complained of long queues during weekends and school holidays.

Also in the works are a new tram station - its fifth - to improve traffic flow, and a new restaurant offering premium dining.

The park attracts 1.1 million visitors a year, compared with 800,000 when it first opened opened on May 26, 1994.

"As we get more popular, we have to look at how to serve all these people at the same time," said general manager Melvin Tan. He noted that most visitors turn up between 7.30pm and 9pm.

A fifth of its visitors are locals, while the rest are from overseas. As part of its anniversary celebrations, the park is offering Singaporeans and permanent residents tickets at $20 this weekend. Tickets usually cost $39 for adults and $25 for children aged between three and 12.

Over the years, the park has been upgrading its facilities. It has introduced new exhibits and walking trails - such as the wallaby trail which opened in 2012 and features wildlife in the Australasian region.

The 35ha park, which cost $63 million to build, is home to more than 2,500 animals from over 130 species. Nearly four in 10 are threatened species.

The park was the brainchild of the late executive chairman of the Singapore Zoo, Dr Ong Swee Law, who wanted to provide a recreational facility for families at night.

Mr Allan Chia, head of the marketing programme at SIM University's School of Business, said the Night Safari is a mature product that "needs constant upgrading and new exhibits in order to remain attractive". He noted it is able to cater to visitors "who may prefer an alternative to the glitzy fun and nightlife in the city".

mellinjm@sph.com.sg