Visitors to Kranji Marshes can enjoy a 1km stroll

The Kranji Marshes, home to 54 species of butterflies and over 170 species of birds, as seen from the 10.65m Raptor Tower.
The Kranji Marshes, home to 54 species of butterflies and over 170 species of birds, as seen from the 10.65m Raptor Tower.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

As the world celebrates World Wetlands Day today, Singapore marked the occasion with the official opening of the largest freshwater marshland in the Republic yesterday.

The Kranji Marshes, a 56.8ha freshwater marshland in north- western Singapore, is home to a wide array of plants and animals, including colourful birds such as the blue-eared kingfisher and the common flameback.

The marshland was opened by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the National Parks Board (NParks).

The marshes are divided into two main areas. The core conservation area, considered ecologically sensitive, is not open to the public except those on guided walks.

On the limited access, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation, explained: "We have just completed development and vegetation has not grown back yet.

"We want (the marsh) to establish itself first, perhaps for the next six months to one year... If we find that wildlife has returned, we will consider opening it to the public."

Still, those keen on visiting the marshes can enjoy a 1km stroll along Neo Tiew Lane 2, where they can observe nature in the Neo Tiew Woods and try to spot nationally threatened bird species, such as the grey-headed fish eagle and the changeable hawk eagle.

For a bird's-eye view of the marsh within the ecologically sensitive area, visitors can go up the 10.65m Raptor Tower in the public area.

The marshland was created when Kranji River was dammed in the 1970s. That caused the surrounding low-lying areas to become flooded, forming a freshwater marshland.

Although located near the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the Kranji Marshes provide a different type of habitat from Sungei Buloh's brackish waters, which have a higher salt content.

"Here, you will get to see many interesting freshwater marshland birds not commonly found in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, such as the purple swamphen," said Mr Wong.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said the two habitats host a different variety of animals. "Together, they protect more species," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Visitors to Kranji Marshes can enjoy a 1km stroll'. Print Edition | Subscribe