SINGAPORE - 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 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 people can see the birds just as they would in the wild. The birds will also be flying freely in large aviaries within the new bird park, a move which will heighten the experience for visitors. Colourful birds-of-paradise, orange-beaked hornbills and vocal parrots are just some of the birds that will be part of the avian collection that is one of the most significant to date.
These details were given by developer Mandai Park Holdings on Monday (Jan 16), during a ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate the start of development work on the hub of five wildlife parks it is building in leafy Mandai. Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), was the guest of honour.
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 all 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 throughout the rainforest - from below the ground to the tree canopies - will all 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.
A visit to Mandai is also possible for those who may not want to shell out for admission tickets. The massive Mandai makeover will include public spaces, such as green landscaped decks for picnics; and boardwalks along the edge of Upper Seletar Reservoir, that can be used by all, 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 earlier voiced concerns that development works could negatively impact the wildlife in the biodiversity-rich reserve.
But Mandai Park Holdings has stressed that the development will be done sensitively. For one, the development will take place on degraded land.
Mandai Park Holdings also engaged nature groups about plans to develop the area from as early as 2012, before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans for the makeover in September 2014. 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.