1,500 eager visitors turn up at River Safari

Almost 1,500 visitors converged on Singapore's new $160 million River Safari wildlife park on Wednesday - eager for a glimpse of animals including pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

Groups of excited schoolchildren, tourists and workers who had taken a day off all turned up to witness the countdown to the public opening.

They included hotel receptionist Albert Foo, who arrived half an hour early for the 9am ceremony.

"I've always liked animals and plants," said the 66-year-old. He added that he had taken a day's leave from work and woken up at 5.30am to make it in time.

Mr Foo was one of five lucky-draw winners at the ceremony who took home a one-year River Safari membership. Worth $90, it allows them unlimited admission to the park all year round.

"We expected a slow start because it's a weekday," said Wildlife Reserves Singapore chief marketing officer Isabel Cheng. "That's why we wanted to reward those, especially the locals, who took the effort to come early."

The park is not yet fully open, with some exhibits still not ready, but visitors did not seem to mind.

"It's okay, we'll just come again," said 22-year-old national serviceman Martin Zhang, who was there with his girlfriend and has visited the zoo three times this year.

One crowd-pleaser was the Amazon Flooded Forest. It is the world's largest freshwater aquarium and houses more than 18 animal species such as the manatee.

"I've never seen anything like it before," gushed 23-year-old nurse Joanne Liew.

The 12ha park showcases freshwater animals from eight iconic river habitats such as the Mississippi, Amazon and Nile. It is open every day from 9am to 6pm.

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