Jurong Bird Park to close after Jan 3 to prepare for move to Mandai

Following the closure, about 3,500 birds will prepare to move to Bird Paradise in Mandai Wildlife Reserve. PHOTO: ST FILE
Visitors at Jurong Bird Park's African Penguins enclosure on Aug 30, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Jurong Bird Park's last day of operations will be on Jan 3, 2023 - the park's 52nd anniversary since it first opened its doors to visitors in 1971.

The park's operator, Mandai Wildlife Group, said on Tuesday (Aug 30) that following the closure, the 20ha park's about 130 staff and about 3,500 birds will prepare to move to Bird Paradise in Mandai Wildlife Reserve.

It will join the Singapore Zoo, River Wonders and Night Safari there, as well as Mandai's other upcoming attractions including Rainforest Wild and a new resort operated by Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts.

From Sept 3 until its final day of operations, Jurong Bird Park will run a series of activities, tours and trails that recall the park's history.

A free self-guided heritage trail will feature a series of heritage displays on milestones in the park's history.

For instance, the park reopened a defunct Panorail station so that visitors can take photos with a replica of a monorail carriage. The monorail system used to take visitors around the park between 1992 and 2012.

A countdown timer to the park’s last day of operations is set in the replica of the old cuckoo clock tower that stood at the park’s old entrance.

Visitors can also see the park through the eyes of a park staff member when they embark on a staff-curated trail. A trail map is available for download.

From Sept 3, Jurong Bird Park will run a series of activities, tours and trails that recall the park's history. PHOTO: MANDA WILDLIFE GROUP

From November, there will be a Nostalgic Signature Tour, where seasoned guides will share anecdotes about the park's avian residents, as well as about its architecture.

Bookings for this tour, which includes feeding sessions at the African Treetops and Waterfall Aviary zones, will open on Oct 19. Details on ticket prices are not available yet.

Pushcarts selling local hawker fare and carnival activities will also be on offer in November.

Mandai Wildlife Group said updates on Bird Paradise will be shared at a later time.

The rest of the new attractions in Mandai Wildlife Reserve are slated for completion by 2024.

A macaw flying through hoops at the Jurong BirdPark's All Star BirdShow in 1995. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Long-serving staff of the park, which has welcomed 41 million guests since it opened, said its upcoming move will be bittersweet for them.

"There are many of us who joined the organisation in its early days and have been here over the decades," said Jurong Bird Park vice-president Daisy Ling, who started working there in 1982 as an education officer.

"We hope the local community can join us in the coming months to make this a worthy closing chapter for the park before we turn the page."

Among the most memorable moments in Ms Ling’s 40 years at the attraction was when the park held an “open day” in 1992, where up to four visitors could enter for free with a newspaper cut-out coupon.

About 82,000 people showed up, she said, adding that the park was possibly the most crowded she has seen.

Ms Ling added that it was all hands on deck that day, and recalled a vet helping with crowd control as everyone pitched in to make the day a success.

Mr Roslee Mustaffa, a facilities manager, said he would miss his daily routine at the park, which includes switching on the water pumps for the park’s waterfall - touted as the world’s tallest man-made waterfall when it opened in 1971.

The 56-year-old will always remember the park as the place where he first met his wife, who was his colleague until 1995.

“She plans to visit next month and we’ll walk down memory lane together to all the spots we used to take photographs at,” he added.

People at a preview of a bird show at Jurong Bird Park on on April 11, 1982. ST PHOTO: MAZLAN BADRON

Animal presentation assistant manager Saad Yahya, 61, started work at the park in 1983 as a birdkeeper and joined its animal presentation team in 2004. 

Mr Saad, who now mentors younger animal presenters, recalled his earliest shows fondly.

“It was helter-skelter,” he said with a chuckle. “There was one time when I approached the audience, said ‘good morning’, and then just went blank for 20 seconds.”

The park is open from Thursdays to Sundays, as well as selected public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm, with the last admission at 5pm. From November, it will open daily till its final day of operations.

More information on the park's closing activities can be found at this website.

3 iconic Jurong Bird Park residents

1. Big John, in his late 50s

Mr Mohammad Saad Bin Yahya with Big John, a cockatoo who has been with the aviary since its opening in 1971. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The sulphur-crested cockatoo was the park’s mascot for more than a decade from 1985 and featured in advertisements that were broadcast overseas. He was already an adult when the park opened in 1971.

The cockatoo has developed quite a temper and no longer tolerates being handled by keepers, sitting on his own perch these days.

Birds of his species are known to be temperamental, but Big John has become increasingly so with age.

He makes occasional public appearances these days, and still greets visitors with a gentle “hello” and “bye bye” if he feels up to it.

2. Suzy, 25 

Suzy the bald eagle at Jurong Bird Park. PHOTO: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP

The American bald eagle is feisty and a bit of a drama queen.

She tries to show dominance through playful lunges.

Despite being a sea eagle, she does not like salmon and prefers chicken and mice, her favourite food.

3. Sunny, 11 

Sunny, a great pied hornbill, in flight at Jurong Bird Park. PHOTO: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP

The great pied hornbill was a former park icon from 2016 for about five years.

He helped to raise awareness of the hornbill ivory trade, which threatens the species.

He is picky and prefers being handled by male keepers.

He is also an audience favourite at the park’s High Flyers Show, where he performs low swoops just above the crowd.

This article has been edited for accuracy.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.