Bird sanctuary still hunting for a permanent nest

Mr Daniel Teo (at right), with curator Rosendo Jacildo, showing off a black palm cockatoo, one of the exotic bird breeds bred by Mandai Birds Sanctuary. The sanctuary now has just over 1,000 birds across about 70 species.
Mr Daniel Teo (at right), with curator Rosendo Jacildo, showing off a black palm cockatoo, one of the exotic bird breeds bred by Mandai Birds Sanctuary. The sanctuary now has just over 1,000 birds across about 70 species.ST FILE PHOTO

More than a year after its lease on a 2ha piece of state land was up, the Mandai Birds Sanctuary has yet to find a permanent home for its more than 1,000 exotic birds.

The commercial breeder was due to move to a 1,394 sq m plot of land in Sungei Tengah in May, after it was told by the authorities to vacate its compound at 31, Lorong Lada Hitam.

However, co-founder Daniel Teo said the relocation to the site, which is owned by landscaping business Environmental Landscape, failed to take place after a dispute with the firm.

The landscaping company is owned by Mr Shang Wong, whom Mr Teo said he met through a friend early last year.

Mr Teo told The Sunday Times last week that he and his co-founder had spent about $400,000 to turn two greenhouses at the new site into double-storey aviaries.

"We designed the aviaries in this way so as to allow the bird cages to be hung up," said Mr Teo, who is also a property developer. He added that the cost included buying five containers to house the staff office and incubators for bird breeding.

Mr Teo said the dispute was over the use of utilities, among other things. When contacted, Mr Wong declined to comment, saying things had yet to be "finalised".

To prepare for the move, the sanctuary had to halve its original collection of some 3,000 birds comprising 125 species by selling them in bulk to breeders abroad.

Now, it has just over 1,000 birds across about 70 species which it breeds for sale to organisations and private collectors here and in the region.

The 23-year-old company is one of only two farms in Singapore approved by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) to breed exotic birds, including the endangered black palm cockatoo. A bird such as the hyacinth macaw can sell for $40,000.

In a joint statement yesterday, a spokesman for the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the sanctuary's 20-year lease expired in September 2012 and it had been granted six extensions by the SLA, the latest of which expired on Aug 31.

However, a one-month temporary occupation licence has been given to the sanctuary, which will have to return the Lorong Lada Hitam site by Sept 30. "Upon return of the land, ground preparation works will be carried out to facilitate future development," the spokesman said.

He added that since 2012, AVA has worked with the sanctuary to relocate its birds to other premises and connect it with potential bird buyers. Last year, AVA worked with the Taiwanese authorities to successfully export 306 Cites-listed birds to Taiwan.

With the projected move up in the air, Mr Teo said he is now in talks with D' Kranji Farm Resort at 10, Neo Tiew Lane 2. He is hoping to move into a 1,000 sq m site at D'Kranji, which has vegetable farms and offers farm staycations.

This could mean having to further cut down on the sanctuary's number of birds, as well as find accommodation for his six workers.

Eventually, when the dust settles, Mr Teo hopes the sanctuary can go beyond its primary purpose of commercial breeding to promote education and conservation efforts.

"We want to have a visitor centre where people, especially children, are able to see the entire hatching process and the growth of the birds at different stages, he added. "We have drawn up some plans, but they will have to wait till we have a more permanent place to call home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline 'Bird sanctuary still hunting for a permanent nest'. Print Edition | Subscribe