SINGAPORE - The Republic might be in the midst of the bird migratory season but bird watchers here have another reason to rejoice.
The Kranji Marshes in north-western Singapore, where at least 170 species of birds have been recorded, was officially launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) on Monday morning.
With its opening, visitors will be able to learn more about the marsh, woodland and grass habitats through free guided walks by NParks and the Nature Society Singapore(NSS), as well as through the signboards that dot the area.
The 56.8ha Kranji Marshes is divided into two main areas. The core conservation area, which is considered ecologically sensitive, is not open to the public except for those on guided walks.
Instead, visitors to the marshes can enjoy a 1km stroll along Neo Tiew Lane 2, where they will be able to observe nature in the Neo Tiew Woods. They can also climb a roughly 10m-high tower for a bird's-eye view of the marshes within the ecologically sensitive area.
Among the birds recorded in the area are nine critically endangered species, such as the straw-headed bulbul; 10 endangered ones, including the purple heron and red-rattled lapwing; and three vulnerable species.
The marshland was created when Kranji reservoir was dammed in the 1970s. That caused the surrounding low-lying areas to become flooded, attracting wildlife.
Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, was guest of honour at the launch. He officiated the opening in conjunction with World Wetlands Day on Tuesday.
Other than the freshwater marshland, the Kranji Marshes also comprises woodland and grass habitats. It has been developed by URA and NParks in collaboration with NSS and national water agency PUB since May 2014.
Before that, NSS volunteers had helped to clear overgrown vegetation to build a suitable habitat for the wildlife. URA and NParks have since taken over the clearing and included amenities, such as toilets.
Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, who was at the event on Monday, told The Straits Times that clearing vegetation was important as some species of birds require open water surfaces to forage for food.
The monthly walks will be conducted once a month on Saturday evenings from Feb 27.
For more information about the NSS walks, which take about three hours each, visit www.nss.org.sg