Opening dates of two wildlife parks uncertain

Timeline could be pushed back further by Covid-19's impact on construction sector

The opening of two wildlife parks in Mandai could be pushed back further, with delays worsened by Covid-19's impact on the construction sector.

One of them, Jurong Bird Park, had originally been set to move to Mandai and reopen last year, while a 2023 opening was planned for a forest-themed wildlife park there.

But in 2019, three years after the initial announcement, this timeline was pushed back due to "challenging" conditions of the site, which sits next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, said the parks' operator Mandai Wildlife Group.

It said then that the bird park - now renamed the Bird Paradise - is expected to open next year, while the Rainforest Wild park is expected to open by 2024.

The pandemic could push this timeline back, the group said yesterday, although it will work towards the timeline set out in 2019.

Mr Mike Barclay, Mandai Wildlife Group chief executive, said: "We're struggling with the number of workers due to Covid-19 and quarantine requirements, so there is generally a tight supply of labour and equipment.

"But there is still labour and we are making good progress."

He was speaking to the media at the Singapore Zoo to mark the launch of the park operator's new corporate identity as Mandai Wildlife Group, from Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

As part of the corporate revamp, the River Safari - one of three existing wildlife parks in Mandai - will be renamed River Wonders. The Singapore Zoo and Night Safari will retain their names.

When the works for the two new parks are complete, the Mandai area will be home to a total of five wildlife parks. This new "integrated destination" will be known as the Mandai Wildlife Reserve.

Mr Barclay said that with the revamp, he hopes "Mandai" will become as globally synonymous with Singapore as "Changi", so people worldwide will associate the word with the nation's wildlife scene. "Our rebranding comes at a critical time when action is urgently needed to mitigate climate change and reverse the devastating decline in the earth's biodiversity," he said.

There are currently 15,000 animals from 1,000 species housed across the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Wonders and Bird Paradise. A quarter of these species are classified as threatened with extinction.

During the event, Mandai Wildlife Group also announced other new facilities that will be rolled out across its parks.

These include a new rehabilitation centre for rescued wild animals at the new Rainforest Wild and a petting zoo at the Singapore Zoo.

Mr Barclay said the group will also renew its focus on conservation efforts with Mandai Nature, a conservation group it established with Temasek last December.

The new outfit aims to protect threatened species and protect and restore ecosystems such as mangroves and grasslands, with the help of conservation partners in the region.

The brand makeover, which includes new park signage and uniforms, is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

In line with the group's focus on sustainability, the parks will also feature green elements such as solar panels and waste recycling through a black soldier fly facility. These insects can help to break down animal waste and the nutrients can be recycled into fertiliser.

Mr Barclay added: "If we do not think about things like our carbon footprint and generational waste and pollution, it puts further pressure on climate change and further degrades the pristine habitats that are around us."

Local tours arranged by Dynasty Travel for foreign tourists with young children usually include the parks.

Its spokesman Alicia Seah said of the Mandai nature precinct: "The rebranding will keep the visitor experience fresh and help attract new visitors locally and abroad... especially now that there are new additional parks opening soon."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'Opening dates of two wildlife parks uncertain'. Subscribe