Two wildlife parks in Mandai could be further delayed due to Covid-19; River Safari to get new name

The River Safari will be renamed the River Wonders, while the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari will retain their names. ST PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - 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 in 2020, 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 - to be renamed the Bird Paradise - is expected to open in 2022, while the Rainforest Wild park is expected to open by 2024.

The pandemic could push this timeline back, the group said on Wednesday (Oct 13), although it will work toward the timeline set out in 2019.

Mr Mike Barclay, Mandai Wildlife Group chief executive , said: "It is challenging doing development work at the moment. 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 Mandai Wildlife Group's new corporate identity. The group had previously been known as the Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

As part of the corporate revamp, the River Safari - one of three existing wildlife parks in Mandai - will be renamed the River Wonders. The Singapore Zoo and the 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 that "Mandai" will become as globally synonymous with Singapore as "Changi", so that 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," Mr Barclay said.

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

Mandai Wildlife Group CEO Mike Barclay (left) and Senior VP for Brand & Communications Suzanne Ho during the press conference on Oct 13, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

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

This includes a new rehabilitation centre for rescued wild animals in Singapore at the new Rainforest Wild.

Visitors to the Night Safari can also expect to see a new amphitheatre - which will be used for wildlife shows - by next year, while Kidzworld at the Singapore Zoo will be revamped by 2023 to feature both physical and virtual attractions including a petting zoo.

An expanded programme called Ranger Buddies will also be available for children to take on learning missions, aimed at encouraging children to feel empowered to be everyday heroes.

Mr Barclay said the group will also renew its focus on conservation efforts with Mandai Nature - a conservation group that Mandai Wildlife Group jointly established with Temasek in December last year.

Staff at the Singapore Zoo dressed in the new uniform bearing the logo Mandai Wildlife Group on Oct 13, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

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 complete brand changeover, which includes new park signages 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 usually include these parks in their itineraries for foreign tourists with young children.

Ms Alicia Seah, a spokesman for Dynasty Travel, said the rebranding of the Mandai nature precinct can breathe new life into the area.

She added: "The rebranding will keep the visitor experience fresh and help attract new visitors locally and abroad. It will be a new identity and can help provide a memorable impression, especially now that there are new additional parks opening soon."

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