SINGAPORE: The Mandai nature precinct will be home to two new wildlife parks when it is completed - a Bird Park and Rainforest Park - announced the Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) on Wednesday (Jun 1).
The new Bird Park, located in the western part of the precinct,will open by 2020. The 17-hectare attraction will house one of the world's largest collections of birds. It will have nine large aviaries with different landscapes from around the world, including wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests.
Together with the existing Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari, this will create an integrated nature and wildlife experience for all visitors to Mandai.
Jurong Bird Park will close eventually and the land will return to the Government when the new Bird Park is ready. No definitive timeline is given for this, but Group CEO of MSPH Mike Barclay said Jurong Bird Park will still be open before the new Bird Park is ready.
Some of the best-loved features in Jurong Bird Park will be reimagined in the new park, said MSPH. There will be a new waterfall, a grand entrance to the park framed by flowering plants and a custom-designed amphitheatre to feature bird performances.
The new Bird Park will also feature a facility that focuses on breeding and researching critically endangered species from all over the world.
The 12.5-hectare Rainforest Park will open in 2023. It will be connected to the new Bird Park. Visitors will be able to be fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia.
Besides wildlife, Singaporeans will get access to a series of open spaces in the heart of Mandai - with gardens, waterways and playgrounds.
An indoor nature-themed education centre focusing on Conservation, Research and Education is also in the pipeline. The centre will aim at raising awareness and appreciation for the region's biodiversity and natural heritage.
In response to public feedback, the current eco-accommodation will be expanded to allow nature enthusiasts and families to extend their stay in Mandai. MSPH is also exploring a range of options with the Government to improve accessibility to Mandai. These include introducing shuttle buses from the upcoming Springleaf MRT station and direct bus services from regions that are not well-connected to Mandai.
"We want to give Singaporeans a nature and wildlife destination that they can call their own. Visitors have asked for more novel, engaging and immersive experiences and we hope the new Mandai nature precinct will provide all that and more," said Mr Barclay.
The Nature Society Singapore has raised concerns that the development of the Mandai nature precinct will affect the native animals living in the Central Catchment area.
"Back in 2010, there was another development proposed in that area and the Nature Society's opinion was that the area would be better off as a nature park and to allow the continued usage of the area by the native fauna,” said Tony O'Dempsey, a spokesman from the organisation. “So from the nature point of view that is the optimum usage for the land."
Mr Barclay said steps will be taken to protect the wildlife: "We will be very careful in how we go into the new development area and to make sure we have a very, very responsible way of moving wildlife away first before we build structures there."
An eco-link bridge will also be built spanning Mandai Lake Road. The bridge will allow animals to move between the central and northern reaches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
In regard to this, Mr O'Dempsey added that the Nature Society Singapore hopes there will be sufficient buffer zones for the animals in the area, as well as "reasonable-sized eco links", so that they can continue to move to and fro the two parts of the nature reserve.
Mr O'Dempsey also lauded the mitigation efforts undertaken by the environmental impact consultants.
"I think the environmental impact consultant is actually putting in a lot of effort into mitigation the construction impact by phasing the construction work. You can never have no impact, but at least they're taking some reasonable steps to minimise," he said.
DEVELOPMENTS TO BE COMPLETED IN PHASES
The new developments at Mandai will be completed in phases from 2020, subject to required approvals. The first phase is estimated to cost some S$1 billion.
When asked if there is sufficient demand to justify the investment, Mr Barclay noted that there has generally been "very robust growth" in visitation to zoological parks around the world.
"We also want to be a cutting edge kind of wildlife park - move away from the cages and have open concept exhibits or very large aviaries. So we want to be an environment where our guests feel that this place really understands looking after wildlife and conservation," said Mr Barclay.
"The conservation elements will be very strong both in terms of education and our breeding centres, our rehabilitation centres which will be opened to the public," Mr Barclay added.