SINGAPORE: Animals like mousedeer, civet cats and pangolins will have a safer way to cross Mandai Lake Road when the new Mandai Wildlife Bridge raises its barricades at the end of the month, in anticipation of its official opening in December.
The area has seen some roadkill in recent years. A pangolin was killed in an accident along Mandai Lake Road in September 2017, while a leopard cat, Sambar deer and pregnant wild boar were found dead in February 2018.
Previously Eco-Link, the bridge is part of Mandai Park Holdings' (MPH's) rejuvenation project and is the first of its features to be completed.
READ: No "observable increase" in roadkill since Mandai development works began, says developer
Also part of the project is the development of two new wildlife parks - a Rainforest Park and a new Bird Park - plus nature-themed indoor attractions, accommodation offerings and green public spaces.
These will augment the existing Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari to form a new integrated wildlife and nature destination at Mandai.
The Mandai Wildlife Bridge measures between 35m to 44m wide at different points and is about 140m long.
It connects two buffer zones in the CCNR, each on one side of Mandai Lake Road, for the first time in 60 years, said Dr Lee Hui Mien, vice-president for sustainable solutions at Mandai Park Development.
Each zone is made up of a strip of land 45m to 50m-wide, protected from any development works. Together, they comprise 15 per cent of land set aside for the Mandai project.
Connecting the bridge to the buffer zones instead of the actual nature reserve ensures that the infrastructure does not encroach into the reserve. To cross the bridge, wildlife will have to travel from the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) to the buffer zone.
Mandai Park Development's assistant vice-president for sustainable solutions Chua Yen Kheng said the bridge keeps animal crossings safe.
"When there are two forest patches, some animals won't cross, but some will. (The bridge) forms a safe passage for these animals," said Ms Chua.
Another function of the bridge is to promote movement of animals to allow them to breed with each other, improving the genetic diversity of species.
Increased connectivity also helps restore ecological processes such as the dispersal of plant species by animals, said Ms Chua.
The Mandai Wildlife Bridge will have what is described as a "continuous canopy", which helps encourage even animals that live in trees to use the link as a crossing, said Dr Lee.
“Vegetation cover is needed for shy, forest-dependent animals such as (the) shrew-faced ground squirrel and short-tailed babbler to move across the landscape,” according to a press release.
READ: Eco-Link at Mandai to be ready by 2019
To create this, MPH will build a multi-layered forest structure with fast-growing species of trees that grow to various heights at maturity, it said in a press release.
When planting is completed, MPH estimates that the bridge will have more than 31,000 plants, with a mix of more than 1,000 native trees and 30,000 shrubs.
There will also be fruit and flowering trees in the central belt, and a living forest floor with nectar bushes and shrubs to attract birds, butterflies and insects into the crossing.
Permanent fencing will be erected to “funnel” wildlife onto the bridge, said Dr Lee. The fencing will be completed by 2020.
To protect wildlife, there will also be “minimal human activity”, as some animals might be afraid of using the bridge in the presence of humans, added Dr Lee.
“The whole idea is to make this wildlife bridge for the animals to use,” she said.
Since construction began in 2017, MPH has been monitoring wildlife species found in the area with six cameras placed all around the bridge.
As of Wednesday, MPH has collected about 400,000 pictures of wildlife species to analyse the animals’ movements.
“Analysis from the data will not only provide a fuller picture of the type of wildlife in the area, but also enable appropriate measures to be taken to ensure effectiveness of the bridge.
“This will be done in consultation with wildlife experts, the nature community and relevant Government agencies,” said MPH.