LAURA ELIZABETH PHILOMIN Today Online 2 Jun 16;
SINGAPORE — The potential impact on wildlife in Mandai as well as the type of “green mitigation” measures needed to protect the natural habitats in the area are among the issues being ironed out ahead of a pending Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on the planned mega-project.
The report, said Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) yesterday, will be out “in a few weeks”.
In the meantime, it is in discussions with government agencies and various nature groups on environmental issues that could arise from plans such as introducing a large collection of birds into the area with a new bird park, and building a new eco-bridge for wildlife to roam.
Commenting on the plans, which were announced yesterday, Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chair of Nature Society’s (Singapore) conservation committee, said he was concerned about the eco-friendliness of the new bird park and possible adverse impact on local wildlife in the area. The planned bird park, which MSPH had touted as one of the world’s largest collection of birds, would require more fences and pose problems for wildlife movement, he said, describing it as an “artificial, completely non-wild set-up”.
“There will be problems of escapees into our nature reserve; there can be no absolute control. (It could also be a) possible source of infections to our local birdlife,” added Dr Ho, who has been in talks with MSPH since redevelopment plans were first revealed.
While he felt heartened by plans for an eco-bridge, he noted that the site proposed is too narrow and crosses over the nature reserve at an “awkward spot” on the side of Mandai Lake Road. Suggesting an alternative location in a central part of the land further away from the road for the bridge, Dr Ho said this would encroach into land earmarked for the planned bird park, but such an important ecological benefit and value should not be sacrificed.
Dr Ho also pointed out that the land set aside for the planned Rainforest Park has been left alone for decades, turning into secondary forest and becoming home to wildlife like the leopard cat, Sunda pangolin and grey-headed fish eagle. “More local plant species can be slowly introduced but there should not be any clear-felling of large tracts of trees,” he said.
Professor Peter Ng of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which is conducting the EIA with MPSH and National University of Singapore under the guidance of the National Parks Board, said he could not elaborate on the issues under discussion at this point in time.
But he stressed that progress has been made in the talks, which include non-governmental agencies like Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), Nature Society (Singapore) and Nature Trekker, and wildlife experts like Mr Joseph Koh, an authority on spiders.
Mr Koh did not respond by press time, while ACRES and Nature Trekker could not comment.
Asked about previous calls by the nature groups for a buffer zone to be created between man-made and existing forested areas, Prof Ng said that it is not an easy balance, and added that discussions on how to make the planned eco-bridge effectively are ongoing. He also said the land set aside for the planned Rainforest Park, which will involve reforestation efforts, has already seen development over the areas, but important plants and habitats within the area must be protected.
“The Mandai develop(ers) are fully aware of this and are now juggling their own plans to accommodate. … The agencies and NGOs have been pointing out what are necessary “green mitigations” that need to be done, and they are being factored in as far as possible,” said Prof Ng.
“The plan is evolving continuously so that as many concerns as possible can be addressed.”
Bird park, new rainforest to be added to Mandai wildlife attractions
SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Jun 16;
SINGAPORE — The lush greenery of the Mandai area is set to be transformed with two new wildlife parks — a rainforest-themed adventure park and a new bird park transplanted from Jurong — to add to the trio of wildlife attractions already in the area.
By 2023, the Mandai precinct will be home to a nature-themed education centre and eco-sensitive lodging for vacationers, part of the planned 126ha mega-nature attraction.
Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) revealed these plans on Wednesday (June 1), although they will still be subject to regulatory approval, while an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is under way.
To be sited outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the 17ha Bird Park will house one of the world’s largest collection of birds. Visitors will be able to observe free-flying birds in nine different walk-in aviaries modelled after various habitats, such as the wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests. The current 20ha Jurong Bird Park has only three walk-in aviaries.
Certain iconic features of the Jurong Bird Park will also be “reimagined” for the new park. These include a new waterfall and a custom-designed amphitheatre for bird performances.
A breeding and research facility will also be built within the new park to breed critically-endangered species from around the world in captivity, particularly South-east Asian species such as the Bali Mynah and the Black-winged Starling.
The new bird park is expected to be ready within the first phase of Mandai’s makeover in 2020.
Temasek Holdings was earlier named as Singapore Tourism Board’s partner in this project, and the first phase estimated to cost some S$1 billion.
The relocation of the 45-year-old Jurong Bird Park was first mooted as a possibility by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a live television forum in September 2014 when the Government was seeking the advice of nature groups on refining its plans for Mandai.
Meanwhile, visitors can expect to set out on a “multi-layered adventure” in the new 12.5-ha Rainforest Park on forest floor pathways to the tree-top canopies.
Located along Mandai Lake Road — facing the new Bird Park — it will also feature walking trails while the MSPH is also toying with the idea of placing resting pods mounted in the trees.
With ongoing reforestation works expected to take place in this area, the Rainforest Park will only be fully open in 2023.
At the press conference on Wednesday, MSPH said that stringent environmental protection measures will be put in place to minimise any potential impact on the flora and fauna in the area.
An eco-bridge also be built across the Mandai Lake Road to allow wildlife to move between the central and northern reaches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, similar to the one built to connect two nature reserves over the Bukit Timah Expressway.
The plans to redevelop Mandai had previously sparked concern among nature advocacy groups here due to the area’s proximity to the swathes of forest in the nature reserve. An EIA is being conducted by Temasek with the National University of Singapore and Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, under the guidance of the National Parks Board.
On Wednesday, MSPH group chief executive officer Mike Barclay declined to reveal findings from the EIA due to ongoing consultations. The report is expected to be ready w ithin the next few weeks, and will be put up for public consultation.
“The engagements that I mentioned it has already shaped some of our decision-making. I would say that the big blocks we’ve all agreed on and we’re now into the smaller detailing,” said Mr Barclay.
Tapping the popularity of the overnight camps already available at the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, MSPH also plans to have more permanent accommodation such as tents, rustic cottages and family rooms.
Visitors will also have access to some of the public green spaces within the Mandai nature precinct. These areas will be designed to include seating areas, nature trails, boardwalks, playgrounds as well as dining outlets.
Asked if the five parks would mean a saturation of attractions, Mr Barclay disagreed, saying the parks are “well-differentiated”. Prices will also be positioned to encourage people to visit multiple parks, he said, adding that their multi-park pricing introduced this year have already seen an encouraging response.
Addressing concerns that the Mandai area is relatively inaccessible, MSPH also plans to introduce shuttle bus services between the upcoming Springleaf MRT on the Thomson-East Coast Line to Mandai, among other transport options being considered. All the attractions will also be connected with shuttle buses and trams.
More accommodation options on the cards at Mandai nature precinct
To enhance the visitor experience, the expanded nature precinct could have permanent tented structures, cottages and family rooms says Group CEO of Mandai Safari Park Holdings Mike Barclay.
Lim Jia Qi Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;
SINGAPORE: When the new Mandai nature precinct is ready in 2023, visitors can expect a more immersive wildlife experience which includes allowing the public to stay at the zoo in a range of accommodation options to get up-close and personal with nature.
The current offerings will be expanded to allow visitors, who wish to enjoy overnight experiences at the zoo, to extend their stay.
"Right now we do have camping options so people can camp over at the zoo. We will look at whether we can have permanent tented structures, cottages, also family rooms," said Group CEO of Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) Mike Barclay at a press conference on Wednesday (Jun 1).
"We know the area that we want to do this but we are working through the details," Mr Barclay added.
Aside from the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, two new attractions - a Bird Park and Rainforest Park - and an indoor nature-themed education centre will be added to the Mandai nature precinct.
The 17-hectare Bird Park, which is due to open in 2020 with nine large aviaries, will allow visitors to to experience different habitats such as wetlands, bamboo forests and rainforests.
"You may move from a rainforest habitat with rainforest birds into wetlands habitat with very bright colourful scarlet birds," said Mr Barclay. "The new Bird Park will house one of the world's largest collections of birds."
To enhance visitors' experience at the new Bird Park, some familiar features from Jurong Bird Park will be reimagined and incorporated. These include a waterfall and a custom-designed amphitheatre where visitors could see birds fluttering freely around the facility.
"Our plan is to have aviary structures above all the bird exhibits including the amphitheatre which is very unusual. This means that in fact the birds in the amphitheatre could be free flying within the aviary and then with the whistle, they can come down and take part in the show," Mr Barclay added.
Over at the Rainforest park, which will be connected to the Bird Park, visitors can learn more about tropical rainforests. They can go on an "multi-layered adventure", meandering through forest floor pathways to the treetop canopies, spotting wildlife amongst the surrounding trees. The 12.5-hectare park will open in 2023.
In total, the development of the Mandai precinct including the current attractions, will span about 120 hectares.The first phase of the project is estimated to cost about S$1 billion. Mr Barclay added that construction work will start by the end of this year and steps will be taken to minimise the impact on the wildlife there.
Mandai nature precinct will house two new wildlife parks
A new Bird Park and a new Rainforest Park are set to be part of the new Mandai nature precinct when it is completed, announced Mandai Safari Park Holdings.
Lim Jia Qi, Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 and Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;
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.
Mandai to host 5 parks in one location by 2020
Stephanie Luo AsiaOne 1 Jun 16;
Mandai will be home to the new Bird Park and the brand new Rainforest Park from the year 2020.
At a press conference held earlier today (June 1) at the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) revealed that the two parks will be part of the 126ha integrated nature wildlife park which also houses the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Night Safari and River Safari.
This comes after MSPH, Temasek Holdings and Singapore Tourism Board announced a partnership to revamp the zoo in January last year.
The inclusion of the new Bird Park at Mandai, which will be situated at where the now defunct Mandai Orchid Gardens used to be, will be home to the species of birds at the present Jurong Bird Park.
This means that Jurong Bird Park will be closed down when the species of birds are fully brought over to the new 17ha park, although the exact date of the closure has not been confirmed. Its name has yet to be finalised.
The new Bird Park will centre around nine large walk-in aviaries and each aviary will feature a different habitat and birds associated with that habitat. Visitors can expect to see tropical birds flying freely.
A walk-in trail will be designed around water courses and visitors will have a close view of some red birds like the Carribean flamingoes and Roseate spoonbill.
According to Mr Mike Barclay, Chief Executive Officer of MSPH, the new Bird Park will "amplify parts of Jurong Bird Park which are enjoyed by the public".
New Rainforest Park
For the new Rainforest Park installation, visitors can enjoy a "mulit-layered" experience. There will be elevated walking trails to allow for different perspectives when viewing the flora and fauna.
According to Ms Neo Gim Huay, Managing Director of Enterprise Development Group of Temasek Holdings, public utilities will mostly be kept underground as hard structures could be an "eyesore" in the nature park. The carpark will be kept "submerged" as the area is meant for visitors to view greenery and not be interrupted by infrastructure.
Resting pods will be available for visitors to the Rainforest Park.
A rehabilitation centre will also be set up where agencies and the public can bring in injured or abandoned wildlife for the veterinarian team to treat and if appropriate, release back into the wild.
Eco-accommodation and new bird species
The area for development of the two new parks is situated outside of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. It occupies about 35ha and used to house settlements and farmers in the past.
There will be an eco-bridge for wildlife to move freely and help prevent roadkill.
There will be eco-accommodation options too. After requests from the public about lodging, WRS said that it is considering this option for tourists in the future.
A representative from WRS said that the Rainforest Park will have new species of birds which are undecided as of now.
There will be two phases to the development of the new parks, which will be separate and gated.
Construction of the new Bird Park will fall in the first phase which costs $1 billion, while the second phase is still subject to government approval and a budget has not been set aside as yet, according to Mr Barclay. Construction is expected to take place at the end of this year.
Accessibility to the area, however, seems limited for now. Mr Barclay said that public transport is currently "a bit patchy" but when the Thomson-East Coast line is ready from 2019, WRS will introduce shuttle buses from Springleaf MRT station and direct bus services from key regions that are not well-connected to Mandai.
In this new development project, there will also be public spaces that are not gated or ticketed, and seating places will be incorporated for a view of the reservoir. There will be a playground for children, nature trails and boardwalks along the edge of the reservoir.
According to Ms Neo, there might also be a potential introduction of a heritage trail in Mandai documenting the place's historic and memorable moments.
Mr Barclay said: "We're really excited by the idea of having five wildlife parks at one location where guests can hop between all these different parks.
"Visitors have asked for more novel, engaging and immersive experiences and we hope the new Mandai nature precinct will provide all that and more," the 49-year-old added.
Wistful memories of bird park as move is announced
SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Jun 16;
SINGAPORE — A fixture in school excursions for older Singaporeans, the iconic Jurong Bird Park — home to more than 5,000 birds across 400 species — will be relocated to the Mandai nature precinct just before the park turns 50.
For some, such as nutrition scientist Fong Chee Wai, 47, the 20ha avian attraction left him with a positive impression of birds, and eventually saw him holding photography classes there with members of his Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) (NPSS).
His very first visit to the park was with his extended family when he was in his early teens, where Mr Fong said he vividly remembers the iconic 30m man-made waterfall in the Waterfall Aviary.
Over the past 15 years or so, Mr Fong has made more than 20 trips to the park where he conducts photography practice classes with the NPSS members.
Yesterday, the Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH) announced its plans to build an integrated nature and wildlife destination in Mandai, including the relocation of the Jurong Bird Park to the new 17ha site by 2020.
Earlier, when there were whispers of a possible relocation, Mr Bernard Harrison, former chief executive of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, had said the move would be extravagant and unnecessary.
The Jurong Bird Park was built at a cost of S$3.5million more than four decades ago, excluding the price of the land.
Mr Mike Barclay, MSPH’s group chief executive officer, pointed out yesterday that the existing infrastructure at the park was less than ideal.
“The underground facilities are in pretty bad shape ... If we were to remain for another 50 years, we will actually have to do pretty major renovations to redo all the waterworks, the sewerage, the electricity — all the things you don’t see,” he said.
It will take about three months for the birds to be moved to the new park in Mandai. Jurong Bird Park will not close until they have fully moved their collection of birds, said Mr Barclay. The plot of land used by the old bird park will be returned to the Government.
On the bird park’s imminent move, Mr Fong said: “We’ll definitely miss it, it’s a pity but I think it’s inevitable in Singapore.”
Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s senior lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam felt that the relocation will help consolidate the attractions in one location as Jurong Bird Park is currently in “quite an isolated place”.
Mr Allan Chia, the head of the MBA Programme at SIM University, noted that Singaporeans need more interesting outlets for leisure and recreation, and the majority of tourists could be enticed by time and cost savings with this new “one-stop attraction”.
Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said the new bird park will have to build more superior infrastructure than the current bird park to prevent birds from escaping.
He suggested that visitors to the new park could also be educated on endangered species and captive breeding.
On the potential uses of the vacated land after 2020, some property analysts felt the area could be used for industrial purposes, or be turned into a business park or a commercial centre.
LAURA ELIZABETH PHILOMIN Today Online 2 Jun 16;