New Mandai attractions hope to draw 10m visitors, boost job market

SIAU MING EN Today Online 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Come 2023, the ambitious mega-nature attraction in the works at Mandai, which includes a revamped Bird Park that will showcase birds from the Sub-Antarctic to Africa, is expected to draw 10 million visitors a year while creating more job opportunities.

This is more than double the 4.6 million visitors the four current wildlife parks operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore — Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park — draw each year.

Revealing this after a ground-seeding ceremony yesterday to mark the start of construction works, Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) group chief executive officer Mike Barclay added: “We’re pretty confident that we can double the visitation to the parks.”

In comparison, Sentosa drew 19.5 million visitors in 2015, according to its Financial Year 15/16 annual report. For the same year, Resorts World Sentosa, which includes attractions such as Universal Studios Sentosa and the S.E.A. Aquarium, saw nearly seven million visitors to its attractions.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran, who was the guest-of-honour at the ceremony yesterday, said that the redeveloped Mandai precinct will be able to attract tourists who are “interested in eco-friendly experiences that complement an urban lifestyle”. There will also be interesting career opportunities for those interested in conservation, research and hospitality, he added.

MPH did not say how many new jobs could be created, but Mr Barclay noted that as the scale of operations grows, staff will be able to rotate through different job functions.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore currently employs over a thousand full-time staff. By 2023, the area, which currently houses the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, will be expanded to include the relocated Bird Park and a new Rainforest Park, as well as a nature-themed indoor attraction and eco-sensitive lodging.

Yesterday, MPH revealed more details of the attractions visitors can expect at the Bird Park and the new Rainforest Park, scheduled to open by 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Visitors will be able to enter the expanded attraction via the east and west arrival areas, while the place will be connected by more public spaces such as green landscaped decks, walking trails and boardwalks.

The west arrival area will lead to the 17ha Bird Park, which will have nine themed aviaries, such as the Papua New Guinean and African rainforests, a South-east Asian jungle and the Australian bushland, showcasing a wide variety of bird species.

MPH also unveiled plans for a “Crimson Wetlands” attraction that will showcase red and pink-hued species of plants and animals — such as flamingos — in a recreation of the flooded savannahs of South and Central America. Visitors can also observe Sub-Antarctic penguins in a re-creation of their natural habitat both above and under water.

The Rainforest Park, also accessible from the west arrival area, will house an underground cavern featuring various cave life-forms and geological formations.

Visitors can travel along the boardwalks to be built along the animals’ watering holes, and up aerial walkways to be built at tree-canopy-level to be closer to the langurs, gibbons and orangutans living in the tree-tops. Trekking and adventure activities will also be available at this park.

The Rainforest Forest Park will be completed by 2021 instead of 2023, due to changes in the scheduling of construction works, where the works in the western part of the Mandai precinct will be completed first.

Redevelopment plans for the Mandai precinct have been adjusted twice: During the Environmental Impact Assessment report commissioned by MPH, and after a month-long consultation that followed the release of the report last July.

While the majority of the opinions have been useful to the project, Mr Barclay noted that there have been some who felt that there should not be any developments at all.

“(But) the decision has now been made and we are starting work. We want to continue our very constructive discussion about how do we develop in the right way, and how do we do it in a sensitive way,” he said.


New Mandai eco-tourism hub to feature global wildlife, create jobs
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: When completed, Mandai’s eco-tourism hub is expected to attract more than 10 million visitors each year, as well as generate a significant number of jobs in conservation research, tourism and hospitality, said developer Mandai Park Holdings as it launched the construction phase of the project on Monday (Jan 16).

The Mandai rejuvenation project will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

Currently, the four parks attract about 4.6 million visitors each year.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN CONSERVATION, HOSPITALITY

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran promised “a rejuvenated experience in Mandai” once the first phase of the project - the opening of the Bird Park - is completed by 2020.

Mr Iswaran said the project would enhance Singapore's identity as a "city in a garden" and provide career opportunities for Singaporeans interested in conservation research and hospitality.

"With a strong focus on conservation and sustainability, Mandai will be a hub for nature education and research as well as a leading nature destination in Asia."

Elaborating on the type of jobs available, Mandai Park Holdings’ chief executive officer, Mike Barclay, said the aim was to run the five parks as an integrated precinct that would allow staff to rotate and work in the different parks and in various functions.

“We currently employ about 1,000 people full-time and we have many part-timers working with us. Our scale of operations will grow. We’ll have two new zoological parks here to staff up here in Mandai. We’ll have a hotel product - an eco-lodge product - and also an indoor centre, so there will be a lot of job opportunities.”

SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES

Visitors to the new Bird Park will see some of the world’s most endangered bird species in their natural habitats, said the developer. For example, it will feature the flora and fauna found in the flooded savannahs of South and Central America. Bird species from Africa, Papua New Guinea and the Australian bushland will also be represented.

Its avian collection is also billed as being among the most significant to be assembled in the world, featuring birds of paradise and hornbills, many of them endangered species.

One of the key attractions at the new Bird Park will be an underwater and "overwater" habitat for sub-Antarctic penguins. The developer said it would provide visitors a "fly with the penguins" experience - one that creates the impression of penguins "flying" through the water.

NEW RAINFOREST PARK

Another highlight, the Rainforest Park, will take visitors through the biodiversity found in Southeast Asian foliage, and allow them to see the trees from recreated caverns, a boardwalk and an aerial walkway.

“You could be at the tree-top level with the orangutans climbing the trees around you. I think it’s a very exciting concept and that’s why we want the different layering of the parks,” said Mr Barclay.

The Rainforest Park is expected to be ready by the end of 2021, earlier than the 2023 completion date previously announced.

SUSTAINABILITY THE KEY GUIDELINE

Visitors to the new Bird Park and the Rainforest Park will arrive from the precinct's west entrance - one of the two "arrival nodes" to the precinct.

The other entrance - from the east - will provide access to nature-themed indoor attractions, as well as the zoo, the Night Safari and River Safari. It will also house accommodation options.

The entrances will be connected by walking trails and boardwalks along Upper Seletar Reservoir.

The separate entry points were created to reduce the impact of visitors passing through a single entrance next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Mr Barclay said a key guideline for the massive development is sustainability and the idea is to look at using the right materials and harvesting new energy sources.

“If you have a waterfall, it creates a lot of energy. Can we harvest that energy and put it back in to offset the energy being used to power the pumps? We have lots of opportunities for solar power as well within the parks,” he said.

Mr Barclay said Mandai Park Holdings will continue to work with nature groups to get their feedback on mitigating the impact of the project on the surrounding environment.

- CNA/mz/mo


Expect superb views, diverse wildlife
Audrey Tan, The New Paper AsiaOne 17 Jan 17;

In about three years, birdwatchers can enjoy watching feathered fowl from the rainforests of Africa, the flooded savannahs of South and Central America and the Australian bushland, all in Singapore.

They need only to pay a visit to the new Bird Park in Mandai, when the park, relocated from its current premises in Jurong, opens its doors to the public.

The new park will allow visitors to be immersed in multiple landscapes and vegetation so that they can see the birds just as they would in the wild. The birds will also be flying freely in large aviaries within the new park, a move that will heighten the experience for visitors.

Colourful birds of paradise, orange-beaked hornbills and vocal parrots are some of the birds that will be part of the avian collection, which is one of the most significant to date.

These details were given by developer Mandai Park Holdings yesterday during a ceremony to celebrate the start of the development work on the hub of the five wildlife parks it is building in leafy Mandai.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), was the guest of honour.

The Bird Park, as well as a new Rainforest Park, will join the existing trio of attractions there - the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari.

The hub, which will also include accommodation options, is expected to fully commence operations by 2023, with earlier phases, including the opening of the Bird Park, to be done by 2020.

The Bird Park, Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari offer visitors the experience of walking through habitats from all over the world. But at the Rainforest Park, the focus will be on South-east Asian biodiversity.

Animals that live in rainforests - from below the ground to the tree canopies - will have their time in the spotlight.

The park will take visitors on a journey from an underground cavern to boardwalks at the ground level and up ramps to aerial walkways that reach the tree canopies, where they can interact with arboreal apes.

There will also be trekking and adventure activities at the new park.

"We plan to offer highly differentiated experiences at each of our five wildlife parks, augmented by indoor displays and a variety of food and beverage offerings," said Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings.

The massive Mandai makeover will include public spaces, such as green landscaped decks for picnics and boardwalks along the edge of Upper Seletar Reservoir, which can be used by the public free of charge.

These plans, as well as the results from an Environmental Impact Assessment, have been approved by the Government.

"Reviews and discussions on Mandai's rejuvenation have been going on for several years with various stakeholders. With the necessary government approvals now obtained, we are delighted to mark this milestones with our partners today," said Mandai Park Holdings chairman S. Dhanabalan.

The Mandai area sits right outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and nature groups had voiced concerns that development works could negatively impact the wildlife.

But Mandai Park Holdings stressed that the development will be done sensitively. For one, the development will take place on degraded land.

It also voluntarily commissioned an Environment Impact Assessment, following which changes were made to development plans.

One of the most significant is the swopping of locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park - this puts the bulk of the Rainforest Park to the north, instead of the south of Mandai Lake Road, where there are more mature trees that can be incorporated into the park.

It also agreed to have a vegetated buffer area between the park boundaries and the nature reserve, ensuring that the development will not go right up to the fringes of the reserve.

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