Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) celebrated the start of development work on the hub of five wildlife parks in leafy Mandai during a ground-breaking ceremony on Monday (16 Jan), attended Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), as the guest of honor.
Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) a subsidiary of Temasek Holdings, and now the parent company of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), is the parent of Singapore Zoo, the WRS Conservation Fund, the Night Safari, the River Safari and Jurong Bird Park.
The Bird Park and the new Rainforest Park will join the existing attractions: the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari. The opening of the Bird Park is planned to be in 2020 while the hub is expected to begin full operations in 2023.
The hub will also include accommodation options, and The Bird Park, Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari all offer visitors the experience of walking through habitats from around the world.
At the Rainforest Park, the focus will be on South-east Asian biodiversity.
The park will open for visitors to make a journey from an underground cavern to boardwalks at the ground level and up ramps, to aerial walkways that reach the tree canopies, where there are planned interaction attraction with arboreal apes. There will also be trekking and adventure activities at the new park.
Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings said, “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.”
For those who do not want to spend money for admission tickets, the massive makeover is said to offer public spaces, such as green landscaped decks for picnics, and boardwalks along the edge of Upper Seletar Reservoir, that can be used by all, free of charge.
MPH states that the plans, supported by the results of 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,” S. Dhanabalan, Mandai Park Holdings chairman said.
Following the Environment Impact Assessment changes were made to development plans, the most significant one is the exchange of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park locations.
The Rainforest Park is now located to the north, instead of the south of Mandai Lake Road, where there are more mature trees that could be integrated into the park.
To ensure that the development will not go right up to the borders of the reserve, the revised plan have a vegetated buffer area between the park boundaries and the nature reserve.
The Mandai area sits right outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and nature groups had earlier voiced concerns that development works could negatively impact the wildlife in the biodiversity-rich reserve. The Straits Times reported that MPH has engaged nature groups about plans to develop the area since 2012, before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans for the makeover in September 2014.
But in a letter, ‘Mandai makeover to tread with care,’ by NSS which was published by ST on 11 Oct 2016, reasoned that the planned relocation of Jurong Bird Park there and the new Rainforest Park are not in ecological harmony with the neighboring Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Nature Society Singapore (NSS) has strongly proposed extending the nature reserve’s boundary to cover the project sites that is meant for the proposed Mandai eco-tourism hub. It said that although outside the reserve’s boundary, the two development sites, with their secondary forests and other natural habitats, are critical to the natural connectivity and ecological viability of the reserve’s land in the area.
For the Rainforest Park, NSS disagree with the idea of destroying natural habitats to create sanitised eco-themed parks and instead of Mandai, it recommended that the Bird Park be incorporated into the new Jurong Lake District masterplan, which will help to enrich the area’s redevelopment.
TOC has also reported an environment letter urging MPH to leave the Bird Park out of the plans as the likelihood of invasion of nearby forests by non-native birds is high, given the high mobility of birds.
However, MPH has insisted that the development will be done sensitively and the government is proceeding with the plans regardless of the objections.