In January this year, the Singapore community bid farewell to Jurong Bird Park after 52 years. Since then, over 100 staff members – from operations and technical services to veterinary and animal care – have been busy making the big move from Jurong to Mandai and preparing the new bird park for its soft opening on 8 May 2023.
Attention to detail is key as the team meticulously carries out the translocation to make the transition stress-free for both the birds and their caretakers. With hundreds of bird species to move, planning took more than a year to strategise for the wide range of bird species, each with differing needs.
The process involved planning the necessary steps, determining the possible risks and actions needed to actively mitigate them, while establishing the best sequence to conduct the move.
Dr Luis Neves, Vice President of Animal Care, Mandai Wildlife Group, said: “More than 2,000 hours later and having covered distances of more than 1,800 kilometres since January, three-quarters of the birds have now been moved safely. The birds are adapting well to the new environment – most are curiously exploring their habitats, some were quick to feast on new varieties of fruit trees in the aviaries, while others got down to weaving nests on tree branches – these are all the beginnings of feeling at home at Bird Paradise.
“Our priority is to help them settle in and ultimately, we want to see that the birds are enjoying great welfare and adjusting well to their new habitats.”
The Great Migration from Jurong to Mandai
It has been all hands on deck for the Avian Care, Animal Behaviour and Programmes, Veterinary Healthcare teams who have been core to the massive undertaking in moving over 3,000 birds from Jurong Bird Park to their new home in Mandai Wildlife Reserve.
To safely secure the birds for transfer, one of the critical steps the Avian Care and Animal Behaviour & Programmes teams started working on a year ago was conditioning the birds to the holding areas as well as transport crates that would eventually be used to transfer them.
The process involves using positive reinforcement training through a reward – usually food – to encourage the bird to voluntarily enter the crates or pet boxes and get accustomed to being inside. This is done only for a few minutes each time but is repeated at regular intervals.
This habitual effort helped the keepers eventually retrieve the birds and transport them in a stress-free manner on moving day.
In December 2022, the teams underwent tabletop exercises and dry runs to simulate every step of the massive move. They role-played the different actions and duties required for the move, from handling the birds, equipment checks and accurate labelling of transport crates to loading up the crate on the vehicles, as well as performing veterinary checks.
Driving rehearsals were also conducted to help the drivers familiarise themselves with the travel route and plan for safety measures that may be activated, such as in the event of a vehicle breakdown.
Additional considerations were taken to make the 30-minute journey from Jurong Bird Park to Mandai Wildlife Reserve as comfortable as possible for the birds.
Transfers were scheduled early in the morning to take advantage of cooler temperatures. This also allows the birds more time to adjust to their new environment under the watchful eye of their caretakers, making sure they are able to find food and shelter before they roost.
Transport boxes were provided for the different sized bird species with padded crates custom made for larger birds like storks and cranes, while perches were mounted in individual pet boxes for the smaller sized birds.
The large trucks used to transport the birds were fully airconditioned to keep the temperature cool and the pet boxes were kept covered with cloth to keep them calm during the journey.
Another planning perimeter involved sequencing the move in a tightly coordinated phasing regime to bring about a seamless transfer. Vacating each area of Jurong Bird Park was contingent on the readiness of the aviaries or off-exhibit facilities at the new bird park. Priority was also given to moving birds into the larger aviaries first, as this would enable the operations teams to start shifting concurrently.
Among the early birds to move into Bird Paradise were the parrots, hornbills, birds of prey and other species from the avian presentations and they have since settled in well. At the Sky Amphitheatre, the Animal Behaviour and Programmes team have started to condition the birds to the new amphitheatre stage which includes an LED wall feature to enhance the storytelling elements.
The new amphitheatre has also been designed for raptors like the White-bellied Sea Eagle to make longer flights, while other species can take off from higher platforms to showcase flights from heights that were not previously possible at Jurong Bird Park.
Once the birds have settled into the different aviaries, conditioning them in preparation for guest interaction activities such as Keepers’ Talks and feeding programmes will be one of the focus areas for the Animal Care team.
At Hong Leong Foundation Crimson Wetlands, the animal care team is working with the macaws while the starlings at Heart of Africa are being trained to respond to audio cues and gather at a designated area for keepers to conduct headcounts.
Immerse in the naturalistic, multi-species habitats
With 3,500 birds from over 400 avian species calling the new Bird Paradise home, visitors will soon be able to get up close with the world’s rarest and most colourful of birds. The population plan not only showcases unique avian species, but also enables the new park to redouble its focus and take a prominent role in avian care, research and conservation efforts while providing opportunities for visitors to connect with these amazing creatures.
A highlight of the new Bird Paradise is the eight walk-through aviaries where visitors can experience the different habitats of the world – from the dense African rainforests and South American wetlands to the Southeast Asian paddy fields, Australian dry eucalypt forests, and more.
Multiple species will co-exist in environments designed to resemble their natural habitats and showcase interactions with each other and their surroundings. Decisions were deliberate to ensure the compatibility and needs of each bird species, down to their individual characteristics such as territoriality and habitat requirements, to create an environment where the birds thrive together.
At the largest aviary of Bird Paradise, the 1.55ha Heart of Africa pays homage to various African bird species. Eighty species of birds are housed there, including eight different species of Turacos, the largest held in a single area, such as the charismatic Great Blue Turaco, Livingstone’s Turaco, and White-crested Turaco.
At Kuok Group Wings of Asia, the Australian Pelicans, along with Black-faced Spoonbills and Milky Storks, can be seen wading through the shallow waters of rice terraces, while the Papuan Hornbills and Pied Imperial Pigeons gracefully soar overhead, creating a captivating and harmonious display of nature.
It is a visual extravaganza of pink and red at Hong Leong Foundation Crimson Wetlands, with species like the Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws, Scarlet Ibises, Roseate Spoonbills and American Flamingos.
Look up above and see flocks of macaws take flight with their loud, raucous calls, producing a symphony of noise. Songs of the Forest and Australian Outback get a boost with additional mammal species such as the Lesser Mousedeer and Red-necked Wallaby, respectively.
Home to over 40 species of songbirds, immerse in the beautiful warblings of the Chinese Hwamei, Bali Myna and Straw-headed Bulbul, and spot the extraordinarily coloured fruit doves at the Songs of the Forest or revel in the lively chatter of a multitude of lorikeet and parrot species like the
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Major Mitchell’s and Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in Australian Outback.
Get up close to unique birds at Mysterious Papua, designed after the landscape of the New Guinean coastal rainforest. Striking species like the Southern Cassowary, Nicobar Pigeon as well as friendly cockatoos such as the critically endangered White Cockatoo and the world’s largest population of Blue-eyed Cockatoos under human care, take centre stage amidst a backdrop of pandanus trees with their iconic stilt roots.
Charming species like the Golden Parakeet, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Saffron Toucanet and Chestnut-eared Aracari call Amazonian Jewels home, alongside a diverse family of doves and pigeons such as the Blue Ground-dove and Crested Quail Dove.
Visit the habitat of Lory Loft, inspired by the monsoon forest of Irian Jaya and be prepared to be welcomed by the lively chatter of more than 10 species of gregarious lories, each with their own distinct vocalisations.
Journey through the state-of-the-art, multi-level indoor Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove, starting from the deep blue underwater ice formations to the rocky beaches, and observe the penguins waddling under a domed sky with the projection of Aurora Australis around them.
Home to four penguin species – the Gentoo Penguin, King Penguin, Humboldt Penguin and Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove offers a fascinating look into the oceanic life of these birds.
Visitors to the new Bird Paradise can look forward to spotting several species making their debut. Amongst these are the Goldie’s Lorikeet, a small and colourful parrot species endemic to New Guinea and the stunning European Bee-eater known for its amazing aerial acrobatics as it hunts insects on the wing and striking plumage of green, blue, yellow, and tawny-orange colours, as well as the uncommon and little-known Brown-headed parrot.
The Western Piping Hornbill – named after the loud, echoing sound it makes will also be part of the largest living genetic reserve of hornbills in a zoological institution at the new park.
Other exciting species that add to the many new species to be discovered at Bird Paradise include the Pompadour Cotinga, a beautiful bird species found in the forests of South America with its unusual bright purple and white plumage, the Epaulette Oriole whose beautiful and melodious songs are often heard during the breeding season and the unusual Grey-winged Trumpeter, a forest relative of cranes.
Conservation at the forefront of Bird Paradise
With nearly half of global bird populations declining, zoos have an extremely important role to play in the conservation of species outside of their natural range to prevent extinction. With avian conservation as the cornerstone of Bird Paradise, the park’s conservation efforts will focus on hornbills, Asian songbirds and pigeon species from the Indo-Pacific region.
Amongst the rarest birds that will be in the new park include the Philippine Eagles, Negros Bleeding-heart Dove, Baer’s Pochard, Straw-headed Bulbuls as well as Blue-throated, Red-fronted and Great Green Macaws.
Bird Paradise is currently the international coordinato for seven avian species under the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP), including the Knobbed Hornbill, Santa Cruz Ground Dove, Black-winged Myna, Black Hornbill, Moluccan Cockatoo, Straw-headed Bulbul, and Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
Managed by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), EEPs are co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened species with the aim of maintaining healthy and sustainable populations under human care and developing strategies for the conservation and recovery of these species, linking the work done in zoos to the efforts in the field to protect and conserve the animals and their natural habitats.
Aligned with the park’s commitment to be a globally recognised hub for avian conservation and research, Bird Paradise will participate in over 75 ex-situ managed breeding programmes. New species additions to EEPs include the endangered Madagascar Teal, which is a species of small, brown duck with a pinkish-grey bill and the Knobbed Hornbill, known for its large, curved bill with a prominent knob-like structure on the upper mandible.
Each EEP has a species coordinator who is responsible for collecting information on the status of the species in zoos and aquariums, producing and maintaining a studbook, carrying out demographic and genetic analyses, and making recommendations on the breeding status of the animal as well as determine which animal should go where for breeding programmes, after carefully considering their genetic lineage and compatibility.
The larger and enhanced facilities will see Bird Paradise grow its capacity for species breeding programmes and develop targeted programmes for threatened species like the Negros Bleeding-heart, White-crowned Hornbill, and Vietnamese Pheasant through Mandai Nature, the Group’s conservation arm, to integrate in-park conservation programmes with in-situ efforts for species.
Keeper-led experiences such as Keeper’s Talk and feeding sessions will be available for close encounters with the birds and interactions with the animal care team when Bird Paradise soft opens to the public on 8 May 2023. Proceeds from all animal feedings go into the conservation projects we support in Singapore and across the region.
Opening on 8 May 2023 at Mandai Wildlife Reserve in Singapore, Bird Paradise is one of Asia’s largest bird parks. The 17-hectare park is home to 3,500 birds from 400 species, of which 24 per cent of species are threatened.
Designed to encourage discovery at every turn, Bird Paradise welcomes visitors into immersive and naturalistic mixed-species habitats in eight large walk-through aviaries that reflect different biomes of the world from dense African rainforests, South American wetlands, Southeast Asian paddy fields, to Australian dry eucalypt forests, and more.
Other unique experiences include Ocean Network Express Penguin Cove and animal programmes at the 2,000 seater, Sky Amphitheatre.
Avian care, research and conservation are integral to the park. Key focus species include Asian Songbirds and Hornbills, with Bird Paradise the home of over 20 species – making it the world’s largest living genetic reserve of Hornbills under human care.
The park will also be involved in over 75 ex-situ globally managed breeding programmes and conservation programmes where several species are directly linked to regional field conservation projects. The commitment to avian welfare extends beyond Bird Paradise, which is also a designated rehabilitation centre for rescued wild birds in Singapore.
Bird Paradise is located at 20 Mandai Lake Ro