WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE MARKS NEW CHAPTER OF GROWTH WITH LAUNCH OF RIVER SAFARI

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GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY FOR ASIA’S FIRST RIVER-THEMED WILDLIFE PARK TO BE HELD TODAY

Singapore, 21 May 2010Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the parent company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, celebrates a significant milestone today with the ground-breaking of Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park.

River Safari, which will be the world’s largest repository of fresh water animals and many critically endangered animals like the giant panda, marks a new chapter of growth for the 10-year-old company, bringing it closer to its vision of being the foremost wildlife institution in the world.

WRS’ three attractions – Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and Singapore Zoo – attracted 3.6 million visitors in 2009, and the numbers have been growing every year. These parks rank among the best leisure destinations in Singapore and are well-known for their successful captive breeding programmes for endangered species such as the Bali mynah, Asian elephant and orang utan.

“We aim to offer the best wildlife experience in Asia and part of this effort is the expansion of our unique product offerings,” said Ms Claire Chiang, WRS’ Chair. “Being a first in Asia, River Safari will not only bring the rich biodiversity of the freshwater systems around the world right to our doorstep, it will be home to many endangered and threatened species, which we hope to preserve through our captive breeding programmes.”

River Safari is expected to draw at least 820,000 visitors annually. The 12-hectare park located between the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari in Mandai, is scheduled to open in the first half of 2012, and will house one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater aquatic animals, with more than 300 plant species, 500 animal species and over 5,000 individual animal specimens.

Comprising boat rides and displays of freshwater habitats of the famous rivers of the world like the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong and Yangtze, the River Safari will provide a close-up, multi-sensory experience for visitors. For example, the indigenous wildlife at the Amazon River will be showcased at the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit, which will be home to deadly river creatures like the anaconda and electric eel, as well as the elusive giant river otter, one of the most endangered animals in South America.

One of the star attractions – the giant pandas – will live in a specially designed, climate-controlled exhibit along the “Yangtze River”. Different species of bamboo, which is the panda’s staple diet, will be planted throughout this 1,600 sqm landscaped enclosure. Sheba and Inuka, the Singapore Zoo’s pair of mother-and-son polar bears, will also have a new home at River Safari’s Frozen Tundra, which comprises over 1,400 sqm of living space that will mirror conditions in the Arctic. Other animals like the tanuki, a raccoon dog native to Japan, will join the polar bears at this new exhibit, which will feature permafrost, frozen caves, and icy pools of water.

“Biodiversity in freshwater habitats is disappearing at a faster rate than marine and forest environments. By bringing visitors up close to the fascinating underwater animals and terrestrial animals that live in such ecosystems, we aim to highlight how our survival is dependent on their well-being,” said Ms Fanny Lai, WRS’ Group CEO. “We expect people to be awed by many of these strange and interesting fresh water creatures including the ‘giants’ of river habitats. These include the giant catfish and the giant freshwater stingray from Mekong river, giant river otters from Amazon river; and not forgetting the giant pandas from China. All of these charismatic animals are disappearing at an alarming rate due to habitat destruction.

The ground-breaking ceremony this morning will be held at one of the actual development sites fronting the reservoir and will be graced by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Education.

THREE GENERATIONS OF SUN BEARS AND A NEW BABY AT SINGAPORE ZOO

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Singapore, 17 May 2010 – The oldest – and possibly ‘fiercest’ – sun bear in captivity at the Singapore Zoo is now the proud grandmother of a yet to be named male baby bear. This 33-year-old matriarch named Garang, which means ‘fierce’ in Malay, and her daughter Judy welcomed the new family member in February.

These three generations of sun bears, including 8-year-old Matahari, Judy’s first offspring, are the smallest species of bears in the world. Sun bears are found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Though relatively diminutive in size and cuddly-looking, these animals can be aggressive in the wild, and are among the most dangerous creatures in the forest. When faced with potential enemies like tigers, leopards, or reticulated pythons, they can inflict deadly bites and use their sharp sickle-like claws to mortally wound their opponent.

However, humans pose the biggest threat to their existence – deforestation and logging have led to their habitat loss. They are also poached for their parts, e.g. fur, paws, or bile, and many young sun bears are trapped for the illegal pet trade. International laws have made any commercial trade in the bear or its body parts illegal, and they have been listed as a species ‘vulnerable’ to extinction.

Singapore Zoo, however, is doing its part to ensure the sun bear’s survival through its successful captive breeding programme, which has produced three sun bears since Garang’s arrival as a one-year-old cub in 1978. Mother and daughter duo Judy and Matahari were both born in Singapore Zoo, as is the latest three-month-old addition. The fifth sun bear at the zoo is 14-year-old male Ballu, the sire of the latest addition. Ballu arrived from Khao Kheow Zoo, Thailand in July 2008.

“Besides our ongoing breeding programme, we were also involved in overseas research and conservation projects, including a field research project in the Danum Valley region of Sabah to gather data on the ecology of the sun bear and its prospects for survival in disrupted forest habitats. Information gathered from this research has allowed the zoo to gain further insight into the sun bears’ physical and behavioural requirements,” said Mr Biswajit Guha, Director of Zoology at Singapore Zoo.

Except for females with their offspring, sun bears are solitary animals and usually give birth to only one cub. These bears spend most of the day sunbathing or sleeping in trees, with their sharp claws perfectly tailored for scaling tree trunks. Because they inhabit rainforests in a tropical climate, sun bears have the least shaggy coat among all bears, and have a prominent yellow-white or orange U-shaped marking on their chests. Being omnivores, they feed mostly on termites, ants, beetle or bee larvae, and a large variety of fruits. Honey is a favourite treat, and these sun bears will go to great lengths to look for bee’s nests up in the treetops.

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