GOODBYE SUN BEAR, HELLO WILD CATS!

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Singapore, 29 April 2011Singapore Zoo visitors will soon have to be bid farewell to one-year-old Malayan sun bear, Indera. He will be making his way to the United Kingdom end May, where he will reside at the Rare Species Conservation Centre (RSCC), as part of an animal exchange programme.

Indera is the proud descendent of two generations of sun bears at the Singapore Zoo. Wildlife institutions around the world carry out animal exchanges to maximise genetic diversity and sustain captive breeding of the species. This helps to guarantee a captive population of the species should any natural or man-made disaster wipe out any one species in certain parts of the world.

The RSCC forms part of The Rare Species Conservation Trust which is a registered United Kingdom charity. It is home to the world’s lesser known rare and endangered species of animals and is an education and captive breeding facility. Other wildlife that reside at the RSCC include the extremely rare Bali starling, endangered Sambirano bamboo lemur and the New Guinea singing dog.

Found primarily in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, these elusive Malayan sun bears are the smallest yet most aggressive bear species and are classified as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Reliable estimates of sun bear populations are lacking.

In exchange for Indera, the Singapore Zoo will receive a pair of jaguarandi, a medium-sized wild cat which will be housed at the upcoming river-themed attraction the River Safari, and one fishing cat for the Night Safari.

Before Indera the young sun bear embarks on his new adventure, vets at WRS gave him a complete physical health check, including an x-ray, to ensure he is safe to travel.

Indera's health check

Indera's health check

Indera's health check

HUMBOLDT PENGUIN TRANSFORMS INTO A REAL ‘BELLE’

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A FEATHERLESS PENGUIN REGAINS HER PLUMAGE WITH SOME UNUSUAL HELP FROM AVIAN EXPERTS AT THE JURONG BIRD PARK

Singapore, 28 April 2010 – It was a pretty sight when Belle, the now-famous Humboldt penguin, at the Jurong Bird Park frolicked with her fellow penguins in her full-feathered glory recently. It was not too long ago that the 10-year-old was a featherless oddity and was treated like an outcast by her colony. She had missed her moulting cycle and was virtually ‘bald’ for the past four months.

Resourceful keepers and vets at the Bird Park chanced on the idea of designing a customised wet suit for the little Humboldt, which helped her stay buoyant and warm in the water. Together with a carefully managed holistic treatment that included husbandry practise and medication, Belle showed positive signs of recovery. Her feathers have since grown back, and she is now flaunting her full plumage.

Angelin Lim, avian keeper at the Jurong Bird Park, said, “We named this penguin Belle, with hopes that she will return to her beautiful self. Therefore, we were very encouraged when downy feathers started to show after we put her in a cut-out of a human wet suit in January. Her mood improved because she could swim and interact with her fellow penguins. While her condition may have been caused by stress or hormonal imbalance, it was the combination of this unusual ‘wet suit therapy’ and proper medication that led to her dramatic recovery. We are so happy to see Belle back at the Penguin Coast.”

The Penguin Coast is the Bird Park’s latest attraction, featuring a total of 96 penguins from six different species, including Humboldt, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Fairy, King Penguin and the latest African Penguin, a recent addition to the penguin family that is adaptable to tropical climates.

Penguin Coast hosts two 15 minute feeding sessions daily at 10.30am and 3.30pm to educate visitors about penguins and their feeding habits.

Belle showing positive signs of ‘recovery’ as she starts moulting again

Belle showing off her slow but sure transformation

ROOM FOR RENT!

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STUDENTS FROM NANYANG POLY AND GREENRIDGE PRIMARY BUILT 40 BIRD HOUSES TO COMMEMORATE EARTH DAY 2011 AND JURONG BIRD PARK’S 40TH BIRTHDAY

SINGAPORE, 13 April 2011 – In conjunction with Earth Day 2011 and Jurong Bird Park’s 40th anniversary, the Bird Park collaborated with 26 students from Nanyang Polytechnic and Greenridge Primary School to build 40 bird houses to be placed at its aviaries and the schools. Guided by Avian Supervisor Mr Gan Keng Tiong, students did not only assemble these nest boxes, they also discovered the significance of avian conservation in an urban environment.

On 22 March, the team came together to build the bird houses, which were later painted and placed at the African Waterfall Aviary and Southeast Asian Aviary at the Bird Park, as well as the respective schools. These bird houses are aimed at encouraging the nesting of smaller birds such as starlings and lovebirds.

Coming up on 23 April, students will be at the Penguin Coast exhibit in Jurong Bird Park to assist visitors with making the bird houses. Visitors can bring back their creations and it is hoped that through this simple exercise, they will gain an understanding of how in an urban landscape, birds still need places to nest in.

Students from Greenridge Primary School making their first attempt at assembling the bird house, while taking instructions from the Avian Supervisor. These wood pieces were cut into different pieces and screwed on during assembly.

Teamwork is key to building the 40 bird houses. Not only did the students from Nanyang Polytechnic help each other during the workshop, the tertiary students were also mentors and role models to the younger students.

Brown and black were some of the earth tones selected for the bird houses that were placed in the Southeast Asian aviary. The painted nest boxes were placed only at this particular aviary as the birds are not known to nibble and scrape off the paint.

Despite the rain during the workshop, young conservationists were hard at work with the painting of the nest boxes which they brought back to Greenridge Primary School.

The collaboration and hard work of 26 students, including teacher Mr Rajangam Arivalagan from Greenridge Primary School ended with smiles as they students posed for a photo with their nest boxes.

WHET YOUR APPETITES WITH A SQUAWKIN’ GOOD TIME AT JURONG BIRD PARK

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INDULGE IN A DELICIOUS NEW LUNCH BUFFET IN COMPANY OF PARROTS.

Singapore, 15 April 2011 – Lunchtime visitors to the Jurong Bird Park, the world’s largest bird paradise, can now delight in rich cuisine in some highly unusual winged company at the park’s Songbird Terrace every day. From 12-2pm daily, dine-in customers at the restaurant can catch the highly-interactive Parrot Show while feasting on an all new lunch buffet.

From wok-fried butter prawns to chocolate and strawberry roulade, the lunch buffet offers a variety of local cuisine including dishes such as Singapore Laksa and Oriental Beancurd with Mixed Vegetable. Visitors with a sweet tooth will enjoy the ice cream and the tropical fruit platter after the mains. Coffee and tea are served with the buffet, but the Singapore Sling or local draught beer will be charged separately. The buffet, specially prepared by The Lodge’s kitchen, costs $19+ per adult, and $15+ per
child between the ages of 6 and 12. No pork or lard is served at this buffet.

“The idea is to bring together the best of both worlds – food and entertainment. We then decided to move the Parrot Show from the Pools Amphitheatre to the Songbird Terrace so that visitors can have a leisurely lunch while enjoying the lovable antics of our parrots and macaws,” said Ms Agnes Toh, Assistant Director, F&B, Wildlife Reserves Singapore. “With an extended stage that overlooks the Flamingo Lake, the Songbird Terrace provides a natural and stunning backdrop for photography. The new layout also creates a fun-filled setting for visitors to see the birds up close.”

Lunch with Parrots features resident birds such as sulphur-crested cockatoos, a yellow-headed Amazon parrot, a scarlet macaw, and a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, which can sing a birthday song for visitors.

Great food, great entertainment

Interact with the birds

Incredible bird performance

HAVE FUN ALONG THE ECO-TRAIL THIS EARTH DAY AT SINGAPORE ZOO

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ACTIVITIES ALSO AIMED AT CELEBRATING YEAR OF THE BAT AND INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FOREST

Singapore, 5 April 2011
Singapore Zoo’s popular Earth Day Eco-Trail is back again this year with a “bat” theme and more interactive fun.

Families simply need to sign up for an Eco-Trail passport on 16-17 April to participate in special activities to commemorate Earth Day on 22 April, the anniversary of the start of the modern environment movement in the 1970s.

Activities along the Eco-Trail include educational games to illustrate the practice of recycling and reusing waste, and to celebrate the Year of the Bat and International Year of the Forest this year. Participants will be involved in hands-on activities that will provide interesting nuggets of information on these mostly misunderstood creatures of the night.

The National Parks Board will also be supporting the event with a booth about native flora and fauna.

Date: 16 and 17 April (Sat and Sun)
Venue: Singapore Zoo (various locations)
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826
Time: 10.30am – 4.00pm
Fee: Activities are free. Eco-Trail passports are available at the booth outside
the Singapore Zoo’s Entrance Retail Shop
Note: Normal admission rates of $20.00 for adults and $13.00 for children
between 3-12 years apply


STATION 1

Bat-tle the Maze
Participants will be asked to tackle a maze while blindfolded and with verbal instructions from their team mates. Along the way, the blindfolded participant will ‘hunt’ for 3 insects. In nature, bats rely on their sonar system to get around. They emit a high, squeaking sound, undetectable by human ears, and this bounces off objects, giving them an indication of how far away the obstacles are.

Location: Proboscis Monkey @ Entrance

STATION 2
Forest Treasures
Find a matching pair of cards, to show the relationship between a product and its origin (eg t-shirt and cotton plant). If you do not get a match, you have to flip both cards over and try again. Participants will learn about how many of the products we use are derived, in some way or another, from the rainforest.

Location: Tropical Crops

STATION 3
River Clean Up
Each group will be asked to cross a ‘river’ using a raft, while scooping up items like plastic bottles and bags in the water. Through this activity, participants will learn how river systems have become increasingly contaminated through pollution, degradation and overexploitation, as well as what they can do to help alleviate the situation.

Location: Rainforest Kidzworld

STATION 4
Fun with Composting
Visitors will be taught how to reduce waste through composting, where the natural process of decomposition creates a product that can be used as a plant fertilizer.

Location: Garden with a View

STATION 5
Spot the Bat-talion
By counting the number of bats at the Zoo’s new ‘bat cave’, participants will find out why these winged creatures prefer relaxing in the ‘upside down’ position. This not only allows bats to hide from danger, they can also rest without exerting much energy, due to the unique way their talons are formed.

Location: Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia

FEATHERLESS PENGUIN SUITS UP AT JURONG BIRD PARK

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AVAIN KEEPERS ADAPT HUMAN WET SUIT TO HELP HUMBOLDT PENGUIN REGAIN HER NATURAL PLUMAGE

Singapore, 04 April 2011
– Belle, the Humboldt penguin at Jurong Bird Park, has been donning her very own ‘penguin suit’ recently, and it is not for a black tie, gala event at the avian wildlife park. The wet suit is part of a carefully managed holistic treatment programme involving husbandry practice coupled with necessary medications tailored to help Belle grow back her feathers.

The 10-year-old resident of the bird park’s Penguin Coast exhibit has been experiencing continued feather loss since last year, which spread gradually from her neck to her entire body, when she missed her yearly moulting cycle. Moulting is a natural occurrence where penguins grow a new coat of feathers by shedding the old one, typically before mating season. When penguins do not moult, the old feathers start to wear off, exposing the undercoat and skin. It is rare for penguins to remain featherless, but certain factors such as infection, stress, or hormonal imbalance can cause prolonged moulting, which was the case with Belle. This prevents her from swimming since penguins usually do not go into the water until they regain their natural plumage, as plumage plays a vital role in insulating them against the cold and helping them stay buoyant in the water.

The avian experts at the Jurong Bird Park then came up with a creative and resourceful idea to help the little Humboldt. They adapted a wet suit meant for humans, which Belle has been wearing for over two months.

“In our research, we discovered that two groups overseas – the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, US, and Marwell Wildlife in the United Kingdom – have been successful in treating moulting penguins with customised wet suits. These wet suits act as a natural feather covering, providing warmth and insulation. They also trap air and this helps them stay afloat,” said Ms Angelin Lim, the park’s Junior Avian Management Officer involved in Belle’s treatment.

The results have been very encouraging. Belle’s downy feathers have started to grow on her neck, sides of the chest and back regions. According to the park’s veterinarian Dr Melodiya Nyela F Magno, the adaptation of the wet suit, complemented with medical treatment, enhanced Belle’s recovery process.

“We gave Belle antibiotics and hormone replacement therapy as she had a hormonal deficiency. While we cannot really determine how much this helped in the initial stages, Belle started to show positive feather growth when we supplemented the medical treatment with the use of the improvised wet suit. We believe that this ‘penguin suit’ enhanced her normal swimming habits and with the exercise she was getting swimming, encouraged the production of endorphins, or what you call ‘happy hormones’ in the bird. She appeared much happier, was more active, and displayed a lot more of her natural behaviour,” said Dr Magno.

With the care provided by the keepers which contributed to her well-being aiding her recovery, Belle is now able to return to her enclosure progressively and socialise with the rest of the penguins for up to 20 minutes daily. She had to be housed separately during her recovery as she was being picked on by the other penguins for looking different. Being picked on is a natural reaction in penguin colonies where sick-looking birds tend to be easy pickings for predators, which endangers the colony.

As the improvised wet suit has improved Belle’s condition, the bird park is now in talks with several wet suit manufacturers who may be keen to undertake this creative project and design a customised outfit for her.

The Jurong Bird Park’s Penguin Coast, an upgrade of the former Penguin Expedition, is a climate controlled exhibit which features more than 96 penguins from six different species. It also includes the latest outdoor penguin enclosure showing African penguins, one of the few species that are adapted to the tropics.

Belle getting a helping hand to put on her wet suit

Belle, the Humboldt penguin, trying out her new wet suit in the water

Belle looking very comfortable in her wet suit

NIGHT SAFARI’S BABY ELEPHANT READY TO GREET VISITORS

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Singapore, 4 April 2011 – This April, Night Safari visitors will get to see the park’s first baby elephant in nine years, when the five-month-old calf makes his first public appearance. Born on 23 November last year, this latest addition to Night Safari’s brood of endangered Asian elephants has been named ‘Nila Utama’, after the Sumatran prince Sang Nila Utama, who founded the kingdom of Singapura in 1324.

The bold and inquisitive elephant was sired by Chawang, the sole bull elephant at Night Safari, which is managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). Now 125cm tall and weighing a hefty 318 kg, it is the first elephant to be born at both Night Safari and Singapore Zoo in almost a decade. Visitors can witness the close bond between mother and baby at the Asian elephant exhibit from April onwards.

“Our four-month-old calf is growing up to be strong, curious, and independent. He is not afraid to leave his mother’s side to explore his surroundings and we have seen the little one even getting into the pool of water himself. Nila Utama is like our very own ‘Singapore son’ and we are excited for Singaporeans and tourists to get acquainted with him. WRS hopes his birth will go towards sustaining and increasing the population of Asian elephants both in captivity and in the wild,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO of WRS.

Nila Utama is the 11th addition to the family of Asian elephants at WRS, which also runs the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari. His mother, Sri Nandong, has raised two other males, Sang Raja (‘noble one’) in 1999 and Sang Wira (‘brave one’) in 2001.

WRS runs successful breeding programmes across all its parks, and has done particularly well with breeding endangered animals such as the pangolin, Malayan sun bear, the orang utans and many others. It works with global partners to increase the gene pool of captive animals through various exchange programmes. For example, Chawang’s semen has been sent to zoos in Australia to help facilitate artificial inseminations with elephants there.

The population of Asian elephants in the wild is dwindling fast – even more so than their better recognised counterpart, the African elephant. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 are left in the forests of India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Habitat loss poses the most serious threat to the future of these magnificent creatures, as a large part of their native homes are being logged and cleared for urban and agricultural development resulting in human – elephant conflict. WRS is working with Wildlife Conservation Society in mitigating this in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen

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