RIVER SAFARI COMPLETES MEGAFISH COLLECTION WITH MOVE OF GIANT FRESHWATER STINGRAY

Move of gargantuan fish with venomous barb one of the most complicated and dangerous to date.

Singapore, 17 July 2013 – The giant freshwater stingray, believed to be the largest and heaviest freshwater fish in the world, moved into Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park today. Known for its venomous barb and mighty ability to pull boats down the Mekong River, this gargantuan species can weigh up to 600 kilogrammes and grow up to 5 metres in length.

The giant freshwater stingray, believed to be the largest and heaviest freshwater fish in the world, moved into River Safari today. Known for its venomous barb and mighty ability to pull boats down the Mekong River, this gargantuan species can weigh up to 600 kilogrammes and grow up to 5 metres in length.
The giant freshwater stingray, believed to be the largest and heaviest freshwater fish in the world, moved into River Safari today. Known for its venomous barb and mighty ability to pull boats down the Mekong River, this gargantuan species can weigh up to 600 kilogrammes and grow up to 5 metres in length.

The last to join two other rare megafishes at the park’s Mekong River zone, the move of the giant freshwater stingray is one of the most complicated and dangerous as it has a deadly barb on the base of its tail capable of piercing bones.

Close to 20 staff was deployed for the move, including aquarists and veterinarians. Due to the size of the stingray – currently at 2.4 metres long and weighing 62.5 kilogrammes – various arrangements were made in preparation for the move, including a specially-modified carrier truck to transport the stingray in controlled water conditions. As a safety precaution, the stingray’s venomous barb on its tail was trimmed. Stingrays can regrow their barbs throughout their lifetime.

Mr Wah Yap Hon, Curator, Zoology, River Safari, said, “We are thrilled that the last of our Mekong River giants are finally in. Over the past few months, we have been moving animals into their exhibits and have been looking forward to this day when we finally introduce the powerful giant freshwater stingray. This latest addition completes our collection of megafishes. We hope these aquatic ambassadors will help visitors gain a deeper appreciation of their species, and of freshwater habitats.”

Found in river systems in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the giant freshwater stingray is under threat due to overfishing and degradation of riverine habitats as a result of pollution and dam-building. In Thailand where the subpopulation has dropped dramatically, the giant stingray is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species. This species is shrouded in mystery: their behaviour is elusive and no one knows of their exact numbers in the wild.

By bringing visitors up close to fascinating underwater animals such as the giant freshwater stingray, River Safari aims to highlight the importance of freshwater ecosystems and inspire positive actions for conserving them.

Visitors can catch the giant stingrays at the park’s Mekong River zone, home to two other megafishes: giant Siamese carp and the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.

Aquarists prepare to move a giant freshwater stingray into its aquarium at River Safari’s Mekong River zone. As a safety precaution, the stingray’s venomous barb on its tail was trimmed before the move. The barb can grow to an incredible length of 38 cm – the largest of any stingray and capable of piercing bones. Stingrays can regrow their barbs throughout their lifetime.
Aquarists prepare to move a giant freshwater stingray into its aquarium at River Safari’s Mekong River zone. As a safety precaution, the stingray’s venomous barb on its tail was trimmed before the move. The barb can grow to an incredible length of 38 cm – the largest of any stingray and capable of piercing bones. Stingrays can regrow their barbs throughout their lifetime.
Aquarists carefully lower a canvas holding a giant freshwater stingray for its release into River Safari’s Mekong River zone. This 2.4m-long specimen weighs 62.5kg and measures 1.2m wide. It arrived at the park’s holding facility in October 2010.
Aquarists carefully lower a canvas holding a giant freshwater stingray for its release into River Safari’s Mekong River zone. This 2.4m-long specimen weighs 62.5kg and measures 1.2m wide. It arrived at the park’s holding facility in October 2010.
To ensure that its newest resident is fine, an aquarist checks on the breathing pattern of a giant freshwater stingray after it is released into its aquarium at River Safari’s Mekong River zone.
To ensure that its newest resident is fine, an aquarist checks on the breathing pattern of a giant freshwater stingray after it is released into its aquarium at River Safari’s Mekong River zone.
Children come up close with a giant freshwater stingray at River Safari’s Mekong River zone, which is also home to two other megafishes: giant Siamese carp and the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.
Children come up close with a giant freshwater stingray at River Safari’s Mekong River zone, which is also home to two other megafishes: giant Siamese carp and the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.

*IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature

RIVER SAFARI SOFT OPENING FROM 3 APRIL

Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park to feature rare and endangered animals from eight iconic river habitats; boat rides to be ready at a later date.

Singapore, 25 March 2013 – From 3 April, visitors can look forward to discovering the exotic wildlife found in eight iconic river habitats with the soft opening of River Safari.

The 12-ha River Safari is the newest addition to Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s portfolio of award-winning parks and will showcase animals from freshwater habitats inspired by eight of the world’s iconic rivers including the Mississippi, Nile, Mekong, Yangtze and Amazon rivers. The park will be home to over 150 plant species and 5,000 animal specimens representing 300 animal species, including one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater animals.

Among the unique aquatic and terrestrial animals featured in the park are endangered river giants such as the Giant Salamander, Giant Freshwater Stingray and Mekong Giant Catfish. River Safari is the only park in Asia to feature the Giant River Otter, the world’s largest otter that can grow up to 1.8 metres.

The highlight of the Mekong River zone is a 3m-tall aquarium with a large underwater view of megafishes such as the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish and giant freshwater stingray.
The highlight of the Mekong River zone is a 3m-tall aquarium with a large underwater view of megafishes such as the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish and giant freshwater stingray.

Ms Claire Chiang, Chairman, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “We look forward to welcoming visitors to River Safari and bringing them up-close to the fascinating wildlife that live in river habitats, which are disappearing faster than forest and marine environments. As the first and only river-themed wildlife park in Asia, River Safari aims to highlight the importance of freshwater ecosystems and inspire positive actions for conserving them. In addition, we also seek to play a part in global captive breeding programmes for endangered freshwater species.”

During the soft opening phase, visitors can walk through River Safari’s freshwater galleries and immersive exhibits, including the world’s largest freshwater aquarium at the Amazon Flooded Forest and the Giant Panda Forest. The park’s boat rides will not be available until later this year as they are undergoing technical adjustments.

The world's largest freshwater aquarium at the Amazon Flooded Forest showcases a surreal world of manatees, fishes and other creatures swimming amongst giant trees, created every year during the rainy season when the river rises 30 to 40 feet.
The world’s largest freshwater aquarium at the Amazon Flooded Forest showcases a surreal world of manatees, fishes and other creatures swimming amongst giant trees, created every year during the rainy season when the river rises 30 to 40 feet.

River Safari opens daily from 9am to 6pm and tickets will be priced at S$35 (Adult), S$23 (Child between 3-12 years), and $17.50 (Senior citizen above 60 years). As the boat rides and some exhibits will not be ready until a later date, daily admission (refer to Appendix attached) during the soft opening phase will be priced at a discounted rate of S$25 (Adult), S$16 (Child between 3-12 years) and $12.50 (Senior citizen above 60 years). Visitors can purchase tickets at Singapore Zoo and River Safari’s ticket booth. River Safari extends free admission to beneficiaries of selected programmes by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (details on http://www.riversafari.com.sg).

From 3 April, visitors planning to see the giant pandas can do so only via River Safari. The current giant panda preview, which visitors pay a top-up fee in addition to Singapore Zoo admission ticket, will end on 31 March. Both pandas are housed at the Yangtze River zone that features the Yangtze alligator and the world’s largest amphibian – the Chinese giant salamander.

The highlight of the Yangtze River zone is the Giant Panda Forest – the largest panda exhibit in South East Asia – home to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
The highlight of the Yangtze River zone is the Giant Panda Forest – the largest panda exhibit in South East Asia – home to giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

River Safari is designed and developed with the utmost concern for the environment, especially the Mandai Nature Reserve area where the park is situated. The park brings together the best in zoological architecture and design, with state-of-the-art exhibit artistry and technology to provide visitors with an immersive experience into the world of rivers and the landscapes they support. River Safari is the first attraction in Singapore to be conferred with the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Platinum Award in the park category.

More information can be found on www.riversafari.com.sg.

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE AND CHULALONGKORN UNIVERSITY JOIN HANDS ON GIANT FRESHWATER STINGRAY INITIATIVE

PROJECT AGREEMENT SIGNED ON GROUNDBREAKING PROJECT TO HELP BETTER UNDERSTAND MYSTERIOUS MEGAFISH

Singapore, 11 January 2012Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) and Chulalongkorn University, Thailand are working together on a pioneering project to tag and track giant freshwater stingrays in the wild. The two organisations sealed the partnership with a Programme Agreement signing ceremony at Singapore Zoo this afternoon.

This project, the first of its kind in the world, will involve tagging six wild specimens from the Mae Klong River in Amphawa, Thailand using “Pop-up Archival Transmitting Tags”*.

Chulalongkorn University will provide the expertise for the field research, while WRS will handle all financial aspects, including purchasing the tagging devices.

Giant freshwater stingrays have attracted global interest due to their enormous size. However, little is known of their physiology, behaviour and migration processes. This species has not been bred in captivity and is threatened by fisheries and habitat loss.

The results from this monitoring programme will provide valuable data of field survey and tracking in a natural environment. These data could be used to recreate an environment conducive for breeding the animals, reducing the need for wild-caught specimens. Additionally, this study may shed light on how they affect the riverine ecosystems and more importantly, if their decline is an indication of the deteriorating health of the whole ecosystem.

Both organisations will also use the opportunity to raise conservation awareness for this species through educational outreach programmes among the local population in Amphawa district, Thailand, where the study will be conducted and through WRS parks’ educational programmes. This will be the first official learning and cooperation platform between Thailand and Singapore.

Ms Isabella Loh, WRS Group CEO said, “This is a significant partnership with Chulalongkorn University to help conserve the giant freshwater stingrays of Southeast Asia, and the aquatic ecosystem they thrive in. Little is known of these enormous creatures and the vital role they play in the riverine ecosystem. This is one of the major interests in our conservation education drive for the upcoming River Safari.”

Dr Sonja Luz, Deputy Director, Conservation and Research and Learning Centre, continued, “Giant freshwater stingrays are still being harvested for food by some local fishermen but we do not know their growth rates, how often they reproduce, their impact on the aquatic ecosystem and if the fishermen’s practice is sustainable. This project will elucidate the need for further scientific studies and species census; helping us to understand and manage them better. This study may also shed light on the possibility of a viable managed breeding programme for this species at our aquatic facility in River Safari.”

Prof Dr Mongkol Techakumphu, Dean of faculty of Veterinary Science, Chulalongkorn University added, “This is an excellent opportunity for us to be a part of a momentous study. We hope that the data acquired may even form the backbone for provincial and governmental regulatory controls, encouraging the conservation of the giant freshwater stingray.”

Visitors to River Safari, WRS’ freshwater-themed attraction, will be able to discover these mystifying creatures for themselves when the park opens later this year.

* NOTE: Pop-up Archival Transmitting Tag is a combination of archival and satellite technology designed to track the large-scale movements and behaviour of fish and other animals which do not spend enough time at the surface to allow the use of real-time satellite tags.

Each giant freshwater stingray caught is also carefully measured from tip to tip. This species can reach an impressive 3m in disc diameter and over 6m in total length, and weigh up to 600kg.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore has three of these specimens in its collection. They will be displayed in River Safari, the upcoming freshwater-themed attraction, later this year.
Dr Nantarika Chansue of the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animal Research Centre of Chulalongkorn University draws blood from the tail of a wild giant freshwater stingray in the Mae Klong River, Thailand.

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

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.