AN ICY NEW HOME FOR INUKA AND SHEBA IN THE WORKS

NEW HABITAT FOR SINGAPORE’S POLAR BEARS WILL BE THREE AND A HALF TIMES BIGGER AND FEATURE INNOVATIVE CLIMATE-CONTROLLED FEATURES

Singapore, 27 August 2010River Safari, Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park, today released details of the new home of Singapore’s beloved polar bears, Inuka and Sheba. The 1,400 sq metre habitat will be three and a half times the size of the existing one, featuring indoor and outdoor areas from which the public can see the great white carnivores, and pools for the bears to swim in.

The polar bears’ new home will be housed within River Safari’s Frozen Tundra exhibit, which aims to educate visitors on the importance of glaciers and semi-frozen freshwater ecosystems, amongst the most threatened of the world’s biomes.

The polar bear dens and indoor areas will be climate controlled, with temperatures that simulate the Arctic north. Three viewing elevations will be available for visitors, including the hugely popular underwater view, and visitors can admire the animals through windows cut into frozen rocks.

Modelled closely after their natural habitat, Inuka and Sheba’s new home is part of WRS’ commitment in upgrading these bears’ living space. In 2006, the Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC) decided that it was in the polar bears’ best interest for them to remain in Singapore. This decision was reached after considering the animal’s ages, their familiarity with their keepers and environment, and the uncertainty of whether other facilities would be able to provide the same high level of care that Inuka and Sheba are used to. It was also at this time that WRS started the conceptualisation of the Frozen Tundra exhibit, to further upgrade the polar bears’ habitat.

Native to the Arctic Circle, polar bears are the world’s largest land carnivore and adult males can weigh up to 650 to 700 kg. Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, the bear occupies a narrow ecological niche and preys almost exclusively on seals. Polar bears hunt mostly on ice floes in winter months and retreating sea ice due to global warming has resulted in the diminishing of their hunting grounds and food sources. If global temperatures continue to rise, polar bears may become extinct across most of their range within a hundred years.

Some of the innovative features of Frozen Tundra include “ice rocks” where our polar bears can soak in the coolness of “freezed” rocks and also an ice cave where both Sheba and Inuka can retire to, so as to enjoy a polar siesta. The new habitat also incorporates a large freezer unit able to produce huge blocks of ice as enrichment for the bears. Natural substrates, trees, and also pools and streams will be incorporated, to provide the bears with a rich and varied home.

As construction begins on the Frozen Tundra exhibit, the polar bear enclosure at the Singapore Zoo will be closed from 30 August 2010. Inuka and Sheba look forward to seeing everyone again in 2012 with the opening of River Safari.

Visitors to the polar bear enclosure will enter through the maw of an ice cave
Visitors can sit and admire the polar bears as they enjoy their climate-controlled exhibit
Visitors can view Inuka and Sheba swimming in their icy pools through windows cut into frozen rock
Inuka and Sheba have special ice caves, waterfalls and icy pools to enjoy

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.