Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Grand Opening of Bird Paradise on 15 November 2023.
Group CEO, Mandai Wildlife Group, Mr Mike Barclay,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to join all of you today for the grand opening of Bird Paradise – Asia’s largest bird park!
For generations, Singaporeans and tourists alike have enjoyed the old Jurong Bird Park. I am sure many here would remember. I certainly remember going there for my first school excursion back in the late 70s – it was a real treat for all of us in the class, and we will always treasure that experience, as I am sure many of today’s students will when they come to this new Bird Paradise.
The old Bird Park, as many of you know, was mooted by Dr. Goh Keng Swee in the late 60s. He had gone to Brazil for a World Bank meeting, saw an aviary in Rio de Janeiro, and said “why not have it in Singapore too?”
At that time, Dr Goh had to deal with many criticisms about why the government was spending so much money on a bird park, when there were many other pressing problems and challenges. This was in the late 60s, soon after Singapore became independent.
But as he put it, his “final justification” for doing this project was to “add to the enjoyment of our citizens, especially our children”. And certainly, we all benefited. Of course, Dr Goh, ever the economist, was very practical and pragmatic – he reasoned that because birdseed cost less than meat, it would be more cost-effective to start a bird park rather than a zoo!
Nowadays, Singapore is better resourced. We are in a much better position than before. But I assure you that MOF is still very conscious about spending money and ensuring value for money in whatever we spend, because we are spending public monies.
Fortunately, when we look back, the investment in the Bird Park was far and away a very sound and cost-effective decision.
It more than paid for itself – we have had more than 40 million guests visiting the Bird Park over the past 5 decades.
Importantly, it was a place for shared experiences and treasured memories for many Singaporeans and tourists alike
With the benefit of this positive experience, MOF was more than prepared to favourably consider the additional investment we had to put into this new Bird Paradise when the idea was first mooted to us. That is why today, we are happy to be able to start a brand-new chapter with Bird Paradise.
Bird Paradise will pay homage to the legacy of Jurong Bird Park, but it will take it to a brand-new level. For example, in the old Bird Park, one feature was that we got to get up close and personal with a wide variety of bird species. We used to do this with display aviaries, where we had to observe the birds from behind the glass or a wire mesh display.
Here in the Bird Paradise, we continue to have some display aviaries, but this is now complemented by eight large walk-through aviaries, where the birds are allowed to roam free while guests can walk by in close range. Everyone can experience and appreciate the birds in a more immersive way and you will have a far richer experience.
The Bird Paradise is also embracing conservation and sustainability as its key ethos. It has green design features, like forest corridors, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting elements. And importantly, it will also support wildlife conservation efforts.
Almost a quarter of the 400 species in Bird Paradise are endangered species. And through its Breeding and Research Centre, Bird Paradise will seek to increase the populations of these critically endangered species. All this promises to make Bird Paradise a new popular attraction and destination for Singapore and tourists.
It has actually been operating for some months now – Bird Paradise has been operating since May and it has already welcomed over half a million visitors both locally and abroad. I am sure for some of you, it is not your first time. I have already been here three times, but it is always something special to look forward to.
The team has worked very hard to make all of this happen and to have this official opening just in time for school holidays too. So let me extend my heartfelt appreciation to everyone here – the board, management and staff of Mandai Wildlife Group, volunteers, sponsors and everyone who chipped in and went the extra mile in bringing Bird Paradise to life. Thank you and congratulations on this new milestone!
We continue to look to see how we can make Singapore a better place for all families. We want Singapore to be highly liveable, as well as an attractive destination for tourists.
To do this, we must be prepared to think big, and push new boundaries. But we also have to be judicious and thoughtful in how we go about doing things.
It is not just always about spending more money to create more attractions. But it is also about enhancing the visitor experience – complementing hardware with good software so that visitors, be it locals or tourists, can have a good time, and want to come back again.
Ideally, we want attractions that build on our unique strengths in Singapore – our culture, our heritage, our history, as well as our rich bio-diversity and our distinctive City in Nature.
That is exactly what Bird Paradise is about. And this is just the beginning of an exciting plan to integrate not just one, not two, not even three, but five wildlife parks, all in one location, here in Mandai.
Apart from Bird Paradise, we will have an upcoming Rainforest Park, which will be built alongside a new eco-resort, and nature-themed indoor attractions.
We are refreshing our existing parks here - the Night Safari, River Wonders, and Singapore Zoo. And we will tie all together with new public green spaces, including walking trails along our beautiful nature reserve.
All of these plans in Mandai Wildlife Reserve will be completed over the next few years. When it is finished, Mandai will offer a truly distinctive nature experience. It will give visitors a chance to immerse themselves in nature and wildlife in a wide variety of ways. And it will become a leading destination for nature both in Singapore and throughout the region.
We hope in time to come, Mandai will be a place where Singaporeans and tourists alike can: get up close with nature; learn about our rich bio-diversity and conservation efforts. And importantly, create many more new and fond memories here.
So to the team at Mandai Wildlife Group – congratulations once again on this latest addition to your suite of offerings, and I wish all of you the very best as you embark on the next chapter in your history. I am confident that if we work together, we can bring the Bird Paradise and Mandai to even greater heights, and make Singapore an even better place to live, work and play. Thank you and enjoy yourselves.
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