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Jurong Bird Park
The Jurong Bird Park in Singapore is the finest and most beautifully maintained collections of Birds I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The location is ideal and, of course the climate helps. This is definitely a zoo which one can visit and re-visit time and again and find something to enjoy each time. Even just visiting their website http://www.birdpark.com.sg/ is well worth your time...though probably not good when inebriated.
The park though clean and neat and new looking does at the same time give the appearance of having been here forever though it only actually opened to the public in 1971.
Worth a visit? Definitely! It is worth visiting Singapore just to come here.
This is one of a series of zoo reports that was actually included within my travel journal ‘The Itinerant ZooKeeper’. Initially I started to extract the zoo data but found the reading was diminished by it. So look on it as a zoo/travel article. The only major edits I have done is a little censoring and to remove the Casanova exploits.
Once I had pulled myself together I made my way out to Jurong Bird Park. Not being familiar with the system I thought I would hail a taxi. It was not easy. In fact it was impossible so I decided to tackle the LRT/MRT system. It was so easy and efficient. Far less complicated than the tube in London, and a 1000% cleaner.
One of the cleverest things for me, because I have never seen it before (or heard of it for that matter) was that the clear windows of the LRT instantly 'frosted' up when we came close to a block of flats. This was to prevent people looking into bedrooms. Clever! I have no idea how it works. Another bonus was the TV on the local bus showing "you've been framed" type films.
There was a bit of disruption at the entrance of the park whilst work was taking place on the new 'Okavango Exhibit'. After seeing the park I would love to have the opportunity to get back and see it when completed.
Western Crowned Pigeon (Goura cristata)
The first building I entered was the 'World of Darkness'. I was disappointed with this. Nothing wrong with it really I suppose but it did not gel with me. I thought it looked too much like a museum exhibit than a series of enclosures containing living animals. Too unreal. Sorry but that’s S$1.3 million that could have been better spent.
From then on in almost everything ranged from extremely good to fantastic. The aviaries in many cases could not have been bettered. Crowned Pigeons! Where else would you find three huge aviaries especially for the three sub-species of this striking bird? And yet it was worth it. At least I think so. The huge divided aviary viewable on two levels and devoted to Birds of Paradise was too. Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Wonderful.
I have in past weeks been viewing the magnificent Hornbills in far from satisfactory accommodation. Not here though. Aviaries approachable from two sides. The front some 25-30 feet high and the back 10 or so. More than adequate to keep the birds happy. It works too. On the day of my visit, five of the seventeen species and subspecies were nesting.
The 'Lory Loft'! What can I say? Spectacular would do it an injustice. Wonderful, memorable! Not only is this a very big aviary it is put together so well. It is a truly great experience. Young and old were thrilled to be out amongst the 1000 or so Lories and Lorikeets of 10 species. To be able to feed them too...this completed the magic of the visit.
The Arial walkways, the trees below. I loved the fact that the frogs/toads below were having a very noisy love-in in the marsh below. Their amorous calls nearly drowned out the birds. True magic. Yet the spell failed. Entering the aviary there was a sign explaining why Lories should not be kept as pets. And yet everything that happened within the cages was enough to convince that these delightful little birds would be the ideal. So cute, so entertaining. There was virtually no educational input at all. The average zoo visitor would enter that aviary and come out none the wiser. Such a pity, a missed opportunity. Yet, in spite of my criticism this is one of my favourite exhibits of all time.
The same educational opportunity was missed at the Flamingos. Another wonderful exhibit. I mean where else (apart from the wild) can you see a thousand plus Flamingos in one place?
Yet, apart from directional signs there was nothing to say what they were. I thought I must have missed the signage and made two complete circuits. Nothing. There was information at Flamingos held elsewhere but that’s not the point.
The bird of prey aviaries were some of the best I have seen anywhere. I liked the height and the upper service doors and the practical design. I was surprised by the mesh which I thought was very hard ungiving, but then I never saw a bashed cere and if the birds are steady there is no worry there.
The Waterfall Aviary contains the 'Jurong falls' which at 30m are the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. Very impressive they are too. The aviary they are in also claims to be the largest walk through free flight aviary. So who is right. I don't know. I suppose it goes back to what I was saying the other week at KL. Do you measure these enclosures in volume or square feet? This was great though. Very big, very high and jungly. I loved it. Obviously a big hole somewhere though because I saw two Glossy starlings and a Lady Ross's Touraco in the grounds outside. One of the Glossies was apparent boss of a bunch of local mynahs.
There was so much I liked here, Parrot Paradise, South East Asian Birds, the Pelican exhibit and so much more.
Lory Loft at Jurong Bird Park
Where I thought the collection most lacking was education. There were so many missed opportunities either in sign design or placement or simply because the signs were not there anyhow. It wasn't as if this was an unfamiliar concept because there were areas where it was excellent.
I liked the Riverine Exhibit. "The first zoological institution in the world to employ cutting-edge recycling technology for water conservation". The water was certainly crystal clear. It made me think though. What is the more environmentally friendly? Filtration, Recycling or Renewing. I suppose it depends on availability and other factors. I like signs like that, ones that make one ponder.
I watched part of one of the bird shows. I thought the presentation was good and the show itself was clever and entertaining. Sadly though there was yet again an omission of education. As it stood it was a circus act rather than an educational opportunity. It is not as if things needed changing that much except for the spiel which needed to change to teach and amuse rather than just amuse.
The Fuji Hawk centre was one of the best I have seen and I have visited a lot of falconry centres. Built to traditional design the mews were quite beautiful to look at. There were plenty of signs, a nice little flying ground and an interesting mini museum of falconry.
I was interested to read about their 'be a falconer programme' which allows the public to fly a harris, feed a condor, have a photo taken with a bird and take a peek behind the scenes. Duration? 30 minutes. Cost? Seventy Singapore Dollars! Plus entrance fee of course.
Another inside Penguin pool with a Puffin annexe. An attractive exhibit that seems to be working well. No problem with educational information here. There was everything you wanted to know and then some. The signs were nice clear and factual but were not friendly. It needed to be re thought into colourful mind bites. I spent ten minutes (okay I know that’s nothing) watching the visitors and did not see a single one read a sign.
If you have enjoyed reading this article you should move onto the next, entitled ‘Jurong Reptile and Crocodile Paradise‘ as soon as it is published. Or you could move back to Singapore Zoo if you missed it. Please also check out my blog Zoo News Digest.
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