The Zoos of Singapore Part 2 – Jurong Bird Park

My attempt to condense my Zoo posts failed dismally, you can read Part 1 about the Night Safari here, parts 3 and 4 coming soon!

Jurong Bird Park

Having celebrated it’s 45th birthday last year, Jurong Bird Park is the oldest of the four Zoos managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, preceding Singapore Zoo itself by 2 years. With 5000 birds across 400 species, this park is located a fair distance away from the other three, at Jurong Hill in the West. However, it was recently announced that they will be renamed and moved to Mandai in 2020, where it will be in close proximity to the other three parks.

What makes it special?
You guessed it, Jurong Bird Park features birds and birds alone. With numerous walk through aviaries, you can get up close and personal with a wide array of our flying friends, while they do what they do best. The African Waterfall Aviary is the second largest aviary in the world, and also encloses a 30 foot waterfall, one of the tallest artificial waterfalls currently in existence.

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Artificial waterfall in a beautifully spacious enclosure

Who’s there?
Jurong hosts birds of all shapes and sizes, from tiny Finches and Starlings, to looming Ostrich and Cassowary. They have a birds of prey section, a huge corner dedicated to Parrots, a nocturnal area for nighttime gliders, and various lakes for Pelicans (of which they have the worlds most varied collection), Flamingos and Swans to name a few.

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An absolutely stunning Snowy Owl in the nocturnal section

The shows
As well as a huge number of opportunities to witness specific species being fed there are two daily shows free to all visitors. The ‘High Flyers’ show features Hyacinth Macaws, Gaia and Great-pied Hornbills, showing unique behaviour traits and free-flying, along with Amigo, their Yellow-naped Amazon able to sing in three languages!
Meanwhile the ‘King of the Skies’ show gives guests an up close look of some formidable birds of prey in action. There are Owls and Vultures demonstrating their keen eyesight and pinpoint accuracy when hunting, and the guides teach viewers the intricate art of falconry with White-tailed Sea Eagles and Harris Hawks.
There is also a paid add-on, ‘Lunch with Parrots’. For $S25, you can enjoy a buffet lunch while watching a variety of parrots on stage, including a particularly verbose Amazon Parrot, an acrobatic Scarlet Macaw and a painting Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.

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The Flamingos also make a special guest appearance during the ‘High Flyers’ show

Our thoughts
Sadly this was by far our least favourite of the Zoos we visited in Singapore. Our first impression upon entering the Park was an ‘animal encounter’, where people were queuing up to take photos holding various Parrots. There was an artificial tree behind them with 7 or 8 large Macaws and Amazons, whose wings were clipped so they couldn’t fly. While I know there is some controversy within Zoos with the ethics of clipping bird’s wings (their argument is it enables them to keep endangered species within the Zoo and still provide them with a large, open space) it’s not something I agree with, and I’m sure either way this argument does not extend to clipping their wings so that they will hold still for photos. A few of the parrots clearly weren’t happy as well, with a couple of them nipping at another, which had moved as far to the edge of the fake tree as it could and had nowhere else to go; sadly the keepers were too preoccupied organising photos to do anything about this.
While a few of the enclosures, notably the walk-through aviaries and some of the hornbill’s, were lovely and spacious, some of the animals, particularly the birds of prey had small, unsuitable enclosures and the penguin, flamingo and parrot exhibits were packed with as many animals as they could squeeze in.

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There were 5 different species of Penguin all within the same enclosure

We misjudged how long it would take to get there from the Marina Bay area and didn’t have time to see either of the free shows, but we did actually see a bit of the parrots during the lunch show, as it was in clear view from the bathroom area! The cockatoo was hilariously stubborn and his handler a little unconfident, so it was a bit of a guilty pleasure watching her beg and plead with this cockatoo to fly towards her, with him deliberately ignoring her and playing with his stand! Eventually a trainer with clearly a stronger bond came out and the cockatoo flew straight over to him happily, so it was a bit of a balm to see the bond animal and trainer had formed, and the positive reinforcement used.

PSX_20170307_181820It wasn’t all bad news; they had clearly made the effort to provide the birds with as natural an environment as possible, with the types of trees and amount of foliage used. There is a huge range of beautiful birds, and we didn’t see any which looked in poor health or condition. The Park also has a breeding and research centre which works on in situ breeding of endangered species which was very interesting, and would have been great if they had provided a talk or a little more information about it.
To sum up, we found that while Jurong Bird Park does have some good qualities, it has a long way to go in terms of putting animal welfare over guest experience. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in the move in 2020.

Spotlight on: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

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Habitat: found in the forest and urban areas of North and East Australia, and New Guinea.
Lifespan: average in the wild is 40 years, but they can live to over 100 in captivity if well cared for.
Diet: seeds, grains, nuts, fruit, flowers and also insects on occasion.
Size: around 50cm in length, with a wingspan of over a metre.
Conservation Status and Threats: Least concern. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo are fairly abundant within their habitat, with approximately 500,000 of them in the wild. International trade is regulated, despite these birds being popular pets.

Fun Facts:

  • There are 21 species of Cockatoo in the world, all of which have a crest that can be raised or down.
  • The oldest documented Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was Bennett who lived to 120, entertaining guests at a hotel in Blakehurst, Sydney until 1916.
  • A group of cockatoos can be referred to as a chattering, clattering, cluttering or, our personal favourite, a crackle.
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are often sold as pets, but people constantly underestimate how loud these birds can be, and how much damage they can cause if not sufficiently enriched!

Find out more: www.parrots.org

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