Saturday 22 November 2014

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension opens 6 December 2014

By Alice Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Nov 2014

Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension will be able to step onto mudflats and get up close with creatures, and enjoy a scenic mid-canopy walk and coastal boardwalk when it opens on Dec 6.

The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is home to the largest mangrove forest in Singapore - it spans 130 hectares, which is about the size of 130 football fields. Just next to it will be the 31-hectare extension, boasting rich mangrove and coastal forests. Currently, about 100,000 people visit the reserve every year.

Ms Sharon Chan, deputy director of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, said: "Over the years, we have seen that there is a rising number of visitors going to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and there will be an impact on the wildlife found there. Instead of letting it happen, we thought that it would be good to expand and extend so that we can reach out to more people.

"We also take note of the feedback we have received - that Sungei Buloh is not very accessible. We have brought it closer to people by taking over this extension, closer to Kranji Reservoir Park and that serves as our new entrance. By being closer to the public, they will be able to find more time to come here to understand our fragile mangrove ecosystem."

In the mid-canopy walk, visitors can immerse themselves in the understory of a secondary forest through an elevated boardwalk, where they can spot birds such as Pied Fantails and insects like cicadas.

The coastal boardwalk offers views of the Kranji waterfront with a lookout point where raptors such as the Ospreys and White-Bellied Sea Eagles can be spotted hunting for prey. At low tide, visitors can observe crabs and fish foraging for food in the waters.

Children can go on an adventure trail to enjoy activities such as ducking under artificial mangrove roots and crossing a "river" on a pulley boat.

NParks said that extra care was taken to protect wildlife when developing the extension. Said Ms Chan: "We have designed our trails and walks sensitively, so there are areas for the animals to retreat if they are not comfortable."

The trails are also on the fringe. "When we first designed the extension, we had ideas of having trails all over the place. Then we said, 'hey, that's not the right way to do it. We need to have areas for the birds, animals to retreat to, that's called a sanctuary,'" she explained.

New programmes will also be offered at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and six new guided walks will be conducted on Saturdays by student volunteers.

One of the volunteers is Lucus Wong, a student with Regent Secondary School, who felt that he had benefited from the experience: "There are endangered species that you do not see everyday, and they can be found here. The volunteer training allows us to build our public speaking skills, it also builds our confidence so we actually step out of our comfort zones and try to talk to others," he said.

From Dec 7, the public can go online to sign up for the walks. Currently, the reserve only offers one free guided walk on the habitat of the mangrove forest.

Kranji Marshes to be more accessible by 2016

Shelters and trails will be added to wetland area on outskirts of Sungei Buloh reserve
By Feng Zengkun Environment Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 7 Dec 2014

Singaporeans will have better access to the Kranji Marshes when the area reopens in 2016 with shelters and trails.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has started works to improve the 56ha freshwater marshland, including clearing the ponds of weeds and replanting vegetation to attract more birds.

The wetland on the outskirts of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is well loved by nature lovers, and especially rich in marsh birds.

The plans are part of Phase 3 of NParks' Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve masterplan, which also includes improving the western end of the reserve by 2017.

Within the next few years, NParks will spruce up the currently disused Cashin House - a former residence extending out to sea in Lim Chu Kang. Nature trails will also link the reserve to the house, which is historically significant as it may have been the first landing point of the Japanese in Singapore during World War II.

Yesterday, the agency spelled out its plans as it celebrated the completion of the masterplan's second phase, which involved a 31ha extension to the 130ha reserve.

The extension includes a new visitor centre, a mid-canopy walk through a secondary forest, a coastal boardwalk and other attractions like the Mud Experience, where visitors can step onto mudflats during low tide to get up close to creatures living in the mud, such as mudskippers.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, opened the extension yesterday. "Sungei Buloh is a unique place not just for birds, but also for us city dwellers who need a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life," he said.

Fourteen NParks volunteers were also given long-service awards yesterday. NParks said its volunteer ranks have grown by 50 per cent in the past year and number some 1,500 people today.

The agency also paid tribute to a group of about 50 former and current volunteers who have helped contribute to Sungei Buloh's growth since the 1990s.

One of them, nature guide Kwan Sau Kuen, 60, said she was motivated to volunteer because she noticed visitors leaving the reserve disappointed that they could not spot any birds.

"What they didn't know was that the patches of brown they thought were soil were actually birds. That was when I knew I had to do my part."

She added: "Sungei Buloh is one of the few places in Singapore that has been kept rustic and natural. It is important to conserve the wonders of the mangroves for the next generation to enjoy."

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