My family and I visited Jurong Bird Park in December 2022. We wanted to see this iconic tourist attraction one last time before it closed on January 3, 2023, after five decades of operation. Its location covered 49 acres on the western slope of Jurong Hill, that region’s highest point. If you missed it, don’t be too disappointed. Its successor, Bird Paradise, is opening in May. Like Jurong Bird Park, Bird Paradise forms part of the Mandai Wildlife Preserve, which also consists of the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Wonders (formerly named River Safari), and the upcoming Rainforest Wild Park.
Jurong Bird Park operated as an aviary, sometimes referred to as a flight cage, where birds can fly freely in a large enclosure in a simulated natural habitat containing plants and shrubbery. The idea of a permanent aviary in Singapore was first conceived in 1968 by Minister of Finance Dr. Goh Keng Swee, who had been impressed after seeing a free-flight aviary during a visit to Rio de Janeiro’s zoological garden. Work commenced in 1969 on Bukit Peropok, the previous name of Jurong Hill.
The initially 35-acre park opened to the public on January 3, 1971, 52 years to the day before its closure, and was built at a cost of S$3.5 million. It consisted of 78 display aviaries, and among the operations included an administration block, a transit and quarantine station, and a nursery breeding area. Servicing the visitors’ transport needs was a tram system, and they could enjoy meals and refreshments at a restaurant and kiosks around the park.
Jurong Bird Park strived to continually improve the infrastructure, which included new attractions, upgrades, and redevelopment. Facilities opened over the years included the Breeding and Research Centre to strengthen ongoing efforts in the breeding and management of the birds, especially rare and endangered species, transportation for guests, and the first avian hospital in Asia-Pacific. To facilitate the developments, a Master Plan was launched in 1985, leading to a two-phased redevelopment that commenced in 1986 and transpired over the following seven years, and a S$10 million revamp in 2006, celebrating its 35th anniversary.
Many exhibits were modified during the park’s years of operations, and others have come and gone. The exhibits following in bold were in operation at the time of the park’s closing.
The Penguin Coast was an indoor temperature-controlled exhibit that simulated the necessary climate suitable for the several species of sub-Antarctic penguins. Its predecessors included the Penguin Pool from the park’s early years and Penguin Parade, which was completed in 1990 and was later upgraded and renamed.
Caribbean and Lesser flamingos could be seen at Flamingo Pool, and the Greater flamingos waded at the larger nearby Flamingo Lake.
Wings of Asia housed 500 birds from 135 species. Many endangered birds have been successfully bred here. Just outside were enclosures for black-necked storks and Cape Barren geese.
Heliconia Walk consisted of the largest collection of the heliconia plant in Southeast Asia, and the aviaries here housed a variety of rare birds.
Guests could observe a variety of waterfowl and others at the Wetlands. A wave machine prevented the buildup of algae in the water, and visible from the path but inaccessible was a large aviary housing scarlet ibises.
Window on Paradise consisted of three free-flight aviaries for birds-of-paradise. Species located here included the green oropendola, lesser and Raggiana birds-of-paradise, Malayan peacock-pheasant, and the Victoria and western crowned-pigeons.
Twenty-seven large aviaries made up the Hornbills and Toucans attraction, which contained the world's largest collection of the former and a few species of the latter. The first successfully bred black hornbill in captivity was at Jurong Bird Park.
African Treetops was a walk-through aviary as the visitor could enjoy the immersive experience simulating the rainforest environment with elevated walkways and a suspension bridge. As the name implied, it featured various birds from the rainforests of Africa.
African Treetops was formerly the Lory Loft, which was moved to the former Jungle Jewels site. The Lory Loft allowed guests to feed various species of lorikeets and lories.
Birds of Prey was a series of large aviaries consisting of various species of vultures, eagles, condors, and storks.
Dinosaur Descendants featured ground-dwelling birds such as cassowaries and cranes, as well as storks. In this area, interactive displays were found at four huts, and there was a dig site play area for children.
The Pelican Cove featured multiple species in its pond and the world’s first underwater viewing gallery for pelicans.
Parrot Paradise was a 2.47-acre complex consisting of parrot species from Australia, Asia, and South America.
The 35-meter man-made Jurong Falls was perhaps the most popular attraction and crown jewel. Jurong Falls and the Jurong Falls Aviary were completed in September 1970, prior to the park’s opening. Jurong Falls were the tallest man-made indoor waterfalls in the world at the time but have since been surpassed by the Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport and Cloud Forest Indoor Waterfall at Gardens by the Bay, both in Singapore coincidently. The aviary, renamed Waterfall Aviary in 1993, covered 4.9 acres, and its atmosphere resembled a tropical rainforest where guests could cross a suspended bridge to watch the many different birds. It houses a large variety of birds, including gray crowned cranes, roseate spoonbills, and several passerines.
Two arenas were the venues for bird shows; the Pools Amphitheater held the High Flyers Show, which displayed the natural abilities and skills of various birds, and Hawk Arena held the Kings of the Skies show featuring birds of prey.
Jurong Bird Park Panorail 1992-2012
A bygone service at the park was the eco-friendly electric-powered monorail, Jurong Bird Park Panorail. It began operation in April 1992, replacing the diesel trams in ferrying patrons around the park. It ceased operations in May 2012, when it was replaced by a trackless tram. Named for its feature offering panoramic views to the passenger, it facilitated closer contact with the birds as it traveled on the 1.1-mile-long loop track. The four air-conditioned four-car trains took approximately 11 minutes to travel around the park, giving the visitor a chance to listen to the recorded commentary detailing places of interest during the journey. The three stations servicing the Panorail were Main Station, located near the entrance and Pools Amphitheatre; Lory Station, near the Lory Loft; and Waterfall Station, near the Waterfall Aviary and Jurong Falls.
The Mandai Wildlife Group announced in 2016 that the Jurong Bird Park would be relocated to a much larger park at Mandai, originally planned for opening in 2020, integrating with the other wildlife parks. In 2021, the group announced it would be named Bird Paradise. At 42 acres, it will be slightly smaller than the 50-acre Jurong Bird Park. More than 3,500 birds of 400 species will be displayed, along with 50 species of flora moved from Jurong. There will be eight walk-through aviaries simulating different types of habitats found globally. Bird Paradise will soft open on May 8, with special rates from May 8-26. Ticket can be preordered starting April 24 here.
Photos by Brandon Servos