SINGAPORE — On its 52nd birthday, Jurong Bird Park closed its shutters to visitors for good on Tuesday (3 January), as it prepares to relocate its avian residents to Mandai later this year.
It was a bittersweet and poignant moment for the park's 130-odd staff, with some of them shedding tears as they saw the shutters slowly lowered to close the premises at about 6.55pm.
While most of them will be following the 3,500 birds in moving to the new Bird Paradise in Mandai Wildlife Reserve, long-time staff members felt sadness at having to leave their unique workplace.
For Zernalynne Flores, a supervisor for animal behaviours and programmes, Jurong Bird Park was the place where she met her husband while both of them were working on the bird shows. They eventually had their marriage solemnised in 2021 at the Pools Amphitheatre where they first met.
"That was my favourite moment at the bird park," the 35-year-old, who had worked at the park for 11 years, told Yahoo News Singapore.
"My colleagues and I had so many great memories here, working with all the birds at the show, so leaving the park makes me sad this whole day. It really sunk in for me that I'm leaving the park a few days ago, when the countdown clock at the park entrance showed that we're down to five days left."
On the other hand, Roslee Mustaffa - the park's manager in facilities management - is looking forward to the eventual relocation to Mandai, even as he said goodbye to his workplace of 32 years.
The 56-year-old told Yahoo News Singapore, "This park has so many memories for me, the staff here are almost my second family, and I treasure my friendships with all of them.
"The good thing is that most of us will be carrying on in the new Mandai workplace, so we are looking forward to doing our best to make the new park a great place to visit."
2,600-odd visitors on final day of Jurong Bird Park
Over 30,000 guests visited the Jurong Bird Park over its final five days, with about 2,600 of them coming on the last day.
More than five decades since it first opened in 1971, the 20.2-hectare park has become Asia’s largest bird park with resident birds across 400 species, of which 20 per cent are threatened.
Avian care research and conservation are integral to the park, with many threatened species being bred here, such as the great hornbill, black hornbill, straw-headed bulbul and Santa Cruz ground-dove.
"Jurong Bird Park has ingrained itself a place in Singapore’s history and in the hearts of many. It is the end of a wonderful era that has been full of dear memories for staff and visitors alike," said Daisy Ling, the park's vice-president.
"Even as we bid goodbye to this physical space, it is with excitement that we look to the future and the next chapter at Mandai Wildlife Reserve with the new Bird Paradise.”
After the park's closure to public, the animals will continue to be cared for amid preparations for the move to Bird Paradise, which is expected to open in the second quarter of the year.
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