Bid to protect ‘bird haven’ at Bidadari

Bidadari bird sanctuaryBid to protect ‘bird haven’ at Bidadari

David Ee davidee@sph.com.sg

Nature Society wants part of site slated for new HDB town conserved

NATURE lovers are planning a campaign to protect part of the former Bidadari cemetery, slated to be a new Housing Board town, because it has become a haven for birds – some endangered.

Several ecologists say the area has been observed to support the highest density of migratory birds in forests here, more so than even the Central Catchment Area.

The Nature Society plans to submit a proposal to the authorities this week, asking them to conserve the undulating 24ha grove of trees behind Woodleigh MRT station as a bird sanctuary.

Enthusiasts have also set up a Facebook group to document different species spotted there.

The patch of woodland, formerly the Muslim section of the cemetery, has become overgrown since the graves there were exhumed in the early 2000s.

The society has recorded 59 migratory bird species there, more than at any other site in Singapore. A few are highly endangered, such as the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher.

Hornbills, owls, eagles and parrots are among other birds that have been recorded in the area.

This is particularly impressive given the small size of the area, said Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the society’s conservation committee.

He said: “The area is definitely worth conserving because of its importance as a haven for migratory birds coming down from temperate zones in winter.”

Ecologist Yong Ding Li’s research on the area suggests that it lies “on a migratory pathway used by thousands of birds headed to Indonesia, some that hail from as far as Kamchatka in Russia”.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Master Plan 2008 has demarcated part of the area in question as parkland. However, its proposed park boundary differs significantly from the Nature Society’s (see graphic).

Whether the conventional notion of a public park will tally with that of the society’s proposed sanctuary is also unclear.

But Dr Ho sees this as a good sign. The common location of both proposed spaces means that “a win-win situation” is possible, he said.

Dr Ho pointed out that the area’s accessibility makes it especially suitable for nature education. The sanctuary could be “a nature park”, he said, and residents could make use of existing paths.

A spokesman for the Housing Board said that in building the new town “it is inevitable that some trees may have to be removed in the process”. The HDB said it would consider conservation, other competing interests and public feedback in its plans.

It did not elaborate on the boundaries of the proposed park designated in URA’s Master Plan, citing the ongoing tender process.

Dr Wee Yeow Chin, co-founder of the Bird Ecology Study Group, said that the Nature Society should be prepared to compromise and work constructively with the authorities.

The society’s Bidadari conservation plan follows a campaign by nature groups earlier this year against construction of a road through Bukit Brown cemetery.

In that instance, the Government paid partial heed, changing part of the road into a bridge to allow wildlife to cross beneath.

Other petitions this year by residents in Upper Bukit Timah, Bedok and Pasir Ris to save woodlands in their neighbourhoods did not succeed.

But back in 1989, the society did convince the Government to conserve Sungei Buloh as a wetland reserve, staving off plans to turn it into an agro-technology park.

Work on the Bidadari site is expected to begin before the year ends. The new town, which may be completed by 2018, is planned to include some 12,000 homes.

The Housing Board’s vision for the estate, revealed in July, includes emphasis on the site’s existing greenery and past heritage.

(c) 2012 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

The Nature Society has recorded 59 migratory bird species in the hilly, woodland area (above) of the former Bidadari cemetery, more than at any other site in Singapore. This is particularly impressive given the area’s small size, says Dr Ho. — ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

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