Walk on wild side in Kranji Marshes
EVEN in built-up Singapore, there are places where nature and wildlife thrive.
The newly opened Kranji Marshes, for instance, are home to 54 species of butterflies, 33 species of dragonflies and more than 170 species of birds - including the critically endangered straw-headed bulbul.
They were officially opened yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board (NParks), which have been developing the area in collaboration with Nature Society Singapore (NSS) and national water agency PUB since May 2014.
Even before then, NSS volunteers had helped to clear overgrown vegetation to build a suitable habitat for the wildlife there.
Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, was guest of honour at the launch. He officiated the opening in conjunction with World Wetlands Day today.
Located in north-western Singapore near the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the 56.8ha Kranji Marshes are roughly the size of 60 football fields. They are the largest and most accessible freshwater marshlands in Singapore, compared with two other known freshwater marshlands here - the pond in Tampines Eco Green and the Poyan Reservoir within the Safti Live Firing Area.
To help visitors learn more about the marsh, woodland and grass habitats in the nature area, there will be information on sidebars and free guided walks by NParks and NSS.
The Kranji Marshes are divided into two main areas. The core conservation area, considered ecologically sensitive, is not open to the public except for those on guided walks.
On the limited access, Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' director of conservation, explained: "We have just completed development and vegetation has not grown back yet.
"We want (the marshes) to establish themselves first, perhaps for the next six months to one year...
"If we find that wildlife has returned, we will consider opening them to the public."
Still, those keen on visiting the marshes can enjoy a 1km stroll along Neo Tiew Lane 2, where they can observe nature in the Neo Tiew Woods and try to spot nationally threatened bird species, such as the grey-headed fish eagle and the changeable hawk eagle.
For a bird's eye view of the marshes within the ecologically sensitive area, visitors can also go up the 10.65m-tall Raptor Tower, located in the public area.
The marshland was created when Kranji reservoir was dammed in the 1970s.
That caused the surrounding low-lying areas to become flooded, attracting wildlife.
Although located near the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the Kranji Marshes provide a different type of habitat from Sungei Buloh's brackish waters, which has a higher salt content than the freshwater in the Kranji Marshes.
"Here, you will get to see many interesting freshwater marshland birds not commonly found in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, such as the purple swamphen," said Mr Wong.
Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said both habitats host a different variety of animals. "Together, they protect more species," he added.
For guided walks, visit