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Singapore Zoo owner defends itself as PR storm mounts over roadkill deaths

The owner of Singapore Zoo has found itself embroiled in a public relations battle after the roadkill deaths of three rare native species linked to the park’s expansion.

In an article published in The Straits Times today, the senior vice president of Mandai Park Development Philip Yim pledged to “review [the company’s] wildlife protection measures” after reports emerged that a pangolin, sambar deer and a leopard cat were killed as a result of the zoo’s development. 

During the 350-word piece, Yim stressed there had not been an “observable increase in roadkill” since the Mandai Project construction began, but acknowledged the deaths of “animals of conservation significance”.

Outlining new proposals to prevent further deaths, Yim said the company was now building an “eco-link bridge” for animals to cross the roads.

He added: “We are regularly consulting our stakeholders and experts to learn from our monitoring data, and to identify and deploy new and innovative solutions to help reduce roadkill incidents, wherever possible.”

Following news of the roadkills earlier this week, many on social media referenced the irony of endangered species being killed to expand a conservation park.

 

The zoo’s expansion is being led by Temasek Holdings, the government-owned investment giant, which is also a shareholder in The Straits Times‘ owner, Singapore Press Holdings.

The animals’ deaths also came at an awkward time for the park’s parent company Mandai Park Holdings, as its operational body only recently launched a major advertising campaign pledging to “turn wildlife conservation upside down”.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which oversees Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari and Singapore Zoo, has been heavily plugging its #TogetherForWildlife campaign since the start of March, through a heavy social media and out-of-home push.

The Instagram, campaign, which is due to end on Saturday, claims to donate a S$ to “wildlife conservation” for ever user who posts a picture of themselves upside down with the hashtag #TogetherForWildlife.

Initially WRS said it hoped to raise S$250,000 from  the same number of Instagram posts, but confirmed it had so far generated just 10,000.

Commenting on the campaign in light of the PR storm, WRS’ deputy CEO and chief life sciences officer  Dr Cheng Wen-Haur said: “Over the last four decades, Mandai Park Holdings has been actively involving in wildlife conservation work through supporting projects in the wild, as well as breeding programs of threatened species in our parks. Awareness raising campaign as well as public engagement is also an important component of our conservation efforts.

“Locally, we play a leadership role in local species conservation work (through the WRS Conservation Fund) and beyond our shores, we have a growing role across Southeast Asia through our regional conservation projects. These are part of our commitment as an institution that values and conserves biodiversity.

“The ‘Together For Wildlife’ campaign, launched earlier this month, is our effort to bring this mission to the forefront, by raising awareness of wildlife under threat and encouraging participation among the general public.”

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