[top photo: Vying for the mascot title is amazon Amigo]
By Lim Wei Chean
WANTED: A bird as the public face of the 39-year-old Jurong Bird Park - and the choice is in your hands.
A public vote which gets under way today will allow members of the public to vote for a bird from the park's collection.
The winner will grace all the park's posters and promotional and educational materials.
It will be the star of the park, which until now, has not had a fixed mascot.
In the running for the role - in the same way that late orang utan Ah Meng was the mascot for the zoo - are:
- Sally, an oriental pied hornbill - a species common in Singapore which became extinct here in 1855 but made a comeback in 1994;
- Sassy, a sulphur-crested cockatoo - a performer at the park's Birds & Buddies Show, where she 'counts' and picks up dollar bills. She also has a recurring role as ring-bearer for couples who solemnise their marriages at the park;
- Amigo, a yellow-naped amazon - another fixture in the Birds & Buddies Show, whose talents include counting from one to 10 in four different languages and singing Rasa Sayang;
- Mr Horn, a toco toucan - yet another star of the park's popular Birds & Buddies Show. Its colourful beak makes it a magnet for attention; and
- Hawkeye, a Harris hawk - the longest performing show bird in the park's Birds of Prey Show, which has been running since 1988.
The park's curator, Mr Raja Segran, said the park wanted an iconic bird to enable visitors to engage with creatures of the feathered variety, and to cement awareness of conservation.
A popular mascot will give the public a 'personality' they can rally around. 'Ah Meng, the orang utan, was the public face for the zoo and helped raise awareness of conservation efforts,' he said.
He noted that most people find it harder to identify with birds than with mammals, probably because mammals share more traits with humans; for example, in the way Ah Meng had some human behavioural traits.
The park now has more than 600 species of bird and hosts about 830,000 visitors every year.
When asked if the search for a mascot was a bid to shore up dwindling visitor numbers, a spokesman for the park's parent company Wildlife Reserves Singapore said visitor numbers had been 'comparatively stable'.
She added that a series of new exhibits introduced last year, including a Dino Descendents exhibit and the Early Bird Breakfast Show, had helped keep visitor numbers steady.
Polling for the bird park mascot will end on July31 and the results will be announced on National Day.
To cast your vote, please visit http://www.birdpark.com.sg/whatsup/VoteIconicBird.cfm
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