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NParks to do major biodiversity surveys of plants and animals at Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Southern Islands

SINGAPORE — Close to 30 years after the last biodiversity survey of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve was conducted, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Thursday (Nov 28) that the next survey is finally due. And it will kick off in February next year.

NParks to do major biodiversity surveys of plants and animals at Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Southern Islands

The sunda slow loris, a species of primate, observed in its natural habitat by National Parks Board researchers. The government agency is embarking on an extensive study in 2020 to gather information on the flora and fauna of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and its surrounding parks.

SINGAPORE — Close to 30 years after the last biodiversity survey of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve was conducted, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Thursday (Nov 28) that the next survey is finally due.

And it will kick off in February next year.

A first-of-its-kind study that will span five years, the survey will cover the nature reserve, the wildlife crossing at Bukit Timah Expressway that connects it to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, as well as its surrounding nature parks. They would include the Thomson, Springleaf, Zhenghua and Windsor nature parks.

Researchers are expected to cover the dispersal of plants and the movement of animals, and do long-term monitoring, among other tasks.

NParks said that this will be the first time biodiversity surveys are conducted on such a comprehensive and extensive scale.

Findings from this survey will build on the baseline information gleaned from the previous and first-ever study in the area conducted in 1993, which did not cover the Central Catchment Nature Reserve’s surrounding parks.

The announcement came as Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat laid out Singapore’s short-term plans for conservation in a speech he delivered on Thursday. He was guest-of-honour at renowned primatologist Jane Goodall’s public lecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Dr Goodall, 85, who revolutionised the world’s knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour close to 60 years ago, is in town this week to launch two conservation programmes fronted by the Singapore chapter of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Her public lecture, about living in harmony with nature and wildlife, was sold out as a ticketed event.

In his speech, Mr Heng said he supported Dr Goodall’s conviction that a shared sense of ownership and stewardship is key when it comes to caring for the environment. This is why the Singapore Government is partnering the public, which includes volunteers, the academic community and nature interest groups, on surveys such as the one for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, he added. 

NEW SURVEY OF SOUTHERN ISLANDS

Mr Heng also revealed plans for a two-year survey on the land and marine habitats of more than 10 of the Southern Islands, which include the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, and smaller and relatively unknown islands such as Pulau Biola and Pulau Jong.

Work will begin from January next year, and the study will include the islands’ various habitats such as coastal forests, mangroves, sub-tidal reefs and areas with a shallow seafloor. 

NParks said that this will be an effort that covers a wider scope of study than a marine biodiversity survey that was done from 2010 to 2015. Detailed surveys on plants and visual surveys of the shallow seafloor areas, such as those 10m to 20m deep, were not included in that survey, but will be a key focus in the upcoming one. 

UPDATE OF THREATENED WILDLIFE LIST

Mr Heng said that a two-year effort is underway as well to refresh the Singapore Red Data list of threatened plants and animals, which was last updated in 2008.

Work on this just started last month, involving more than 30 experts from NParks, universities, non-governmental organisations and taxonomic groups, which are communities interested in identifying and classifying organisms.

This effort is led by NParks in partnership with NUS and Nature Society Singapore.

This list will help guide Singapore’s conservation strategies, Mr Heng said. It will serve as a common reference for academics, urban planners, policymakers, developers and nature lovers in providing information on the native species of plants and animals found here and their conservation status.

‘BIOPHILIC CITY IN A GARDEN’

Noting that the Jane Goodall Institute’s key objective is to “inspire individual action, by people of all ages, to help animals, other people and to protect the world we all share”, Mr Heng said that this aligns with the Government’s vision to transform Singapore into a “biophilic city in a garden”.

This means integrating natural elements — which includes the country’s native wildlife — with the built environment.

Over the next 15 years, for example, the Government has committed to building up 1,200ha more green spaces, which will bring the total area of green spaces here to 9,000ha. 

NParks will also engage people over the next five years to get involved in designing new parks and enhancing existing ones.

He is very heartened, he said, that so many younger Singaporeans are already very active in raising awareness about environmental issues and the Government will support them in developing their passion. 

Mr Heng reminded the audience of close to 1,700 people of why Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had always placed the greening of Singapore as a priority: “Mr Lee believed very strongly that a blighted urban jungle of concrete would destroy the human spirit.”

The island now supports more than 40,000 species of flora and fauna, and as a “biophilic city in a garden”, he said that people here need to learn to live harmoniously with nature and wildlife.

He added: “Unlike other larger countries where green spaces are located away from cities, as a small island nation, our green spaces are interwoven with our homes, workplaces and neighbourhoods. This makes our city very green and liveable.”

Related topics

wildlife plant Central Catchment Nature Reserve nature park NParks survey Jane Goodall Heng Swee Keat

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