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S’poreans who spent more time in nature during Covid-19 gained better appreciation for wildlife: Survey

SINGAPORE — Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s nature reserves or parks did not leave much of an impression on Ms Fiona Teo. To the 26-year-old civil servant, who visited these sites only “a few times a year”, they were just areas filled with trees.
Clementi Forest, one of Singapore's many areas of natural beauty.
Clementi Forest, one of Singapore's many areas of natural beauty.
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  • A survey was conducted by the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) to uncover public perception and awareness of wildlife here

  • 1 in 5 respondents said their impression of wildlife became more positive over the course of the pandemic

  • The survey also found that appreciation for wildlife during the pandemic generally rose with the more time one spent in nature

  • Still, only 14 per cent said they were either very familiar or familiar with wildlife in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s nature reserves or parks did not leave much of an impression on Ms Fiona Teo. To the 26-year-old civil servant, who visited these sites only “a few times a year”, they were just areas filled with trees.

But when the global health crisis struck in 2020 and travel restrictions were enforced, Ms Teo, like many Singaporeans, started visiting nature spots across the island every few weeks and she soon came to realise that “in hindsight, our parks and nature areas have a lot to offer”.

“From the ubiquitous macaques, to the more reticent reptiles like the water monitors and skinks, it made going to the parks a different and interesting experience every time,” Ms Teo said.

She even undertook some research about reptiles after she developed a special liking for them.

Ms Teo was not the only one who came out of the pandemic with a greater appreciation for nature and wildlife in Singapore.

A recent survey was commissioned by the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) to measure public perceptions and awareness of wildlife here. It found that about one in five respondents said their impression of wildlife became more positive over the course of the pandemic.

The survey, which was supported by the philanthropic Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, polled 1,000 people aged 16 and above between May 31 and June 9 this year, and the results were shared with TODAY on Wednesday (July 13).

The non-governmental organisation, founded in 2007, is one of 34 such institutes that renowned primatologist Jane Goodall set up across the world to empower individuals to make a difference for all living things.

The institute said in a press release last year that the results of the study will be used to improve human-wildlife relationships.

GREATER APPRECIATION WITH MORE TIME SPENT

The positive shift in sentiment towards wildlife was more prominent among survey respondents who described themselves as “nature lovers” (29 per cent), and less so among those who described themselves as “passives” (7 per cent).

Among the “non-nature lovers”, a majority (58 per cent) said they felt that Covid-19 did not change their impression towards wildlife, with the remainder saying that they had adopted a negative outlook.  

In general, the survey also found that appreciation for wildlife during the pandemic rose the more time one spent in nature.

For instance, close to half of the respondents (45 per cent) who spent between four and six hours a week in nature said that they felt this way. In contrast, only 13 per cent of the respondents who spent less than an hour a week doing so had this sentiment.

However, the proportion of respondents who reported having a better impression of wildlife during the pandemic jumped to 32 per cent if they spent between one and three hours in nature.

This is marginally less than the 36 per cent who spent more than seven hours in nature.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WILDLIFE

The survey also found that although nine in 10 respondents support the transformation of Singapore into a “City of Nature”, only 14 per cent said that they were either very familiar or familiar with wildlife on the island.

That said, they were not opposed to learning about wildlife here.

Close to half (44 per cent) reported being somewhat interested to learn about wildlife, while 37 per cent indicated that they were either very interested or interested.

The majority of the respondents (71 per cent) said that they learned about wildlife through documentaries or video streaming platforms, with the next top source of information coming from social media pages or posts (44 per cent).

Only 22 per cent said that they learned about wildlife at exhibitions or workshops, and even fewer (15 per cent) during science lessons in school.

In terms of how different age groups felt about wildlife, the survey found that a higher proportion of adults aged 45 and above either strongly agreed or agreed that they feel a “strong sense of care towards the natural environment”, compared to their younger counterparts.

For instance, 77 per cent of adults aged 45 and 54 felt this way, which was roughly equivalent to those aged 55 and above (78 per cent).

In comparison, 63 per cent of the young aged between 16 and 24 shared this sentiment, slightly fewer than the 68 per cent of adults aged between 25 and 34.

The proportion of adults between the age of 35 and 44 who responded similarly was 77 per cent.

The survey also touched on several questions relating to the different species of monkeys in Singapore and found that less than one in five individuals could identify that the Raffles’ Banded Langur is native to Singapore.

However, it also found that awareness about this fact rose with more time spent in nature.

Overall, about two-thirds (67 per cent) of the respondents had a somewhat positive to very positive encounter with the long-tailed macaque, Singapore’s most common species of monkey.

Respondents who indicated positive encounters with the long-tailed macaque referred to them as “interesting and cute”, the survey found, whereas negative encounters talked about the “fear and the perceived aggressiveness” in such situations.

SILVER LINING

Dr Andie Ang, president of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), said it was encouraging to see that even in the midst of the chaos caused by the pandemic, some good came out of it for wildlife in Singapore.  

Because of Covid, people had more opportunities to go out into nature areas in Singapore, rather than overseas, and as they spent more time here exploring ... to see the diversity of the flora and fauna that they previously didn't have a chance to.
Dr Andie Ang, president of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

“Because of Covid, people had more opportunities to go out into nature areas in Singapore, rather than overseas, and as they spent more time here exploring, they got the opportunity to see the diversity of the flora and fauna that they previously didn’t have a chance to,” she said.

Dr Ang added that she will be using the results of the study to refine ways to raise biodiversity awareness through the more popular means of media consumption, such as documentaries or short films. 

And through these efforts, she hopes to encourage more people to come forward and volunteer their time towards wildlife conservation. 

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Jane Goodall city in nature wildlife Covid-19 greenery monkey

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