The Big Read: Saving Singapore’s endangered species, one ‘animal bridge’ at a time

GO BEYOND CORRECTIVE MEASURES

Ultimately, environmentalists insisted on the need to go beyond corrective measures.

Dr Ho from the Nature Society said: “More and more development is happening and the gaps are widening. In a way, we are catching up, but we are way behind in closing the existing gaps, and more gaps keep popping up.

To maintain Singapore’s biodiversity, the fundamental development problem will need to be addressed, he added.

To this end, the “first important principle” is to preserve the tracts, belts and patches of existing forests that remain in Singapore. The conservation target should approach the 17% benchmark set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity for the conservation of terrestrial nature.

However, authorities have been reluctant to preserve green spaces on dry lands that are more suitable for development, Dr Ho said.

He noted that although authorities have said there are no immediate plans to develop Clementi Forest, after a public petition early last year it still remains listed for residential use.

Likewise, it is unclear whether secondary forests such as Windsor Nature Park, which are buffer zones for forest nature reserves, will be preserved in the long term, he said.

Despite the city-state’s massive development, conservationists have acknowledged that authorities have made efforts to attract wildlife and rebuild habitats. These include intensifying greenery with native trees and shrubs as part of NParks’ wilderness reclamation plan, as well as a goal to plant over one million trees by 2030.

Ms. Anbarasi of Acres noted that these efforts have paid off. For example, hornbills have repopulated Singapore with the help of NParks conservation efforts, and wildlife such as otters are adapting to the urban habitat.

‘CAN’T NEGOTIATE WITH A MONKEY’

But while Singapore has been successful in attracting nature, there is still “a long way to go” before Singaporeans learn to co-exist with nature, Ms Anbarasi said.

She cited the example of a schoolboy who begged a monkey who snatched his schoolbag to return it. The incident which was captured on video had gone viral on social media last week.

While the boy’s calls weren’t aggressive, Ms Anbarasi said people needed to be more aware.

“We cannot negotiate with a monkey. It would be a completely different conversation today if the monkey got aggressive and scratched the boy,” she added.

She hopes there will be more awareness, especially among young children, about how to avoid having their belongings snatched away and not trying to take their belongings from a monkey. They also need to figure out why the monkey was seen nearby in this case.

“We still have a long way to go to embrace all wildlife and share space, even with animals that cause a bit of annoyance that we want to get rid of,” she said.

Despite Acres’ public education efforts, Ms Anbarasi said animals “still pay the price” for lack of wildlife awareness and etiquette when encountering animals. Animals are forced to move or even be euthanized for coming into contact with humans.

In a hopeful tone, Dr Ang said that with more people exposed to Singapore’s biodiversity during the Covid-19 pandemic, public sentiment has become more positive towards the country’s natural heritage and people are more engaged in environmental discourse.

She cited how public consultation had contributed to Dover Forest development plans last year.

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