NParks Conservation Volunteers take care of the natural environments in Singapore, focusing more on the primary and untouched forests and reserves. Their main duties are to focus on conservation of protected environments ans wildlife, as well as to create awareness and education among the people.
During this conservation orientation, we learned about the different natural environments in Singapore, and their importance.
Forests in Singapore
We have a variety of green spaces from Nature Reserves to Nature Parks, Gardens etc. The NParks speaker explained the reason for this. We have only one primary forest in Singapore, that is the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Primary forests are forests completely untouched or unaltered by human actions. They also have the highest density of wildlife and biodiversity. These forests are strongly protected as nature reserves
Secondary Forests are below them in hierarchy, being somewhat modified by humans yet still containing natural biodiversity. These are mostly reserves in Singapore as well.
Nature Parks exist to buffer the human interference with primary and secondary forests. E.g Hindhede nature park in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that exist to reduce traffic and human interference in the forest. They are a place for nature appreciation rather than recreation
After that, Gardens and Parks are there for human centric activities such as sports, recreation and play.
We split into groups after this and received a scenario to work on. Our scenario was ” You are patrolling at Pulau Ubin and a truck drive past you, it’s window’s roll down and someone throws a bag of oranges out and the truck quickly drives off” We had to respond on how we would react and what we would do.
The primary concern with this scenario was that these oranges would be consumed by wildlife such as long tail macaques. However, we had to prevent that as it is not advised that wildlife relate humans to food, and humans shouldn’t feed them.
Our group suggested many scenarios like taking down the license number of the truck and reporting it, approaching the driver and reasoning with him, picking up the oranges to prevent animals from eating them. When it was my turn, I felt like all the best answers were already shared so I added on that I would probably bring the oranges home and make orange juice. Because “when life gives you oranges, you make orange juice”
After the group activity, we had a talk on the services the environment gives us such as water filtration, oxygen, flood water barriers, shore protection as breakwaters by corals, mangroves etc. The host gave a quantifiable amount for each service, however I believe that these ecosystem services are not quantifiable as their complete benefits cannot be measured fully by humans. Also the economic valuation can signify that the same amount of money can rectify that damage caused to these environments or offset their destruction. However that cannot be done so easily as the time and effort for these environments to regrow is unimaginable and their absence has far greater effects than just their benefits to us.
Economic benefits often only look at things from a human viewpoint, i.e: how much we can save. However such an perception is intrinsically wrong when looking at the environment as we are only a small part of it, and many components of the environment which hold no value to us have huge consequences to other lifeforms.
Human Disturbances to Ecology
The next speaker talked about Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as it’s the only primary forest in Singapore and the different types of human interferences that occur there. There are many issues that arise from human traffic such as,
Humans, Pets Scent – Scent Pollution
Artificial Lighting – Light Pollution
Invasive Species – Releasing pets, animals into the wild
Unethical Nature Photography
The speaker also talked about the sudden abundance in Condos surrounding Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. These condos are all advertised on the idea that BTNR is very near. The concern of NParks is these lead to the rise of people who “use the park as their own backyard”. There is influx of visitors and people who utilise BTNR as a space for recreational activities. However NParks emphasises that they want to encourage only nature appreciation activities at Nature Reserves. It is not a space for human centered activites such as jogging, cycling, exercise. They are also concerned with the increasing visitor ship over the years at BTNR , ironically, and said they wish to look at ways to bring it down. I didn’t certainly expect to hear them say they want less visitors, however it makes sense hearing the negative impacts we have.
The common perception people have is the the BTNR is there for them to explore or use. However they have to realise that it’s there for the animals and trees and many other lifeforms. If NParks could bar people from BTNR they would do it. However they wish to let people experience a pristine form of nature in hopes that people will grow to respect, understand and care for it. It is sad that anywhere human shadows fall on loses it’s naturalness and authenticity.