Rainforests in Singapore : where my journey began

After globe-trotting for several years, I arrived in Singapore in 2003 and have been living here since. One of my first wonderful discoveries was that even in an urbanised setting such as Singapore, there remain precious pockets of primary rainforests. It was absolutely fascinating. I tagged along with a few veteran guides and became more and more interested in learning about the complex ecosystem of rainforests. Becoming a guide at the Singapore Botanic Gardens became the best way for me to learn and pass on the knowledge to people who came by. It also got me really interested in learning about what we need to do to protect the fragile ecosystems of the world. I found that while seeking solutions, John Muir’s statement seemed truer than ever.

“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”

I found that one can’t talk of rainforests in isolation, what is happening to rainforests is so intricately connected to a whole host of issues, global warming from fossil fuel use and deforestation, population pressure, what we eat and wear and consume, and how we manufacture all these things. Some of these linkages are simple, most are extremely complex. But it doesn’t stop me from trying to understand them and sharing whatever I have learnt, which is what this blog is all about.

Coming back to : Where are the primary rainforests in Singapore?

Primary rainforest is a tropical forest that has never been cleared. It is characterised by large specimens of emergent trees such as dipterocarps. Apart from the two areas mentioned below, other nature parks in Singapore such as MacRitchie Reservoir, Lower Pierce Reservoir, Bukit Batok, have secondary (cleared and subsequently regenerating) rainforests.

Singapore Botanic Gardens: It’s hard to believe that a precious remnant of primary rainforest is located right in the heart of the city, pretty close to Orchard road. The gardens were set up in 1889, and the rainforest area is an excellent introduction to the kind of plants and forest giants you would find in neighbouring peninsular Malaysia or Indonesia. (Or should I say, “hard” to find as much of the timber specimens have been extensively harvested there!)

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve :  Located near Hindehe road, it is the only substantial natural habitat containing much of Singapore’s original biological diversity, covering an area of 164ha of forested area. It has more than 840 flowering plants and over 500 species of animals. Timber species that can be found are Chengal, Balau, Keruing , white, red and yellow Meranti (Dipterocarpaceae family). The summit is also the highest point in Singapore, at about 163 metres.

Alfred Russell Wallace noted in “The Malay Archipelago”, London 1869 when he visited the area:

In about two months I obtained no less than 700 species of beetles, a larger proportion of which were quite new, and among them were 130 distinct kinds of elegant Longicorns, so much esteemed by collectors in one patch of jungle, not more than a square mile in extent, and in all my subsequent travels in the East, I rarely if ever met with so productive a spot.”

It has been found that the number of plant and animal species in Bukit Timah reserve is more than that in the whole of North America.

EcoWALK Tip:  How to be a green nature park visitor
 1. Go for a nature tour to learn about the lovely places near your town or city, whichever part of the world you’re in.  Whether you’re visiting Singapore or living here, do check out Ria Tan’s website www.wildsingapore.com/places/index.html for all the Nature spots in Singapore. Perhaps you’d be motivated to become a guide too!

I’d love to meet you at the Singapore Botanic Gardens every second Saturday of the month (Usually 11am). Trained volunteer guides will show you around the rainforest area for free, at these times.

Time: 9am, 10 am, 11 am and 4pm
Date: 2nd Saturdays of every month
Registration: No need to pre-register,  just land up 10 minutes before the slotted time at Singapore Botanic Garden, Visitor Centre, Cluny Road.

For more information check out these sites:

Singapore Botanic Gardens www.sbg.org.sg

Visitors Guide in National Parks Board www.nparks.gov.sg

2. Don’t feed wild animals, especially the long-tailed macaques in Bukit Timah Hill and MacRitchie reservoir. It isn’t healthy for them. Besides, they will stop foraging for their own food, and start expecting it from humans, sometimes aggressively. 

3. Only take photographs as souvenirs. Spare the vegetation, as seeds and leaves are important for the local ecosystem.

4. Stick to the trails. Avoid trampling on forest litter, as there is a universe of fungi, worms, tiny insects that are busy decomposing the litter. Let them do their job in peace.

5. Don’t leave litter behind. Please take your plastics, cans and packaging back with you, or put them in recycling bins.

Happy EcoWALKing!!


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Posted by on Oct 22 2008. Filed under Biodiversity, Green Activism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “Rainforests in Singapore : where my journey began”

  1. Useful info . Thanks ! (:

  2. [...] Rainforests in Singapore : where my journey began | EcoWalktheTalkOct 22, 2008 … Singapore Botanic Gardens: It’s hard to believe that a precious remnant of primary rainforest is located right in the heart of the city, pretty close … [...]

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