The Straits Times: Call of nature

Beginning tomorrow is a two-day Festival of Biodiversity. Do check it out!

The Straits Times reports.

Call of nature

A new festival aims to educate Singaporeans on the country’s diverse flora and fauna

A bird and butterfly race is on tomorrow at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, in which students will use two new iPhone apps to help them identify and record the species sighted.

The race will launch the Bird Guide and Butterfly Guide apps, created by the Nature Society (Singapore), and is also a highlight of the inaugural Festival of Biodiversity this weekend.

The two-day event, which aims to educate the public about Singapore’s diverse wildlife, is on at the Botanic Gardens. Some 2,000 people are expected to participate in free activities, such as a nature and biodiversity conservation symposium; a garden-city-themed photography exhibition; and an exhibition showcasing Singapore’s marine life.

The National Parks Board (NParks) is co-organising the festival with the Biodiversity Roundtable, a group comprising members of the natural history community including the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres)and Nature Society (Singapore) and government agencies.

The idea for such a festival came from the roundtable session, after participants realised there was a need to engage the public. It also wanted to raise awareness and the profiles of other organisations doing their part to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage.

The annual festival is held in conjunction with the International Day of Biological Diversity, which falls on May 22. The date was designated by the United Nations in 2000 to promote biodiversity issues.

Talks, given by nature lovers, range in topic from dragonflies, to habitat loss and conservation, to the importance of examining dead animals.

Two books will also be launched at the festival: Our Fragile Rainforest by Dr Leong Tzi Ming and James Gan, and Caterpillars Of Singapore’s Butterflies by Khew Sin Khoon and Horace Tan.

Fun on the green

Want to see biodiversity in action? Head to one of these parks.

ADMIRALTY PARK

What: This 20ha park is home to more than 100 species of flora and fauna. It also encompasses a diverse mix of secondary forest, mangrove, riverine and open grassland habitats.

Who should go: Those who like to observe wildlife, such as macaques, dragonflies and tropical birds, at close range.

How to get there: Alight at Woodlands MRT station/bus interchange. Walk in the direction of Republic Polytechnic for about 15 minutes to get to the south entrance of the park.


NORTH-EASTERN RIVERINE LOOP

What: A scenic foot and cycling path built along the gleaming waters of Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon, this 26km loop also takes you into the rustic landscapes of Punggol Beach, Punggol Promenade and Lorong Halus Wetland. It links four parks – Punggol Park, Punggol Point Park, Punggol Waterway Park and Sengkang Riverside Park.

Who should go: Those who live in the north-east and cyclists.

How to get there: To get to Punggol Promenade Riverside Walk, alight at Riviera station of the Punggol LRT Line and walk towards Sungei Serangoon.


LABRADOR NATURE AND COASTAL WALK

What: A trail that comprises mudflats, mangroves, coastal forests, rocky shores, parklands and secondary forests along the southern coast of Singapore. Spot schools of fishes at high tide and different species of crustaceans at low tide, while out on the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk. Singapore’s only protected coastal rocky shore can be found in the 21.5ha Labrador Nature Reserve, that this trail passes through.

Who should go: Those who like a challenging walk and want to get the most out of nature and heritage on an outing.

How to get there: Take the MRT to HarbourFront MRT station or Labrador Park MRT station, depending on where you want to start your walk. At Labrador MRT station, you will notice a sheltered pavilion with wooden panels on your right.


SENGKANG RIVERSIDE PARK 

What: Find 35 types of fruit trees – some of which bear fruits (pond apple tree, island lychee tree) not found in supermarkets – in this 21ha park.

Who should go: Fruit-lovers who do not mind jostling with fruit-loving bees, butterflies and birds.

How to get there: Alight at Farmway station on the Sengkang West Loop LRT line, and walk for five to 10 minutes towards Sungei Punggol.

For detailed trail guides on these parks, go to www.nparks.gov.sg/eguides.

Walk on the wild side

The Festival of Biodiversity’s activities are free and take place at the Singapore Botanic Gardens tomorrow and on Sunday. Here are our picks.

Book it

FESTIVAL OF BIODIVERSITY

Where: Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens

When: Tomorrow and Sunday

Admission: Free

Info: Go to www.nparks.gov.sg/festivalofbiodiversity


THE RAINFOREST TOUR

What: Follow a volunteer guide through the rainforest trail at the Botanic Gardens. The one-hour tour is suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

When: Tomorrow, 10 to 11am, 11am to noon; Sunday, 9 to 10am, 4 to 5pm.

Where: Meet the guide at the Visitor Centre 15 minutes before the tour starts.


BODIES OF EVIDENCE: A MORBID CELEBRATION OF BIODIVERSITY

What: Learn what dead animals can tell us about wildlife and the impact of human activities on the natural environment in urban Singapore. Presented by nature blogger Ivan Kwan.

When: Sunday, 2 to 2.45pm

Where: Function Room


DEVELOPMENT HISTORY OF THE PAST 200 YEARS AND ITS EFFECT ON HABITAT LOSS

What: A presentation, with aerial photos and satellite images, on how urban development has changed Singapore’s natural environment starting from the late 1700s, when Teochew gambier planters from the Riau Islands arrived. Presented by Mr Tony O’Dempsey, chairman of the Vertebrate Study Group of the Nature Society.

When: Sunday, 2 to 2.45pm

Where: Function Room


SINGAPORE HORNBILL PROJECT – RETURN OF THE KING

What: A 40-minute documentary filmed by a team of dedicated researchers, citizen scientists and bird-lovers who spent more than six years studying the Oriental Pied Hornbill. This bird was thought to be extinct in Singapore as it had not been seen for more than 150 years. The 2010 film chronicles the efforts at helping the hornbill re-establish its home here after it was rediscovered in 1994.

When: Tomorrow, 11am; Sunday, 10am

Where: Function Room


SINGAPORE GOT WILDLIFE MEH?

What: A slideshow of short video clips and photos of native wildlife, taken by various nature enthusiasts. Catch interesting images, such as those of animals coupling in the reefs and those answering the call of nature while perched high up on the trees.

When: Tomorrow, 10am; Sunday, 3pm

Where: Function Room


STORYTELLING SESSION FOR KIDS

What: Librarian Chen Wanyingfrom the Bukit Merah Regional Library will be reading books such as The Giving Tree and The Lorax. For ages four and up.

When: Tomorrow, 11to 11.45am, 3 to 3.45pm

Where: Ridley Hall


MACRO WORLD OF SINGAPORE

What: An introduction to macro nature photography and basic techniques by accomplished nature photographer Lee Yan Leong who has shot for the United Nations Environemental Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre. He will share where shooters can go, the range of subjects available in Singapore, and the ethics of nature photography. Recommended for ages 15 and above.

When: Sunday, 1 to 1.45pm

Where: Function Hall

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