In my recent interactions and engagements with the NUS volunteer group, Toddycats, at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research, and (the highly passionate, hugely humorous and amazingly boisterous and vocal) Mr Sivasothi, I had the chance to assist in a camera traps setting survey with the Singapore Nature Society in the heart of MacRitchie Nature Reserve of the Central Nature Reserve of Singapore (yes, jungle path bashing and the works). A morning spent deep in the beautiful forests of MacRitchie saw us carrying camouflaged camera traps alongside cable locks in huge backpacks to trek through the dense foliage armed with GPS and points to set up the traps at, on sturdy healthy trees. The process involved keying in coordinates on the GPS, seeking out suitable trees closest to the coordinates, setting up and walk testing the cameras, clearing the paths in front of where the camouflaged cameras are set up and taking a test shot with the small whiteboard, bearing information on when and by who the trap had been set. We set a total of 8 cameras within the thick forestry of MacRitchie Nature Reserve and the cameras would be left for tracking the wildlife in the forest for a month or so before they are retrieved to be examined for data collection.
It was quite the amazingly educational and nature appreciation trek, apart from having a task at hand to plant the cameras. It was an honour going along with nature enthusiasts Suay Hwee from the Nature Society as he pointed out and identified the many animal sounds and plants along the way to me. Those I would otherwise have missed in my lacking of a keen enough eye for nature. Save for the few cuts from branches and rattan plants along the way, it was an eventful morning of doing meaningful work. The highlight truly was beholding the breathtaking giant Jelutong tree right in the heart of the forest, with it’s significant giant trunk, lack of buttress roots and tall branches that reach to the sky. A pity I did not have my phone with me to snap pictures during the camera traps setting escapade but here is a photo I managed to find on http://florasingapura.com/Dyera-costulata.php with regards to how magnificent the Jelutong tree was to us.
So why the need to set the traps in the first place and survey the biodiversity of the area? Perhaps most or some of you might have heard about the Cross Island Line by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore to build a MRT line right across the heart of the MacRitchie Reserve and which is a source of heartache should the project fall through as it would mean a permanent loss of a wide and rich array of flora and fauna significant to Singapore. An end to the pangolin, slow loris, the long-tailed macaque, forest walking catfish and the banded woodpecker it would entail, just to name a few. And perhaps even the giant Jelutong tree would have to give way to urbanization too. A concise and clear infographic of the impact of the new line, done up by David Tan of the Toddycats volunteer group.
I love Singapore for what it’s worth (country and incumbent are two different entities to me, clearly) and I believe there is much worth loving and passing on to the future generations, MacRitchie’s wonderful array of flora and fauna being one of them. In the many walks and treks I have taken within MacRitchie Reservoir over the span of my lifetime thus far, I have always loved seeing parents bringing their children to the boardwalks, treetop walk and off beaten tracks within the beautiful forest itself and envision a day I could, myself, bring my offspring to regularly as well. Education through natural experiences, I always believe.
Let’s do our part and love MacRitchie and make our voices heard to LTA. It is awesome work that the NSS (Nature Society Singapore) are doing already but we truly need the nation to speak up for the beautiful and unique flora and fauna of Singapore that cannot speak up for themselves.
Take a look at this site created by Chloe and David of Toddycats and you can chip in to love MacRitchie too!