Singapore: a mix of nature and development

If you have ever been in a tropical forest, or seen a movie where protagonists are traipsing through a jungle, you can picture the lush green surroundings and hear the constant melody of various birds. In Kent Ridge Park, this is exactly what you would observe, and the experience is all that you would expect in a canopy walk. Until you broke through the treetops to observe a city skyline in the background, or heard the additional sounds of cars and construction in the background, reminding you that in Singapore nature and development are not separate entities.

In an attempt to escape the mid-day heat and humidity, our days have begun relatively early. After traveling via bus to our starting point, we began our ~5 mile walk through suburbs to Kent Ridge Park, continuing on through Henderson Waves and Mount Faber Park. This expedition allowed us to take in both organisms and infrastructure unique to this area. Students moved swiftly and carefully through the parks, scouring for signs of wildlife.

Some of the organisms we came across on our hike include the simpoh air shrub (Dillenia suffroticosai)
and the golden orb web spider (Nephila pilipes)

While this version of ‘nature’ is not the same as if you were to be dropped in northern Maine or even the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, you still will feel a sense of peace and serenity that comes from spending time outside of a bustling city. For the amount of development and infrastructure found in Singapore, it is truly amazing that they can also have such natural landscapes. I applaud Singapore for the way in which they have utilized the relatively small space they have, to create places such as this that are very accessible to the public.

A glimpse of Singapore’s city and shipping industry as seen through the trees from the trail by Mount Faber Park.

If you view conservation as sustainable use rather than non-use preservation, Singapore has been highly successful in its conservation initiatives for natural areas such as these parks. This city state provides a great example of the difference between conservation as sustainable use and protection as preservation. While this area is neither untouched nor separate from humans, Singapore protects its nature through allowing certain use of these spaces, with educational components such as what not to do when encountering monkeys (sadly we did not see any yet).

After reaching beautiful Faber Peak, providing more city skyline views, our hike came to an end and we headed towards the closest hawker center for some delicious food. We were then given some free time to explore, and later reconvened for Dr. Dan’s talk on Pharmaceuticals and Fouling Management at the National Institute of Education, where we were able to explore the engineering building. Like most architecture in Singapore, this building beautifully combines structure and function with nature. The lack of walls surrounding the building exterior was mixed with well-placed greenery and overhead shelter to protect from the elements. Each new experience leads me to believe the title of Urban Tropical Ecology will be an accurate representation of our time in Singapore.