[This post has been edited in RED]
So the other day, we were assigned to find out about the problems faced by Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) in Tropical Conservation (tropcon)’s class.
For those unaware, BTNR is ‘a mere 12km from the city centre’, and one of the few spots offering primary rainforest in Singapore. 164m in height and occupying 164 hectares, this, from a bird’s eye view (courtesy of google), is how it looks like.
Well that little jigsaw puzzle piece shaped islet of forested area is the nature reserve boundary of BTNR. Another aerial view reveals the actual forested area over there:
So why the difference? We actually don’t know why, but that’s a question to pose!
Nature areas in Singapore have three main levels of protection. In order of priority, are nature Areas, nature Parks and lastly, nature Reserves. Nature areas and parks occupy a land space that is seemingly ephemeral – meaning that it can be taken away and used for development any time the authorities deem fit.
Nature reserves, on the other hand, have a better lifespan and protection. But then again, I’m not entirely sure.
Our question is, why not extend the nature reserve boundaries to the entire forested area – why not simply accord to the entire patch of land a level of protection that the reserve provides?
And then we realised, most people don’t even know that the BTNR boundaries don’t extend to what we see in the reserve. After all, it is a social construct – but this social construct confers protection for the land and its inhabitants, both flora and fauna.
Also, if you’re not already aware of the situation BTNR is in – look at the surrounding areas of the nature reserve. The Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) cuts through and separates the connection between BTNR and Central Catchment (CCNR), ensuring a permanent scar in the forest that prevents animals from crossing over and seed dispersal to take place – thus effectively sealing the populations of flora and fauna into smaller prisons, rather than big open ground that belongs to them.
Surrounding BTNR on other areas are tarred roads, quarries, buildings and residential areas – add this to the trails in the forest that fragment the area into smaller bite-sized jigsaw bits, one cannot help but wonder about the state this nature reserve is in.
With the road noise, the escalating number of visitors that come every day, week and year, and the noisy excursions that see kids running around and screaming at every squirrel they see, it really begs the question:
Is this really an area reserved for nature – or a leisurely recreational park that we use like any other park we have: cherished only for its convenience, tarred roads and streetlights that allow us to plunder its richness for our gain – a win-lose situation?
Something for you to think about.
On the other hand, BTNR’s many trees and plants are going to flower very soon, in a phenomenon called ‘mast flowering‘, which simply means that there’ll be mass flowering! (:
We went yesterday, and the Bat Lilies have already started flowering. It’s rained yesterday and it is raining again today, for an extended period of time, so between the next few months there should be mass flowering. Keep your eyes peeled!