Making BFFs at the Biodiversity Friends Forum
Can wildlife such as the otter or wild boar co-exist successfully with the human population in Singapore?
This was the central question participants of the Biodiversity Friends Forum (BFF) Biodiversity Challenge sought to answer.
Fostering Youth-led Initiatives
The six-month Challenge, organised by the BFF in 2018, aimed to foster youth-led initiatives to promote nature conservation and build communities that care for native wildlife.
Participants in the Challenge were taught the factors involved in managing human-wildlife interactions, so as to build core skills in critical thinking, stakeholder analysis and communication, with the aim of them becoming ambassadors for the peaceful co-existence with wildlife. This included educating on appropriate behaviour when encountering wildlife.
Activating a Passion for Biodiversity
The co-existence of humans with wildlife such as the civet, macaque and wild boar, was discussed by participants of the BFF Challenge. The two other animals discussed were the otter and sea turtle.
Photo credit: Fung Tze Kwan and Holly Siow
More than 80 youths, made up of students, working adults and budding biologists aged 16 to 30, took part in the inaugural Challenge. These youths attended a seminar on 13 January 2018 to discuss human-wildlife co-existence, focusing on five animal groups: the otter, macaque, civet, wild boar and sea turtle.
Challenge participants attending a civet night walk as part of their on-the-job training session. Participants tried to spot the shy nocturnal creature that likes to stay in trees or high places.
Photo credit: Xu Weiting
Participants who wanted to learn more beyond the seminar, gained on-the-ground experience next, attending at least three on-the-job training sessions to observe these animals in the wild. After gaining a deeper insight into the habitats and behaviours of these animals, the youth participants paid it forward, using their new knowledge to raise awareness about these animals by talking to the public at the Festival of Biodiversity, organised by NParks, in early June 2018.
Challenge participants brought the important message of conservation and peaceful co-existence to the public at outreach events, such as this held in Braddell Heights.
Photo credit: Joy Wong
A group of three participants, Zhang Han Xiang, Srishti Arora and Hua Qian Hui, designed games to help the public learn fun facts about the focus animals and what to do when you encounter them. Another group comprising Chong Yu Lin, Charlotte Chng and Grace Chua took this message and activities to other community events throughout the year, to reach out to more people.
Participants of the Biodiversity Challenge observed otters encountering and interacting with humans in our highly-urbanised environment.
Photo credit: Cheryl Yong
Cheryl Yong particularly enjoyed the on-the-job training sessions where she was able to observe otters in their natural habitat at Marina Bay. “It really made me realise just how little buffer space there is between natural and ‘human’ areas, and how this can heighten the problems between human-wildlife interactions,” said the junior college student.
After completing the Challenge, she feels even more motivated to share what she has learnt about nature with her peers, particularly to correct the misconceptions they have. “The wildlife can be quite misunderstood. For example, the aggression they exhibit could be a consequence of humans not respecting wildlife, the result of humans feeding the animals or simply going too close for a photo!”
Cheryl added, “The BFF Challenge has made me more motivated to share what I have learnt about the wildlife around us, and to correct any misconceptions people may have. I hope I will be able to get more people to better appreciate the natural beauty around us.”
A total of 24 youths completed the Challenge, and were recognised for their achievements during a sharing session on 15 October 2018.
New Year, New Challenge
The BFF Biodiversity Challenge returns in 2019. This year, participants will get to ‘shadow’ experts who deal with human-wildlife co-existence issues on a daily basis, for instance, park managers and researchers. Following this, participants will be encouraged to take up small acts for nature, so as to promote human-wildlife co-existence.
Interested participants can sign up for the mailing list via www.bit.ly/BFFMailingList or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
The BFF is under the youth arm of the Biodiversity Roundtable and aims to build capacity and relationships for youths passionate in biodiversity conservation. The Biodiversity Roundtable includes more than 20 non-governmental organisations involved in local biodiversity issues, and NParks.
Text by Joy Wong
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