President Visits TreeTop Walk to Reiterate Importance of Urban Forests - Visit Marks Celebration of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve's Announcement as an Asean Heritage Park
19 Oct 2011
19 October 2011 - President Tony Tan Keng Yam was joined by members of the nature conservation community including school representatives in his tour of the TreeTop Walk this morning. His visit marks the declaration of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as an Asean Heritage Park and reiterates the importance of our natural heritage in Singapore's urban environment.
The 163-hectare Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) was formally declared as an Asean Heritage Park (AHP) during the 13th Informal Asean Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 18 October 2011. Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Ms Grace Fu was in attendance and accepted the honour on behalf of Singapore.
With this formal endorsement, Singapore will now be home to two Asean Heritage Parks, a prestigious regional network of a total of 30 protected areas of high nature conservation importance. AHPs represent educational and inspirational sites which form the complete spectrum of representative ecosystems of the Asean region. This includes renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Lorentz National Park (Indonesia), Kinabalu National Park (Malaysia) and Gunung Mulu National Park (Malaysia).
President Tony Tan said, "It is a privilege for Singapore to be recognized in the region for our nature conservation efforts. We should be proud that a compact urban city like Singapore has two Asean Heritage Parks. Singapore has done well economically, and is known for having prudently built up our financial reserves over the years. Fewer people are aware that we have also carefully protected our nature reserves even as the pressure on our scarce land resources increase. The forests and other natural assets in Singapore are important parts of our natural heritage. It is imperative for us, as stewards of these assets, to continue to balance our developmental needs with nature conservation. We must work together as a community to conserve these natural assets for future generations, as part of our vision to be a City in a Garden and an exceptional home for all Singaporeans."
The inclusion of BTNR, together with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve's inclusion in 2003 in the AHP scheme is a strong affirmation of Singapore's conservation efforts and commitment in preserving our natural heritage. It is also a significant milestone for BTNR which aspires to be a centre of excellence in tropical forest conservation management.
BTNR has successfully met several criteria encompassing ecological completeness, representativeness, naturalness, high conservation importance, identification as a legally gazetted nature area and having an approved management plan.
A National Site of Ecological Gems
Best known for its tallest hill at 163m, BTNR is indeed a unique exemplar of a forest within an urban setting. One of the largest stands of primary lowland dipterocarp forest and pockets of hill dipterocarp forests are found in BTNR. The hill dipterocarp forest type is not found elsewhere in Singapore.
For a reserve of small geographical size (0.2% of the country's total area), BTNR is disproportionately rich in biodiversity, with about 40% of the nation's native flora and fauna. The reserve teems with 900 species of vascular plants, 107 species of ferns, 200 species of butterflies, 124 species of birds, 70 species of dragonflies, 58 species of reptiles, 26 species of mammals, 17 species of amphibians and 15 species of native freshwater fishes.
These are recent rediscoveries of flora like the De Candolle's Magnolia (Magnolia candolii) and Memecylon (Memecylon pubescens). Rare fauna like the Forest Praying Mantis (Theopropus elegans), the Singapore Freshwater Crab (Johora singaporensis) and one of the largest dragonfly species in South-east Asia, the Giant Hawker (Tetracanthagyna plagiata) can be found. Here, one can experience the rich biodiversity within Singapore and may catch sight of the reserve's inhabitants including the pangolin (Manis javanica), Horsfield's Flying Squirrel (Iomys horsfieldii) and Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus).
Dynamic Roles of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
As a popular nature haven hosting about 330,000 visitors annually, BTNR supports diverse needs from conservation, education, research to recreation. To meet these multiple functions, it forges collaborations with research institutions, corporate bodies, schools, volunteers and the community.
It actively contributes to nature education with 15 schools participating in its programmes like heART for Nature workshops, Nature Keeper Programme, Kids for Nature Programme, Community Involvement and Service Learning Projects. Teachers have benefited from workshops and talks to better equip them with the know-how for conducting field trips.
In addition, corporate groups are also encouraged to play an active role in the protection and management of BTNR, with more than 20 corporate groups participating in the Habitat Restoration Programme.
Enhancing BTNR for the Community
Nature groups have also cheered the announcement. Dr Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society (Singapore) said, "This is a very important announcement in recognition of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve's immense biodiversity, ecological, and heritage value. I hope it inspires people to learn more about Singapore's beautiful rainforests, to help care for them to ensure that they will continue to enchant and excite."
As an AHP, BTNR will build on its programmes and infrastructure to strengthen its position as a premier tropical forest. This will further enhance its ecological robustness and outreach to better serve the needs of the community. Upcoming nature and conservation programmes will highlight the natural wonders of this newly minted AHP. The public can participate in nature appreciation walks and dedicated programmes for children. (See Annex for details)
In the pipeline are also plans to develop digital maps downloadable by 2G or 3G phones to enhance visitors' experience and educational materials targeted at students to promote a deeper appreciation for rainforests.