NParks starts new guided walks of Eco-Link@BKE
04 Nov 2015
Regular monthly walks will also commence from March 2016 onwards
4 Nov 2015 — The National Parks Board (NParks) will conduct public guided walks of the Eco-Link@BKE for the first time on 21 Nov 2015, 5 Dec 2015, 19 Dec 2015 and 9 Jan 2016, in conjunction with Clean and Green SG50. The first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the Eco-Link@BKE is an ecological bridge that spans across the Bukit Timah Expressway, connecting Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Its main purpose is to restore the ecological connection between two nature reserves, allowing wildlife to expand their habitat, genetic pool and survival chances.
From March 2016 onwards, NParks will also conduct regular monthly guided walks of Eco-Link@BKE. This was announced by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, during a media tour of Eco-Link@BKE on 4 Nov 2015. He said, “As a City in a Garden, we must always strive to enhance and protect the diverse biodiversity that co-exists in our living environment. The Eco-Link@BKE effectively expands the habitat, mating and foraging ranges of animals, boosting their survival chances. Soon enough, many more species of animals, even those rare and critically endangered ones may start using the bridge.”
“However, like all other ecological linkages we have island-wide such as nature ways, streetscape gardens or the creation of habitats in our parks, it is the community who inject soul and meaning into these green spaces. The public guided walks at the Eco-Link@BKE would allow the community to appreciate the rich variety of life within our midst. I hope that through such nature expeditions, more Singaporeans will fall in love with our environment and be inspired to do their part to conserve our precious natural heritage,” he added.
After its completion in 2013, access to Eco-Link@BKE was restricted to allow the vegetation to grow and the animals to get used to the bridge without human disturbance. Now that the vegetation is denser, NParks has assessed that limited guided walks are feasible with minimal disturbance to the animals. During these guided walks, members of the public will learn about the types of animals that are dependent on the bridge and how they use it to find safe passage between nature reserves. The walks will also present interesting facts about both Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Since 2013, NParks has partnered the community such as institutions, volunteers and students to carry out research projects such as animal surveys and bird banding, as well as to plant more than 3,000 native plants to turn Eco-Link@BKE into a green corridor for animals to cross. Through photos from camera traps placed on the bridge, NParks has recorded populations of native animals such as Slender Squirrels, Common Palm Civets and varies species of birds and snakes crossing it. Rarely sighted animals such as the Sunda Pangolins, a critically endangered species, have also been photographed. In particular, the Lesser Mousedeer, which was previously only found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, had been sighted earlier this year at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. While there is no photographic evidence of the Lesser Mousedeer crossing into Bukit Timah Nature Reserve via the Eco-Link@BKE, it is likely that it had used the bridge, as there is no other feasible way.
NParks has also been tracking pangolin road kills for the last 20 years on major roads that surround the two nature reserves. Ever since tree planting at Eco-Link@BKE was completed in the first quarter of 2014, the number of reported pangolin road kills has decreased, from an average of about 2 per year from 1994 to 2014 to none from April 2014 to Oct 2015. As the vegetation on the bridge grows taller and denser, more animals are expected to use it to get from one nature reserve to another. This may include the Banded Leaf Monkey, a critically endangered species, the Malayan Colugo, and bird species such as the Babblers, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Greater Green Leafbird, which are dependent on tall trees and shrubs as cover to move from one area to another.
Having a safe way for animals to cross from one nature reserve to another is important for several reasons. The interaction of wildlife between the two nature reserves – previously not possible before Eco-Link@BKE was completed – prevents genetic isolation and promotes a bigger spread of their genetic pool, reducing the occurrence of inbreeding and ensuring a higher chance of the survival of the species. In the longer term, the Eco-Link will help to restore the ecological balance in these fragmented habitats. Plants which are pollinated and dispersed by animals such as the Singapore Durian (Durio singaporensis) and Singapore Walking Stick Palm (Rhapaloblaste singaporensis) will also benefit from the Eco-Link@BKE.
NParks remains committed to striking a balance between conserving Singapore’s biodiversity and offering recreational opportunities for the public. Hence, as part of Clean and Green SG50, NParks will be offering public guided walks of Eco-Link@BKE on 21 Nov 2015, 5 Dec 2015, 19 Dec 2015 and 9 Jan 2016. Each date consists of two walks, with each able to accommodate 20 people. The 1.5 hours walk is free of charge, but prior registration is required on a first-come-first-served basis. Interested participants may register at www.nparks.gov.sg/ecolink from 8 November 2015 at 10am. Registration is compulsory and visitors who turn up without registering will be turned away. Details of the regular monthly walks from March 2016 will be announced at a later date.