Speech by Mr Kenneth Er, Chief Executive Officer, National Parks Board at the launch of the habitat enhancement programme at Coney Island Park
29 Jun 2017
Mr Ooi Sang Kuang,
Chairman, OCBC Bank
Mr Samuel Tsien,
Group CEO, OCBC Bank
Professor Leo Tan
Chairman, Garden City Fund
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good evening to you.
- Thank you for being here with us today. NParks is very pleased to partner the management and staff of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Bank to enhance the habitats of Coney Island Park.
- Singapore is today a City in a Garden. We are blessed by having nature within our cityscape and in close proximity to our living environment. Our efforts in greening and conservation in the last 50 years have ensured that we have a wealth of biodiversity. We have almost 400 bird species, more than 250 orthopteran insect species (which includes grasshoppers, crickets, locusts), and more than 2,000 species of native plants. In the past 5 years, we have discovered and re-discovered some 500 species in Singapore. These include both marine and terrestrial animals, plants and insects. While we marvel at our rich biodiversity, we cannot take it for granted. Conservation requires long-term effort, and such initiatives to enhance habitats are integral to NParks’ Nature Conservation Masterplan.
- When we first opened Coney Island Park in 2015, we were mindful to retain its rustic nature and charm, and designed the park to bring visitors close to nature. We have retained and restored the coastal forest and grassland, as well as mangrove habitats on the island. About 80 species of birds have been sighted since the park opened, including the uncommon Rufous Woodpecker and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.
- Having conserved these habitats, the conditions are right for further enhancement and the introduction of native plants representative of these habitats. Today, the coastal forest on Coney Island is dominated mainly by Casuarina trees, as you can observe around us. The mangroves comprise mainly of pioneer species. With the support of the Management and staff of OCBC, we will be able to introduce many more native plant species and increase the floral diversity in these habitats within the park. This not only provides more sources of food and shelter for animals such as resident and migratory birds, but also establishes seed sources that will kick off the regeneration of a thriving natural ecosystem.
- When Sam asked me if we would be introducing many interesting and attractive plants as part of this habitat enhancement programme, I told him that he can be assured of this. So, I am happy to say that we will be introducing more than 50 plants species. They are not only interesting and attractive, but also rare in the wild today. For example, one of the over 50 species to be introduced is the Scolopia macrophylla, a tree that was actually rediscovered from extinction right here on this island. We found a single specimen during a site visit in 2014.
It was a wonderful surprise, as it was previously last seen in 1953, more than 60 years ago. We subsequently found more individuals in its vicinity and took great care to conserve this rare find. OCBC volunteers helped to propagate more Scolopia saplings last month, so that we can re-introduce more of the plants here.
- We are kicking off the project by planting up the area behind you to create a highly diverse coastal forest plot. It contains a selection of free-flowering shrubs and trees found naturally along the sandy, coastal beaches of Singapore. Some of the highlights include the Seashore Bat Lily (Tacca leontopetaloides), which is found at the seashores of Pulau Semakau. It produces a very unique, attractive looking flower that looks like a bat. You can make out the large pointed petals that resemble the ears of a bat. Another interesting plant is the Seashore Purslane (Portulaca pilosa ssp. pilosa), a close relative of the ornamental Japanese Rose. This attractive plant occurs in two forms in Singapore – a pink flowered form from Pulau Ubin, and a yellow flowered form from Pulau Tekong and the Southern Islands. There is also the Twin Apple tree (Ochrosia oppositifolia), which is today extinct in Singapore and now re-introduced here. This tree produces a fruit that looks like two green apples fused together. We had propagated the saplings from a mother tree that we had held in our nursery for more than 10 years. This plot is thus special, as we are building up a comprehensive collection of native coastal plants.
- This collaboration between NParks and OCBC Bank will go a long way in helping our native coastal plants, to recover and flourish. Your efforts over the next five years will sustain our natural heritage, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the wonders of our native flora and fauna. So thank you once again for partnering with us and we hope more corporations and individuals will step forward to help transform Singapore into a City in a Garden.