NParks opens Thomson Nature Park, Singapore’s seventh nature park, rich in both natural and cultural heritage
11 Oct 2019
- Old Upper Thomson Road enhanced to provide better ecological connections and reduce wildlife-motorist collisions
- Tapping on technology to support NParks’ nature conservation and biodiversity management
The National Parks Board (NParks) opened Thomson Nature Park, a 50-hectare Nature Park located to the east of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and buffered by Old Upper Thomson Road, on 11 October 2019. The Nature Park boasts rich biodiversity and is a key conservation site for the Raffles’ Banded Langur (Presbytis femoralis fermoralis), a subspecies of the Banded Leaf Monkey (Presbytis femoralis), which can only be found in Singapore and southern Peninsular Malaysia. Thomson Nature Park is also unique because of its rich cultural heritage as the site of a former Hainan Village and rambutan plantations.
First announced in 2014, Thomson Nature Park complements existing nature parks such as Chestnut, Springleaf and Windsor Nature Parks to extend the green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. In addition to enhancing ecological connectivity and protecting the Nature Reserve against abutting developments, the Nature Park also helps to reduce visitorship pressure on the Nature Reserve by providing the public with an alternative venue to enjoy nature-related activities. This is part of a holistic approach by NParks to strengthen biodiversity conservation, which also includes tapping on technology to support conservation management.
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development said, “Establishing Thomson Nature Park is an important part of our efforts to conserve our natural heritage and native biodiversity. It is the fifth buffer park that we have planned as a ring around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The buffer parks that we have progressively opened over the past few years not only protect our Nature Reserves, but they also provide Singaporeans with more green spaces. As part of the Forest Restoration Action Plan launched earlier this year, NParks has enhanced Thomson Nature Park’s forest habitat to ensure that our wildlife, including many locally endangered species, continues to thrive. This Nature Park is special for another reason – it has a layer of history of early Singapore. The remnants of the Hainan Village that used to be here gives us a glimpse into life in Singapore in the 1960s. The community, including nature lovers, heritage groups and residents, has worked closely with NParks to support our reforestation efforts, as well as curate the trails and heritage elements. I hope that more Singaporeans will have a greater appreciation for our biodiversity and green spaces. Such collective efforts help ensure that our natural heritage is protected for future generations to enjoy.”
Safeguarding a key conversation site for the Raffles’ Banded Langur
With its extensive forested area, Thomson Nature Park provides complementary habitats for many rare and locally endangered animals such as the Malayan Porcupine, Sunda Pangolin, Lesser Mousedeer, and Straw-headed Bulbul. The freshwater streams in the park also form an important habitat for a range of native aquatic species including the Spotted Tree Frog, which is listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List, as well as the Malayan Box Terrapin.
In particular, Thomson Nature Park serves as a key conservation site for the critically endangered Raffles’ Banded Langur. This subspecies of the Banded Langur is a shy and elusive primate. First noted by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, it is one of only three non-human primates to be found locally. In Singapore, the Raffles’ Banded Langur is listed as critically endangered, limited to the Central Catchment. Through efforts to enhance its habitat, its population has increased to about 60 individuals today.
In the development of Thomson Nature Park, NParks enhanced habitats and ecological connectivity across Old Upper Thomson Road for the Langurs. More than one third of the native trees that have been planted since late 2016 are known food plants of the Langurs.
Enhancing ecological connectivity through Old Upper Thomson Road
The 3 km Old Upper Thomson Road borders the east side of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and separates it from the Nature Park as well as forest patches in Upper Thomson, Lentor and Tagore. Biodiversity surveys indicate that animals, including the Raffles’ Banded Langur, frequently move between the Nature Reserve and Thomson Nature Park either via tree canopies, culverts or directly across the Old Upper Thomson Road. With this in mind, canopy linkages have been enhanced with the planting of tree species that have spreading canopies. Rope bridges have also been installed along the road to further facilitate the safe movement of the Raffles’ Banded Langur and other arboreal animals. NParks worked closely with the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group to situate the rope bridges where the Langurs have been observed to habitually cross. Small mammals such as pangolins and porcupines also move across the road safely through culverts.
In addition, Old Upper Thomson Road was reduced from a dual lane road to a single lane with a park connector, providing a safer passage for animals crossing the road. To make the area even more conducive for nocturnal animals within the Nature Reserve and Nature Park, there are plans to close Old Upper Thomson Road to vehicular traffic between 7.30 pm to 6 am daily. More details will be provided later.
Digitalisation efforts to support nature conservation efforts
As part of our digitalisation masterplan, NParks works with research partners such as institutes of higher learning and other government agencies to adapt and modify technology used in other fields for our nature conservation and biodiversity management.
NParks and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched a 12-month pilot trial of the Roadway Animal Detection System (RADS) along Old Upper Thomson Road, from October this year. This system is the first-of-its-kind in Singapore. RADS uses video analytics to detect animals when they are near the road and alerts oncoming motorists to their presence through flashing road signs. This allows motorists more time to react and take precautions to avoid the animals such as by reducing vehicular speed and exercising heightened vigilance. The use of a CCTV camera system with analytics technology and machine learning enables improved recognition of target animals and increase detection reliability. The pilot trial explores the potential to implement RADS along other roads where wildlife has been sighted. In the long term, this initiative aims to find solutions to address wildlife-vehicle collisions.
To better safeguard our forests from the risk of forest fires, NParks is developing a Forest Fire Detection and Monitoring System. This monitoring system for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve would be able to pre-empt changing weather patterns and monitor the forest continuously to detect signs of fire. This will make fire detection more efficient, especially during dry seasons and allow for timely deployment of resources needed for fire-fighting.
Rich cultural heritage as the site of a former Hainan Village
In the 1930s, some Hainanese immigrants settled at the site where Thomson Nature Park is today. By the 1960s, the village housed close to a hundred residents from diverse cultural backgrounds including Hainanese, Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Malay, and Eurasian. The last residents vacated the village in the 1980s and the abandoned agricultural land was reclaimed by secondary forest.
Today, many signs and remnants of kampung life can be found on site. NParks has worked with the former residents of the Hainan Village to piece together the story of the village and its inhabitants though oral accounts, artworks, and archive materials. The road network of the former Hainan Village has been retained and forms part of three trails – Ruins and Figs Trail, Stream and Ferns Trail, and Rambutan Trail. Two other trails – Macaque Trail and Langur Trail – were also created. Spanning 3.8 km, these trails have been specially curated to allow visitors to explore the remains of the village and the forests.
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