Freeing The Forest From Weeds

A Day With: Roy Tan, Senior Outreach Officer at NParks’ Conservation Division

The very thought of weeding, especially on a weekend morning, sounds like a dreaded chore to most.  Yet, a group of enthusiastic Central Nature Reserve volunteers immersed themselves in this task one sunny Saturday morning – marshalled by Roy Tan, a Senior Outreach Officer with the Central Nature Reserve Branch.

Wearing gardening gloves and armed with a changkol, Roy marched the eager group purposefully into the forest. Preparing to execute the task assigned, he rallied them together before attacking their target. Yes, the battle against the weeds had begun.

Roy supervises the Central Nature Reserve’s Invasive Species Management Programme (ISMP), an initiative which welcomes volunteers to help rid the forest of weeds. The programme aims to educate volunteers on the different types of weeds found in Singapore’s conservation areas, and their impact on the surrounding biodiversity. It also provides the public with a unique opportunity for hands-on interaction with nature, while creating a greater sense of environmental awareness within the community.

Roy began the session with an introduction to the nature reserves and then he spoke about Dioscorea sansibarensis, a weed more commonly known as the “Batman Plant” as its leaves resemble the insignia of the comic book character. Illustrating the detrimental effects of the weed, he explained, “The Batman Plant is a climber that spreads rapidly in open and sunny areas clinging onto trees for sunlight. This hinders the growth of young saplings amongst the undergrowth in the long term if we do not remove them.” He then demonstrated how the weed should be removed and the correct method of disposal, before letting the group disperse to begin weeding the area.

As the morning passed, it became obvious that Roy’s passion for nature conservation had rubbed off on the volunteers.  Exclamations of excitement rang through the forest, as the volunteers aimed to extract the longest and biggest specimens of weeds. On occasion, they had to wrestle with the offending weeds amid the foliage, in order to free the captive trees. Their lively enthusiasm was infectious – evidently, nature conservation could be very fun!  

It is this communal aspect of the ISMP that Roy enjoys. With the programme open to the general public, people from all walks of life can come together and discuss environmental issues. This community spirit is what motivates Roy in every project he undertakes. “I’ve always had a keen interest in meeting new people,” he said. “Part of the perks of my job has been the prospect of encountering people from a diverse range of cultures, backgrounds and ages.”

Aside from the ISMP, Roy also manages numerous outreach activities. On any given day, he could be conducting educational guided walks through the nature reserves for primary and secondary school students. Or he might be coordinating conservation excursions for government organisations and multi-national companies looking to be involved in corporate social responsibility programmes. Whatever their age or status, Roy helps everyone to do their part, no matter how small, for the environment. Even pulling weeds helps!

If you are keen on being a volunteer with the Central Nature Reserve, visit this page for more information on how you can help to protect Singapore’s biodiversity.

By Adam Rahman

Roy, a senior conservation outreach officer at the Central Nature Reserve, demonstrates how to tackle the weed known as the Batman Plant.

Teaming up with two volunteers, Roy helps to wrestle a weed from its surrounding foliage.

Dealing with weeds in the forest requires considerably more manpower than weeding one’s own garden.

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