Following two years of light restoration works and sensitive enhancements, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is finally open again. Bukit Timah is well known among many Singaporeans as Singapore’s tallest hill at 163 m, but let us not forget that the forest surrounding this hill is a natural treasure as well.
Spanning 163 ha, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was first established as a nature reserve in the 1800s. It was later designated as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2011, making it the second such park in Singapore after Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve comprises various types of forests, including a substantial portion of its original, intact tropical rainforest ecosystem. There are also patches of lowland dipterocarp forests, interspersed with tall secondary forests. The Reserve supports an amazing biodiversity, being home to over 840 flowering plants and 500 species of animals.
Here are some three of my favourite native flora and fauna that call the Reserve home!
Sunda Slow Loris
The Sunda Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) is a Critically Endangered primate found in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. It is one of the few mammals with a venomous bite, so stay clear. This nocturnal animal spends most of its time in the canopy in search of variety of food which includes insects, fruits and tree sap. Despite its name, the Sunda Slow Loris is actually able to make quick movements when it feels threatened.
The Codonoboea platypus is found deep in the forest, often near the edges of streams and other wet areas. Completely unrelated to a certain semi-aquatic Australian mammal, its species name platypus means broadly-footed. This could be in reference to the shape of its leaves. This plant is found only in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the forest surrounding MacRitchie Reservoir, in very localised spots.
Slender Walking Catfish
The Slender Walking Catfish (Clarias nieuhofii) is the rarest of the three native walking catfishes in Singapore. Sporting rows of beautiful yellow spots, this fish inhabits the forest streams of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It emerges after dark to feed on a range of prey including crustaceans and small fish. Using its strong pectoral fins, this catfish is able to “walk” between forest pools during dry periods!
There is still so much more to learn about the biodiversity in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. To better understand the conservation status and distribution of plants and animals in the Reserve, an on-going two year comprehensive biodiversity survey commenced in March 2015. The last time a survey of a similar scale, covering the entire nature reserve, was conducted some 20 years ago between 1993 and 1997.
When this new survey concludes in 2017, the data will be analysed and used to tailor strategies for the systematic long-term monitoring and management of the Reserve.
Text by Pedro Shiu