The Hopea sangal tree: A time line
News articles

Back to Habitatnews: Changi Heritage

23 Jul 2002

URA Rustic Coast Draft Concept Plan unveiled inviting public feedback.



Aug 2002

A call is made by N. Sivasothi, editor of Habitatnews, to submit information about Changi’s Heritage. Numerous knowledgeable individuals submit information about the significant the living seashore, bird life, war history, street names and the surviving trees of ‘Changi jungle’. Contributors include: Subaraj Rajathurai, Morten Strange, Chua Ee Kiam, Ria Tan, Derek Yap, Adrian Loo, Alvin Wong, Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn. The information is submitted to the URA Subject Group, and a tree re-census is initiated by Joseph Lai et al.



12 Sep 2002

Public feedback submission entitled “Significant trees and shrubs in Changi” by Joseph Lai, Angie Ng, Chuah Ai Lin, Marilyn Cheng is submitted to the URA Subject Group on Rustic Coasts. Amongst the highlights is the discovery of the Hopea sangal, a tree believed to be extinct in the Singapore Red Data Book and possibly the tree that gave Changi its name.



18 Sep 2002

Changi Heritage Webpage is set up to make all the collated information easily accessible, and is still maintained today:



22 Sep 2002

The Hopea sangal is releasing seeds and some are collected by Tan Beng Chiak, Joseph Lai and Shawn Lum who then collect seeds of the Hopea sangal and takes photographs, including the ones used here.


Oct/Nov 2002

Changi Trees Tour by Joseph Lai & friends. “Expect to see many giant native trees, age 200 years or more. A fun and easy walk to appreciate our very own natural and national heritage. Sign up via email."



26 Oct 2002

Seeds are collected during one of the walks. Uknown to them, this would be the last batch of seeds to be borne by this tree. Nature Society (Singapore) grows out the seeds for plantings in future,



20 Nov 2002

The grand old Chengal pasir (Hopea sangal) tree is felled. N. Sivasothi is on the scene shortly after and witnesses the logs being loaded onto a lorry. He calls and sms' Joseph Lai, Shawn Lum, Vilma D'Rozario and others from Nature Society (SIngapore) who call the media.

Interviews are conducted at the stump over the next few days, and the print , radio and tv media report widely on the issue, interviewing representatives from NSS and NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Joseph Lai. A strong public response decrying the act emerges in interviews and letters to the forum page (see news articles).

25 Nov 2002 The logs are tracked down and identified in a timberyard in Sungei Kadut St 2 by Joseph Lai, Tan Beng Chiak, Angie Ng Ban Cheong and Madam Seiko. NParks recovers and stores the logs. IN an email from Joseph Lai, " The chinese-speaking bosses (esp. Mr. Loh) were all very co-operative and sympathetic. They had read Zaobao but did not realize that they had the trunks in their yard. We called Derek Yap [NParks] who immediate came with a lorry to collect. What a relief!!!... and exciting morning for us!!! These two trunks have very good wood quality and condition."
26/27 Nov 2002 Story covered on radio, FM 1003 for two nights.
5 Dec 2002 Wong Yew Kwan, former Commisioner of Parks & Recreation which is now part of NParks, examines the logs closely over two days and says in a letter to the Forum page, "My conclusion? It was indeed a great pity to have cut down the tree. ... even if we did nothing to treat the damage, it would continue to stand there for a very long time."



24 Mar 2003

"Unfortunately, having weathered more than a century of the forces of nature, it was not able to survive the senseless act of man." So states District Judge Kow Keng Siong in his court ruling. The firm is ordered to pay the state $76,035 in compensation for the loss of the tree and fined $8,000 for the illegal felling. This is the first time for such a ruling in our history.



18 Apr 2003

Joseph Lai pens an Ode to the Hopea sangal. "...although their predecessors were unable to pass on the tree to them, they did make a noble effort to pass on the valuable lessons learnt, as well as their values and aspirations for a better and greener world to them. Capimus sed tradimus? Should we not start now?"



19 June 2003

Working group on Hopea sangal logs is reconvened. Eventually this informal, volunteer group would consist of representatives from NParks, Nature Society (Singapore), Urban Redevelopment Authority and NUS’ Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Sculpture Society (Singapore).



30 June 2003

URA provides an offer of a location to host the sculpture at Changi Ferry Terminal in December 2004. The Working Group begins search for sponsorship of preservation and maintenance.



August 2003

Proposal by Sculpture Society (Singapore) is accepted. Streats-25Aug2003



14 Sep 2003

A Sculpture Symposium is oranised and conducted in NAFA grounds, and a sculpting and education programme is offered to the public. Sponsors include Lee Foundation ($7,500), National Arts Council ($5,000), Steel Mesh Ptd Ltd (scaffolding) and NAFA (location). Nature Society (Singapore) conducts an education workshop called "Fun with Trees".



02 Oct 2003

Symposium ends. The sculpture is in nine pieces of various sizes, the largest being 5 metres tall, 4.0 metres in girth, and the smallest 3 metres tall and approximately 0.8 metres in girth.



05 Jan 2004

Sculptures are shifted to NParks Serangoon Depot for sheltered storage. The Working Group is still looking for sponsors.



20 Jan 2004

An appeal is made through the press for a sponsor for preservation, transport, installation and maintenance. Estimated cost was $40,000.



24 Jan 2004

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) writes in to indicate interest. They offer to look after transport, preservation, installation, maintenance and a permanent location. In addition they will look into an education programme as well. With 1.5 million visitors of whom 80% are local, the working group is favourable to the offer by WRS.



20 Feb 2004

Ownership of sculptures handed over to WRS. Discussion on an education programme follows.



01 Mar 2004

Sculptures are transferred to Singapore Zoo. Maintenance and installation work begins.ST-31Mar2004 - Singapore Zoo webpage



7 Apr 2004

Official unveiling of Hopea sangal sculptures at Wildlife Reserves Singapore. A Hopea sangal seed, recovered in September 2002 and nutured to a one and a half year old sapling, is handed over to Dr Ho Yew Kee, deputy chief executive officer of WRS by Angie Ng and Joseph Lai, members of the Nature Society (Singapore). The Hopea sangal Working Group conduct nature and sculpture education activities for primary school students of Jurong West Primary. CNA-07Apr2004, Streats-08Apr2004

28 Aug 2004 Hopea sangal Working Group conducts the Hopea sangal education programme for students of Nanyang Girls' High School, who have enrolled for a training workshop to form two teams to conduct a similar programme for primary schools.
20-27 Oct 2004 Hopea sangal education programme conducted for Nanyang Girls' High School by members of working group. Raffles Museum News
27 Oct 2004 A report in The Straits Times reveals that "A new law being considered in Parliament proposes to raise the maximum fine for those who cut down trees marked for conservation from $10,000 to $50,000." See Habitatnews.
05 Nov 2004 Joseph Lai pens "Between Nothing" - in reflection of the events and people surrounding the tree.
07 Nov 2004 Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew plants a Hopea sangal sapling, one of several seedlings presented to the NParks Pasir Panjang nursery by Nature Society (Singapore) after the Hopea sangal was felled. This particular sapling was grown in special conditions to enhance its growth, and is more than one-metre. MM Lee planted the tree in Hendersonville (between Block 103 & 104), Henderson Crescent in the Tanjong Pagar constituency. Habitatnews - Earth.
25 Jan 2005 The amended Parks and Trees Act was passed in Parliament introducing stiffer fines to protect trees. The property management firm that cut down the Hopea sangal was fined $8,000 and $76,000 was added in compensation. Now the fine alone could cost $50,000. Habitatnews.
22 Apr 2005

NSS President Geh Min plants a young Hopea sangal plant at the Singapore Zoological Gardens. The plant was nurtured from the sapling that was presented to the Zoo on 7th April 2004 during the official unveiling of the Hopea sangal sculptures. Vilma D'Rozario of the Working Group commented that "Melvin, the horticulturalist at the zoo and his team have done a great job of caring for it - it's over a metre and lush. It was lovely to see it, and it now stands opposite the sculptures made from its mother tree." See Habitatnews.

Jun-Aug 2005 22 Jun 2005 - Two slices of the Hopea sangal tree trunk, presented by NParks to the Raffles Museum in 2003, are cured by pressure-soaking the pieces in a Chromated Copper Arsenic (CCA) solution. This treatment is provided free by "Eastern Union Trading and Sawmill": Raffles Museum News. 01 Jul 2005 - The cured slices are brought back to the Raffles Museum and varnished for safety: Raffles Museum News. 24 Aug 2005 - Now safe for handling, one of the slices is transferred to the Changi Museum. The other piece is retained at the Raffles Museum for display in the Public Gallery: Raffles Museum News.
Mid-Jul 2006 About 30 half-metre tall Hopea sangal saplings from the batch of seedlings nurtured in NParks' Pasir Panjng nursery, are planted in Kent Ridge Park. See this and other posts at Otterman speaks...
5th May 2017 Critically endangered trees: Hope for the Hopea sangal The Straits Times