Part 1 | Part
2 | Jungle Camp Cook Sutari shares tips
conquering all of Malaysia's high mountain peaks and others in the
region, this adventurer turned nature conservationist is now reaching
for the Stars! A profile of the man, a fellow birder describes as
'more fun and more noisy than 10 crows and 20 mynas put together'by
Betty L Khoo
A happy Sutari sitting next to a
floating fish farm cum jetty at
Banding Island Resort in Belum
Sutari's drawings of
native endangered mammal
species for a set of
last I meet Sutari Supari... a full head of glossy black hair frames
a baby face; he greets me with a wide-open boyish grin. I am charmed
and surprised. How can one so young have done so much?
His exploits and accomplishments are many - he is an artist/draughtsman/nature
conservationist/adventurer/ expedition leader/co-author/co-(telescope)
jungle camp cook/birder.
It is a bigger surprise to learn that Sutari is not 28, which is what
he looks, but 48! He chuckles ... our conversation is punctuated with
his ready belly-deep laughter.. and I realise that his good nature
is the secret of his youthful looks. That and his obvious passion
or passions for his nature pursuits.
Nature society members know Sutari as an intrepid trekker and passionate
conservationist. He soldered alongside Dr Ho Hua Chew and many others
in NSS to help collect 25,000 signatures to try and save the wetlands
around Senoko power station. 'That was an intense campaign', he remembers.
Days, nights, weekends were spent at shopping centres convincing Singaporeans
that 'once these places are gone, you can't bring them back.'
So many ordinary people were convinced and signed... but in vain.
Still, Sutari has the satisfaction of knowing that his efforts 'lobbying,
researching and drawing maps' helped to save and shape another precious
wetland area - the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve.
But Sutari was not a conservationist or birder when he was a young
man. This former Police Constable who studied advertising artand
made a 28-year career as a draughtsman with the PWDwas lured
more by the challenge of climbing mountains than by the soothing sights
As co-founder and later chairman of the Siglap CC Venturers' Club,
Sutari has climbed 'every high peak in West and East Malaysia' and
quite a few in the regionthough he and his team fell short of
conquering the 3,726 metre Rinjani in Lombok. 'We were hit by a severe
storm for three days.'
Not that Sutari has stopped climbingfar from it. He is still
leading many adventure-filled treks, but nowadays this passionate
conservationist climbs much more mindful of the fragility and beauty
Many nature lovers have had a kampung upbringing. Not so Sutari. He
was born in Batu Pahat (Johor) in 1951 but at age five his Javanese
father brought him down to Singapore to live.
'My father was working as a chauffeur for a doctor (Robert Loh, now
President of the Council of Social Services) in Cairnhill and our
family lived with them. Although there was a Boyanese kampung in the
corner of Cairnhill/Scotts Road at the time, the whole area was already
quite suburban by the late 1950s.
With fellow birder Alfred Chia,
listening for the
Short-tailed Babbler and
at MacRitchie Reservoir
Sutari peering at waders in
K. Selangor Nature Park
Sutari at the 1995 AGM of the
Malayan Nature Society held in Johor. Seated on left is
Dr Salleh, the President of MNS
Sutari receiving a plaque
from the Guest-of-Honor
Dr Kanwaljit Soin (NMP) in the
1994 Singapore Bird Race
with Evelyn Eng-Lim at right
It was only when the Winstedt Primary schoolboy joined the scouts that he
had the chance to explore rural Singapore. Sutari's eyes brighten at the
recollection of setting up camp and campfires at Pasir Ris. 'We walked on
a network of bunds in Jurong's marshlands and Ulu Pandan. We hiked through
coconut plantations in Siglap and Changi, and ended up at picturesque fishing
The young, adventure-bound Sutari did not miss or mourn the loss of kampungs
and nature areas. Not until he joined the Nature Society in 1975 when stalwarts
like PN Avadani, B N Rao, VP Sharma, Wee Yeow Chin and Ilsa Sharp were very
Even then, 'adventure was my first love'. The turning point came when he
got involved with the bird group in 1986. 'They wanted to go to wild nature
places they hadn't been to before. I wanted to learn about birds. I was
the key to their getting to those places'.
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