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Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)
 
colour paintings of some fishesNature in the City

For three days, the heart of a shopping complex was turned into a mini jungle where visitors, young and old alike, learnt more about nature. Shawn Lum has the details on the enthusiastic response to NSS' Nature Day 2000. Photos by Leong Kwok Peng.

If you had paid attention, you would have heard it—the call of a jungle fowl. And, wait, could that have been a collared kingfisher, and there, an Asian koel? Then, the large-tailed nightjar? What was that unique vocalisation, maybe a distress call, from what sounded like some large galliform bird, but unlike any ever heard in these parts of Singapore?

Hang on, that was no bird, but a four-year-old Homo sapiens, attempting to mimic the bird calls made by avian voice meister Sutari Supari. And this was no forest, but rather Parco Bugis Junction. It was clearly a case of "Nature in the City", part of Nature Day 2000, a three-day enviro-fest organised by NSS - Nature Society (Singapore). And those strange half-bird, half-werewolf howls made by more than a few children comprised just one of many activities conducted as part of the nature fiesta which was sponsored by BCH Retail Investments Pte Ltd and J&R Bossini Fashion Pte Ltd.

The first Singapore Nature Day organised by the Society was held at Fort Canning in 1997. Fort Canning, though clearly a well-manicured park, could still make claims to be a semi-natural habitat. Nature Day 2000, held from April 20 - May 1, 2000, was different—nature was in unfamiliar grounds, the haunt not of people clad in greens and greys toting binoculars, but rather to a different human subspecies, one toting handphones and sporting multi-hued hair, skin tones (not from flesh-coloured clothing but rather from genuine flesh), and perched on elevated platform shoes and sandals.

A tough audience, indeed, but Nature Day 2000 proved the old adage that one should never judge a book by its cover. The Parco Bugis Junction crowd was an enthusiastic one, flocking around the booths operated by NSS sub-groups and friends. They queued up to have their hands, arms, and shoulders tattooed with henna, bought T-shirts, bags and squirting rubber cuttlefish, and they pledged themselves to the protection of cetaceans. The crowd turned out to be much more than people of the colourful teenage persuasion, but of all ages, backgrounds and interests.


Particularly out in force were the youngsters, who revelled in a nature treasure hunt, badge colouring and design at the Bird Group push-cart, and animal face-painting. The face-painting, featuring skilfully-rendered images of butterflies, rabbits, birds and other motifs, was carried out by volunteers from Jalan Hijau, NSS' Youth Environment Group. Some of the animals bore an uncanny resemblance to Pikachu of Pokemon fame!
colour paintings of some fishes
Preventing the illegal trade
in endangered wildlife is
everyone's duty


colour paintings of some fishes
Nature, nature everywhere.
Even in the city


colour paintings of some fishes
Three days of non-stop action
at the Nature Arts & Crafts table


colour paintings of some fishes
Face-painting was fun!
At least for most people


colour paintings of some fishes
Even the Raffles Junior College
lion is green!


colour paintings of some fishes
Mr Tan Guong Ching,
CEO, Housing &
Development Board (right)
with Prof Khoo Hong Woo
NSS President
The purpose of all this? By organising the event, NSS had hoped that Nature Day 2000 would highlight the fact that despite the largely urban character of the island, there was still a lot of nature and diversity left to observe, to study, to celebrate and to protect (the information panels on display clearly demonstrated this to exhibition visitors). In other words, the development of world-class physical infrastructure need not necessarily be antithetical to conservation. These very sentiments were echoed in the speech by the event's Guest of Honour, Mr Tan Guong Ching, Chief Executive Officer of the Housing & Development Board. There was even nature in the city, as plant walks and an evening chichak-hunting expedition were to prove.

Nature Day 2000 was more than just about Nature. It was about the people who cherish, study and tell others about it and about the many volunteers who turned up in force to make the three-day celebration a success. They came from NSS's sub-groups: Bird Group, Butterfly Watching and Research Group, Jalan Hijau, Marine Conservation Group, Plant Group and the Vertebrate Study Group as well as other organisations such as Sungei Buloh Nature Park, the Singapore Environment Council, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and the S.A.V.E. Club (Students Against the Violation of the Environment) of the Singapore American School. Nature's Niche, a place where nature lovers can be found when they are not out in nature, also had a push-cart. The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) kindly lent the Society posters highlighting the illegal trade in endangered species of flora and fauna.

Talented mime performers from Maris Stella High School, local puppeteer Tan Beng Tian, a harmonica band and an acappella group provided entertainment throughout the proceedings. By the time Sutari let fly with his coup de grace—the crescendo-like call of the Great Hornbill—on the final evening of Nature Day, the public had made it known through their enthusiastic support of Nature Day 2000 that an encore was in store.

Nature Day 2001, anyone?


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