Today we launch two very different activities championed and completed by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity of Singapore (RMBR) at the National University of Singapore. One is the launch of the fourth book in the PRIVATE LIVES series, this time focusing on rainforests. The other is a web portal that will capture Singapore’s natural history records, including the rich biodiversity archives resident in the university, its professors and many associates over the years. It is a library of Singapore’s natural memories and will serve as a valuable resource for students and naturalists alike.
PRIVATE LIVES: AN EXPOSÉ OF SINGAPORE’S RAINFORESTS
The PRIVATE LIVES series of natural history books has been one of the most successful publications in the Raffles Museum stable of publications. Three books have already been published—on seashores, mangroves and freshwater; and the fourth book in this series focuses on another key habitat—rainforests. This new book is especially timely, after 20 years of the Rio Summit, and reflects well on Singapore—the pioneer of internationally accepted Cities Biodiversity Index. The book documents the rich biodiversity of Singapore’s extant rainforest that safeguards a natural heritage completely disproportionate with its small size. It showcases what precious diversity we still have and the many efforts that have been made to conserve it. Edited by four well known biologists from NUS (Darren Yeo, Kelvin Lim and Wang Luan Keng) and NTU (Shawn Lum), there are chapters by 19 scientists and naturalists, all are experts in their field, with a foreword by the Ambassador-At-Large, Professor Tommy Koh, one of the architects of the original Rio Convention. Aqs with the other books in the series, the many interesting facts inside are presented in a lively, easy-to-read fashion for the general public and students, and augmented with some 600 colour photographs.
One chapter is especially noteworthy—appropriately named ‘Taking Stock, Taking Care’. It highlights some of the surprises that have been discovered in recent years, including some fairly large animals. It also discusses some of the management issues and conflicts of conserving biodiversity faced by government agencies and local research organisations on a small and highly urbanised island, from monkeys to wild boars.
Another interesting chapter, appropriately titled ‘Jungle Grocery’, gives examples of various natural products from our forests—from the aphrodisiac Tongkat Ali to delicious durians. These showcase the importance of the rainforest as a vital store of medicine and food.
The chapter on ‘Night Life’ is an unusual one and for the first time features some of unique plants and animals that most people do not have a chance to see due to their nocturnal habits. It shows that the forest, far from sleeping, actually comes alive at night. Animals and plants treated range from luminous fungi to bats and owls.
Retailed at $22 for the paperback and $35 for the hardcover, this book and other titles of Private Lives is available at RMBR, NUS Co-cop, Nature’s Niche, Select Bookstore, and the Library Shop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Students, RMBR volunteers, NUS and ExxonMobil staff can purchase the books at 10% discount (available only at RMBR or through mail order at http://exxonmobil.rafflesmuseum.net/)
All proceeds from the sale of books will go towards more nature publications and biodiversity projects.
THE DIGITAL NATURE ARCHIVE (DNA) OF SINGAPORE
This website, known as DNA for short, is created to provide a free, searchable digital database of Singapore’s natural heritage, i.e., its flora, fauna and natural habitats.
Natural history research in Singapore started as early as the mid 19th century when the Raffles Museum was established, and took off when the University of Singapore was started in 1905. With more than 100 years of research in natural history, this database builds upon the mountains of theses, unpublished reports, and photos of the university professors and research students, past and present, and everyone else that had worked with them. The Raffles Museum wants all the information digitise and made available for everyone to use. This complements national efforts by the National Parks Board and the National Library Board to build up national inventories on biodiversity and biodiversity-related publications.
To date, DNA has achieved what we have set out to do three years ago and we receive inputs from all walks of life, from students, members of the public, to naturalists and scientists from the universities. We are glad to receive initial funding from the Care-For-Nature Trust Fund of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. RMBR maintains and update the database, with supports from the National Parks Board.