island ecology

Over the weekend at the Natural Sciences shelves of Kinokuniya, I chanced upon over thirty titles of pocket-sized guides published by the Singapore Science Centre from the late 80s- 90s on various aspects of plant and animal life on this island.

Unable to resist, I bought A Guide to the Threatened Animals of Singapore (1st published 1995, reprinted 1998) edited by Peter Ng and A Guide to the Wayside Trees of Singapore (1st published 1989, various reprints since) written by Wee Yeow Chin. They've both been hard to put down.

Imagine these storied names...the Missing Marvelous Katydid, the Silver Forget-Me-Not, the Saint Andrew's Cross Toadlet. Or consider the sad gaze of this stuffed Banded Leaf Monkey at the NUS Raffles Biodiversity Museum, supposedly one of two subspecies of mammals found only here (image from WildSingapore.

Novelty aside, that most of the pages were on threatened reef and mangrove creatures made real for me this city's identity as an island - a reality we exploit through reclamation, and in this way, an identity that we inadvertently erase and rewrite.

That we are in the tropics (damn the humidity and heat!) gives rise to this great sentence in the guide on wayside trees- "Nearly all trees planted in Singapore develop flowers eventually" (italics mine). In the same way, the "garden city" vision would almost appear like destiny if it was not a determined, well-planned outdoing of Raffles and his friend Farquhar, those colonial enlightenment botanists.

For a complete title list, see this. They are also available at Kinokuniya, Select Books Popular Bookstore and public libraries.


Hey I bought "A Guide to the Wayside Trees of Singapore" many many years ago, when I was in Primary School!!!!! =]
ampulets said…
wah, starting young! :>

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