29 November 2008

At the launch of the Singapore Red Data Book

Today, the long awaited update to the Singapore Red Data book was launched. Fourteen years after the first edition, the event was much anticipated and a result of much effort by a large team of specialists and nature enthusiasts. As expected, the speakers gave much food for thought about the future of our biodiversity.

The posters at the launch featured some of our threatened species, terrestrial and marine.
Here's some of the intriguing marine life that are threatened, many of them I've not seen myself on our many field trips. Alas.The Book was eagerly perused even before the speakers came up. Here is Leshon, probably our youngest nature guide whom I finally got to meet personally! He blogs on the Central Nature Reserve volunteer blog.

Prof Tommy Koh, the Guest of Honour, started off with a thought-provoking speech about the roles of cities in conserving biodiversity. And the unique role of Singapore as the only city-state in leading in this area.

Dr Geoffrey Davison of the NParks Biodiversity Centre next spoke about Singapore's biodiversity starting from nearly 200 years ago, and gave some insights into the making of the Red Data Book.Apparently, there were many passionate discussions!He shared some facts about the team and the work they did.And a comparison of the first and second editions. He pointed out that changes were often a result of a much closer look at our biodiversity during this time.

This effort resulted in some happy surprises such as the rediscovery of the Harlequin Monitor Lizard.
The discovery of this Dipterocarp which was originally thought to be found only in Borneo.He shared some thoughts about how we might better conserve our amazing biodiversity.An ecosystem approach is critical.Besides the existing protected areas.....we also need to look after other areas.YAY! He mentions all my favourite shores including Cyrene Reef!!The Red Data Book has been invaluable to the work of those seeking to protect our biodiversity. And the second edition will continue to play this role.

Prof Peter Ng of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research gave his usual humourous look at his unique experience of being the part of both the first and second editions.He spoke of Prof Wee Yeow Chin's key role in initiating the first edition as well as many other conservation initiatives at a time when it wasn't yet fashionable to be conservation-minded.He shared some of the sad tasks that the earlier and current authors had to face in compiling the lists. Recording the animals lost.And likely to be lost.With some glimmers of hope with data of some rediscoveries.But many in dire straits.It's as he says, a long sad list.
Dr Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society (Singapore) next shared some thoughts about how we can raise awareness about our biodiversity.Besides specialist and government action, it was also important for ordinary people to feel for our biodiversity. Shawn then spoke about Pokemon!and a study which looked into young children's ability to identify and understand species.The study showed that children do have a remarkable ability to understand biodiversity.But alas, they knew more about Pokemon biodiversity than their own natural heritage.How about Ecomon as the way ahead for conservation?

The launch was also an opportunity to honour Prof Wee Yeow Chin for many contributions to conservation.The audience gave a hearty standing ovation to Prof Wee. Who is no slouch and is the man behind the hugely successful Bird Ecology Study Group blog. And I noticed he had fired off a blog entry at 1.35pm just before the 2pm launch. The second one for today! Amazing!After the ceremonies, photos were taken of the team who made the book possible, and everyone spent lots of time catching up with one another after the talks.

When I got home, I took a closer look at the new and old books.The new one has a leopard cat on the cover. Below the two red books is my other bible, "A first look at biodiversity in Singapore" written by Prof Wee Yeow Chin and Prof Peter Ng, with a foreword by Prof Tommy Koh.

The second edition has colour photos!And some animals that didn't have a photo in the first edition...Now has photos!There are sadly, many marine animals in the book. The most intriguing one must be the basket star...Where to get your copy of the new Singapore Red Data book:
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