Among Singapore’s many claims to fame is its cleanliness and determination to keep the country as green as possible. Though the country is highly urbanised, it is rich in biodiversity, with a large variety of animal and plant species calling the island home.
These species can be found in their natural habitats such as rainforests, mangroves and coral ecosystems, not at all at odds with the human population. Lying within one to two degrees of the Equator, the tropical climate accommodates many ecosystems within a small area.
These ecosystems support a recorded total of more than 390 species of birds and at least 2,100 native vascular plants.
ENSURING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
In the past 40 years, considerable biodiversity has been lost around the world. Some 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife has drastically declined and it is expected to dwindle further – projected to hit 67 per cent in 2020, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report in 2018.
In Singapore itself, local flora and fauna have been affected by the expansion of social infrastructure. The Raffles' banded langurs for example, are now on the critically endangered list, with 60 of the primates thought to be left in Singapore. In an effort between the National University of Singapore and researchers in the UK, it was also found that 132 species of butterflies were now locally extinct in Singapore. Another 104 species are reported to have likely gone extinct even before discovery.
Habitat destruction and over-exploitation of the Earth's natural resources are primary causes for this loss of nature. This is worrying because a stable ecosystem depends on various factors and each organism in it plays an important part. We are all inter-dependent beings.
For instance, insects function as important pollinators, enabling us to grow crops for food; birds act as seed dispersal agents, ensuring the continuity of plant life; mangroves serve as nurseries for fish, shellfish and many of our marine organisms; and coral reefs harbour several of our favourite seafood.
Simply put, a wide variety of species will cope better with threats than a limited number of them in large populations. And so, biodiversity is the key indicator of the health of an ecosystem.
PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY IN SINGAPORE
As part of Singapore’s Nature Conservation Masterplan, the National Parks Board (NParks) has initiatives to conserve natural habitats and promote species recovery. In 2019, NParks committed itself to planting more than 250,000 native trees and shrubs in the nature parks and open areas within the nature reserves over the next 10 years.
It will also implement species recovery plans for 50 plant and 10 animal species belonging to the rare and threatened varieties by 2023.
More than that, it is looking at enhancing the human relationship with nature – also known as biophilia. In recent years, specific greening initiatives such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) 2.0 Programme and the National Parks’ Skyrise Greenery scheme have helped to intensify the integration of greenery with our high-density developments.
Examples of these green buildings include Jewel Changi Airport and Parkroyal on Pickering. Singapore’s park connector network has also grown over the years to over 300km and will be increased to 500km by 2030.
DOING OUR PART
Education is a big lever in the race to protect and enhance Singapore’s biodiversity. A well-received initiative was the MSIG Biodiversity Trail launched in August 2019 by MSIG Insurance, in collaboration with WWF Singapore and running app District Race.
Set in the Botanic Gardens, Singapore’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the MSIG Biodiversity Trail allowed participants to use the app as a guide and interact with different virtual checkpoints and challenges that pop up on the app. Users who checked in could learn fun biodiversity facts related to the Botanic Gardens while walking around.
The experience was not just a fun activity for families and outdoor enthusiasts but an important step in raising awareness for the importance of Singapore’s biodiversity. Since the trail's launch till its closure at the end of March 2020, participants have completed over 690 trail sessions and covered more than 2,300km in total. Over 6,030 biodiversity challenges have also been completed.
The goal, of course, is awareness and with the knowledge of the importance of biodiversity and the need to preserve it, users will be able to kick start their own journey of helping to sustain Singapore’s valuable resources. Following the success of the first MSIG Biodiversity Trail, the company is looking to launch new trails in the future.
The MSIG Biodiversity Trail in Singapore is just one of a cohesive set of initiatives that has been rolled out across Asia by MSIG in an attempt to raise awareness of the importance of protecting Mother Nature’s biodiversity for a sustainable future.
From the comprehensive greening of company headquarters in the Surugadai Building in Tokyo, Japan, to the replanting of mangroves in Rayong and Chanthaburi in Thailand, the company aims to do its part in protecting biodiversity, not just for the future of the planet, but for ourselves and the generations to come.
To read about MSIG's campaign in Indonesia, click here.