Heroes Among Us: Discovering new species of animals in our backyard

Since 2009, Mr Tan Ming Kai has discovered over 60 species of orthopterans. Orthopteran is a group of insects that includes grasshoppers, crickets and katydids.
Since 2009, Mr Tan Ming Kai has discovered over 60 species of orthopterans. Orthopteran is a group of insects that includes grasshoppers, crickets and katydids. ST PHOTOS: SHAWN LEE MILLER
Thirty of the new species were found in Singapore. Mr Tan named one of them after his mother and another after his wife.
Thirty of the new species were found in Singapore. Mr Tan named one of them after his mother and another after his wife. ST PHOTOS: SHAWN LEE MILLER
Like Mr Tan, NPark’s conservation manager Noel Thomas is also on the constant lookout for new species of bats.
Like Mr Tan, NPark’s conservation manager Noel Thomas is also on the constant lookout for new species of bats.ST PHOTOS: SHAWN LEE MILLER

As a child, Mr Tan Ming Kai used to catch grasshoppers with his father.

But the 28-year-old has taken his childhood pastime to new heights.

Since 2009, he has discovered over 60 species of orthopterans. Orthopteran is a group of insects that includes grasshoppers, crickets and katydids.

Thirty of the new species were found in Singapore. Mr Tan named one of them after his mother and another after his wife.

He said that Singapore has a very small proportion of insect species left because of urbanisation.

“But at the same time, there are still many species… that have not been discovered.” said Mr Tan, who is a PhD student at the National University of Singapore.

Like Mr Tan, NPark’s conservation manager Noel Thomas is also on the constant lookout for new species of bats.

He said: “What not many people know is that Singapore… does sit in a biodiversity hot spot if you look at where it is globally.”

Learn more about how the two men discover new species of animals in Singapore in episode three of video series Heroes Among Us.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2018, with the headline 'Discovering new species of animals in our backyard'. Print Edition | Subscribe