NParks discovers 40 potentially new species of animals in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

The new species discovered included a six-eyed spider with shiny, hardened and dark-coloured plates over the front part of its body. It has been named after the reserve - Paculla bukittimahensis.
The new species discovered included a six-eyed spider with shiny, hardened and dark-coloured plates over the front part of its body. It has been named after the reserve - Paculla bukittimahensis.PHOTO: JAMES W B KOH
President Halimah Yacob and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee at the Festival of Biodiversity launch at Toa Payoh HDB Hub Mall on May 25, 2019.
President Halimah Yacob and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee at the Festival of Biodiversity launch at Toa Payoh HDB Hub Mall on May 25, 2019.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The Festival of Biodiversity concludes Biodiversity Week, an annual public event organised by NParks that highlights community efforts to preserve Singapore’s natural heritage.
The Festival of Biodiversity concludes Biodiversity Week, an annual public event organised by NParks that highlights community efforts to preserve Singapore’s natural heritage.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The Festival of Biodiversity concludes Biodiversity Week, an annual public event organised by NParks that highlights community efforts to preserve Singapore’s natural heritage.
The Festival of Biodiversity concludes Biodiversity Week, an annual public event organised by NParks that highlights community efforts to preserve Singapore’s natural heritage.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - More than 40 potentially new species of animals have been found in Singapore following a multi-year survey of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the first such study in 20 years.

Between 2014 and 2018, researchers from the National Parks Board (NParks), together with other researchers and volunteers, found around 200 species of plants and animals previously not found in the reserve, including the 40 new ones.

NParks said in a statement on Saturday (May 25) that the discovery points to the "increasing scientific value" of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

"The findings from the survey contribute to the increasing scientific value of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and show that the reserve should continue to be safeguarded," said NParks.

"In spite of its small size, the reserve is home to a diverse array of biodiversity, with new species continually being discovered."

According to NParks, the 163 hectare reserve is home to 55 per cent of native plant species and 84 per cent of native amphibian species found here, even though it is only 0.23 per cent of Singapore's size.

The new species discovered included a six-eyed spider with shiny, hardened and dark-coloured plates over the front part of its body. It has been named after the reserve - Paculla bukittimahensis.

A rarely seen amphibian, the yellow-striped Caecilian, was also found in the reserve. The last time it was spotted in Singapore was 30 years ago.

 
 
 
 

Said NParks: "This record highlights the resilience of the species and indicates the sustainable condition of hill streams within the reserve."

The group director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre Lim Liang Jim said that the Reserve is home to 40 per cent of spider species, 84 per cent of amphibian species and 56 per cent of mammal species in Singapore.

"So this also shows how fragile biodiversity is in Singapore and how important it is to conserve the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve," he told The Straits Times.

According to NParks, the survey also showed that the closure of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from 2014 to 2016 allowed it to recover as erosion rates were lowered and soil compaction was reduced.

But while the discovery of the new animals is encouraging, NParks said that many of them were not found in large numbers, which reflects the fragility of the park and the need to "strengthen the conservation and resilience of the reserve".

One of the ways this is being done is through NPark's Forest Restoration Action Plan, which will see about 250,000 native trees and shrubs being planted in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Central Catchment Nature Reserves and other parks over the next 10 years.

More than 300 researchers and volunteers took part in the survey, which was supported by the HSBC through the Garden City Fund. It was the first comprehensive survey of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in 20 years.

The last survey was conducted from 1993 to 1997.

Said Mr Lim: "As the saying goes, we cannot conserve what we don't love, and we cannot love what we don't know.

"It is important therefore to conduct such surveys from time to time to basically understand what we do have insight and thereafter to plan for the conservation of their rare and sensitive habitats."

Meanwhile, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said on Saturday that NParks will use new technology like acoustic sensors to remotely monitor and detect animals in parks here.

It will also compile databases of the DNA of animal and plant species found in Singapore.

This way, NParks can use minute traces of DNA in the environment to detect the animals and plants, without coming into contact with them, added Mr Lee, who is also the Second Minister for National Development.

He made the announcement at the Festival of Biodiversity launch at Toa Payoh HDB Hub Mall. The festival concludes Biodiversity Week, an annual public event organised by NParks that highlights community efforts to preserve Singapore’s natural heritage.

The launch on Saturday was graced by President Halimah Yacob, who gave out prizes to the winners of the Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year competition.