Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai dies at 56

The death of conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai sparked an outpouring of grief from the public and the nature community yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The death of conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai sparked an outpouring of grief from the public and the nature community yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Well-known conservationist and wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai died yesterday at the age of 56.

His wife Shamla Subaraj posted about his death on Facebook yesterday afternoon, sparking an outpouring of grief from the public and the nature community.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, said he was deeply saddened by Mr Subaraj's passing.

Mr Lee paid tribute to the nature pioneer, saying that for more than 35 years, Mr Subaraj had worked tirelessly towards the conservation of Singapore's natural heritage.

"If you happened to bump into Subaraj in the forest, where he was often found, he would point out a bird that was hidden from view from everyone else except him," said Mr Lee. "That was his magic, his intimate understanding and his beautiful connection with nature. With his passing, we will greatly miss that magic," Mr Lee wrote.

Herpetological Society of Singapore co-founder Sankar Ananthanarayanan said: "Uncle Sub was a mentor, friend, and an inspiration. He made a big impact on how I see conservation work and environmental advocacy. Walking through the forests with him was like walking with one of the trees. Thank you Uncle Sub. We will miss you deeply."

Mr Subaraj leaves behind his wife and two sons Serin and Saker, whom he named after two bird species. The Straits Times understands that members of the nature community plan to turn up in green at the Mandai crematorium for his final send-off today.

In an interview with ST last month, Mr Subaraj said he considered it his duty to speak up for nature.

In his younger days, he walked away from completing his degree in zoology after a teacher asked him to dissect a live frog.

 
 

More recently, he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the developer of the Mandai nature precinct, following a spate of roadkills found in Mandai Lake Road after works started.

National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi said Mr Subaraj had voluminous knowledge about nature which he used in the struggle between development and conservation.

"He was always available to talk to people, whether it was a school group or public education event," said Mr Sivasothi. "I enjoyed going for nature events because I knew he would be there. He would always welcome you with his broad smile and bandana, and ask how you are. And then, we would talk about things that had to be done."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline 'Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai dies at 56'. Print Edition | Subscribe