With the September school holidays under way, agencies and green groups have lined up a slew of environmental events to help students and their families better appreciate nature in Singapore.
From nature talks to craft sessions where participants can learn how to make clay sculptures of animals such as snakes and crabs, and guided coastal and nature reserve walks, there is a growing movement to expose people to more than just skyscrapers and malls.
"Many people do not know of the biodiversity that is present in their own backyard," said the Herpetological Society of Singapore's Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 20. The life sciences undergraduate from the National University of Singapore is a co-founder of the group of reptile and amphibian enthusiasts.
"We want to show people the herp (reptiles and amphibians) diversity that Singapore has in its nature reserves, dispel any misconceptions and answer questions people may have about herps," he added.
The society is organising the first of its free guided walks at Lower Peirce Reservoir on Sunday.
ENLARGING TARGET GROUP
If activities like games and movies are taken to other spaces... they may be able to capture a larger audience that might want to try out new things.
JC STUDENT TEO MIN RU
He said: "Lower Peirce Reservoir is very accessible, just a stone's throw from Upper Thomson Road, but many people do not know the history or the presence of animal and plant life in the area. We want the people of Singapore to be aware and proud of local biodiversity."
For instance, people can expect to see the clouded monitor lizard, black bearded gliding lizard and, if lucky, the gold ringed cat snake.
The 20 places on this weekend's walk have already been snapped up, but the society said it will be conducting more excursions.
The National Parks Board (NParks) is also expecting more people to take part in its activities this school holiday week.
A number of its programmes - including a nature and drama event tomorrow and a talk on Saturday on cold-blooded animals like reptiles and fish - have already been fully subscribed.
"We have lined up a whole range of activities at our parks, gardens and nature reserves during the September holidays for families to learn more about our biodiversity," said NParks' director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah.
Such programmes - also held during the March, June and December school holidays - aim to raise awareness and appreciation of nature as well as encourage the conservation of Singapore's natural heritage.
Last year, NParks ran holiday programmes for about 1,200 participants and expects more this year. "New guided tours and workshops are designed and added to our suite of activities every year," said Mr Wong. They include the Wow Wild West series celebrating wildlife at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
For nature group Naked Hermit Crabs, which has been conducting free guided walks since 2007, such activities can help raise awareness about local threatened habitats.
"Having lost over 50 per cent of our natural coastline and shores over half a decade, we conduct such walks to raise awareness of our shores which are in danger," said Ms Sumita Thiagarajan, who guides tours to Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin. "We guide at Chek Jawa as the ecosystem is unique and it is the only place in Singapore where you can find six different environments in one area: coastal forest, coral rubble, sandbar, seagrass lagoon, mangroves and rocky shore. Through these walks, we hope more people will appreciate what our shores have to offer, and they will want to protect our shores."
Junior college student Teo Min Ru, 18, said the range and quality of the activities on offer are good, although they tend to reach out to groups already interested in nature.
"If nature walks are publicised on NParks' platforms and websites of nature groups, the followers are likely to be people already interested in such events, which I feel leaves out a large group of people.
"If activities like games and movies are taken to other spaces, like schools and community libraries, they may be able to capture a larger audience that might want to try out new things."
Details of future Herpetological Society walks will be posted on herpsocsg.wordpress.com.
To sign up for NParks events visit: www.nparks.gov.sg/