A very good afternoon to all of you. I am very happy to see so many people respond to this occasion, and on behalf of Singapore, a warm welcome to the UN Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall. I am sure all of you are excited to hear Dr Goodall speak, so let me keep my opening remarks brief.
It is indeed a privilege to welcome Dr Jane Goodall back to the city-state of Singapore. She last visited us in 2015, and there I had the privilege also to meet her, at the Roots & Shoots event. This time, her visit marks the 10th Anniversary of the formation of the Singapore chapter of the Jane Goodall Institute, otherwise referred to as JGIS.
In the past decade, the Institute has helped to increase local awareness about living in harmony with wildlife in our city. It has been a strong advocate of caring for our natural environment, and one of the public outreach activities introduced by JGIS is the bi-monthly monkey walks at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve � where we allow the macaques to look at us. Working together with NParks, this important initiative allows members of the public to have a better appreciation of what to do when encountering long-tailed macaques. I am very happy to note that the JGIS will be picking a third location for this walk, and it will be at the Lower Pierce Reservoir Park.
All these efforts by JGIS are thanks in no small part to the inspirational work of Dr Goodall and her vision. She strives to inspire individual action by people of all ages to protect the world we all share, and to spread the message of conservation and care for our environment. Thank you Dr Goodall - your work in research and public education has inspired many around the world, including here in Singapore. I understand also that JGIS has many enthusiastic volunteers, and all of you worked very hard behind the scenes to put together today's event. So please join me for a round of applause to all the JGIS volunteers!
Creating a Biophilic City
To casual observers who have not visited the island of Singapore, to them Singapore is a small urbanised city-state. Where over a quarter of our current land area was reclaimed from the sea. We are one of the most densely-populated countries in the world. At just half the size of the city of Los Angeles, we have to locate everything within our city boundaries, everything that a sovereign nation requires � including our airport, sea port, power plants, incineration plants, and military training ground, and everything else.
So external observers may wonder about the relevance of Dr Goodall's message to Singapore. Until they come and see greenery and nature infused and integrated into our urban landscape. An incredibly difficult task, something that we have to keep doing and watching over. Our green spaces are right next door to where many of us live, work and play. In many countries the nature reserves are haloed spaces, often an hour's drive or more away from the city. But in Singapore, our nature reserves are in the heart of the city surrounded by the urban scape around us.
But these green spaces do not just belong to us. Many of our parks and nature reserves are home to many native plants and wildlife, and the waters that surround our island are also home to many marine animals and plants.For example, we have close to 400 bird species in our city, more than the number found in some larger countries, and in some of the busiest waters in the world, we also have more than 250 different species of hard corals, that is almost one-third of all the species found in the world.
We must not take this for granted. Around the world, wildlife has been lost due to urban sprawl and the rapid pace of development, resulting in the loss of many natural habitats. More than just being a City in a Garden, we need to be a biophilic city. But what is a biophilic city? It is not just about having nature and biodiversity, it is about how we can co-exist and live with nature, and play our part to be good stewards and custodians of our wildlife and nature. So how can we make Singapore a truly biophilic City in a Garden?
Our Nature Conservation Masterplan
NParks, together with its movement of green volunteers, has enhanced our greenery and put in strategies to protect our wildlife. In 2015, we announced the national Nature Conservation Masterplan to guide biodiversity conservation for the next five years. And after every five years, we will review, take stock, adjust and move on. In the last few years we have developed green buffers to protect our nature reserves. So instead of having housing and buildings right up alongside nature reserve, we take land and build buffers around them. People can visit, have recreational activities, take some pressure off the nature reserves, while also protecting the nature reserves for the desecrating effects of the urban scape. We've expanded our park connector network, as well as identified an additional 48 nationally threatened species for species recovery efforts this year.
But it is not enough to just have green infrastructure and proper planning in place. It requires the coordinated effort and involvement of all stakeholders. Government agencies, environmental conservation groups, and most importantly, all of us in the community. That is why public education is one of the key thrusts of the Conservation Masterplan. We have to get more people involved to understand why our biodiversity is important, what we can do to protect it, and how we can live in harmony with wildlife.
Human-wildlife interactions and conflicts
But living so close to nature can also be challenging. Not just in Singapore but other cities around the world. As we enhance natural habitats and undertake species recovery work, human-wildlife interaction and conflict is inevitable. In the last year alone, we have seen examples of residents affected by wildlife which they see as encroaching into their living space. For example, a wild monkey at one of our housing estates went into the homes in the area, and residents didn't know how to react. We also had a herd of wild boars recently seen at a bus terminal, and many of you would have received it via social media.
While some people delight in observing wildlife in their natural habitats, not everyone is comfortable being so close to nature, and there will even be some people who do not like it at all. We may not be able to get everyone on board, but judging by the overwhelming response that Dr Goodall's talk has today, I am hopeful that many of you want to have a say, and play an active part.
At the same time, we must also remember that these are wild animals and not domesticated, and some of our actions � for example, if we feed or intimidate them, may also alter the natural behaviour of these animals by making them dependent on human food. They are our neighbours and we must also be mindful of their needs. Beyond just letting them find their own balance, it will require a whole-of-community approach towards animal management.
Multi-pronged approach to animal management
We are still learning � as a society and a nation of 52 years, and through these human-wildlife interactions and conflicts, there are learning points for us. We cannot just look at incidents and examples as isolated cases, we need to tackle these issues holistically and gather data and use science.
Moving forward, we have to take a closer look at how we can live in harmony with wildlife. If not, Singapore may go the way of other cities and end up being a soulless jungles of concrete, glass and steel. We have to engage our younger generations so that they will also appreciate nature, inculcate in them the same green DNA to conserve our greenery and live in harmony with the animals living in them.
NParks works with many schools and corporations, to educate and advise people on how to interact with wildlife in a safe manner, and the do's and don'ts when in our nature parks and reserves. NParks' Community in Nature programmes also offer guided walks and volunteer opportunities for members of the public to get up close and personal with nature � in a respectful way.
We are a City in a Garden, and this is something unique that we should be proud of and treasure. To succeed, our conservation approach in our city-state needs to be quite different from that in bigger countries � proactively biophilic, community-based and grounded in science. I believe all of us will be inspired by Dr Jane Goodall and her treasure of life experiences, and do your part to protect our nature. You can start by taking small steps, by going out with your friends and families, visit our parks and nature reserves, and explore and enjoy our plants and animals for yourselves. And as the theme of today's talk suggests � we can all be One Nature, Together. I wish you all an early Happy National Day in advance, and a Happy Natural Day! Thank you!
Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore