BOOK REVIEW
Rainforest in a City (Author - Chua Ee Kiam, February 2015)

By Professor Peter Ng, Department of Biological Science, National University of Singapore & Head of Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

 

This new book by award winning photographer and author Chua Ee Kiam is the second commissioned by Singapore’s National Parks Board. And like the first book that featured Sungei Buloh’s wonderful mangrove habitats, this new one showcases the biodiversity in the inland forests of Singapore.

 

Singapore is a city state, and for years, has prided itself on its lush greenery. From just having gardens, it is now touting itself as a city garden state, with a rich biodiversity to boot. For most developed cities, it is an almost impossible task; especially considering what the island has already lost - 95% of the original forest has been cut down over the last 150 years. The continuous forest loss, habitat destruction and killing has resulted in the loss of an estimated 40-60% of the plant, fish, bird and mammal species. But as Ee Kiam’s book so admirably demonstrates in this book, what has survived and/or come back, still blows our mind. Over the 10 chapters and 188 pages of the book (all in full colour) (even including a CD), he and and his fellow photographers have captured the surprising biodiversity that still dwells in our national parks. The book is a testament to Nature’s resilience, and the importance of positive mitigation and proactive management by the responsible authorities over the last 25 years. And it is not a book just about beautiful bird, butterflies and flowers – it also does full justice to the myriad of other plants and animals that live on the island.

 

The photographs capture the “life-force” of all the organisms featured - even the dull-coloured. All look “exciting”! One chapter is worth highlighting – “True Blue Singapore – the Singaporeans we never knew” – treating the many plants and animals that are unique to Singapore and/or have lived here eons before man came to the picture. Including, sadly, extinct ones like the Red-naped Trogon, Green Broadbill, Red Giant Flying Squirrel and Malayan Tiger. The mix of vibrant living and tragic dead is poignant. As with coffee-table books of this type, the text is crisp and short, but it is enough to get the message across. There is no doubt that the “core” of the book is the splendid photography. All in all, this wonderful book is another labour of love from a passionate naturalist.

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