Reviewed by Professor Leo Wee-Hin TAN, Director (Special Projects), Dean’s Office, Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore

The title on the cover of this “must read” book says it all. Where else in the equatorial tropics except in Rio de Janeiro, would you expect to find a rainforest in a city? Unlike Rio which  is a sprawling city with a vast hinterland, Singapore is city, province, country all rolled into a compact 720 square kilometres. Yet this highly urbanised metropolis boasts a rich biodiversity which we can all be proud of. Still, most of us have not been privy to the vast richness of nature in our midst  and hence oblivious to its worth, as we go about our daily lives. From the first picture on the cover (a colourful and rare spotted tree frog) to the last one on the back cover( the aerial tree top walk in the Central Catchment), the author surprises the reader with unique glimpses of and insight into the flora and fauna in our nature reserves.

It is significant to note that this book is the result of Chua Ee Kiam’s labour of love. Spending more than three years of his life chasing forest wildlife,(by day or night, in rain or sunshine, risking personal dangers) and capturing them in dramatic or sedate photographs, he has created in this book, a precious repository of knowledge, a connectivity with the natural environment and a visual feast of the beauty of nature.

There are many books on rainforests but this one is different.  It offers a kaleidoscope of the diversity of life present in an urbanised environment. Despite the competing demands for land and resources, nature still thrives and surprises us not only with new species (500 newly discovered in Singapore in the past decade of which 100 are new to science), but also reveals we have mammals ( eg banded leaf-monkey), snails (eg green tree snail), shrimps (eg  temasek shrimp), crabs (eg  Singapore freshwater crab) etc which are true blue Singaporeans found only on this island.  Indeed they are ours to treasure.

I found this book a fascinating read, made more captivating through the vivid and natural photographs, painstakingly taken mainly by the author and other nature photographers. The contributions of many researchers, NParks staff and volunteers add to the educational value of the publication.  I am sure  laypersons, researchers, teachers, students, visitors to our region and anyone interested in the biodiversity and natural history of the tropics would be equally enthralled as I am and would want a copy in their personal collections.  As an added bonus, the author has provided worksheets for both teachers and students, with permission for them to use 112 photographs in educational, non-profit settings. These are contained in a CD inserted in the book. 


 National Parks Board Singapore and the author deserve kudos for producing this comprehensive and inspiring volume that will surely spur more of us to love and help protect our fragile natural heritage.


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