Ordinary Singaporeans lead the green charge

The hottest new cause here is the environment, and various activities to save Mother Earth have spread like wildfire online
Shobana Kesava, Straits Times 16 Aug 08;

'Otterman' spreads the eco-message
POSSIBLY the country's first green blogger, Mr N. Sivasothi (above), 42, helped bring to public attention Pulau Ubin's Chek Jawa, which started the effort to save the wetlands from reclamation in 2001.

In the last decade, the ecology lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has trained hundreds of NUS students to be nature guides, as part of a commitment to share Singapore's natural heritage with its people.

To spread the message of eco-oriented goings-on here, the tech-savvy zoologist, who goes by the moniker Otterman, began sending out e-mail lists in 1998.

He set up webpages in 1999, and went on to upload digital shots in 2001 on his website, habitatnews.nus.edu.sg. Each step kept pace with the milestones of the Internet's evolution, he said.

His dedication proved useful to galvanising support for Ubin's Chek Jawa.

'One e-mail to NUS staff and another post on habitatnews and we saw several hundreds of people responding and turning up at Chek Jawa over two weekends.'

Today, besides giving talks, conducting guided tours and leading the Toddy Cats in their annual coordination of the International Coastal Clean-up Singapore (ICCS), he encourages students to blog about their discoveries in green, blue and brown - flora, marine life and trash-collecting, calling the few who do 'modern-day naturalists, putting out the news of tomorrow'.

The latest way to get started, he suggested, is 'mini-blogs' at posterous.com, where each e-mail is turned into a posting.

They watch over marine nurseries along the shores
TEAM SeaGrass - or TeamSG for short - is one of seven groups monitoring Singapore's shores.

It is led by Ms Siti Maryam Yaakub, 27, who is also a senior biodiversity officer with the National Parks Board.

They gather data on the meadows and submit it to international group Seagrass-Watch.

Ms Siti explained: 'Seagrasses are nurseries, protecting and helping to feed young sea stars, fish and prawn species.

'They form the connectors between reefs and mangroves.'

She'll take you for a walk on the wild side

MS RIA Tan, 47, founded www.WildSingapore.com seven years ago, and spends over three hours a day updating it with news and pictures from Singapore's best green websites.

She even goes as far as to ferry volunteers to offshore locations to help them protect Singapore's shores.

'It still surprises Singaporeans to hear their country does have wildlife, as much as it does the international marine experts who are amazed at the variety here,' she said during a recent 5am expedition to Cyrene Reef with Team SeaGrass.

That week's excursion was paid for by the National Parks Board, which supports the group.

The large reef, all 45ha (about 65 football fields) of which is exposed only at very low tides, sits between Pulau Bukom, Jurong Island and the mainland.

Learn about natural heritage from Crabs and Cats
THE Naked Hermit Crabs (NHC), Hantu bloggers and the Toddy Cats have the low-down on Singapore's natural heritage.

NHC (on a guided walk in Sentosa) and the Toddy Cats, affiliated to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the NUS, conduct public tours of areas threatened by urbanisation.

Toddy Cats (an affectionate name for the rare carnivorous forest dwellers, the palm civets) also coordinates the annual ICCS every September. It attracts about 3,000 volunteers each year.

The Hantu bloggers are avid divers. At Pulau Hantu, its 20 members explore and photograph the area, also playing underwater guides to 900 visitors every year.

They do so, its founder Ms Debby Ng, 26, said, 'because we know the history of the area and the issues that surround it, and that it may not be here for long'.

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