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Feature

Rare animals found in forests around NTU

The secondary forests around NTU are home to some of the region’s most endangered fauna, as Peter Yeo discovers

PHOTO: LAU HUI XING

The next time you’re strolling in NTU, stop and listen. That melodious bird song emanating from the forest could be from the endangered Straw-headed Bulbul. Once found all over Southeast Asia, the forest songbird is highly prized in the cage bird trade and has been hunted for its sweet songs.

Nature experts say the forests adjacent to NTU are home to other locally endangered fauna such as the Sunda Pangolin, Leopard Cat, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Red-wattled Lapwing, Changeable Hawk-eagle and Wild Boar.

“Because these forests are off-limits to the public, the animals have a safe refuge. NTU is located next to forests with amazing biodiversity and NTU can do much to raise awareness of these species,” says conservationist Dr Norman Lim from NTU’s National Institute of Education.

NTU students like biological sciences major Gina Goh and environmental sciences undergrad Chua Kai Ting have been doing their part. Gina heads an initiative to record animal sightings in NTU and shares them via the Facebook page, Campus Creatures. Kai Ting leads volunteers to monitor the Straw-headed Bulbul and other birds and butterflies in the university.

Ecology and forest expert Dr Shawn Lum from the Asian School of the Environment, who also heads the Nature Society (Singapore), says: “Not many institutions in the world, let alone universities, find themselves at the frontlines of the protection of globally critically endangered species at their doorstep. NTU can be an important player in the protection of these peaceful and amazing creatures if we are committed as a community to look after them.”

He adds: “The rich wildlife in and around our campus is a unique aspect of NTU life that should be something for us to rally around and be proud of.”

Three threatened species in our backyard

Sunda Pangolin

PHOTO: NParks

The Sunda Pangolin is the only mammal to be covered in scales. This vulnerable armoured mammal is the most relentlessly poached animal in the world. Young pangolins ride on their mother’s (coat) tails. Cute!

Straw-headed Bulbul

PHOTO: NParks

Less than 2,500 birds thought to be left in the wild. They often sing in duets with each bird contributing parts in harmony for a richer song.

Wild Boar

PHOTO: EILEEN TAN

Wild boars are surprisingly good swimmers and it has been suggested that their rise in numbers in Singapore could be due to populations swimming here from nearby islands and even Malaysia. Wild piglets are speckled and look like fast-moving watermelons. Boars are very protective of their piglets, so observe them from afar and do not feed them.