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The Straits Times 9 Aug 05
Inside Track: Flora and Fauna

Nature's rescuers: people who protect our wild places
Living sanctuary: Nee Soon Swamp, Pulau Tekong
Garden of Eden: Tree Top Walk
Green peace: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Waterfront developments: Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin
Coral islands: Southern Islands
Swamp things: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Coast guard: Labrador Park
I pick my battles: interview with Prof Peter Ng
Singapore namesakes: plants and animals named after Singapore

Warning, venture at your own risk
YOU'RE more likely to get hit by a car than attacked by a wild animal in Singapore. But it could happen. We present the how-not-to-get-yourself-killed/maimed/ poisioned guide to enjoying the outdoors here:

  • Look, don't touch. Those fluffy monkeys can deliver a nasty bite. And don't feed them. They have enough to forage for in the forest, and giving them a snack just encourages them to come up and snatch your own lunch.
  • Don't stray off the footpath. You could get lost. And plants are not harmless. A brush against the sappy Rengas leaf could cause severe rashes and swelling, landing you in hospital. Plus stepping on tree roots could damage and even kill the trees.
  • Walk carefully. Sharp backward-pointing barbs from overhanging leaves can snag clothing and scratch skin.
  • Resist the temptation to taste those clusters of pretty berries. Take the advice of birds and monkeys. If they have left them alone, you should too.
  • Let sleeping snakes lie. They are unlikely to bite you, unless caught by surprise or if they're about to be stepped on. (Another reason to keep to the footpath.)
  • Don't wear slippers in muddy areas such as Chek Jawa, unless you want to walk home barefoot, or get stung or cut by the well camouflaged creatures. Rubber booties are also less likely to get stuck.
  • The sea holds the most venomous creatures on earth. The more brightly coloured or distinctively marked they are, the more likely they are warning you to keep away.
  • Wade with care. Some of the creatures to look out for include the feathery Hydroids; brushing against them is like being stung with needles. The well-camouflaged Stonefish, often found in shallows, has venom that causes such intense pain, it can cripple a man.
  • Not everything can be consumed. The patterned Mosaic Crab, for example, is one of the most poisonous inhabitants of Singapore's reefs. Its tissue contains a powerful nerve poison, and cooking it won't help.
  • Illicit shell collectors should note that some species have spearguns tipped with poison arrows which they use to paralyse prey. Some can kill.
  • Even innocent looking corals are extremely sharp and can deliver cuts if brushed against.

Related articles on Singapore's biodiversity and Wild shores of Singapore
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