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  wild people: Bee Choo and Morten

Bee Choo and Morten: what a wonderful couple! Individually they have each done so much for nature in Singapore. Together, they are a formidable team :-)

They have each been so supportive of my little efforts, and I'm sure of others' too.
They run Nature's Niche, an awesome establishment that houses under one roof, the best selection of nature books and other nature items. Here is my little mms tour of their delightful shop.
One of my life missions is to duplicate their collection in my personal library :-) This also gives me an excuse to regularly visit, and chat and meet up with them.

Bee Choo and Morten are always happy to share their love and joy for nature. Despite their enormously busy schedules, they both contribute regularly to articles and talks, and are often quietly working behind the scenes for major nature events in Singapore. Morten often leads birdwatching trips with the Nature Society (Singapore) which you must try to join. And you will often bump into Bee Choo on nature trips.

Here's more about Bee Choo and Morten in their own words...

How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
Morten: In 1986 I resigned from my job as a petroleum engineer, and instead of repatriating I stayed back in Singapore to work with nature conservation.

I set up a business, Flying Colours Photography to promote birds, birdwatching and general nature appreciation. It seems like a lifetime ago; well, it almost is, I guess!

I have been in nature documentation, promotion and marketing ever since. For a while for an NGO (BirdLife International) but mainly I have tried to contribute to the economy by making a business of it.

Bee Choo: I am a kampong girl at heart. Used to hang out at my aunt kampong house during the school holidays when I was young (many moons ago) and cried when I had to return to my parents' HDB flat. Collected some birds stamps when I was a teenager and finally joined Malayan Nature Society in 1987.

I was Nature Society (Singapore) bird group secretary for 6 years until 1996 when I quit to concentrate on my nature shop in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve...Nature's Niche.

Started the shop in 1995 as I grew tired of engineering and felt that Singapore lacks a specialise shop on nature books and souvenirs. I am happy to see that many more nature publications of Singapore are now available.

What do you get out of working for nature?
Morten: Nature work is the only thing I can do now, the only thing I know how, so I don't really have a choice. It is just my life, so I don't really think about it. I am lucky, I guess that I can do this full time. Some people work to destroy nature, but in fact they hate it, it is just the only thing that pays ... there is something wrong with that, I think! I believe in the power of the consumer and the business community to change things around.

Bee Choo: I am very happy to work for nature. I run a business promoting nature. Nature is everywhere and fragile. It is my hope that more people appreciates nature and thus help to conserve it. Humans are very destructive. If only they are aware of the consequences of their actions. Extinction is forever!

What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
Morten: Be the best you can be ..???? No, seriously ... something like that! EVERYONE can make a difference, history has shown us that much time and again. It really matters what YOU do. I think most of all that you have to work with integrity. If you screw up, it doesn't matter so much, you can fix it and learn, improve and get on with it. If you are dishonest it will haunt you forever!

Bee Choo: Seeing, Knowing, Loving....getting people started on it...hence the shop "Nature's Niche"

What are some of your current projects?
Morten: I love birds, and I feel that after 45 years of watching them that I know a bit about them. However, I also enjoy other lifeforms, I just think that Nature is a fascinating web, there more you learn, the more you realize that there is to find out. I don't do so much photography these days. However, I appear to be the only Singapore based bird photographer who has really made in impact internationally. This way I have also helped put the region on the global eco map in a small way. These days I just as much enjoy promoting, packaging and marketing other Asian based nature people's products. The possibilities in this field are endless!

Paradoxically for a nature lover at the moment I don't actually spend that much time in nature! I sell nature documentation, that is really what I do ... I loved the many years I did all my field work, and one day I will do more again. Occationally I fall back on my old role in the NGO world and lead a bird walk for NSS or write an article (FOC!) for one of the birding magazines.

Bee Choo: Producing various nature materials especially of this region which is still very limited. We are working slowly on it as we have limited funds.

At the moment looking after my 2-year old son takes up a lot of my time and I don't have much spare time. I used to do a lot of nature guiding...temporarily out of action. We promote nature in our shop and talk to people who ask us about nature. Also find a bit of time to bring some friends out on nature walk/ overseas nature trips. I enjoyed my years (in 1990s) helping NParks and NSS in field surveys.

More about your daytime job?
Morten: I work as marketing manager for Nature's Niche. We sell books, nature souvenirs and optics through our shop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre. We also do publishing projects and wholesale distribution through another company we have just set up, Draco Publishing and Distribution Pte. Ltd.

Drop by the Botanic Garden Shop and ask for me anytime, I enjoy meeting new nature people!

Ng Bee Choo is 39 and Managing Director of Nature Niche.

Morten Strange is 52 and Marketing Manager of Nature's Niche. He is father of four bright and handsome boys aged 2-16 whom he says "are the sunshine of my life!"

And today (14 Aug) I managed to snatch this mms upload of
cute baby Mark with proud dad Morten!

More on how YOU can make a difference too...

Posted by otterman Posted on 13/08/04 14:26
One of the joys of this field are the many pleasant and warm hearted people you meet and Bee Choo and Morten are two excellent examples.

Bee Choo has always surprised me her idealism, which I respond to with unmerciful teasing. But she puts words into action and apart from her NSS Bird Group work, she organised the Nature Society (Singapore)'s first Nature Day (in 1998 I think, with Ilsa) and the 1997 Biodiversity Workshop (with Luan Keng and Shawn) which I learnt a lot from. Over the years she kept the flame alive for a second session whenever we talked and in 2003, with a lot of help from others, we got to enjoy 30 speakers and some 200 participants at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium 2003! The webpage and pictures are at http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/biodiversitysymposium/

I first talked to Morten when I was hunting down pictures of otters and he passed me a slide of a Small-clawed otter crossing the rod in Southern Johor. He was forthcoming and generous with his information which was very encouraging to a young student. Students interested in birds or the NGO experience shoud invite him for a cup of tea the gardens and tap his natiralust experience. Sensible and objective about issues, I have tapped his brain on occasion about conservation issues.

Nature's Niche has been incredibly useful to us and an important showcase of how businesses can contribute to and support nature. It's added delight is bumping into Bee Choo or Morten!

Posted by grayowl Posted on 14/08/04 23:02
Hi Otterman, I cannot agree more. I learnt much about birdwatching from Bee Choo and Morten. Not only through the walks organised by Nature Society, Singapore, but also going recceing in the forests of Fraser's Hill! And of course, I am also trying to compete with Ria to replicate Nature's Niche's "library" of books. (^^)

Posted by greenEd Posted on 15/08/04 17:31
Yes. So glad to have both of them filling the nature book niche! one never gets tired of browsing through all those wonderful books in their shop!

these blog entries were first uploaded on MoBlog Singapore! Celebrate Singapore NDP 04
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