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  wild people: Jacqueline

I first met Jac when I joined Sungei Buloh as a guide. She was the more senior guide having guided there for a lot longer than me. I was deeply impressed by her knowledge, her dedication and quiet passion for her work.

We eventually spent many happy hours at Buloh, Jac, Tania and friends. Often after our separate guiding trips, we would meet up to spend another six hours or so exploring this wonderful Reserve. Those were happy carefree days.

Our paths eventually parted but still ran parallel and occasionally crossed. Jac can always be counted to be close to nature, spending as much of her time in or working for our wild places.

I remain deeply impressed by Jac. I think how I have wasted my youth and discovered nature only so late. In many ways, Jac is still the senior guide to me. Jac is indeed an inspiration to others, young and not so young.

Here is more about Jac in her own words ...

How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
I remember that my younger days were spent in little patches of green areas with a net and container in hand, catching butterflies, grasshoppers and caterpillars, and facing my mom who'll scream at me to get those filthy creatures out of the house. I have no idea how I came to be interested in animals, including what most people call the 'creepy crawlies'... the interest was there right from the start.

During a sec 2 geography project, I did something on Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. I found out that they had a volunteer scheme, and there were no any age restrictions like the "aged 21 and above" required of the zoo volunteers! Not really realising what I was getting myself into, I signed up and went for my first training session together with Tania my good friend. I was initially hesitant to continue when I learnt that nature guiding for the public was somewhat expected of Buloh volunteers... indeed that is the main thing they do, but I crossed my fingers and decided to give it a go.

I have not regretted since! It was one of the greatest things I did in my life. It is a great joy... being able to spread this love of nature to so many others. From there, I came to know people, outgoing nature freaks all (well, very nearly all), influential and knowledgable in their own unique fields. It is also thanks to them that, slowly and steadily, I found myself being involved in an array of different projects and nature and environmental organisations.

What do you get out of working for nature?
Inner peace. Sounds like deep stuff, but it isn't really. It's more like enjoyment, coupled with an immense sense of satisfaction that you have done something 'good'. You simply feel good. When a friend, for example, tells me that she has started paying more attention to the squirrels in the park, or when people say to me, "Really?! We have THAT in Singapore?", I grin to myself knowing people are now more aware. Awareness is the key...

What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
There's always something new. Encountering a new species which you've never seen before while out in the field, new experiences, new people, new projects, new strategies, new proposals, new sensations. When I deal with people, I also like to remind myself that... age is never a setback. So what if I'm young? I believe that the youth have great potential to do great things.

What are some of your current projects?
I've been an active volunteer with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for many years, and in the past few years while studying overseas, I've always made it a point to do a few guiding or conservation work sessions at the Reserve whenever I'm back in Singapore during my holidays.

Occasionally, I help out at the Singapore Environment Council or with Green Volunteers Network.

Besides those, and helping to slowly develop the Asia-Pacific Youth Environmental Network (APYEN) and maintain its website, I am about to embark on a project with Siva of Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research to build an online educational database of exotic and alien species of Singapore. This was prompted by the Vesak Day practice of releasing animals into the wild with little regard for the impact that this action would have on the local ecosystems. Hopefully this would bring about some positive changes among the general public in dealing with the careless release of unwanted pets as well.

Among the more personal projects... I am trying to get as many of my friends as possible to visit the wild places in Singapore... in an attempt to 'spread the magic'. Get them to feel nature.

I also try to do this through nature photography. I have been inspired by the powerful works of the 'expert' nature photographers, and am convinced that I (and others), too, can strive to achieve what they have achieved. Additionally, I feel that I've an obligation to protect the in-house resident geckoes from the wrath of my mom and her dreaded insecticide spray. ;)

Jac has a website of wonderful nature photos and a fascinating blog called Dogged Wanderings.
The APYEN website is her 'pet' project

Jac is 19 and currently an ecology undergrad at Imperial College London. She volunteers as a guide at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and also volunteers at the Green Volunteer Network; the Raffles Museum of Biodiveristy Research Toddycats, the Asia-Pacific Youth Environmental Network (APYEN) as a committee member coordinating for Asia-Pacific, Proact International (liaising with local NGOs/govts in campaigning for the protection of birds and their habitats).

Posted by otterman Posted on 10/08/04 11:20
I myself had my eyes opened only after the getting out of the army and enrolling in NUS - I studied biology under the likes of Wee Yeow Chin, DH Murphy, Jon Sigurdsson, Tim Lowry, Hugh Tan and Hsuan Keng. Sudddenly the landscape around me changed and it all came alive! Thus I admire volunteers like Jac who stepped forward to learn, discover and share so early in their lives! Amazing!

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

these blog entries were first uploaded on MoBlog Singapore! Celebrate Singapore NDP 04
website©ria tan 2004