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  wild people: Kwok Wai

I first met Kwok Wai in the zoo volunteer (docent) programme. Together with some other docent friends, we volunteered in a snake survey at Sungei Buloh. I have precious memories of our happy times together, knee deep in mud in the middle of the night, with bags of snakes. The boys always had muddy bags, somehow I managed to keep mine clean. But they got more snakes :-(

Kwok Wai quietly continued with his passion for photographing our more elusive creatures. One day, he sent me a link to his wonderful Wildlife Singapore website. It was a most impressive effort for a single individual. The website has since grown into probably the only site with photos of some of our rarely seen creatures (they are probably not all THAT rare, just rarely seen and photographed; because it takes a lot of determination to photograph them).

I try to join Kwok Wai on his quiet mission in the forests. When the tide doesn't take me away. During our trips, I remain deeply impressed by Kwok Wai's superb field knowledge, developed in such a short time, and his deep understanding of the creatures of our forests. How he can find them in complete darkness still baffles me. Kwok Wai is among the very few nature photographers I have met who puts nature first. He will never compromise the creature and will prefer to forgo the photograph than stress it.

Kwok Wai is generous with his hardwon photographs and he regularly gives public photo exhibitions and slideshow talks to showcase the astounding creatures that can still be found in our wild places.

His photographs were also extensively used in NParks' recent efforts to persuade the public not to feed the monkeys and not to release animals into our wild places.

Kwok Wai also provided key technical support to our Southern Shores programme to generate quality prints, lots of them with very short notice. These prints have been invaluable in convincing others of the wondrous nature of our shores.

A very private individual, it took a great deal of persuasion on my part to get Kwok Wai to share his thoughts. But I truly feel his story and his dedication to documenting our forests will be an inspiration to many others. Truly an example of how one person can make a huge difference in appreciating our wild places.

Here is more about Kwok Wai in his own words ...

How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
My passion for nature started since I was a boy, in quite a naughty manner. I used to enjoy catching ladybirds, caterpillars, fishes and tadpoles after school, usually ended up dirty or muddy. Well, I don't consider it as working for nature but that was when nature got me hooked. As I grew older, I picked up photography and started photographing birds.

It was only when I joined the zoo as a volunteer (Docent), I got myself more involved in nature. The zoo was where I met Ria. She was such an enthusiastic nature lover. She introduced me to snake-hunting surveys conducted at Sungei Buloh with a NIE snake researcher, Sohan Shetty. I ended up spending many nights at Buloh looking for the Dog-faced Water Snake. That was where I get to know more nature enthusiasts.

Then we started to go for regular nature walks and begin to realize that there are still many elusive animals around in our nature reserves. I started photographing these animals and in no time, I had built up a photograph-database of native animals found in Singapore.

I thought of creating awareness of our native species in Singapore so I created a simple website focusing on our wildlife here. Then I bumped into Ria. She told me that I should get serious in the website and that is how Wildlife Singapore came about. I hope the website is a gateway for Singaporean to become more aware of our biodiversity here.

What do you get out of working for nature?
I don't get money out of working for nature but as I build up the website, I start to learn more about our native species.

What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
One has to be passionate and patient in your work, particularly when working with nature. There are times when there are no interesting animals to be found during the walks. But these don't stop me from going back!

What are some of your current projects?
I am currently surveying nature habitats that are not so disturbed. Hopefully, I can find something rare there.

Kwok Wai's wonderful Wildlife Singapore website showcases our fascinating vertebrates with some of the only photos of them.

Posted by otterman Posted on 10/08/04 11:42
Kwok Wai's quiet determination has resulted in a valuable resource on verterbrates in Singapore. Like many good things, it has been heartening to watch it grow and can serve as an example of taking "one step at a time" with persistence to makee something grow. Catch him at The Substation on 11th September 2004 with an exhibition on Southern Shores.

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