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  wild people: Zaki

I first met Zaki on one of our super low tide trips in the wee hours of the morning. His delightful wife Faridah shortly joined our subsequent trips. Their cheerful presence graced many of our journeys exploring Singapore's shores from north to south.

Zaki and Faridah are now among the core regular Chek Jawa guides. A tour of Chek Jawa with Zaki is certain to be an exciting learning experience full of fascinating discoveries.
Later on, I found out Zaki also plays a leading role in raising nature awareness in other areas too. In particular, he is active in starting butterfly gardens, giving talks and other educational activities. It is wonderful to see that he has started his own website Learning from Nature. All this on top of his busy work schedule and family commitments.

A patient and gentle teacher, Zaki inspires with his almost childlike joy in discovering and sharing nature with others.

Here is more about Zaki in his own words ...

How did you first get involved in working for nature in Singapore?
I was a kampong boy. Until secondary three, my playgrounds were trees that I would climb to get the ripening fruits. If not that, then it would be the little streams where my friends and I would catch fishes, tadpoles, eels and whatever that was there. There was no need to bring these creatures back home since there were always there, so we would almost always release them back where we found them after we boast about catching the most beautiful ones for the day or the rarest.

So I guess I kind of got involved in playing with nature since I was very small. Getting involved working FOR nature might perhaps be during the time when I was in my Poly days where I remembered organising trips to BTNR for my friends in a muslim association's youth group. Even back then, I tried to use the little that I learned from my Geography lessons in secondary to try and explain stuff to people. I guess I really wanted to share how wonderful I find nature is.

What do you get out of working for nature?
I do not think growing up in a kampong environment will automatically make one a volunteer for nature or else I would find my kampong friends volunteering side by side with me now. But I must say that for me at least, it allowed me to see nature as a special place, a place, almost spiritual if I might describe it that way.

Nature to me is a place to seek solace after I've given my all in all my work, and all my other life's endeavors. Hence, my life is simple insanity if it is not able to once in a while interact with nature. I cannot imagine my world without the trees, the streams, the birds, the butterflies and all the other things that makes our own life more possible and more meaningful.

What is your approach/personal motto in your work?
I believe that the quality of my life should only be measured by my contributions to life itself. If I can live my life without causing unnecessary damage to the lives of the other people and other creatures, I'll be contented.

But if I can think of ways to help other people experience and appreciate nature, I'll even be happier.

And if I can help save a habitat, or better still, perhaps even create a new one, so the creatures, like the butterflies for example, can survive, I'll be ecstatic.

What are some of your current projects?
Currently, I'm setting up a butterfly garden in Cedar Primary School. The school is very forward looking in its approach to primary school education and I must say that the leadership has given me an incredible amount of support for me to carry out this project. I hope to use this opportunity to help bring back some of the lesser common species.

Since we have private estates, with gardens in them, surrounding us maybe we can even get the community surrounding the school to be more involved in making the area more conducive to the conservation of our native butterflies species. More native butterfly attracting plants in the area, and the correct ones too, will not only be beneficial to the butterflies but will also have the ability to better our own quality of life.

I'm also contributing to some magazines about nature. I think my little essay titled 'Diminishing Space' will be out soon in a magazine called Teens' Crossroads. I am also scheduled to give a little sharing session entitled 'The Problems of Nature & The Pious' in September.

Zaki's thoughts on what YOU can do: There are many ways you too can help. You can simply plant some butterfly attracting plants. Common plants like the lime plant is easily available and you can purchase them at almost any nursery cheaply. If you have too many caterpillars on these plants, do not kill them. Send me an email and I'll adopt them for our garden. You can even donate the plants with or without the caterpillars to us. For more information on butterflies and butterfly gardens, see the Nature Society (Singapore) Butterfly Interest Group (BIG) website.

To contact Zaki, email ask@zakijalil.com
His websites include Learning from Nature and the NIE Butterfly Garden which he started when he was at NIE.

Zaki is 32, his day job is as a teacher and he currently volunteers as a guide at Chek Jawa and at the Nature Society (Singapore) Education Group. He also volunteers to assist his lecturers do their research whenever he can.
Posted by otterman Posted on 10/08/04 11:26
Zaki has been active on internet lists for a long time and I was glad to finally meet him. His persistence in establishing resources on the web is admirable. this is obviously a motivated guy and I am glad he is also a CJ volunteer now!

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

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