It is 7.30 in the morning. The juvenile macaque watches over us nearby, inviting us to take photos of him. His yellow eyes follow every gesture that might be a suggestion of something being pulled up of the bag.
“When the monkeys attack people, it is usually the people fault. When people start feeding the monkeys, the monkeys will start to associate people with food. Over time, this might escalate to aggressive behavior.”
570 macaques, which are about one-third of the population of macaques are being culled in 2013 on the basis that there are increased cases of human-monkey conflict. It soon moved on to a discussion of another human-nature conflict: plans of constructing a Cross Island MRT Line beneath our beloved Central Catchment Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir.
If such endeavors are to be rolled out as plan, our biodiversity and nature reserve will be drastically impacted. One can’t simply plant a tree for every tree that is cut down in the forest and say that it will still be the same. The biodiversity, the fungi, the insects, the microbes and all kind of lives that thrive in the forest are not replaceable by artificial parks. It takes a long time for such diversity to be developed.
Our lives are not merely dictated by endless economic pursuits. Nature is a vital part of our lives. Besides regulating the climate, providing homes to many species, improving water, soil and air quality, our nature reserves impart great lessons to our lives.
7. There will be a beginning and an end
When we first step into the forest, a tree beside the pathway has fallen. On the other side of the pathway, there is a seedling sprouting off the ground. In our life, there will be separation, reunion, death, newborn, sadness and happiness. This is part of nature. When the going gets tough, we have to keep the faith that our efforts will bring our misfortune to an end and there will be a better future to fight for. Similarly, when things are getting lucky for you, pass it forward and help others because you can never predict when it will end.
6. Everything is a cycle
Though the lifespan of the tree ended when it falls, other species will thrive in its’ place. Fungi commonly feed on dead log. Carpenter bees burrow into dead trees for nesting. We have very limited time on earth but our work or our life stories often outlived us. What is the value that you want to create while you are here? What is the legacy that you wish to impart for the future generations?
5. Engage in cooperative relationships
The Common Mahang is often seen in Singapore secondary rainforest. This plant has a obligatory relationship with the heart gaster ants. The plant provides food and shelter for the ants. In return, the ants provide the plant with protection against herbivores, insects and pathogenic fungi.¹ No man is an island. Learn to leverage on the strength of your partners and provide a mutual benefit in order to bring you and your partners to a greater height.
4. There is strength in number
We spot a cluster of caterpillars on two of the leaves. Different species of caterpillars have different ways of defending themselves. Some are brightly colored, some camouflage and some other group together. The cluster of caterpillar are not randomly located, rather, they bunch up together neatly, side by side, to feed on the leaves. Our guide says that this might increase the chances of survival of an individual when they are in a group. When we work together, we become less vulnerable and stronger as a unit.
3. The young needs protection
It is most fortunate that we are able to spot a colugo with her pup hanging on a trunk. From time to time, the pup will pop up its’ head from the protection of its’ mum. Remember the seedling that we talk about in the beginning of the article? Our guide says that seedlings are very delicate, they need shelter from the mature trees to grow. When we are starting a new habit, business or partnership, it is akin to nurturing the young. It will take us some time to develop them. There will be some good days and some backslides. This is the journey we have chosen. So we might as well learn to be patient with ourselves while nurturing our dreams instead of stifling it too early by constant negative self criticism.
2. Vanity has its place but we shouldn’t get attached to it
Birds are beautiful, they come in all shades of colors, sizes and shapes. The male needs the beauty to attract the female. One species that we spot is the greater racket-tailed drongo. Racket-tailed because they have 2 long rackets as their tails. No one can say for certain what the racket tails are used for. But sometimes they lose the tail and it doesn’t grow back. While we shouldn’t judge a person by his/her appearance, it is difficult to not make assumptions based on the appearance. When we are working, we should look professional. On the other hand, I know of ladies (and even men) who are disappointed with the process of ageing. Ageing is part of nature, we have to be mindful that our appearances change with time and we should remind ourselves to accept such changes with grace.
1. Not all activities will have an obvious immediate result
The thing about nature is that everything takes time. Although the preservation of the forest doesn’t seem to be linked to immediate economic gains, it still holds a very important role in our society. Being in nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. It also contributes to the physical well being.² At the fundamental levels, it imbues a level of connection within people and between people and the environment. There are many ways that a person could climb the ladder of success. One thing to bear in mind is that while short term monetary gain might bring in more economic benefits in a short period of time, a long term mutual relationship might haul in more beneficial results in the long run.
¹17 Jul 2014. YC Wee & Wang Luan Keng. Common Macaranga (Macaranga bancana) and its ants. Bird Ecology Study Group. NUS.
²Reviewed by: Jean Larson, PhD, CTRS, HTR; Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, PhD. How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? Taking Charge. University of Minnesota.