Singapore leps

SK Khew khewsk at
Tue Sep 1 03:01:52 EDT 1998

Hello Mark,

I'm glad that you have visited our little island before, and I must say 
that you are knowledgeable about what the situation is like in 
Singapore.  I suppose no one is going to stop anybody who captures one 
or two butterflies in a private condominium's garden, but the laws here 
are pretty strict about collecting in the nature reserves.  I guess you 
know how seriously the authorities are, about rules and regulations in 
Singapore from your last visit here.

Migration?  Most of the time, no.  There doesn't appear to be much 
migration observed, and even so, the Malaysian species which tend to 
display this behaviour are already found in Singapore.  

I am involved in a programme to establish and sustain caterpillar host 
plants of several species within the nature reserves.  This is an area 
which we are really short of information, and even for our 240-odd 
species, only a handful of host plants are known.  

The developed areas are often too hazardous for the butterflies to 
survive, as there is often much fogging (of pesticides) to rid the 
populated areas of disease-carrying vectors like mosquitoes.  Alas, this 
fogging also kills off our favourite butterflies along with the rest. 

It is also interesting to note that most people's perception of a 
beautiful garden is one that has plants in pristine condition and with 
unmolested leaves and flowers.  This is usually maintained by spraying 
all sorts of insecticides to make sure that caterpillars and other 
insects do not eat up their garden plants.  It would be pointless to try 
to change this perception for the benefit of our butterfly friends.  
Therefore a more realistic solution would be to look towards the nature 

You comment about Singapore having so little of ANY habitat to start 
with is very true and accurate.  Land is scarce and where there is 
direct competition for land between a commercially-viable project versus 
leaving the land as a nature spot, you know which one would win.  I 
suppose the government here has taken enough steps to strike a realistic 
balance between conservation and development, but  having so little land 
to start with, it's always easier said than done.

>From my own voluntary research work, I find that more than 95% of the 
species in Singapore are forest-dependent.  Only a handful can survive 
in urban areas.  Much effort therefore has to be concentrated on 
conserving the nature reserves as this is the last remaining sanctuary 
for butterflies in such an urbanised country like Singapore.

>	I do appreciate this sensible argument, and I do agree that the size
>of the island does make a difference.  I enjoyed touring Singapore back 
>1980, and at that time, as small as the island was, there were still 
>suitable butterfly habitats (including the gardens in and about the 
>itself) that would sustain the most common of species.  Migrations from 
>Malay Peninsula occur as well, do they not?  As for the limited size of
>nature reserves and the whole issue of conservation in general, this IS 
>most important issue for Singapore and clearly one that should be 
>by all.  If there is truly no butterfly fauna in Singapore outside of 
>nature preserves, and precious little of this habitat remaining, then I 
>the first to put my net away while visiting Singapore.  If, on the 
>hand, there remain at least a half dozen species which are perfectly 
>and thriving and in no danger of being eliminated, I can't see why it
>wouldn't be acceptable for someone to collect and preserve a specimen 
>	Thank you for your insight, however.  You certainly are more
>vulnerable to vanishing habitat, seeing as how you have so little of 
>habitat to start with.  We may, in fact, be able to learn a lot from 
how you
>handle this issue.  The right solution would guarantee sustainable
>populations of all species, thereby securing the privilege of amateur
>collectors such as myself to visit, study, and admire your insects, 
>alive and preserved.
>	Mark Walker.

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