Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Flying under (and over) the Urban Radar

Although Singaporeans are devoted preservationists of traditional recipes, they have done less well with the flora and fauna. According to National Geographic, at least 28%—and perhaps as much as 73%—of native species have undergone local extinctions in the past 200 years. The casualties include tigers and other mammals, birds, butterflies, fish, and plants.

Best therefore to experience what’s left while you can. We were lured to one of the city's several rainforest preserves by one line from the Times’ Joshua Kurlantzick: “Watch out for the flying lemurs.” As it turns out, these creatures are primarily nocturnal, cannot fly, and aren’t—biologically speaking—lemurs, but that’s journalism for you.

The actual beasts, also known as colugos, are superb gliders, however, and perhaps the closest known relatives to our own taxonomic group: the primates. (In Kurlantzick’s defense, I don’t think “Use your flashlight to spot the superbly gliding primate relatives” would have made it past the copy editor.)

Our morning walk near MacRitchie Reservoir revealed—among much that was both beautiful and unusual to North American sensibilities—one python, two monitor lizards, three tree nymph butterflies, and numerous long-tailed macaques.

If you go, don't neglect the Tree Top Walk, a 250-meter suspension bridge above the forest canopy.

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