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18 July 2011

NUS Launches Encyclopedia of Singapore’s Biodiversity

First comprehensive guide to nature consolidates almost 200 years of studies on Singapore’s natural history and outlines issues relating to biodiversity, ecosystems and sustainability

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The National University of Singapore (NUS) is pleased to announce the launch of ‘Singapore Biodiversity - An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development’, Singapore’s first comprehensive reference that records the nation’s natural history spanning almost 200 years, charts the rise of the nature movement, and provides suggestions for sustaining the country’s shared natural heritage for the future.

The book will be launched today by His Excellency President S R Nathan, President of the Republic of Singapore, in the presence of about 130 guests representing key stakeholders of environment conservation in Singapore.

Initiated by two champions of environment conservation – Professor Leo Tan and Professor Peter Ng from the Faculty of Science at NUS, and supported by National Parks Board, this 552-page publication is the combined effort of 65 contributors from the academia, government agencies and environmental activist groups in Singapore, including the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Nature Society (Singapore). This landmark publication was edited by NUS faculty members Professor Peter Ng, Professor Richard Corlett and Associate Professor Hugh Tan, and published by Editions Didier Millet (EDM).

NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan said, “NUS is pleased to spearhead the development of this encyclopedia about Singapore’s biodiversity. It will serve as a very important resource and context, which will help inform our thinking and action to further improve our natural heritage. I think it also provides an interesting link to our long history of environmental conservation amidst rapid economic development. I would like to congratulate the authors for the completion of this important publication, and express our appreciation to NUS Chancellor President Nathan, National Parks Board, EDM and the generous donors for supporting us in this meaningful endeavour.”

Said Prof Peter Ng, “This book is a landmark document as it not only summarises what has taken place in the environmental scene in Singapore over the last 200 years, but also takes a critical look at what is happening today as well as what the country hopes for the future. Balancing the often conflicting needs of economic development, conservation and preservation of a country’s natural heritage is never easy – and in Singapore’s case, a monumental challenge. With its tiny size, lack of natural resources and long trading history, it is amazing that there is still so much biodiversity here, and the environmental problems have not become ‘toxic’. As the city state urbanises and grows, the challenges facing Singapore can only become more complex. To reach the next lap, Singaporeans must not only know their past, they must appreciate their present and have hope in their future. This book endeavours to help Singaporeans accomplish this.”

The production of the publication is supported by a S$1.1 million fund raised through generous donations from ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, Keppel Corporation Limited, Lee Foundation, Ngee Ann Kongsi, Mr Sam Goi and Mr Oei Hong Leong.

Long Awaited Publication

The idea of an encyclopedia on Singapore’s biodiversity has been simmering in the minds of naturalists for decades, but it is only now that this dream has been realised.

Prof Peter Ng, Director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and the Tropical Marine Science Institute at NUS, first mooted the idea of an encyclopedia of Singapore’s biodiversity. In 2006, when he was invited by EDM to pen selected parts of ’Singapore: The Encyclopedia’, a book featuring interesting facets of Singapore, Prof Ng felt that Singapore’s natural heritage was under represented. With the support of Professor Tommy Koh, and Prof Leo Tan, then Chairman of National Parks Board, Prof Ng began to work on the publication. The S$1.1 million was raised within one and a half years to fund the project.

Small Nation, Amazing Diversity of Life

The book, which took three years to complete, showcases Singapore’s achievements in conserving its rich natural heritage despite its small size and dense urban landscape.

The first section of the book is a collection of essays and features offering a detailed introduction to Singapore’s natural environment and conservation efforts. The contributions also include interviews with Mr Mah Bow Tan, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC and former Minister for National Development, who commented on how biodiversity helped us to connect with nature and our natural heritage; Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts and former Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, who shared about the preservation of biodiversity; and Mr George Yeo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, who provided his personal take on being ecologically conscious. This section covers every aspect of Singapore’s natural environment, including climate and terrain, ecosystems, past and present research, and important issues such as climate change, public policy, and sustainable development, thereby providing a comprehensive overview of nature in Singapore.

The second part of the book is an A–Z guide on Singapore’s biodiversity, from Abalones to Zooxanthellae (single-celled organisms that live in the tissues of animals) and all the incredible life forms in between. Compiled by a large team of scientists, subject experts and naturalists, this section has over 1,500 entries covering virtually every known organism found in Singapore.

The book will be made available to NUS libraries, as well as libraries under the National Library Board. The book will also be on sale at bookstores islandwide, at a retail price of US$50 each (excluding tax), from 19 July 2011.

For more information on ’Singapore Biodiversity – An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development’, visit

For sales enquiries, please contact Editions Didier Millet at Tel: (65) 6324 9260 ext 23 or email