Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Description

Gazetted as Singapore’s first nature reserve in 1883, the 163-ha Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) comprises the largest contiguous patch of primary rainforest left in the country. It encompasses Bukit Timah Hill, which at 163.63 m, is the highest point in Singapore. Both the BTNR and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) are presently protected under the Parks & Trees Act 2005, for the conservation of Singapore's native flora and fauna. They encompass the Central Nature Reserve which covers approximately 3043-ha in central Singapore.

In the past, BTNR was exploited for its natural resources. From the 1880s to early 1980s, quarrying occurred on the granite-rich Bukit Timah Hill. The material was used in the construction of the harbour, causeway, railway and roads. The surrounding forest also has a history of large scale disturbance, being cleared for both Gambier (Uncaria gambir) and Gutta Percha (Palaquium gutta) plantations.

Today, remnants of the Reserve’s past are still evident, both within and outside its boundaries. Numerous Gutta Percha plants, a reminder of the said plantation that was maintained till the early 1900s, can be found inside BTNR, along the trail to South View Hut (Taban Valley). Lying just outside the reserve's boundaries is the scenic Hindhede Nature Park which was developed from an abandoned quarry.

The BTNR supports over 1000 species of flowering plants and more than 500 species of animals in its small area. Indeed, many of Singapore’s plants and animals were described from Bukit Timah by early workers, including the famous biologist, Alfred Russel Wallace. The forest type there is classified as a coastal hill dipterocarp forest, exemplified by the numerous tall and pale-crowned Seraya (Shorea curtisii) and other dipterocarps (family Dipterocarpaceae). The most abundant tree in the Reserve is the Tempinis (Streblus elongatus), which lends its name to the Tampines estate in eastern Singapore. Other plants such as the Hill Coconut (Molineria latifolia), Leechwood (Anisophyllea distichia), and the Terentang (Campnosperma auriculatum) can also be found along the trails. Apart from the commonly encountered Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), the more elusive Malayan Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) may sometimes also be seen. The reserve is home to a suite of forest birds such as the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) and Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella). Insects such as cicadas (Purana spp.), Branded Imperial Butterflies (Eooxylides tharis distanti), and Giant Forest Ants (Camponotus gigas) are common fauna of the forest. 

The BTNR and CCNR once comprised a single forest fragment, but were split into two by the construction of the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) 25 years ago. In 2005, a proposition to re-link the two reserves—so as to aid dispersal of forest plants and animals—via a bridge was mooted. Six years later, in July 2011, work commenced on the Eco-Link@BKE. The Eco-link is expected to be completed in 2013.

Open from 6 am to 7 pm daily, the BTNR is very popular with walkers and joggers who use the numerous walking trails available. Mountain biking is allowed only on designated trails located outside the reserve's boundary. Visitors may do a self-guided tour starting at the Visitor Centre (open daily from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm), or register for a guided walk by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Getting there

The main entrance to the BTNR is located at the end of Hindhede Road.  Visitors going by bus should alight at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre/Beauty World Centre (services 67, 75, 170, 171, 173, 184, 852, 961, 961C), which is approximately a 10-minute walk to the reserve. Driving is another option, with car parking available from 5.30 am to 7.30 pm. Several walking tracks from other nature areas provide alternative access to the reserve. Depending on the preferred walking distance, visitors can choose to start their walk from MacRitchie Reservoir, HSBC TreeTop Walk (via Rifle Range Road), or Dairy Farm Nature Park. While linked, these nature places are not part of the BTNR.

Other Resources

Baker, N. Bukit Timah Nature Reservehttp://www.ecologyasia.com/html-loc/bukit-timah.htm. (Accessed August 2011).

National Parks Board. Bukit Timah Nature Reservehttp://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_visitorsguide&task=naturereserves&id=46&Itemid=75. (Accessed August 2011).

Tan, R. Bukit Timah Nature Reservehttp://www.wildsingapore.com/places/btnr.htm. (Accessed August 2011).

References

Lum, S. & I. Sharp (eds.), 1996. A View from the Summit: the Story of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, in conjunction with the National Parks Board, with generous support from the Ban Hin Leong Group, Singapore. 141 pp.

Ng, P. K. L., H. T. W. Tan & K. K. P. Lim, 2011. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Pp. 50–51. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors), Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 552 pp.

Tan, H. T. W., L. M. Chou, D. C. J. Yeo & P. K. L. Ng, 2010. The Natural Heritage of Singapore. Third Edition. Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd, Singapore. 323 pp.

Turner, I. M. & K. S. Chua, 2011. Checklist of the Vascular Plant Species of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 85 pp.

Wang, L. K. & R. Tan (eds.), 2006. Guidesheet to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Singapore. Guidesheet.

Wang, L. K., D. C. J. Yeo, K. K. P. Lim & S. K. Y. Lum, 2012. Private Lives: An Exposé of Singapore’s Rainforests. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. 298 pp.

Wee, Y. C., 1988. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: A guide through the south-eastern area. Part I. Singapore Scientist 14(2): 29–36.

Wee, Y. C., 1988. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve: A guide through the south-eastern area. Part II. Singapore Scientist 14(3): 29–36.

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