The Nature Society (Singapore)


Claiming its origins to the Singapore Natural History Society formed in 1921, the Nature Society (Singapore) is the leading non-government organisation (NGO) concerned with nature conservation in Singapore. It supported the preservation of the zoological reference collection that is now held at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, and also campaigned successfully for the preservation of many nature areas in Singapore, including Sungei Buloh, Chek Jawa and the Kranji freshwater wetlands.

The Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) is the leading non-government organisation (NGO) concerned with nature conservation in Singapore. It is also one of Singapore's oldest NGOs, claiming its origins to the Singapore Natural History Society (SNHS), which was formed in 1921 by British administrators and scientists to develop 'friendly intercourse between local naturalists and the increase and diffusion of knowledge concerning natural history'. The SNHS boasted 66 members as at 1922, and produced the journal, the Singapore Naturalist, up to 1928 and then wilted.

In 1940, British colonials established the Malayan Nature Society (MNS). The society's publication was The Malayan Nature Journal. The cause of nature conservation was evident even then, with the journal's first issue being taken up with 'Natural beauty spots of Malaya, and the need for their preservation'.

In 1954, the Singapore section of the MNS took root as the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch).  This arrangement weathered and survived Singapore's separation from Malaysia (in 1965), with the Singapore branch having its administration centralised at its Malaysian branch headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Clearly, Singapore naturalists maintained common cause with their Malaysian counterparts.

In 1991 however, reflecting the diverging developments of the two countries and the maturing of the Singapore nation, the Singapore branch amended its constitution and became a full-fledged independent NGO of Singapore known as the NSS.  As it did so, the NSS took pains to emphasise its close affiliation with MNS- that it was represented on the central committee of the MNS (re-named the Malaysian Nature Society), and that their parting was amicable and by mutual consent. With the unrelenting pace of urbanisation and technology in Singapore, the NSS added the all-important cause of nature conservation to the original aims articulated by SNHS.

Society Journal-
Nature Watch
Marking the birth of the NSS was the launch of the society's quarterly magazine, Nature Watch, with an inaugural 1993 (October-December) issue.  The issue's lead feature was on the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, appropriately so as the NSS had been instrumental in persuading the Singapore government to preserve and establish this internationally significant haven for migratory birds.

The aim of the journal was to 'provide a voice for its members and other private groups and government agencies that wish to address nature conservation matters'. This underlines the policy of NSS to engage in 'productive alliances' with the government, business and civil society in a tripartite partnership.

Conservation Proposals
The NSS noted that since the 1950s, it had evolved from an informal group of nature lovers coming together for occasional talks and field trips into a more professional society concerned with conservation studies and environment impact assessments.

Since its proposal on the conservation of Sungei Buloh in 1988, it had by 1993 surfaced nine other conservation proposals including the widely acclaimed Master Plan for the Conservation of Nature in Singapore in 1990, followed by the environment impact assessment on the proposed golf course at Lower Peirce Reservoir in 1992.

Some of its other successful campaigns include those involving the relocation of coral reefs, the conservation of the Chek Jawa mudflats on Pulau Ubin, the Kranji marshes freshwater wetland, Singapore's accession to the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, and the preservation of the zoological reference collection that is now held at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

The NSS claims a current membership of about 1,500, with 80% being Singaporean, and strives to maintain and expand its relevance to a Singapore society of increasing literacy, prosperity and exposure to the world.

This relevance takes the form of education and research activities in addition to active campaigning to save the increasingly vulnerable natural environment of Singapore from the pressures of urban development.  The society's expansion is shown in the formation of numerous sub-groups, including those concerned with birds and bird ecology, butterflies, conservation, education, marine conservation, plants, nature rambles, and vertebrate study.

New Premises
As a measure of its success, through members' fundraising and several major donations, NSS became the proud owner of its own premises at The Sunflower building on Geylang Road in 2000, a milestone in its history and a landmark for nature conservation in Singapore.

Khor Kok Kheng

Choo-Toh G T, et al. (1985). A Guide to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (p. 4).
(Call No. RSING 333.78095957 GUI)

Malaysian Nature Society. Retrieved 4 December 2008, from

Nature Society (Singapore). (2003 Oct-Dec) Nature Watch, Vol 1, 1, p.3, 7, 20-27.
(Call No. RSING English 508.5957NW)

Nature Society (Singapore). Retrieved 4 Dec 2008, from

The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

Nature and Environment
Nature Society (Singapore)
Nature conservation--Singapore
Science and technology>>General science>>Natural history

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