Cleared Kranji woodlands a vital connector for animals

Experts say the 70ha area in Kranji big enough in itself to become a modern habitat for wildlife

The Kranji woodland area along the rail corridor that had large swathes mistakenly cleared from it is of strategic importance as a connector for animals to reach other areas, said nature experts.

Some endangered and rare species that have been sighted in the area include the crested serpent eagle, Malayan box turtle, and even the pangolin.

The 70ha green lung - about the size of Jurong Lake or almost 100 soccer fields - connects the Mandai Mangrove area to its north and other nature areas such as the Central Catchment area and the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the south.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society (Singapore), said it is part of a conduit that transitions from forest-dependent species to mangrove- dependent species.

"It's a link, but more importantly, it's big enough in its own right to become a modern habitat area. It's 70 hectares - you can have a lot of wildlife in 70 hectares," he added.

Aerial photos posted on Sunday showed large pieces of the woodlands had been cleared, to the consternation of nature groups. The JTC Corporation said on Tuesday these had been "erroneously cleared" by a contractor, Huationg, before an environmental impact assessment could be carried out. NParks is investigating.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopal said there was a high chance pangolins used the area as they have been sighted just south of the rail corridor.

Dr Lum said: "Some of these pangolins, they climb trees when they're disturbed. If they had climbed into a tree that eventually got cut, who knows whether we lost any of these endangered species prematurely?"

The cleared land from the woodlands also shrank in one fell swoop the space available for animals to graze and use, said Mr N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences.

"If this patch had been cleared 20 or 30 years ago, there would have been several other alternatives to buffer that kind of impact," he added.

JTC had engaged an environmental specialist to carry out a baseline study last December, and to work out an Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan for specified plots of land within the area, a spokesman said.

Ms Anbarasi said: "Nature groups like us are very concerned. It is urgent that there is engagement with the community before further development is conducted. Our wish is that the remainder of the rail corridor be preserved, as there is only a small amount of space left for these animals."

The JTC Corporation spokesman said it takes a very serious view of the incident.

"The land 15 to 20 metres to the left and right of the rail corridor has been safeguarded to protect biodiversity within the belt of the existing forest," said JTC.