Former zoo curator writes book on mahogany tree
Former Singapore Zoo curator writes book on his new passion - mahogany trees
He once handled some of the most majestic animals in the region, such as tigers, lions and elephants.
These days, his interest lies in much smaller and slower-paced living things - seedlings, plants and trees.
Mr Francis Lim, 61, left the Singapore Zoo in 2010 after 38 years of service.Over almost four decades there, he rose from junior zookeeper to head zookeeper and became, finally, curator of the zoo.
It was during his time at the zoo that he developed a passion for photography, using his camera to document the animals under his care.
After retirement, he saw no reason to put down the camera, but his subject matter had changed.
Mr Lim told The New Paper: "Where you find animals, you'll also find plants, so it was easy to get curious about them."
He calls himself a "citizen botanist" who studies local plant species' life cycles, habitats and uses.
Since retiring, he has written three books, two of which are on his botanical studies.
His latest book, Magical Mahogany, was published in collaboration with Select Books earlier this year and is about the broad-leafed mahogany tree.
The trees were first brought to Singapore by the British in 1876 to provide shade. They now line roads such as Upper Thomson Road, East Coast Road and Marine Parade Road.
Mr Lim got interested in the tree back in 2005 when he would collect the pods and turn them into jewellery boxes and carvings.
"I researched the mahogany to satisfy my own curiosity. But then I sat down and looked at all the research I had, and all the photographs, and thought, 'Well, I may as well write a book!' The book is really just the product of my curiosity."
Magical Mahogany describes his efforts to understand the tree's life and history.
It introduces readers to little-known facts about the tree - such as the medicinal benefits of its pods. According to Mr Lim, boiling a pod in water and applying it on a rash will help it subside.
All of the photographs in the book - more than 125 -were taken by Mr Lim. Many feature a forest near his flat in Yishun.
"I've found over 200 mahogany saplings in different stages of growth in this forest," he said.
"It's the only place I've seen such a big natural nursery. It's unique, and I hope it never gets cleared."
Mr Lim hopes the book will encourage the conservation of other forests.
"Once a natural forest is gone, it's gone forever. The clearing of Singapore's forests, most recently the Lentor forest, is incomprehensible to me," said Mr Lim, referring to a 30ha secondary forest in Lentor which will be cleared - except for two green plots - later this year to make way for private homes.
Mr Lim also hopes to change people's perceptions of retirement.
"Some people called me crazy for retiring so early," said Mr Lim, who retired at 55.
"I think people fear they'll have nothing to do after retirement. Or that they won't have enough money to survive
"I want to be an inspiration to them, to show that it isn't true that seniors are doomed to a boring life.
"But you need a magical sense of curiosity, to explore even common things. Make life interesting. No one will do it for you."
Magical Mahogany is available online at www.selectbooks.com.sg for $23.36 and at Kinokuniya bookstores for $25.