Veteran nature guide, conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai dies aged 56
Subaraj Rajathurai, 56, was 'a true giant' that helped save S'pore's green spaces
A pioneer in the local conservation scene, he helped save some of Singapore's most treasured green spaces.
But yesterday morning, Singapore lost veteran nature guide and wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, who died in his sleep after a heart attack.
Known for his thick beard and trademark bandana, Mr Subaraj, 56, was Singapore's first licensed nature guide, designing and running more than 50 nature tours here since 1990.
He founded Strix Wildlife Consultancy, which does research, wildlife surveys and educational outreach.
He also had a hand in conserving the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and more than 100ha of forest at Lower Peirce Reservoir.
Until his death, Mr Subaraj was engaged in environmental impact assessments and consulted on projects including the Cross Island MRT Line.
Never afraid to speak his mind, he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement over the environmental impact of the Mandai Park Development project.
Mr Subaraj also walked the walk, his wife of 25 years, Mrs Shamla Jeyarajah Subaraj, told The New Paper in their Tampines home. Family holidays always revolved around nature, and their flat is filled with pictures of wildlife.
"If he could live atop Bukit Timah Hill, he would," she said yesterday evening
Mrs Subaraj, 54, had brought her husband lunch but found him unresponsive in their bed.
He had a history of heart disease and had two stents, but he was on the mend and was careful about his diet.
"These things happen. I am just happy that he didn't suffer... It hasn't sunk in yet (and) I don't know how I am going to cope, but I said to myself just now, I will have to fight the fight for him," she told TNP.
Mr Subaraj also leaves behind his sister, and two sons, Saker, 19, and Serin, 24, who has followed in his father's footsteps and is studying wildlife conservation and marine biology in Australia.
Said Mrs Subaraj: "He always believed in the young ones. The young ones have to step up."
In a lengthy tribute on Facebook, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said Mr Subaraj was "a true giant".
His name is synonymous with wildlife shepherding, and a survey methodology he set up is still being used today, Mr Lee wrote.
He added: "Rest assured we will continue your good work, and cherish and protect Singapore's natural heritage for years to come."
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng said he met Mr Subaraj a month ago at a dialogue session for amendments to the Wild Animals and Birds Act that Mr Subaraj was helping to draft.
"(His death) is obviously a shock. He was so young. We were just talking about Christmas," Mr Ng told TNP, adding that Mr Subaraj always spoke up and never gave up.
He added: "All of the forest and the wildlife in Singapore are truly indebted to him... I don't think anyone can replace him, what he has done for us."