The Nature Society (Singapore) ('NSS') is the 'mother' of the energetic and highly diversified nature conservation scene that we see in Singapore today.
NSS is one of Singapore's oldest non-government organisations (NGOs).
For over half a century, the NSS was the lone voice speaking for
Singapore's natural heritage treasures - a foundation pillar supporting
civil society in Singapore.
The Society boasts a proud record of widely inclusive membership
drawn from the ranks of ordinary people, as well as experts - laymen,
amateur naturalists, professional biologists, administrators,
businessmen, government servants and politicians, local-born and
expatriate, they have all played their part in voluntary cooperative
action within NSS, aimed at protecting Singapore's unique natural
The Society's roots can be traced back at least to 1921, when its predecessor, the Singapore Natural History Society (SNHS), was formed to develop 'friendly intercourse between local naturalists and the increase and diffusion of knowledge concerning natural history.'
By 1922, the SNHS had 66 members. It produced the Singapore Naturalist publication up to 1928 but then faded away.
In 1940, the Malayan Nature Society ('MNS') was formed, in colonial 'Malaya', based in today's Malaysia. After World War II, in 1948, this society's first Annual General Meeting recorded 400 members. ( The MNS still flourishes today as the Malaysian Nature Society).
The Singapore section of MNS was established in 1954 as the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch).
Singapore-based naturalists felt strong common cause with their
Malaysian counterparts and so were not as inclined as politicians to
separate from Malaysia in 1965. Hence the Singapore Branch of
MNS, its administration still centralised in the Malaysian capital,
Kuala Lumpur, persisted as late as 1991.
In 1991, however, the Singapore Branch at last separated from MNS, amicably and by mutual consent, to form the independent Nature Society (Singapore) in 1992.
The NSS has evolved in tandem with Singapore society, responding
to Singaporeans' increasing levels of education, affluence and
internationalisation, and to the increasing pressures exerted on
Singapore's natural environment by escalating physical development and
economic prosperity from the 1970s onwards.
The Society began life as a simple amateur naturalists' research and rambling club seeking 'innocent pleasure'.
It was dominated by expatriate British colonials and scientists.
Today's membership of some 1,500 is about 80 per cent local-born.
But by the late 1970s the NSS had become a more vigorous and
vocal campaigner for nature conservation. However, research and
education have always remained important facets of NSS' work.
A milestone for the Society was the S$675,000 purchase of its own premises at 'The Sunflower' building in Geylang Road, in 2000, funded by members' fundraising and generous major donations from Lady Y.P. McNeice and Singapore Pools.
The Society has also engaged in productive alliances with
government, business, and civil society. Joint projects with the
government's National Parks Board (NParks) and its recently formed
Biodiversity Centre have included major projects such as the 1994 -1997
flora and fauna survey of Singapore's nature reserves, and participation
in the framing of the national Green Plan 2012.
Not all battles have been won, but each one has raised the collective consciousness of Singaporeans.
Causes adopted and fought to a successful conclusion by NSS,
often in collaboration with other like-minded local groups, have
- The preservation of the priceless historic zoological reference
collection now held at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
(RMBR), within today's National University of Singapore - late 1970s;
- Singapore's accession to the International Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) - late 1986;
- Government's creation of the Sungei Buloh Nature Park for wetlands and migratory bird protection in 1993, following NSS' own Proposal for a Nature Conservation Area at Sungei Buloh of 1988;
- The initiation of government's now institutionalised Green Plan in 1992,
setting aside five per cent of Singapore's total area for nature
conservation, following NSS' 1990 Master Plan for the Conservation of
Nature in Singapore;
- The prevention of excision of nature reserve land at
Lower Peirce Reservoir for a 18-hole golf course proposed by the Public
Utilities Board (PUB), following NSS' own Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) report on the proposal - 1992;
- Modification of the Singapore Armed Forces Reservists'
Association's (SAFRA) golf course design at Kranji Marshes freshwater
wetland - 2001;
- The retrieval of the Chek Jawa mudflats on offshore
island Pulau Ubin from proposed reclamation and their establishment as a
protected nature spot, following a joint-action public campaign - 2001.