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Chase Butterflies in Orchard Road

Jan 24 2010 The Sunday Times Home section Pg 15

Chase butterflies in Orchard Road

Nature lovers plan urban butterfly trail that's billed as the first of its kind in the world
By Tracy Quek

Can butterflies thrive among the glitzy malls and tall office buildings in Orchard Road?

Yes, says a group of nature lovers and butterfly enthusiasts who are working to create an urban butterfly trail.

Spearheaded by the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS), the 4km-long trail starts at the gates of the Botanic Gardens, continues down Orchard Road and ends in Fort Canning Park.

It is envisioned as a self-guided walking route that will lead you to 15 butterfly spots.

These include tucked-away green oases between the malls, little-known rooftop and private gardens, and public green spaces.

Visitors will get specially produced maps to help them navigate their way. Brass markers will be put up to guide people to the spots and provide information on the butterflies and plants.

The trail is being billed as the first of its kind in the world.

The first phase - from the Botanic Gardens in Napier Road to Tanglin Road - will be launched in June. The project is supported by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Singapore Environment Council.

'People think Orchard Road is a concrete jungle, but if you look carefully, you'll discover a lot of natural beauty,' said Ms Margaret Clarkson, an American who is part of the project team.

Dr Shawn Lum, NSS president and a key collaborator, said that the project will 'bring colour and life to the shopping district'.

It will highlight the rich biodiversity in the country, create something that would appeal to Singaporeans and visitors, and provide a platform for educational and conservation activities, he added.

Singapore is home to about 280 butterfly species. Not all can thrive in urban areas but there are outdoor, fun-loving species that can, said Mr Gan Cheong Weei, chairman of the Nature Society's Butterfly Interest Group.

The key is to provide them with the plants they need for food, shelter and breeding. Nature Society experts are identifying and propagating the plants that will be introduced at the hot spots over the next few months.

The experts reckon that some 50 species of butterflies will be attracted to the trail.

The project will cost about $70,000 to get off the ground, said Ms Christine Davis, an American who owns a business management consultancy firm here and is managing the project.

The team is working to secure sponsors. So far three companies have expressed interest. Schools will be invited to adopt hotspots and individuals can sponsor anything from a park bench to a brass marker.

Said Ms Davis: 'Butterflies make people happy, and in today's world, simple pleasures are really important.'