Siva leading the highly popular Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Mr N Sivasothi
Senior Lecturer
Department of Biological Sciences

A walk on NUS’ wild side

How many plants can you identify on Kent Ridge Campus? Perhaps the ubiquitous raintree, tembusu or Bird of Paradise flower?

Now you have the chance to brush up your knowledge on the local flora, ecology and history of the Ridge, with some bird-watching thrown in. All while working up a healthy sweat, amid the greenery at the end of a busy day.

Mr N Sivasothi, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS and Director of Studies at Ridge View Residential College (RVRC), revealed that the College and Toddycats – a volunteer group of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum – intend to organise short evening walks for staff and students. The 45-minute ramble within the vicinity of University Hall and RVRC will see guides comprising students and Toddycats members giving out nuggets of little-known information about plants and animals in the lush green space.

“We want to help build a community because at the core of it, it’s a human-directed initiative. There need to be a community where we work. We want to pull undergraduates out of the classroom, pull the staff out of office, meet in a common space and interact with each other.”

Siva, who teaches biodiversity and ecology at NUS and RVRC, said the new walk dovetails with the College’s focus on sustainability as student residents learn firsthand about the ecosystem, flora and fauna.

The founder of Toddycats has been an avid environmental advocate since his undergraduate days at NUS. Popularly known as the Otterman from the animal he studied for his Master degree, Siva has witnessed the rapid habitat loss around this region. Concerned about the worrying trend, he and other like-minded friends set up the Habitat Group in 1996 to educate students, staff and the public by organising regular nature walks and talks about local biodiversity.

Upon joining the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) at NUS in 1999, Siva developed more structured programmes and events for the Habitat Group. A year later, the group adopted the name Toddycats, the common palm civet, from which the logo of RMBR was derived. The museum subsequently evolved into the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in 2015.

Toddycats hosts a wide range of programmes such as coastal clean-ups, numerous walks and public exhibitions to raise awareness about the environment. Most popular is the Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk each February, which coincides with the Japanese invasion during World War II. Ridge walks along the Southern Ridges commencing at Kent Ridge and ending at HortPark or HarbourFront are also highly popular.


Brisk walks along the Southern Ridges are held regularly, starting from Kent Ridge campus

A well-known success story by Toddycats is Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin, a mudflat earmarked for reclamation. Siva is proud that NUS had played a major part in the happy outcome to preserve the area, now a haven for abundant coastal marine life. Staff and students worked hard to provide the scientific collection at Chek Jawa, develop a website to publicise activities, and organise large public outings. Together with efforts from other organisations, the mass petition convinced the government to gazette the site.

Chek Jawa marked the beginning of engagement with the government. Toddycats formed working groups with the National Parks Board and other agencies, such as the otter working group and long-tailed macaque group to address concerns about these animals and the environment. As Siva pointed out, “This became a mechanism for multi-entities to deal with issues in Singapore.”


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