These Ladies Probably Have the Most Unusual Office in Singapore

 

From coordinating wildlife shepherding to tree conservation efforts, here’s what goes on behind one of Singapore’s most unusual jobs. Sustainability is at the core of everything we do at Temasek. In this ongoing series, we look at ways and people who create a better world for future generations through innovation and sustainable practices.

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Mandai Park Development’s EMO team conducts wildlife shepherding together with wildlife specialists and trained volunteers. Delaney Eng (front row, third from left) and Ong Wei Bin (back row, fourth from right).

Imagine this: as you start yet another day of work, you hear the light rustling of leaves, feel the prickling heat of the morning sun against your skin, and see before you a sea of green. For Delaney Eng, 25, and Ong Wei Bin, 24, these experiences are part and parcel of their job.

As managers at Mandai Park Development’s Environmental Management Office (EMO), they are part of a team that oversees the sensitive development of the Mandai precinct into an integrated nature and wildlife hub.

Together with the EMO, Delaney and Wei Bin coordinate wildlife shepherding -  a unique activity that involves shepherding larger mammals such as the sambar deer and wild boar to safe areas before work starts at a particular site.

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A green thumbs up for Ong Wei Bin, 24 (left), and Delaney Eng, 25 (right), who balance development with environmental conservation

A group of about 20 people  -  including the EMO team, the group’s wildlife specialists and other trained volunteers  - comb through the plot of land in the day or at night with sticks and loud hailers. They form a line and move towards the same direction, using sticks to create gentle, shuffling movement and loud hailers to make slight noise. The aim: to guide animals hiding amid vegetation towards refuge areas that the team has identified.

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Trained volunteers and staff from Mandai Park Holdings comb through vegetation as part of wildlife shepherding

“If we encounter, say, a sambar deer, we use our walkie talkies to inform the rest to look out for it. If the animals return to a particular area we have already combed, we will start the combing process again until they are safely directed away from the particular site,”  Wei Bin said.

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Sticks and loud hailers are used to gently guide animals away from work sites

Both managers graduated from NUS with a degree in Environmental Science, and admit that they have always had an inclination towards nature and the great outdoors  - perfectly matched with the demands of their job. Together with ecologists and bird specialists, they also conduct inspections to ensure that there are no active nests and wildlife in the trees before any construction work begins. The team works closely with contractors to ensure responsible environmental practices like pollution prevention and also share with workers how to behave appropriately when they encounter wildlife at the sites.

Besides shepherding wildlife, Delaney and Wei Bin also oversee efforts to facilitate the movement of animals across habitats in the area through the Mandai Eco-Link and artificial crossing aids such as rope bridges and colugo poles. These bridges and poles, which are expected to be up along Mandai Lake Road in 2018, serve as temporary crossing aids for tree-dwelling animals such as squirrels and colugos  -  a gliding mammal similar to flying squirrels, creating a safe passage for them to roam freely. Eventually, these crossing aids will also be deployed at other locations around the Mandai precinct to guide wildlife movement within parks.
 

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Conceptual illustration of temporary artificial crossing aids that will be erected along Mandai Lake Road.

But it is not just about the furry and feathery life forms. The conservation of plants is just as important. As part of Mandai’s tree conservation strategy, the EMO team works with arborists who survey and tag trees based on their species, size and conservation status. Trees of conservation value are either identified for protection or transplanted to other parts of the development.
 

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Aside from their daily work responsibilities, learning on the job also takes on a new meaning. “[I get to encounter] wildlife that I have never seen in the wild before. As part of the wildlife response team, I get to see how animals are rehabilitated by vets and expert wildlife handlers,” Delaney said.

What they do on the job also translates into their personal lives. Once, Wei Bin found herself going beyond the call of duty after office hours to save a dehydrated bird that had been left stranded on the road. “My friend and I decided to drive it to the Bird Park, where the bird specialists are, but the car broke down along the way. We ended up begging the towing service to send us to the Bird Park!” she recounted.

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The Mandai precinct will be rejuvenated into a complete nature destination

When it comes to building Singapore’s infrastructure, both believe that education is key to developing in a sensitive and environmentally conscious manner. Wei Bin said, “It’s not about having to choose between protecting nature or economic growth and development. I believe it is about striking a balance through holistic planning to minimise environmental impact and exploring innovative solutions for sustainable growth.”

The article was first published on Medium.com byTemasek. Mandai Park Development is the development arm of Mandai Park Holdings, the organisation responsible for driving the rejuvenation of the Mandai precinct. Mandai Park Holdings is a portfolio company of Temasek.