Yesterday afternoon, a bunch of us at Science Centre Singapore stole away to Dairy Farm Nature Park, with the intention to traverse the Wallace Trail and suss out the Wallace Education Centre. It proved an immersive and most interesting experience! Here’s a snapshot of the diverse flora along our trek! I would have loved to add fauna to this collection, but our heavy footfalls gave our presence away as the wildlife scampered or flitted away even with the slightest of snapping twigs and rustle of leaf litter.
The info panels in the Wallace Education Centre were most enlightening and flattering of Wallace’s contributions to field biology. I think it’d be fair to add though, that both Wallace and his contemporary – Charles Darwin, co-founded the theory of evolution by natural selection, rather than merely state that it was Wallace’s contribution on evolution theory that helped jumpstart Darwin’s prominence in that field.
It was only in navigating this winding trail that Wallace’s accounts (detailed in the book – Dispelling the Darkness) of collecting specimens in the Bukit Timah forest, became a vicarious experience for me. It also gave me a greater appreciation of the endurance and courage needed to work in such an environment.
Sections of this trail were straddled by towering lallang grass that was up to 2m high! I felt instantly acquainted with the fear of the unknown. Wallace’s angst was finally palpable. His thoughts on the subject are displayed in the Wallace Education Centre:
“In the midst of this entomological banquet, there is however, one drawback … the possibility of being eaten up by a tiger! While watching with eager eyes some lovely insect, the thought will occasionally occur that a hungry tiger may be lurking in that dense jungle behind intent upon catching you.”
I bet you won’t find one too many naturalists today who’d venture out, collecting forest denizens amidst such grave danger!
Another commendable feat is that Wallace had collected over 20,000 beetles in the Malay Archipelago including 700 species in his two months in Singapore! I find that astounding especially given the difficulty in finding such beetles even in low-lying vegetation! I glimpsed just one species of beetle during my 3-hour walkabout.
I’m so glad we covered this trail yesterday. To literally ‘follow in the footsteps’ of Wallace practically in our own backyard in Bukit Timah, makes the whole experience of knowing about Wallace – so much bigger. You simply must try this, if you haven’t already!
Island Adventurer is one great place to learn more about Wallace and of his work. Tucked in Hall B of Science Centre Singapore’s mezzanine floor, this latest exhibition focuses on Wallace’s adventure in expeditions and field studies. It was created in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Science and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.