Hidden in the lush greenery that surrounds the campus are rarely seen members of the NUS community — wildlife of multiple shapes and sizes, from slugs, birds and beetles to even snakes. When these creatures cross path with humans, panic or confusion sometimes ensue. Some members of the NUS community are seeking to change such reactions, to instead evoke wonder or appreciation. Year 3 NUS Life Sciences student Sankar Ananthanarayanan is one of them.
Sankar and his friends run and manage a Facebook page named “Campus Creatures”, which documents flora and fauna spotted in Singapore educational institutes. The page is also an opportunity to educate their followers on these critters and how to approach them.
“Campus Creatures is our way of spreading our love for this wildlife to other people in our universities,” said Sankar. “Campus Creatures” was founded in October 2014 by Sankar’s senior, NUS Life Sciences graduate Sean Yap.
The young people behind “Campus Creatures” are also involved in animal rescue on campus where they can. For larger and injured animals, they usually advocate calling on the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) — an animal protection organisation that runs 24-hour wildlife rescue across Singapore.
“Animal rescue usually just entails bringing an animal out of an unsafe area and releasing it into its natural habitat,” Sankar explained.
Staying in Ridge View Residential College, located at the periphery of the secondary forest that is Kent Ridge, Sankar often receives requests from fellow residents to help safely remove insects from their rooms. During heavy rains, he looks out for baby birds swept from their nests to reunite them with their parents.
“Living on the Ridge, you can encounter a lot of animals that live in the forest but just accidentally wander into our lives. I think it’s important to make sure both animals and humans are safe,” Sankar shared.
Surprisingly, one of the more common animals that Sankar and his friends have saved are snakes.
“Once, we rescued a harmless paradise tree snake from a freshman’s room. It had slithered in and coiled around his instant noodles. Another time, we found a young reticulated python resting on the staircase outside one of the blocks. We had to gingerly coax the python into a dustbin, which we transported deep into the forest before releasing it,” he recounted.
A particularly memorable rescue was of a sugar glider — a marsupial native to Australia.
“Somehow, one individual got loose at the Arts Canteen. When I heard about it, I ran over and saw a bunch of other students trying to figure out how to safely contain it. Using a fruit basket that the drinks stall uncle lent us, we were able to trap it together,” he said. The students fed the glider with a piece of dragon fruit obtained from the stall owner and kept it safe until ACRES arrived to take charge of the animal.
Biodiversity knowledge does not come without hard work. Most of the NUS moderators of “Campus Creatures” volunteer with various nature groups in Singapore, including the NUS Toddycats and Herpetological Society of Singapore. This augments their understanding and appreciation of the myriad biodiversity.
“My hope is that a culture of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation can become an integral part of NUS itself. That way, even after all of us graduate, these animals can still have safe homes on campus,” Sankar shared.