01 August 2015

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Jurong Eco Garden

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Jurong Eco Garden

Jurong Eco Gardens' Butterfly Garden

Over on the "western front" of Singapore, sits a quiet and serene park near the Nanyang Technological University campus. This 5Ha park, developed by Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), was planned as part of the CleanTech Park (CTP) masterplan. The park offers tenants and neighbouring community a venue for social, educational and recreational activities, and the natural wildlife that make up the unique ecology of the site.

An overview of Jurong Eco Garden

The CleanTeck Park development by JTC attempts to push the boundaries of sustainable masterplanning for a largely industrial development. Typically, industrial parks in Singapore are densely planned to optimise land use, with buildings organised in a rather regimented and utilitarian manner. The CTP departs from the compact planning that is usually associated with industrial parks. At the heart of the CTP masterplan sits a lush park called the Jurong Eco Garden. JEG has four areas - Summit Forest, Wildlife Corridor, Stream Ravine and Freshwater Swamp Forest - seamlessly interspersed with the CleanTech building parcels.

Bioswales and stairs leading to the Summit Forest

Efforts were made to conserve the natural environment and biodiversity of the area during planning and development stages. Through the implementation of green initiatives (e.g. tree conservation) and a phased development approach, JTC made a laudable effort to preserve the biodiversity within the business park. From a baseline biodiversity survey conducted before development commenced, subsequent comparisons with post-development observations showed that the diversity of butterflies did not suffer too much of an adverse impact.

In a holistic effort to promote a sustainable development JTC worked with the landscape designers to create a wildlife corridor and a green "heart" to the overall development masterplan. Fruit- and nectar-producing plants are spaced carefully around the gardens to attract wildlife into the park. Where possible, trees were conserved to provide shade and promoting walkability in CTP. Raw material from felled trees on site were used for signage and site furniture. Rich topsoil was harvested during construction and used for softscape planting in JEG.

Recycled rocks from Jurong Rock Caverns used in the bioswales and hardscape at JEG

Over 11,340 tons of excavated rocks from JTC's Jurong Rock Caverns were used in the construction of Summit Lookout, swales, gabion walls, signage and art sculpture. Stormwater management is one of the most ambitious green features of JEG. When the estate is fully developed and occupied (by 2030), this storm water management system will leverage the undulating terrain to channel and detain 65% of the estate run offs.

Storm-water detention ponds and a system of phytoremediation strategies using plants to cleanse the water for re-use

The water collected is cleansed during conveyance by the biotopes put in place. It is then reused for non-potable use like toilet flushing and irrigation of plants during dry periods. This system is estimated to save 12,600 litres of water each month. Swales run throughout JEG, connecting microhabitats within the park and serving as a source of water for fauna. Various aquatic animals, dragonflies, damselfies and butterflies can be found along the swales.

JEG Butterfly Garden

For butterfly enthusiasts, a dedicated butterfly garden was developed within JEG. Situated near the Central Plaza and next to the Composting Station, the butterfly garden features specially-selected butterfly attracting nectaring and host plants. Covering an area of about 1,500 m2, the JEG butterfly garden teems with butterfly life on a good sunny day.

Swallowtails shot at JEG's Butterfly Garden

Of particular interest is the presence of the Common Birdwing (Troides helena cerberus) which is considered vulnerable in Singapore. We have found this species' caterpillar host plant, Aristolochia acuminata, growing wild in the adjacent forests. This host plant is also being cultivated to sustain the population of the Common Birdwing and also the Common Rose, which shares this host plant. Other Papilionidae that have been spotted here include the Common Mormon, Lime Butterfly, Common Rose and Tailed Jay.

Lime Butterfly feeding in Stachytarpheta mutabilis flowers

The lush Lantana and Ixora bushes are the best places to park yourself, if you want to see these butterflies fluttering and feeding.  Many of the other nectaring plants like Leea indica, Leea rubra, Stachytarpeta indica and mutabilis also attract many species of butterflies.

Caterpillar host plants for species like the Plain Tiger, Blue Pansy, Great Eggfly, Autumn Leaf are interspersed within the butterfly garden to attract a greater variety of butterflies to the area. With the forested catchment in the vicinity of JEG, other species that are forest dependent are occasionally spotted feeding on the buffet of nectaring plants in the butterfly garden.

A skipper feeding on the red Ixora javanica flowers

In the early hours of the day, a butterfly watcher should be able to spot many Hesperiidae zipping around the bushes and feeding greedily on the nectar-rich flowers. As the sun warms the butterfly garden, the faster-flying Pieridae like the Lemon, Orange and Mottled Emigrants appear, flying strongly from flower to flower to feed.

On a good day, a butterfly watcher/photographer can expect to see at least 10-15 different species at the butterfly garden. As the butterflies are distracted whilst feeding on the flowers, it is also easier to approach and photograph these skittish creatures.

Combination of conserved trees and introduced flora at JEG

There is even a nature trail next to the butterfly garden where one can walk in the shady forest understorey, to look for the shade-loving butterflies like the Common Faun (Faunis canens arcesilas) and other denizens that lurk in the low-light environment.

As the butterfly garden matures and more butterfly-attracting plants are brought into the area, we can expect the diversity of the butterfly population will continue to grow in the coming years. JEG is JTC’s first attempt to develop a community space within an industrial estate focusing on sustainability and biodiversity. JEG can also be used to engage the different communities such as residents from nearby housing estates, neighbouring schools, as well as interest groups, in particular nature photographers and biodiversity enthusiasts.

School groups are involved in various programmes at JEG

Today, a total of 13 schools have been involved in programmes hosted in JEG, which focus on the areas of sustainability, biodiversity and the arts. For example, River Valley High School uses JEG as an educational platform for their students to learn about topography studies, microclimate studies and water monitoring. In addition, Rulang Primary School also uses JEG to showcase their students' artwork. Since the official opening of JEG in June 2014, it has hosted over 200 students through various school curriculum and community programmes.

CleanTech One building.  Development will invariably sacrifice biodiversity.  Can we find a balance?

Whilst JTC has made a good start to create a man-made garden to conserve the biodiversity of the CTP, it is important not to overlook the "wilder" areas in the vicinity. Stronger focus should be made to conserve these areas, instead of converting them for people, rather than the fauna that exists within these forests. It is primarily because of these sanctuaries of biodiversity that thrive within these undisturbed areas that JEG is successfully attracting birds, butterflies and other fauna for its visitors to enjoy.

Ample directional signage at JEG to guide you around

So, if you have some time to enjoy a nature walk on a nice weekend, do pay Jurong Eco Garden a visit. You will be surprised to see the diversity of wildlife in this small patch of greenery. As it is located away from the hustle and bustle of urban residential areas, JEG is usually quieter and less crowded.

How to Get There :
By Bus : Take the feeder service No 199 from Boon Lay Interchange and alight at Nanyang Ave. Walk past CleanTech One building as shown on the map, and there will be signs to show you where JEG is.

By Car : See map for details. Park at either CleanTech One (ERP parking) or just outside the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln (free parking but limited lots).

Text by Chen Yimin & Khew SK : Photos by Bob Cheong, Khew SK and Simon Sng.

Special thanks to Chen Yimin of JTC for added information for this article.

Checklist of Butterflies Observed at JEG to date :

  1. Troides helena cerberus (Common Birdwing)
  2. Pachliopta aristolochiae asteris (Common Rose)
  3. Papilio clytia clytia (Common Mime)
  4. Papilio demoleus malayana (Lime Butterfly)
  5. Papilio demolion demolion (Banded Swallowtail)
  6. Papilio polytes romulus (Common Mormon)
  7. Graphium sarpedon luctatius (Common Bluebottle)
  8. Graphium agamemnon agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
  9. Delias hyparete metarete (Painted Jezebel)
  10. Leptosia nina malayana (Psyche)
  11. Appias libythea olferna (Striped Albatross)
  12. Catopsilia pyranthe pyranthe (Mottled Emigrant)
  13. Catopsilia pomona pomona (Lemon Emigrant)
  14. Catopsilia scylla cornelia (Orange Emigrant)
  15. Eurema hecabe contubernalis (Common Grass Yellow)
  16. Eurema blanda snelleni (Three Spot Grass Yellow)
  17. Danaus chrysippus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
  18. Danaus genutia genutia (Common Tiger)
  19. Danaus melanippus hegesippus (Black Veined Tiger)
  20. Parantica agleoides agleoides (Dark Glassy Tiger)
  21. Ideopsis vulgaris macrina (Blue Glassy Tiger)
  22. Euploea mulciber mulciber (Striped Blue Crow)
  23. Elymnias panthera panthera (Tawny Palmfly)
  24. Elymnias hypermnestra agina (Common Palmfly)
  25. Mycalesis mineus macromalayana (Dark Brand Bush Brown)
  26. Mycalesis perseus cepheus (Dingy Bush Brown)
  27. Mycalesis visala phamis (Long Brand Bush Brown)
  28. Orsotriaena medus cinerea (Dark Grass Brown)
  29. Ypthima baldus newboldi (Common Five Ring)
  30. Hypolimnas anomala anomala (Malayan Eggfly)
  31. Doleschallia bisaltide bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
  32. Junonia hedonia ida (Chocolate Pansy)
  33. Junonia almana javana (Peacock Pansy)
  34. Junonia orithya wallacei (Blue Pansy)
  35. Acraea terpsicore (Tawny Coster)
  36. Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
  37. Phalanta phalantha phalantha (Leopard)
  38. Cupha erymanthis lotis (Rustic)
  39. Pandita sinope sinope (Colonel)
  40. Neptis hylas papaja (Common Sailor)
  41. Phaedyma columella singa (Short Banded Sailor)
  42. Tanaecia iapis puseda (Horsfield's Baron)
  43. Polyura hebe plautus (Plain Nawab)
  44. Taxila haquinus haquinus (Harlequin)
  45. Allotinus unicolor unicolor (Lesser Darkwing)
  46. Zizula hylax pygmaea (Pygmy Grass Blue)
  47. Lampides boeticus (Pea Blue)
  48. Jamides celeno aelianus (Common Caerulean)
  49. Anthene lycaenina miya (Pointed Ciliate Blue)
  50. Surendra vivarna amisena (Acacia Blue)
  51. Iraota rochana boswelliana (Scarce Silverstreak)
  52. Hypolycaena thecloides thecloides (Dark Tit)
  53. Tajuria cippus maxentius (Peacock Royal)
  54. Badamia exclamationis (Brown Awl)
  55. Iambrix salsala salsala (Chestnut Bob)
  56. Udaspes folus (Grass Demon)
  57. Suastus gremius gremius (Palm Bob)
  58. Plastigia naga (Chequered Lancer)
  59. Unkana ambasa batara (Hoary Palmer)
  60. Potanthus omaha omaha (Lesser Dart)
  61. Telicota besta bina (Besta Palm Dart)
  62. Pelopidas mathias mathias (Contiguous Swift)
  63. Pelopidas conjunctus conjunctus (Conjoined Swift)
  64. Polytremis lubricans lubricans (Small Branded Swift)