"Since young, I was surrounded by strong, influential women. They were wildlife advocates, professors, and even biomedical geneticists! Naturally as I grew up, I developed an affinity for wildlife. In fact, I decided – I wanted to play a part in conserving our ecosystem.”
It was this fierce passion that spurred Anusha to pursue a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, all the way in Canada at the University of British Columbia. Back in Singapore, she researched the population dynamics of the vulnerable Smooth-coated Otter as part of her undergraduate thesis. (Yes, the wandering otters we see today are vulnerable species.)
Joining the NParks’ Youth Stewards for Nature (YSN) Programme
Through that research experience, Anusha chanced upon the opportunity to be involved in the National Parks Board’s (NParks) Asian Small-clawed Otter Species Recovery project through their Youth Stewards for Nature programme. This programme is one of the many Singapore Together’s Alliance for Action (AfA) partnerships that aims to guide youths in undertaking challenges related to nature conservation, wildlife management, greenery and climate resilience.
With a laugh, Anusha recalls her journey through Pulau Ubin, tripping over vegetation, getting hit by hanging branches and getting her boots stuck in the mud while crossing streams. One long arduous trek took her team to the project site, only for a sudden thunderstorm to force them back to their van – back through the thick vegetation to boot! No complaints, though.” For her, it’s “a fun experience that was unique to urban Singapore.”
Anusha and team surveying the artificial holts (otter dens)
Hand to Heart, An Invaluable Journey
Volunteering with the YSN took Anusha beyond her comfort zone, as she set up camera traps to monitor the wildlife population, and visited artificial holts established by NParks, among other “wild” activities.
Yet, she takes pride in recounting the “indoor” experiences as well, such as the time she conceptualised and delivered a regional symposium that involved highly-acclaimed researchers and conservationists. And for that, she’s thankful for her NParks mentors for their steadfast support and guidance.
Anusha and her YSN team, together with Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and mentors from NParks
Forging The Path Ahead
For Anusha, it doesn’t just stop at otters. Her ultimate goal is to conduct research on human-wildlife interactions and community-based conservation, to help shape policy decisions in these areas.
And to chase this cause, she’s going to further her studies at the University of Oxford, where she will embark on a Master’s degree in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.
Just like those who inspired her at the very start, Anusha hopes to influence her fellow Singaporeans to love and protect wildlife as well. To her, raising awareness of topics such as wildlife coexistence is the first step to encouraging them to volunteer as well. “Because when people know, they love. When they love, they protect,” she quips.
Anusha, the YSN team and NParks team at Wildlife Day Regional Youth Symposium 2022
Inspired to play your part in conserving nature? Discover opportunities like this, and other initiatives for yourself at www.sg. #SingaporeTogether
Partnerships are at the heart of the Singapore Together movement. Through the Singapore Together Alliances for Action and other partnerships, Singaporeans and the government can work together to co-create solutions on issues, and Singaporeans can play an active role in shaping our future together.
All responses mentioned above were edited and condensed for clarity.
Ms Anusha Shivram