Singapore mourns veteran nature and wildlife conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai

The late Subaraj Rajathurai. Image: Singapore Tourism Board/Facebook
The late Subaraj Rajathurai. Image: Singapore Tourism Board/Facebook

Singapore’s conservation community is mourning the death of veteran nature and wildlife advocate Subaraj Rajathurai, who died yesterday at the age of 56, according to his wife.

“I have lost my dear husband today. May his soul Rest In Peace,” Shamla Jeyarajah Subaraj revealed in a post on her Facebook account.

Subaraj was the first eco-tourism guide to be licensed in Singapore back in the 1990s, and served as the director of wildlife consultancy firm Strix. For decades, he was the face of the city’s environmental movement, from personally conducting field surveys to leading bird-watching tours.

“For over 35 years, he worked relentlessly to preserve our flora and fauna,” the admins of the Facebook group Ottercity wrote, crediting him for the return of Singapore’s beloved otter population.

“Among his many accomplishments and achievements, we will always remember and be thankful for Subaraj’s hard work to save Sungei Buloh [Wetland Reserve] from redevelopment in the late 1980s. This same patch of mangrove later became ground zero for our returning otters in the 90s,” they wrote.

Subaraj personally drafted “two important documents” that led to the conservation of the reserve, minister Desmond Lee wrote in his tribute on Facebook. Lee is the minister for social and family development and second minister for national development. 

One of them, known as the “Master Plan for the Conservation of Nature in Singapore,” was published in 1990 and recommended a number of sites for conservation, including the Mandai mangrove recently opened to the public, Lee said. 

Subaraj also designed nature and wildlife survey methodologies still being used today, he added.

“Before Googling became an easy source of finding information, Subaraj was the guru who could identify birds by their calls, and knew where they could be found,” Lee wrote.

Subaraj’s passion for nature and wildlife sparked in 1981 when he took his first nature hike at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, according to the Wild Singapore website. He then spent much of the ’80s wandering the natural habitats of Singapore and Malaysia before returning home.

The Singapore Tourism Board paid their own tribute yesterday by posting a video about him.

“In memory of Subaraj Rajathurai – self-taught naturalist, wildlife expert and a Singaporean whose passion inspired us all. He will be missed,” the caption reads.

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