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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2020


  Lower Peirce  
    ... an easy walk in a tranquil forest  


Mature secondary forest lines the banks of Lower Peirce Reservoir

Shortly after the end of the 19th century the British colonial government in Singapore started a number of major public works projects to supply a clean, reliable water supply to the island's growing population. A number of dams were built in the centre of the island, including those of MacRitchie Reservoir and Lower Peirce Reservoir (formerly the Kallang River Reservoir). At that time the banks of the newly dammed lakes would have been occupied by farms, orchards, plantations and scrubland; the primary rainforest which once covered the area would have long been cleared. Now, after decades of protection, healthy secondary forest lines the banks of Lower Peirce Reservoir.


Brightly coloured dragonflies and damselflies are common at the lake side


Lakeside Parks

There are two access points to the lake - Upper Peirce Reservoir Park and Lower Peirce Reservoir Park. At both parks the public can stroll along the lakeside, or take a walk across the dams themselves. The sharp eyed may be able to spot the larger resident fish species such as the highly regarded Arowana Scleropages formosus and the predatory Giant Snakehead or Toman Channa micropeltes. Snakehead species, of which there are a number of varieties, are able to breathe out of water for a considerable time; they are known to move from one water body to another across moist vegetated land. Younger snakehead travel in shoals and may easily be seen in the shallows of the reservoir. 

Various species of dragonfly and damselfly are to be found along the lake's edge. This is their preferred habitat since the females lay their eggs in shallow waters and the larvae or nymphs spend the first phase of their life fully underwater. The winged adults are colourful insects and are quite harmless. 

Lower Peirce Trail


Compound leaves and shoot of the Tree Fern Cyathea latebrosa


To the north of the reservoir, leading off Old Upper Thomson Road, is the Lower Peirce Trail. Though less than one kilometre in length, most of which is a well-constructed wooden boardwalk, the trail lets visitors of all ages experience the peace and quiet of the forest. One does not have to walk far until the constant hum of city traffic has died away and the only sounds are of birds, squirrels and chirping insects. Along the trail are signboards which help explain the ecology of secondary forest.

The Lower Peirce forest has long been recognised as having a rich diversity of tree and plant species. In fact, it was not long ago that this forested area was threatened with destruction by a proposed golf course, thus raising the opposition of nature enthusiasts. Thankfully the authorities relented and the golf course plan was dropped.  


Gleichenia truncata - this attractive branching fern grows along the waterside path


Plants and Trees

Perhaps the most attractive plant species here are the various ferns which thrive along the small streams and in the waterlogged areas. These include the Tree Fern Cyathea latebrosa : locally these can reach 4 metres in height, but given time they may reach up to 10 metres as attained by older specimens in Malaysia.

Another attractive species is the branching fern Gleichenia truncata - this can be found by the path along the edge of the lake. The Fish-tail Palm Caryota sp. is common here too - so-called because of the distinctive shape of its leaves. These attractive trees are planted as ornamental trees in other countries. 


 The Fish-tail Palm Caryota sp. 


The Mahang or Ant Plant Macaranga triloba (so called because of the three lobes which make up the leaf) is an interesting example of symbiosis: the plant provides housing for a species of ant in its hollow, swollen leaf shoots and in return the ant protects the plant from leaf-eating insects. Examples of this plant are clearly labelled along the trail. 

Sadly a colony of Raffles Pitcher Plant Nepenthes rafflesiana along the Cyathea Trail has been virtually destroyed by the public, who detour from the boardwalk for a closer look. 


The swollen leaf stalks of the Mahang Plant Macaranga triloba


Forest dwellers 

Squirrels are common in the forest, and these include the Plantain Squirrel Callosciurus notatus and the smaller Slender Squirrel Sundasciurus tenuis. The latter can sometime be seen in groups of four or five in the early morning or late afternoon feeding on fruits and insects (including ants). The other common mammal is the Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis: this species of monkey remains very common in Singapore's secondary forests. 

Frogs and toads may be heard along the streams, particularly after a rainstorm. These will be hard to see as they are hidden by the leaf litter. Also, the casual visitor is unlikely to see much bird life, as forest species are shy. However spend some time by the water's edge to admire the grace of the Pacific Swallow as it swoops down to take small insects from the lake's surface. Wait long enough and you may even get to see a Brahminy Kite or even a White-bellied Fish Eagle expertly plucking fish from the water. 

Take a break

At the end of a walk take a picnic at the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park where there is ample seating and pleasant views. Or visit the nearby hawker centre on Thomson Road where Chicken Rice can still be had for just two dollars ! Still hungry ? Try the excellent Roti Prata (fried Indian bread and curry sauce) at Casuarina Road.