Nature lovers take issue with trail run

SINGAPORE - An annual race to be held at MacRitchie Reservoir next month has sparked concerns from nature lovers that it will disturb the wildlife in the nature reserves.

The North Face 100, now in its sixth year, will take place on Oct 4 and 5. The race will start and end at MacRitchie, and will take runners through the Central Reserves, and Bukit Timah and Mandai areas, said race organisers.

An estimated 3,700 participants are expected, and nature enthusiasts have taken issue with the timing of the overnight event. They said that the large number of participants will affect the behaviour of rare nocturnal creatures like the pangolin and slow loris.

The 100km category of the race, with about 100 participants, is expected to kick off at 10pm, while the race's other categories - 50km, 25km and 13km - will be flagged off progressively from 5am the next day.

The organiser, The North Face Singapore, said approval has been given by the National Parks Board (NParks), and it has adhered to the board's requirements.

The North Face Singapore's senior marketing executive, Mr Marc Pereira, said his team regularly meets NParks officials to validate the race route and identify ways to preserve the nature reserves.

The route has also been changed since 2010, he said, to ensure runners stay on the outskirts of the nature reserves.

Mr Pereira said: "The exact route will be kept confidential until a few weeks before the event."

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathura told My Paper: "There's no less impact just because they have chosen some fringe trails."

He explained that nocturnal animals are known to venture onto the trails when they forage at night, and he expected the run to still go through MacRitchie.

Dr Adrian Loo, a member of the Raffles Museum Toddycats nature volunteer group, said shy creatures, like the pangolin and Malayan colugo, might be frightened away from the trails, and this could affect their foraging behaviour in the long run.

Mr Pereira said runners doing the overnight run will have only a small headlamp that illuminates the area about 2m in front of them.

He said: "The runners would be spaced out (and) concentrating on running, so noise would be minimal."

adrianl@sph.com.sg

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