Assistant Vice President, Conservation & Research, Mandai Nature

Dr Jessica Lee

“ Conservation is no longer just about animals. The field needs psychologists, sociologists, economists and anthroprologists tounderstand the human factors involved, and craft appropriate strategies, in order to make a positive change. Take song bird keeping for example. Instead of defaming this cultural practice that’s common across Southeast Asia, we should educate people and leverage their love of songbirds to stem illegal poaching. ”

Dr Jessica Lee is the Assistant Vice President, Conservation & Research, Mandai Nature, a Singapore-based non-profit conservation organisation, jointly set up by Temasek and Mandai Park Holdings, focusing on advancing efforts on nature conservation and climate change in Singapore and Asia.

Dr Lee facilitates, guides and manages local and regional research projects supported by Mandai Nature as well as Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the operator of Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and River Safari. across Her work also includes managing local wildlife conservation, which involves consulting with various in-park and external stakeholders on how the wildlife parks can be managed in a way that preserves, facilitates, attracts or enhances the conservation of native flora and fauna. This brings together various topics such as community engagement programs in the form of biodiversity surveys, but also incorporating wildlife-friendly or -attracting infrastructure, reforestation and developing green corridors, as well as wildlife rehabilitation, tagging or breed-for-release programs under an overarching wildlife management and conservation plan for the Mandai precinct.

As part of her role, she also is also involved in developing and reviewing proposals that are relevant to wildlife conservation in a way that strategically maximises conservation impact on the ground.

In addition, Dr Lee oversees Mandai’s avian conservation projects in Southeast Asia from a partnerships and project management perspective – thereby tracking and ensuring conservation progress. But more widely, she helps build and strengthen a reliable avian conservation network across various government and non-government stakeholders in the region. This involves providing strategic and conservation support and guidance to regional parties, which includes the building of conservation capacity and competency (e.g. training of enforcement officials). Through strategic partnerships such as her role as co-coordinator of the IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group as well as the IUCN SSC Helmeted Hornbill Working Group, Dr Lee helps align conservation efforts, and collaborate with on-ground stakeholders in the identification of conservation gaps, and assist with directing funding to support the filling of these gaps. Working in this manner not only gives Mandai sound understanding on bird conservation across Southeast Asia and the various sensitivities, but also allows the organisation to represent, work with and report to higher levels of authorities in the conservation arena such as the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

A conservation ornithologist by training, Dr Lee has worked with birds since 2007, and they have been a passion of hers ever since she was a child. Wherever possible, she tries to get involved with hands on work - such as assisting in local wild bird rescues, rehabs and releases, or working on the Jurong Bird Park’s avian hospital team. She also collaborates on conservation or research projects with local stakeholders. Recent topics of interest to her include genomic applications in the arenas of avian biogeography and phylogeny and its conservation relevance, and also the illegal/unsustainable bird trade and how it can be tackled more effectively.

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