On The Job With A Tree Doctor

For a day, Challenge trails Mr Daniel Seah, an arborist on Sentosa, as he carries out his work in caring for the island’s plants. In this online exclusive, we share with you the nitty-gritties of being a tree doctor.

Read He Listens to the Call of the Forest to find out more about Mr Daniel Seah.

Mr Seah’s day starts at 4am. After having a leisurely breakfast and reading newspapers at home in Buangkok, he gets a ride from a taxi driver friend to Sentosa Island. He is usually the first one in the office at 6.30am.
Mr Seah received this Lego figurine as a gift from a colleague who went to Malaysia’s Legoland. When asked if the figurine represented him, he laughed and said: “Yah, [the figurine and I are] like guardians of the trees.”
Accompanied by a driver, Mr Seah is constantly on the move across the island. He responds to calls from his three supervisors or island partners (the commercial operators on the island) to check the safety and growth of the island’s 30,000 trees.
Mr Seah looks out at a forest covering the slopes of Mt. Serapong, in the central area of Sentosa Island. As there is a heritage tree in the middle of the forest, he has to trek through the forest at least once a month to check on the tree. He inspects one heritage tree per week.
This hundred-year-old tree, a ficus kerkhovenii (also known as the Johore fig), fell “sick”. The expansion of a pond nearby caused the surrounding soil to be waterlogged, and the tree’s roots started “drowning”. As a result, the tree started tilting and had to be propped up with metal struts. Mr Seah comes by occasionally to check on this heritage tree, which was made famous when Zoe Tay sat on it for a movie she starred in, called “The Tree”.
Mr Seah used to taste the sap of the tree to get an idea of the tree’s health. Now he is experienced enough that all he needs to do is smell the leaf.
Mr Seah’s work also involves advising construction firms on how to build without harming the vegetation on the island. Here, he takes a picture of the treetops that have to be trimmed – “like a window”, he says – to make way for Sentosa’s new cable car line.
Mr Seah used to climb trees but has since stopped due to his age – he is now 60 years old. He says this 49m tree, an alstonia angustiloba (also known as the common pulai) – which takes half a day to climb – gives the best view of the island from the top.
One day, Mr Seah hopes to discover a new species of tree he can put his name to.
    Jul 15, 2014
    Yvette Kan
    Norman Ng
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email