Best of our wild blogs: 2 Nov 12

Night time exploration at Alexandra Road
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

A Viper Near You.. and Sexual Dichromatism
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Last Day of the Northern Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Low-hanging fruit flies
from The annotated budak and Total recoil

Random Gallery - Apefly
from Butterflies of Singapore

Olive-Back Sunbird and Flowering Plants
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Wildlife and wildsingapore featured in the Straits Times
from wild shores of singapore

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Wild things in Singapore

Singapore is not just the concrete jungle that many think it is, not with the wildlife here
Rachel Chan Straits Times 2 Nov 12;

You may think that Singapore is a concrete jungle whose only wildlife are household pests, pesky crows and squawking mynahs.

But recent incidents such as sambar deer getting knocked down by cars, wild boars attacking humans and macaque monkeys intruding into flats show it is still a real jungle out there.

Plenty of folk here are taking a walk on the wild side and finding out what lies beneath the trees and sea.

Some of it is serious stuff. Two hundred scientists and volunteers are involved in an audit of marine life around Singapore's northern islands and coasts in the Mega Marine Survey, conducted by the National Parks Board.

Blog updates ( show volunteers mingling with the likes of jellyfish, slugs, sea anemones and crabs.

Nature interest groups such as Nature Society (Singapore) and Wild Singapore are helping to document natural heritage in independent surveys. Nature Society Singapore, for example, initiated a horseshoe crab rescue and research programme five years ago to save crabs trapped in abandoned fishing nets at Mandai mudflats.

It has gone on to conduct research on the horseshoe crabs' population density and breeding patterns and has published three papers in international journal Aquatic Biology.

"The data gatheredhas established that the Mandai mudflats at Kranji are a horseshoe crab habitat of international significance as it is the only place in the world where a permanently high population density of horseshoe crabs has been documented," says the Nature Society's outreach officer Chenny Li.

If trudging knee-deep in mud is not your thing, check out nature reserves, parks and Singapore's offshore islands.

Nature Society vice-president Mr Leong Kwok Peng says this is a good time of the year to go bird watching, as thousands of migratory birds have flown here to avoid the northern hemisphere winter.

"You do not need to devote the whole day to watching them as they are most active from 7 to 10am. Or you can go spotting butterflies from about 10am to noon," he advises.

Wild Singapore founder Ria Tan offers these tips: "You need keen eyesight and patience to spot wildlife. It's easier if you know what you are looking for."

Life!Weekend highlights five creatures each from land, air and water which not many people know existed in and around Singapore.


Black-backed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca)

One of the most colourful birds in the world, this has a glowing bluish-black back, a red crown and a yellow breast.

This native bird has been sighted in the Lower Peirce Reservoir area.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata)

This beautiful migratory bird with a purplish-blue gloss and white underside hails from Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan, and is listed as a near threatened species by BirdLife International, a global bird-watching authority.

It is rarely seen but was last spotted in the Bidadari area, which is near Potong Pasir, says Mr Alan Ow Yong, immediate past chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s bird-watching group.

"It might have chosen to rest there because it is a quiet, green spot in an urban setting," he says.

Greater Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

This is native to Singapore but is rarely spotted due to the degradation of its natural habitat, says avid bird photographer Lee Tiah Khee, who is with the Nature Society (Singapore) and who is also Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao's chief photographer.

"I last saw a father and his chick in a marshy area with low grass in Jurong West, but that field has now been fenced up for redevelopment. I don't know what has happened to that family of birds," he says sadly.

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus)

This large, native bird of prey has been spotted in the Japanese Garden at Jurong East and can be seen all year round, says Mr Ow Yong. It eats mynahs, pigeons and other small mammals.

It has a wingspan of about 42cm to 46cm and can be identified by the black bands on its tail and a conspicuous black centre stripe against a white throat, from chin to breast.

Banded Line Blue (Prosotas lutea sivoka)

This tiny butterfly with a wingspan of only 16mm to 20mm is tough to spot, but ButterflyCircle member Federick Ho did last month while exploring the forested area of Bukit Brown. It was the first time this butterfly has been spotted in Singapore. ButterflyCircle is an independent butterfly interest group in Singapore which was founded in 2004.

New species of butterflies can be sighted more than once a year, says ButterflyCircle founder Khew Sin Khoon. For those who are keen on butterfly photography, he advises: "To get a really good shot of a butterfly, you need to get up close; no more than 3m away. They don't mind humans if they are engaged in some sort of activity, such as feeding on a flower."


Smooth otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

This critically endangered mammal has short, sleek fur and lives in pairs or family groups with its young. Active during both day and night, these creatures spend most of their time in water and eat fish, turtles, shrimp, clams and snails.

They are often sighted in Singapore's mangroves, mudflats and coastal areas such as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin as well as Changi, says Wild Singapore founder Ria Tan.

Banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis)

This elusive and critically endangered monkey is one of three primates native to Singapore, the other two being the long-tailed macaque and the Sunda slow loris. The adult is mostly covered in black fur, with a distinctive white band down its chest. Its young are white.

A paper published by a National University Of Singapore research team in 2010 says that there are about 40 of them living in the MacRitchie and Lower Peirce Reservoir areas.

Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

This is the largest crocodile species and the largest living reptile in the world, says the Raffles Museum Of Biodiversity Research (go to They can grow up to 9m long but are usually smaller, and live in brackish and freshwater habitats. They eat turtles, birds and mammals and usually hunt at night. Nature Society (Singapore) vice-president Leong Kwok Peng says they are most frequently sighted in mangroves at Sungei Buloh. They have also been sighted in the Singapore and Kallang rivers, Sungei Seletar, Kranji Reservoir, Pasir Ris Park and Pulau Tekong.

Oriental whip snake (Ahaetulla prasina)

Do not be afraid of this beautiful, 2m-long green snake. It lives in trees and has often been spotted in forested areas of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin and Loyang.

Wild Singapore's Ms Tan says: "It is mildly venomous but is shy and will prefer to slide away into the undergrowth. If you want to take a closer look at it, avoid disturbing it. Its venom is too weak to affect humans, but sadly, it is often killed on sight by people who fear snakes."

Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor)

Once thought to be extinct in the wild in these parts, this species of large deer sadly made headlines recently for becoming roadkill.

Said to be extremely shy, the sambar is one of two species native to Singapore (the other is the barking deer), and was last sighted (and killed) in Old Upper Thomson Road in August. It has also been seen in Bukit Brown cemetery, near the MacRitchie Nature Reserve and Mandai Lake Road, near the Upper Seletar Reservoir.

"No study has been made on how many sambar deer are living in the wild. No one knows where they are from and you are not likely to see them easily," says Mr Leong of Nature Society (Singapore).


Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus)

These endangered echinoderms used to be common on beaches here but but now you can find them only in undisturbed places such as Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin and Cyrene Reef, which is three submerged reef flats ringed by petrochemical plants on Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom, to the south of Singapore. Adult sea stars can grow up to 30cm in diameter and the shape, colour and number of knobs on them may vary, says Wild Singapore's Ms Ria Tan.

These sea stars are not venomous and are often poached to beautify home aquariums. However, in captivity, they are unlikely to survive long without expert care, she adds.

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis)

Also called pink dolphins, these endangered cetaceans can be sighted in the waters of the Southern Islands.

"Like many other marine mammals, these dolphins are threatened by drowning in fishing lines and fishing nets. They are also affected by pollution and loss of feeding habitats due to reclamation and coastal development," says Ms Tan.

Black-tipped reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)

Yes, sharks can still be found in Singapore but beach babes will be relieved to know that they will not harm humans if left alone. Black-tipped reef sharks are often seen at Pulau Semakau as well as other southern reefs, said Ms Tan.

Sharks are threatened by over-fishing by recreational fishermen or by being trapped in nets or traps, she adds. She saw a dead 1.2m-long black-tipped reef shark on Pulau Semakau in May last year.

Mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)

These crabs are not crustaceans like other crabs, but are closer in relation to arachnids such as spiders and scorpions. These non-venomous animals have been around even before dinosaurs. Studies by Nature Society (Singapore) have found that the Mandai mudflats at Kranji are the only place in the world where a permanently high population density of horseshoe crabs has been documented.

To view the horseshoe crabs, call the Nature Society (Singapore) on 6741-2036 to request a guided introduction to the mudflats.

Estuarine seahorse (Hippocampus kuda)

These fish - yes, they are fish - can be found all around Singapore, in seagrass beds in shallow freshwater.

While they have no natural predator, seahorses are often harvested for traditional Chinese medicine. They are listed as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and their international trade is monitored. They are considered globally vulnerable.

Activities and resources
Straits Times 2 Nov 12;


During this time every year, thousands of birds from the northern hemisphere visit Sungei Buloh to seek refuge from winter. Join this workshop to learn how to identify them and how you can help the National Parks Board in studying the migratory patterns of these birds in Singapore.

Where: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

When: Nov 17 & Dec 1, 9.30am to 1pm

Admission: $5, includes admission fees and materials.

Info: E-mail mendis_tan@nparks. to reserve your slot and then pay by cheque to National Parks Board. Your registration will be confirmed on receipt of your cheque.


This day camp includes a series of indoor and outdoor activities revolving around the wetlands and nature conservation issues. Children can earn stamps and cloth badges upon completion of the activities.

Where: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

When: Dec 15, 9am to 5pm

Admission: $5 and an extra 50 cents for a young naturalist passport

Info: Call 6794-1401. Limited to 40 children between the ages of six and 10. To register, call ahead before sending in the form and cheque.

Registration fee of $5 will go to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve education fund.

Make your cheque payable to Garden City Fund. Post it and the form to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, 301 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718925; or register in person at the information counter from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Download the form at


Go on a trail in a nature reserve by following these guides published by NParks:

Sungei Buloh: eGuide_LRes.pdf

North Eastern Riverine Loop: Eguide_final.pdf

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve:

If you have a smartphone, download the NSSBirdGuide (free) and Butterflies Of Singapore ($2.58) apps.

These will enable you to search for birds and butterflies by name. You can even listen to some of the bird calls.

Nature Society (Singapore) organises nature-watching events every month. Go to for more details. (Roll your mouse over News and click on Events & Calendar.)

Go to index.html for a list of places to sight wildlife


Dress in dull colours (grey, brown, dull green) and wear sensible shoes that provide a good grip. Go out in small groups of twos or threes. Keep noise levels down. Take along a pair of binoculars - anything with a magnification of eight to 10, and lens with a diameter of 32mm to 40mm will be especially useful when bird watching or watching butterflies.
If you see something alarming (such as a snake, scorpion, big spider or aggressive monkey), do not make lots of noise, wave things at it or try to hit it. Look away and back off. A snake is more likely to be afraid of you than you of it.
If a monkey has grabbed something of yours such as food or a purse, do not try to chase the animal to get it back.
Do not feed wild animals.
Dispose all litter properly.
Do not veer away from the designated path when in a nature reserve. You could get lost.
Do wear diving booties if you are visiting a mudflat. They will protect your feet and enable you to walk around in soft mud. These can be bought from shops selling diving equipment and camping supplies. Wellington boots or other footwear may get stuck in the mud.

Do not use excessive flash photography, recordings or simulations of bird calls and bait to lure animals into view just to take a good picture.

Sources: NParks, NSS, Agri-Veterinary Authority of Singapore

Related links
wildsingapore happenings for the latest nature happenings in Singapore

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Illegal wildlife trade tapping on Singapore's trading hub status: WWF

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 1 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE: Amid the push towards being environmentally-friendly, there are calls for consumers worldwide to reject illegal wildlife products.

According to one estimate, more than 400 rhinoceros have been poached for their horn in South Africa this year, compared to just 13 in 2007.

Asia is seen as a growing market for such products - given rising affluence in the region.

Every year, an estimated 800kg of illicit rhino horn reaches Asian markets.

This is mainly to feed a rising demand traditional Chinese medication products.

While the medicinal properties of the horn are still being debated, experts say what is clear is that poaching the rhino for this purpose is endangering the species.

"Once these species start disappearing we are going to see the whole ecosystem start crumbling away," said Chris R Shepherd, deputy regional director of the conservation organisation TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

"Imagine it as a building; when you start pulling a few bricks out it doesn't really matter, but you start pulling more and more bricks out, eventually the whole foundation and building is going to crumble around us and it will have a serious impact on people as well; it is not just a few animals disappearing, it is really a whole system being destroyed."

It is legal in certain parts of Africa for rhinos to be hunted for trophies, but poachers have been taking advantage of this system to ship horn for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

At the moment there are about 20,000 wild rhinos left in South Africa.

"The thinking behind these programmes is that if there is some revenue coming in from these culling safaris or trophy hunting safaris, that revenue can be used for conservation of the species, but I don't think that equation really works," said Leon Perera, the CEO of Spire Research & Consulting.

"I think this activity of culling and hunting and blood sports and killing for pleasure does attract a lot of negative attention from the NGO community, from animal activists, and that is going to rebound negatively for the country that does that, in terms of their tourist industry."

He added: "What would probably work a lot better for countries where there are endangered species is to focus on eco tourism."

In Singapore, the zoo has a number of educational programmes to create better understanding of animal species and conservation efforts.

"Around the park, we always try to create experiential learning opportunities for our visitors," said May Lok, director of education at Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

"For instance, we create an opportunity for the visitors to interact with the rhinos, because they get so up close with the rhino the experience is one of involvement and hopefully we can inspire them through these experience to take care of the rhino and be part of conservation efforts."

According to the World Wildlife Fund, groups involved in the illegal wildlife trade have been tapping on Singapore's status as a trading hub.

Earlier this year, TRAFFIC identified Singapore as a key laundering point for illegally-caught birds from the Solomon Islands.

- CNA/xq

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Indonesia: Weh Island waters home to 133 coral species

Antara 30 Oct 12;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - A recent study has concluded that the waters off Weh Island, Sabang city, Aceh province, are home to 133 coral reef species, according to Nur Fadli, a researcher at Fishery and Marine Research Centre of Syiah Kuala University.

"Of the 133 species found, three were recently listed and five are potentially new species," he said here on Tuesday.

Nur Fadli noted that the study on coral reefs was jointly conducted by the Fishery and Marine Research Centre of Syiah Kuala University, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University of Australia, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Flora and Fauna International.

"The results of this study show the uniqueness of coral reefs in Weh island and its vicinity. This is reflected in the species composition, which is a mix of Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean coral reef species, as well as the ones which are commonly found in Indonesian waters," he added.

According to Nur Fadli, the diversity of coral reefs in Weh Island waters is similar to that of Halmahera island in North Maluku province.

"Halmahera waters are also home to 130 species and are famous as the most diverse coral reef region in the northern waters of Indonesia," he pointed out.

Compared with other regions in Indonesia, Nur Fadli added, the coral reefs in Weh Island waters are "unique despite having similarities with those in the Andaman Sea".

"If Weh Island is considered as a representative of the Andaman Sea, the coral reef in the area should be jointly protected by Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar," he stated.

"Protection should be first provided in the Coral Triangle region, covering the waters of the Philippines in the north, Solomon Island in the east, and Indonesia (Bali province) in the west," Nur Fadli said.

The Coral Triangle is home to 605 coral reef species, which account for 76 percent of the total number of recorded coral reef species in the world. However, overfishing is threatening their survival in the region.

"With such diversity at stake, a serious and sustainable conservation effort should be made," Nur Fadli stated.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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The Malaysian Nature Society Supports Plan For Educational Park In Wangsa Maju

Bernama 1 Nov 12;

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has lent support to a proposal by residents of Wangsa Maju Section 10 to oppose new residential development in the area and create an educational park, instead.

In a statement here Thursday, MNS Selangor branch chairman Henry Goh said the park could help children in the area to continue to enjoy fresh air, study the rich bio-diversity in the forest and live a healthier lifestyle.

The Wangsa Maju township, which covers about 400ha, was developed in the early 1980s, from the former Wardieburn Estate in Setapak.

Goh said, little patches of greenery in the Wangsa Maju Section 10 forest were surprisingly rich in biodiversity and should be used for nature-based activities such as trekking, bird-watching and nature photography.

He said MNS had recorded several unusual birds in Wangsa Maju, including the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and Rufescent Prinia, and they were unlikely to be found if the forest was cleared.

Goh said, open spaces should be conserved as they contained as much natural vegetation as possible, to not only satisfy the need for recreational space but also provide ecosystem services such as moderating the climate, preventing soil erosion and retaining excessive rain water.

"Man-made parks, playgrounds or sports complexes do not give the same benefits," he said.

According to the KL City Plan 2020, only 6.5 per cent of the total land area in the city had been gazetted as "open space", defined as any land reserved as "a public garden, park, sports and recreation ground, pleasure ground, walk or as a public space".

However, Goh said the National Urbanisation Policy had set a target to "provide adequate public open spaces by the adoption of a standard of two hectares per 1,000 urban population".

At present, he said Kuala Lumpur only had 0.36ha per 1,000 people and this compared poorly with cities such as London (4.0ha per 1,000 people), Melbourne (2.0ha) and Toronto (2.0ha).

"In order to attain the targeted 2.0ha per 1,000 people ratio by 2020, the coverage of open spaces will have to be increased from the current 6.5 per cent of the total area of KL to 18 per cent (taking into account the population growth projection for 2020). This target can be achieved if we reserve our remaining green areas as gazetted open spaces," he said.


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Pollution and Debris Stirred by Sandy Threaten Coastal Waters

Becky Oskin Yahoo News 1 Nov 12;

Oil, pesticides, PCBs: Drip by drip, year after year, pollutants are absorbed into New York City's streets, and now Hurricane Sandy's floodwaters are soaking them out. Hurricane Katrina's urban floodwaters had high levels of bacteria, lead and harmful levels of chemicals including phosphorous and arsenic, studies found.

Local officials in New York City are warning residents to steer clear of the potentially toxic soup, particularly around areas like the Gowanus Canal Superfund site. But the contaminated waters are also raising concerns among those who monitor the health of beaches and bays along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Their biggest concern isn't coffee cups and two-by-fours bobbing out to Chesapeake Bay, but loads of polluted sediment drowning marine life. As Hurricane Sandy's floodwaters head out to the coast, the chemicals will attach to sediment scoured off fields, lawns and forests, getting a free ride to open water.

"There's a great deal of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as urban residue and runoff, all of which puts a lot of chemicals into the water," said Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Foundation. "All of the pollution will attach to sediments and settle out when it reaches large bodies of water," he told OurAmazingPlanet.

Oil sheens and debris have been spotted in the Hudson River — everything from 55-gallon drums and quart-sized containers of transmission fluid, to wrecked boats and swamped vehicles with leaking fuel tanks, according to a statement from local advocacy group Riverkeeper.

The majority of the physical debris will wash up along the coast. "Ninety-nine percent of it will probably go to a landfill," said Joseph Kelly, an expert on coastal geology at the University of Maine in Orono.[See Photos of Sandy's Aftermath]

The remaining floating plastic can harm marine life. Plastic bags look like delectable jellyfish to sea turtles, who snap them up, only to suffer intestinal blockage. Ropes washed from docks and ships can trap large mammals and fish. "Even whales are not immune from entanglement," Inkley said.

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