Best of our wild blogs: 29 May 18

Zebra Dove Courtship Ritual
Singapore Bird Group

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Childhood pet leads to primatology calling

Dr Andie Ang is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife in Singapore
Jan Lee The New Paper 28 May 18;

Primatology is not the career a young Singaporean girl usually dreams of.

Until she gets a monkey.

When she was 10, Dr Andie Ang's family received a monkey as a gift from a relative.

It was a male vervet monkey from South Africa, and the family named him Ah Boy.

She loved the monkey with all her heart.

"I would bring him outside on my bicycle, play with him and feed him every day. We groomed each other too," recalled Dr Ang, now 33.

But the wild animal was not meant to be a pet.

When it grew to its full size, it had to be chained up in the house, for fear it might scratch and injure someone.

Eventually, keeping the monkey in the flat got too dangerous and it was moved to a factory in Tuas.

The sadness in Ah Boy's eyes as it got older started to affect Dr Ang.

She said: "No matter what I did and tried, it just seemed sad and bored."

To help her beloved pet, she did more research into the natural habitat and habits of monkeys, and soon found that being alone and away from the wild was not the way for animals like Ah Boy to live.

So Dr Ang made the decision to give it up willingly at 15.

Dr Ang said: "I knew I had to return him to the wild. But it was so heartbreaking to part with him. I knew I was never going to see him again."


In a bid to find Ah Boy a suitable home, Dr Ang reached out to several agencies including the then newly formed Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

Blue, the dancing monkey featured as the logo of Acres, is actually based on Ah Boy.

Dr Ang said: "When Louis Ng (the founder of Acres) first saw Ah Boy, Ah Boy looked so sad that Louis decided to call him Blue. I am thankful to Louis."

Her time with Ah Boy, who was eventually released into the wild in Zambia, sparked something in Dr Ang.

At 18, on the brink of entering university to study engineering, she changed her mind and switched to life sciences at the National University of Singapore.

After furthering her studies in the US, she is now a leading primate researcher in Singapore, working to conserve the Raffles' banded langur, a breed found only in Singapore and Johor in Malaysia.

No one had spotted the notoriously shy langurs in years when Dr Ang embarked on her project 10 years ago.

She said: "I was told I could try to look for them in the forest for a few months but if I did not see any, I would have to give up.

"When I finally saw them two months in, I was so thrilled. It is not extinct."

The Raffles' banded langur is an endangered species, with just some 50 of them in Singapore.

Aside from chairing the langur working group, Dr Ang is the president of an environmental group, the Jane Goodall Institute in Singapore.

She also assists in education and awareness-raising campaigns to help Singaporeans live in harmony with wildlife.

Increasing urbanisation here has closed the distance between humans and wildlife, and encounters can range from annoying to dangerous.

Complaints of macaques going into residences foraging for food are common among those living near the nature reserves and forests of Singapore.


Dr Ang said such concerns are worsened by human behaviour such as poor food waste disposal or an insistence on feeding monkeys.

She said: "Sometimes people think these macaques are pitiful because they do not have enough food in the forests. But they do, and we should not feed them.

"Feeding them does more harm to them. It encourages the monkeys to leave their forest home to get easy food from us.

"With more food given out by people, the monkey population will increase at an unnatural and unsustainable rate..."

Dr Ang said she regularly comes across food left out for monkeys. She believes that having tougher enforcement of laws related to wildlife can help.

"Education and enforcement have to go hand in hand in order to stop people from feeding wildlife," said Dr Ang.

Currently, under the Parks and Trees Act, there are penalties such as fines for those caught feeding wild animals, but the law is difficult to enforce unless perpetrators are caught in the act.

The law only applies to those caught feeding within nature reserves and national parks.

Feeding of animals such as wild boars that appear outside of such places is not banned.

Last year, a wild boar was injured after colliding with a car and charged at people in the area.

A police officer shot it, and the animal was later euthanised.

Such incidents can make cultivating empathy for animals, especially those that come into contact with humans, difficult.

Calls for the culling of such animals are not uncommon, and Dr Ang takes on the tough job of emphasising to Singaporeans the importance of conservation.

"One of the biggest myths, I think, is that we do not have a lot of wildlife," said Dr Ang.

According to information from National Parks, Singapore is home to some 40,000 kinds of non-microbial organisms - which includes flora, fauna, animals and insects on land and sea.

Many of these species are native to Singapore, and some are so rare as to garner international attention.

The Neptune's cup sponge, a sea creature shaped like a goblet, was thought to be extinct until it was re-discovered in Singapore waters in 2011.

The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab is also only known to exist here.


Dr Ang added: "There are some people who may say that there's not much wildlife to conserve in Singapore, but that is not true. Singapore has amazing biodiversity of which some are only found here and nowhere else."

Conservation is rapidly becoming an issue both in and out of Singapore, with South-east Asia being a particular hotspot for illegal wildlife trade.

Said Dr Ang: "Demand for tiger bones, rhino horns, elephant tusks, bear bile, shark's fin and such stems from persisting beliefs in baseless information and the desire to display one's wealth and status."

Consuming tiger bones will not help treat illness or improve vitality, she said.

But not all is lost, even as the struggle for an end to the black market for exotic animals and their parts continues.

"Education outreach goes a long way," she said.

"With more people becoming aware of the issues with consuming shark's fin, there is less demand, for example, during weddings, and more pressure for restaurants to stop serving it completely."

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Buddhist groups step up reminders to followers to avoid releasing animals on Vesak Day

Khoe Wei Jun Straits Times 28 May 18;

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Buddhist Federation and other experts are encouraging devotees to not release animals to mark Vesak Day, but to consider alternatives instead, including going vegetarian.

Buddhist groups have been regularly educating followers on the issues associated with releasing animals, but in the lead-up to Vesak Day on Tuesday (May 29), the groups say followers need to be reminded.

Venerable You Wei, the chairman of the federation's education committee, said: "It will be ironic to consume meat and liberate life."

He added: "Vegetarianism saves many more animal lives than life liberation."

The practice of releasing animals on Vesak Day and on other special occasions is known as "fangsheng" among Chinese Buddhists, and "jiwitte dana" (the gift of life) among other Buddhists such as Theravada Buddhists, said Dr Neena Mahadev, an anthropology professor at Yale-NUS College.

Dr Mahadev, who specialises in the study of religion, in particular Buddhism, said Singaporean Buddhists "tend to be mindful of the broader ecosystem and are educating themselves on which animals are appropriate for release, and which will survive in the wild".

Mr Chan Chow Wah, a researcher of Buddhism, who is a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute in Britain, said: "Animal release, if done in the right context, is not an issue. For example, releasing a captured wild animal to its original habitat."

But many Buddhists believe it is not appropriate in Singapore. Said Mr Chan, who is a Buddhist: "In urban places like Singapore where animals for sale are bred in captivity, releasing these animals causes suffering as they are unable to survive when they are released."

Other than adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, Mr Chan said, there are other ways to show compassion to animals. These include doing animal rescue work and supporting animal shelters. He said that these activities take place all year round in the Singapore Buddhist community.

More Buddhist followers are aware of how releasing animals also jeopardises the environment.

Dr Tan Wee Hin, a biological science professor at NUS, said: "Introducing animals such as red-eared terrapins and fish can change the environment, such as the quality of water, to become harmful to other species and increase the competition for limited resources."

The National Parks Board (NParks) has been working with volunteers to spread awareness, using exhibitions, roadshows and school outreach activities. NParks volunteers have also been looking out for animal release in nature reserves and parks.

Those caught releasing animals can be fined up to $50,000 under the Parks and Trees Act, jailed for up to six months, or a combination of both.

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Rainbow Warrior ship makes first official visit to Singapore to spread green message

Esther Koh Straits Times 28 May 18;

SINGAPORE - A ship with a famous name returned to Singapore on Monday (May 28) to continue its global mission for action against climate change.

The Rainbow Warrior, first launched by environmental organisation Greenpeace 40 years ago, is making its first official visit to Singapore, having previously visited only to rest its crew and stock up on supplies.

The third version of the Rainbow Warrior will be docked here for three days, as part of Greenpeace's five-month climate action tour of South-east Asia.

More than 100 Singaporeans from environmental groups and civil service sectors have been invited to view a climate change exhibition and attend a campaign talk aboard the ship on Tuesday (May 29).

"Greenpeace is grateful for the opportunity to be here in Singapore with the Rainbow Warrior," said its captain, Mr Peter Willcox. "She is a very special ship… (she) stands in solidarity with the people who are fighting to reclaim their rights to a healthy and peaceful environment."

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 in Vancouver, Canada, with a message of a green and peaceful future, which it chose to spread by ship.

Its first flagship - also called Rainbow Warrior - held its first voyage on April 29, 1978, to Iceland, to oppose the commercial whaling programme there.

But its exploits have not always been welcome. On July 10, 1985, the first Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French secret service, in an attempt to counter the ship's protest against French nuclear testing in Mururoa Atoll.

Mr Willcox started sailing with Greenpeace in 1981, and was appointed captain the same year. He witnessed the 1985 bombing, which resulted in the death of photographer Fernando Pereira.

Mr Willcox said he would not trade his job for anything else in the world. "I have three children. I want to leave them some kind of planet that's fit to live on, and right now we're not doing it. We're failing miserably.

"My motivation is that I'm concerned. I don't want to leave a big mess for my children to clean up."

The 16-strong crew aboard the Rainbow Warrior come from 10 different countries worldwide, including Lebanon and Indonesia.

The Rainbow Warrior's South-east Asian voyage began in the Philippines in February. It has since visited Indonesia and southern Thailand, before arriving in Singapore.

It will travel from Singapore on Wednesday to Malaysia, before rounding up the trip in Phuket.

Built from scratch and designed specifically for Greenpeace's environmental missions, the Rainbow Warrior is one of the most energy-efficient ships in operation today. It sails primarily using wind power, rather than fuel, due to its 55m-high A-Frame mast system, which carries far more sail than a conventional mast of the same size.

On average, the Rainbow Warrior burns half a tonne of fuel a day, as compared with a typical ship of the same size which burns close to four tonnes.

Executive director of Greenpeace South-east Asia, Mr Naderev "Yeb" Sano, said: "It is fitting that the Rainbow Warrior is here in Singapore as the Government has marked 2018 to be the Year of Climate Action. We hope to work closely with the Singapore Government and civil society in the future, and look forward to what the country can deliver under the Paris Agreement."

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Malaysia: Sandakan ‘river of death’ a threat to lives and livelihood

stephanie lee The Star 28 May 18;

KOTA KINABALU: It is a river of death, with hundreds of freshwater fish found floating along the Se­­galiud River in Batu Sapi, Sandakan.

They are believed to have died from waste pollutants discharged from factories and mills in the area.

Segaliud River, like the Kinaba­tangan River nearby, is a source of water to thousands of villagers in Sandakan and its surrounding areas.

But the stench was obvious when Batu Sapi MP Datuk Liew Vui Keong visited the area following complaints from villagers.

“It looked like they had been dead for at least three days,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said the villagers claimed that the river could have been polluted with pesticides, fertilisers and sediment from logging activities as well as effluent from palm oil mills that were nearby.

Liew said a police report had been lodged by the village head who alleged that the mills had discharged effluents into the river.

He said the villagers relied hea­vily on the river as a source of income as they catch fish, prawns, clams and crabs to earn a living.

He estimated that each household could lose about RM150 each day.

Liew said it could take about two months to clear the river of the pollu­tants.

This would mean that more than 60 registered fishermen in the area could face a loss of about RM9,000 if they were unable to fish for two months, he said.

Liew said that there were at least another 100 fishermen who did not register with the Fisheries Depart­ment.

The villagers also claimed that the water quality had declined and they were worried about its impact on their health.

Liew said he would take the matter up to the Agriculture and Food Industries as well as the Health and Well-being ministries for further action.

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Indonesia, home to six rare turtle species


World Turtle Day is celebrated every May 23 to protect turtles, tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.

According to their scientific classification, turtles belong to the diapsid group of the order Testudines, which is part of the class Reptilia. Some Testudines species have already gone extinct.

Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups, even older than snakes or crocodiles. There are 365 turtle species known to be alive today, but some of them are highly endangered.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia has revealed that the archipelago is home to six out of seven of the world’s marine turtle species, as it provides important nesting and foraging grounds, as well as important migration routes at the crossroads of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. has compiled a list from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of threatened or near-threatened marine turtle species in Indonesia, along with their conservation status.

1. Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing

2. Chelonia mydas (green turtle) – endangered, population decreasing

3. Caretta caretta (loggerhead turtle) – endangered

4. Natator depressa (flatback turtle) – threatened species, data deficient

5. Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill sea turtle) – critically endangered, population decreasing

6. Lepidochelys olivacea (olive ridley sea turtle) – vulnerable, population decreasing

The hawksbill sea turtle, which is categorized as critically endangered, is the nearest to being extinct.

According to WWF Indonesia’s coordinator of marine species conservation, Dwi Suprapti, observations have hinted at the significant decrease of turtles in Indonesian waters.

The study looked at turtles’ nesting and egg-laying habits on numerous beach.

“In Indonesia, sea turtles mainly nest at Sangalaki Beach in the Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan; Paloh Beach in West Kalimantan, Pangumbahan Beach in West Java; Jeen Womom Beach, West Papua,” Dwi said.

Aside from natural factors, humans also contribute to the decreasing turtle population by capturing the animals for food, poaching then and selling off their body parts, and polluting the rivers and oceans with plastic waste.

“Recently, a turtle died at Paloh Beach because there was a plastic sheet blocking its stomach,” Dwi revealed.

Activists continue to reiterate that turtles need to be protected as they are an important part of ocean ecosystem. wrote that turtles maintain healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs, providing key habitat for other marine life, helping to balance marine food webs and facilitating nutrient cycling from water to land.

The animals, therefore, contribute significantly to the ocean.

Dwi emphasized that the illegal hunting and trading turtles must be reported to the authorities. This can be done through:

1. The Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) (,

2. Office for Marine, Coastal and Resources Management (BPSPL),

3. GAKKUM Lingkungan & Kehutanan app (Environment and Forestry Law Enformencement) operated by Environment and Forestry Ministry

4. e-Pelaporan Satwa Dilindungi app run by the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim)


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Indonesia: Tiger chased away from plantation areas to conservation park

Jon Afrizal The Jakarta Post 28 May 18;

A Sumatran tiger that reportedly attacked a resident of Kerinci, Jambi, last week had returned to its natural habitat in the Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) after being chased away from plantation areas, a conservation official has said.

The Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Agency’s (BKSDA) conservation division head, Udin Ikhwanuddin, said the agency’s rangers had monitored the movement of the 2-year-old tiger since Friday and concluded that the endangered species had left the plantation areas where it had been wandering about over the last several days.

As reported earlier, a Sumatran tiger mauled Rusmayati, 58, a resident of Pungut Mudik village in Air Hangat Timur district, Kerinci regency, on Thursday. She was severely injured in the attack.

Udin called on locals to stay alert because it was still possible for the tiger to return to the settlement areas. “We are calling on all residents to understand that humans and animals can live together peacefully,” he said.

Udin further said residents living near the TNKS could protect the national park from damage so that tigers could live peacefully in their habitat.

TNKS data shows that around 166 tigers live in the 1.36 million-hectare conservation area. Illegal logging activities in and around TNKS have threatened their habitat. (ebf)

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