Join NUS Toddycats at Ubin Day 2015 – Pedal Ubin and the ICCS, Palm Civet and Otter booths!

Once again, Ubinday2015NUS Toddycats are part of Ubin Day 2015! This very special Open House event is conducted by people and groups who love Ubin. We come together to organise special events for the public to celebrate Pulau Ubin on Sat 13 June & Sun 14 Jun 2015.

Toddycats will offer Pedal Ubin, as we did in 2014 – this exploration of Pulau Ubin on bicycle includes visits to Ubin Quarry, Ketam Beach and the German Girl Shrine.

We also join other groups at the bazaar in the main tent on 13 & 14 Jun 2015 – International Coastal Cleanup Singapore will engage visitors about marine life in Singapore and the hurtful impact of marine trash. The Common Palm Civet and Otter Watch groups will introduce the public to native mammals which we are lucky to have live amongst us still in Pulau Ubin and Singapore.

You can join us to help out in the Toddycats Pedal Ubin programme or as an Exhibition Guide to talk about marine life, civets and otters. Just sign up here: tinyurl.com/toddycats-ubinday2015. A training workshop will be conducted on Sat 06 Jun 2015..

Another Junglefowl, Joelle, talking about Ubin Quarry.


Pedal Ubin guide Joelle Lai, introduces the Ubin Quarry at Ubin Day 2014.

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Public engagement by various groups at the main tent on Ubin Day 2014.

Operation No Release 2015 – join us on this public education exercise in May

Register now at tinyurl.com/onr2015 by Thu 07 May 2015.

NParks & PUB are initiating Operation No Release 2015. NUS Toddycats are supporting this initiative and recruiting volunteers – anyone can sign up, so you can invite friends. For an idea of volunteer duty, see Toddycats reports from 2010.

On Vesak day, the release of animals has traditionally been conducted as a gesture of compassion. However this practise puts additional pressure on sensitive ecosystems. Non-native animals compete with native wildlife for food and shelter, or carry disease which can spread amongst wildlife popuations. Even the release of native animals is unsuitable if no assessment of the present community has been conducted – competition, predation, disease and release into unsuitable habitats result in adverse effects or low survival. Thus, the release of animals into our reservoirs is illegal.

Ironically, the demand for animals for release can trigger poaching of animals from the wild, locally and regionally.  Awareness is critical to lead to alternatives and people with compassion can learn about the many organisations working hard for the welfare of animals in Singapore.

Since 2005, Operation No Release aims to raise public awareness about the detrimental effects of animal release to nature areas. This year, alongside PUB and NParks, volunteers will be stationed at all 12 public accessible reservoirs to educate and advise members of the public who intend to release animals. Your help is needed to enable a successful operation.

Shifts of 4 hours will be mounted (8.00am – 12.00pm & 2:00pm – 6:00pm) on these weekends:

  • 16 & 17 May 2015
  • 23 & 24 May 2015
  • 30 & 31 May 2015

Please do sign up for a shift or two to support Operation No Release.

NParks & PUB will conduct a join briefing session for volunteers on Sat 09 May 2015: 2.00pm. This will be a good opportunity to meet other volunteers and agency staff.
If unable to make the briefing, we will make arrangements to brief you separately.

Cheerio!

N. Sivasothi & Joelle Lai
NUS Toddycats
https://toddycats.wordpress.com

Toddycat

Capacity building of our youth through NUS Toddycats, volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, is part of SG50 celebrations.

NParks & PUB Media Release, 13 May 2015.

Do not release animals into the wild
13 May 2015

Outreach efforts extended to more parks, nature areas, reservoirs and waterways

The National Parks Board (NParks), PUB, the national water agency and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will be stepping up education and enforcement efforts at nineteen selected parks, nature areas, reservoirs and waterways from 16 to 31 May 2015, as part of ‘Operation No Release’. ‘Operation No Release’ is an annual campaign that aims to spread public awareness on the dangers related to the release of animals into parks (including ponds), nature areas, reservoirs and waterways. Besides the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, NParks and PUB will also extend their outreach to more parks and reservoirs at Lower Seletar, Bedok, Punggol, Serangoon and Marina (see Annex for full list).

Volunteers and community groups such as Waterways Watch Society, Punggol South River Watch Group and NUS Toddycats! will join NParks and PUB officers in the outreach efforts this year. Besides keeping a lookout for any sign of animal release at parks, nature reserves, reservoirs and waterways, they will also educate and advise members of the public on the harm of releasing animals into the wild.

“Many of the released animals are unlikely to survive, and most often, face a slow and painful death, as they are unable to cope with their new surroundings,” says Mr Wong Tuan Wah, Director of Conservation, NParks. “Those that are bred or captured deliberately to be sold for ‘release’ usually become so stressed during their captivity that they are too weak to survive in the wild when released eventually.”

Household pets, too, often may not survive after release, as they do not have the natural instincts and ability to forage for food or fend for themselves in the wild. It is irresponsible and cruel to abandon a pet. Pet owners who are unable to look after their pet anymore should find a suitable home for the pet, or they can approach an animal welfare group for help to re-home the pet.

Dying and dead animals may have an impact on the environment. In instances where animals do survive and proliferate, they often do so at the expense of native wildlife. They upset the ecological balance by preying on the native species, out-competing them for resources or introducing new diseases. For example, the American Bullfrogs are known to breed prolifically and compete with local frogs for food and space.

“As with any ecosystem, the health and functionality of reservoir habitats is influenced by the diversity and ecology of aquatic organisms living within them. The release of animals by members of public into our reservoirs and waterways may have ecological impacts on our freshwater ecosystems. This year, we are extending our efforts to more locations and we hope to raise greater awareness on this issue.” said Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB’s Director of Catchment and Waterways.

First-time offenders caught releasing animals may be charged under the Parks and Trees Act and could be fined up to $50,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

Toddycats at the official opening of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Singapore’s very first Natural History Museum officially opened on 18 Apr 2015, and excited Toddycats who had been rolled in to help turned up as early as 8.00am on the bright and cheery Saturday morning.

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Toddycats, volunteers and museum staff having breakfast before getting to work!

Volunteers enjoyed a hearty breakfast before reporting to their respective ICs for the event briefing. As registration booths were quickly set up, ushers gathered at the foyer of the opening ceremony venue, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, to welcome and guide guests to their seats. Excitement was high as everyone mingled and anticipated the arrival of the first guests.

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A pre-event selfie by the Toddycats!

The event featured inspirational speeches by Head of LKCNHM Prof. Peter Ng, Ambassador-At-Large Prof. Tommy Koh, and Guest-of-Honour President Dr. Tony Tan, who brought the audience through the history of LKCNHM, and its important role in Singapore.

Toddycats had a chance to be amongst the first to walk through the galleries and look at the three Diplodocus skeletons (Prince, Apollonia, and Twinky) with their own eyes. The gallery brings guests through a timeline through various sections – the early formation of Earth and plants, then molluscs, insects, “fish”, “reptiles”, and then birds and mammals.

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A panorama of the gallery

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The stars of the show: Twinky, Prince and Apollonia.

“The gallery was magnificent! The dinosaurs were spectacular and the use of interactive tools made the experience truly phenomenal!”
– Audrey Lee, an NUS Toddycat on seeing the gallery for the first time

Toddycats were stationed around the Gallery to guide visitors and highlight some stories amidst the amazing diversity of specimens on display. Gallery guide Sean Yap got to demonstrate to Dr. Tony Tan how scorpions glow under UV light!

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum will open to the public on 28 Apr 2015 (Tue) from 10.00am to 7.00pm (last entry 5.30pm). Tickets must be booked in advance from the Sistic website. A total of six sessions are available, each lasting 1.5 hours.

Tickets are priced at $20 for Adults and $12 for Children and Senior Citizens. Singaporeans and Permanent Residents enjoy a discounted rate of $15 for Adults and $8 for Children, Students, NSF, and Senior Citizens.

Do book your tickets now!

All Photos by Heng Pei Yan, Ivan Kwan, Kenneth Pinto and Joelle Lai

Kent Ridge Heritage Trail Training – Mapping the trail with lamp post numbers

The Kent Ridge Guide Trainees were told to report to the benches outside the Chinese Library for training. Despite the pouring rain, they arrived punctually. Once the rain abated, we set off!

At the very start, we saw a female Pink Necked Green Pigeon eating the fruits of a palm tree. Even though it was pretty cold, there was a Changeable Lizard sitting on a rock in the open.

We were told by Sivasothi aka Otterman to map out the Ridge, using each lamp post as a checkpoint and identifying important landmarks around them. This was to give us a better understanding of the biogeography of the area.

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From the left: Lynn, Sankar, Hui Zhen, Becky, Ing Sind, Cherry and Shira

During the first training session, we learnt the common plants of the Ridge in theory. But walking along Kent Ridge Road itself gave us an opportunity to experience the place first-hand.

By mapping the Ridge, we learnt where the significant landmarks and plants where located, allowing us to develop our own individual styles of guiding. At the end, we walked past S2 towards Kent Ridge station. As we were passing by KE7 Hall, Becky turned around and saw an orange glow in the sky. “Let’s go see the sunset!” she exclaimed. Excitedly, we climbed the stairs to the carpark. And the view was simply breathtaking.

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It was truly an unexpected, unplanned surprise.

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Capacity building of our youth through NUS Toddycats, volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, is part of SG50 celebrations.

Kent Ridge Heritage Trail Walks – PART 2!

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Despite the rain forecast for Monday evening, 27 participants (and 7 guide trainees) joined us for our monthly walk along the Kent Ridge Heritage Trail!

Oi Yee set off with the first group, flanked by three trainees, Sankar, Ingsind and Becky. Right off the bat, Oi Yee wows the crowd by talking about a commonly seen but rarely noticed plant – Simpoh air

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As we walked along, we saw some red seeds scattered on the road. “Does anyone know what these are?” Oi Yee asked. One of the participants piped up, “Saga seeds!” Excitedly, Oi Yee explained how she used to play with the seeds as a girl.

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The participants walked around, picking up the seeds to get a closer look at them! DSC06952

Soon, we encountered Nepenthes gracilis, or slender pitcher plants, growing on the side of the road. These carnivorous plants trap insects in their pitcher-shaped modified leaf tips.

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Oi Yee also reminisced about how she used to walk the ridge in her younger days. She recounts how she used to sit on the stone wall and stare out to the sea. The wall itself was built by the British and still stands by the side of the road today!

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Oi Yee playfully talked about the Hibiscus, another beautiful plant that can be found on the Ridge.

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The walk ended at the Gap where we took a photo in the fading light, where the commemorative marble plaque marking the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was laid.

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The third group led by N. Sivasothi aka Ottoman consisted of guide trainees Lynn, Cherry, Hui Zhen, and Zong Xian – eagerly started along the trail as Otterman describes to us the techniques of guiding on the ridge.

We started off revising self-introductions and giving a brief history of the ridge before learning more about the ecology and significance of some plants along the ridge! From the bright yellow flowers of Simpoh Air, to the sweet scent of crushed Smilax, the group of us strolled along Kent Ridge Road feverishly scribbling notes while pondering how best to describe the plant to future walk participants.

Otterman recounted his experiences with guiding the Kent Ridge Road and shared tips on how to engage the audience, with eight pairs of ears listening intently to his stories. It wasn’t long before the enjoyable walk ended at S2, and the group of us lingered by the stairs listening to his stories and getting poked to answer questions by his handy umbrella.

At the end of this impromptu training, we were left in awe at the rich history of the Ridge as well as the budding biodiversity of this small green patch in NUS.

More photos of our walk can be found on Flickr!

Would you like to find out more about this amazing trail right in NUS? Do keep a look out for our next walk!

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Brought to you by NUS Toddycats, volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum as part of SG50 celebrations.

BoSS IV planning now under way! First Subcommittee meeting – 20 Mar 2015, 6.30pm

Preparations are now under way for our FOURTH Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium (BoSS) which will be happening on 1 Aug 2015 (Sat)! 

Held once every four years, the BoSS is a great opportunity for the local biodiversity community to gather, socialise, and find out more about each other’s on-going projects!

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15 of us enthusiastically came together last Friday evening to kick-start the planning of the BoSS IV!

Over two hours, we looked through the general timeline, explained everyone’s roles and responsibilities, and discussed ideas and ideals over cake (courtesy of Dr. Joelle Lai, thank you!). With the dates and venue now decided, each sub-committee will now dedicate their time to making BoSS IV a huge success!

To know what to expect, do check out the webpages for our past BoSS here:

More exciting details will come really soon so do keep a look out!

Toddycat

Capacity building of our youth in NUS Toddycats, volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, is part of SG50 celebrations.

LKCNHM Volunteers Engagement Tea

In an effort to thank existing and welcome new volunteers, LKCNHM hosted a Volunteers Engagement Tea on Saturday, 28 Feb 2015. The galleries and their resident dinosaurs are a long way off (wait for April) from being ready to receive visitors. So it was the LKCNHM Learning Lab which hosted volunteers, Museum Associates and museum staff with the chance to catch up, network, and get a feel for the new museum environment.

Eager faces appeared in the environs of LKCNHM by 9.00 am, and seats filled by 9.45am – a good 15 minutes before the start of the welcome speech by Prof. Peter Ng and Prof. Leo Tan!

Prof. Peter Ng giving the welcome speech to the huge turnout!

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Prof. Leo Tan introducing the great history of the museum to the participants

Dr. Joelle Lai provided an overview of the museum’s volunteer programme which has roots in the 90’s and officially began in 2000 – a good 15 years ago! She highlighted well known volunteer programmes which emerged back then such as the Public Exhibitions, Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail, Pedal Ubin, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk. More recently we have seen Project Semakau, the Otter Cycling Trail, Love MacRitchie walks, and even more recently, curatorial assistants!

The audience then obligingly regrouped and were crowd-sourced for ideas, expectations and suggestions for the new museum volunteer programme. Active chatter filled the Learning Lab as ideas and suggestions from their combined experience made for a productive 30-minute discussion.

Then, a quick sneak peak of the upcoming museum through some small windows and then to tea! Volunteers and staff had a great time mingling amidst the breezy courtyard around the museum, full of anticipation for April, when the LKCNHM doors will be finally open!

It was truly a lovely day, with friends from over a decade of volunteer work and some fresh faces, combine to signal a happy and supportive community behind the museum! Only one word for it – priceless!

Photos our Flickr at: Part 1 and Part 2!