Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks August-September 2016

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The Love MacRitchie Walks in August-September 2016 are now open for registration! Join the NUS Toddycats! in discovering the forest and its amazing wildlife. These guided walks are conducted by volunteers and are free-of-charge! Limited spaces available.

Find out more about the Love MacRitchie Walks here – https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks/

Celebrate National Day with a coastal cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove

Every year, volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) celebrate National Day with a coastal cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove. This year we will be working on Saturday 6th Aug 2016: 8.00am – 10.30am.

To join us, Sign up here by 1st August 2016!
Transport will be provided from Kranji MRT to the cleanup site @ Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove

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For more details, see the ICCS blog.

Toddycats @ Pesta Ubin 2016 (Part I): A Celebration of Singapore’s Marine Biodiversity and a plea to Reduce our Plastic Footprint

As in previous years, we’ve come together and contributed to a couple of events for the Pesta Ubin 2016 calendar!

This year Ubin Day has morphed from one weekend of short-lived fun into a month-long festival from 14 May to 12 June (Pesta means Festival in Malay). It was designed to celebrate Ubin’s kampong lifestyle, the Ubin Way, and its value as a nature refuge and to offer the public a glimpse of our past heritage.

Despite the rain, the booths from various local NGOs received a strong showing from the public. About 3000 visitors came to soak in the festive mood by participating in the myriad of events and informative booths. The celebratory atmosphere was buoyed by kampong games such as capteh and hopscotch. Activities such as cycling, kayaking and coastal clean-ups were made available too.

It was a delight to educate and raise awareness of the importance of conserving our local marine biodiversity in Singapore. Ten specimens on loan from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum were chosen to highlight some examples of marine life found on our shores and the disastrous after-effects of littering, boat crashes, illegal fishing and the importance of conserving our local biodiversity.

Our specimens from LKCNHM included a baby dugong, a dog-faced water snake, a giant mudskipper, an Asian small-clawed otter, shells from various local marine clams and snails, a black-tipped reef shark, a tree-climbing crab, a hawksbill turtle and seahorses. Pictures of our sperm whale, Jubilee, were also on display to highlight the imminent threat that plastics can have on sea creatures, even on large ones like whales. Our local marine biodiversity too is not immune to this global crisis of plastic waste.

There are four ways in which marine life is impacted by plastic littering:  strangulation of animals from entanglement, ingestion of plastics when animals mistake it for food, bioaccumulation when young fish or crustaceans eat micro-plastics (microbeads found in face-wash products) and the leakage of toxic pollutants into the ocean as plastics slowly degrade.

Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong, and Senior Minister of State, Mr Desmond Lee, graced the event as our guests of honour. Mr Wong announced that by mid 2017, the National Parks Board (NParks) would take on the role of central management agency and be in sole charge of managing Ubin.

In his speech, Mr Wong also highlighted several books launched in celebration of Ubin such as “Footprints on an Island: Rediscovering Pulau Ubin” by Chua Ee Kiam, Choo Mui Eng and Wong Tuan Wah and “Hunt for the Green Boomerang” by Neil Humphreys.

Apart from the humans, other living creatures such as the oriental-pied hornbills and green imperial pigeons were also in attendance during the event. Their presence further illustrates that Ubin continues to be a birdwatcher’s paradise and an important refuge for threatened species. Even Ubin’s friendly resident stray dogs came to pay a visit and provided great company.

The children had their fair share of activities to take part in and be excited about as well! We organised a badge-making session which kept the children thoroughly entertained in creating their very own badges, giving them a colourful experience and a sense of pride in putting their creativity to good use.

To conclude, Pesta Ubin was a celebration of all things nature and our kampong roots. If our heritage in Pulau Ubin is lost, we would not only lose our window into the past, but something more significant – our identity with nature. Our local biodiversity may be resilient but if we are not mindful to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our environment, we may stand to lose much of our precious Earth.

For more pictures, view our Flickr album!

 

Love MacRitchie Update July 2015-May 2016

Love our MacRitchie Forest continues to be a highly successful program in educating and expanding a growing circle of Singaporeans to appreciate our precious biodiversity living in our forests!  From the second half of 2015 to date, the Toddycats have conducted 21 Love MacRitchie Walks with 378 participants. Our walks have been a tremendous success with every fortnightly walk being fully subscribed. Let’s look at some fantastic highlights.

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Families enjoying a day out with nature! Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Brotherly love in action! An unconventional common mahang leaf umbrella. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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A happy tour group photoshoot after a very fulfilling walk around Venus Loop. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Our walks cater to all ages ranging from families with young children to the young at heart. Photo by Alvin Wong.

The walks are a small step but a giant leap forward in nurturing a love for our biodiversity across all ages – from young children, adults to seniors. They also help to educate us of our responsibilities to our natural heritage so that plans for developments such as the Cross Island Line will not proceed without informed inputs.

There have been many wonderful encounters with unique plants and animals along the Venus Loop trail. It is an amazing experience to witness people marvel in awe of nature’s little intricacies such as the common mahang’s symbiotic partnership with ants or little blue-rumped parrots delightfully having a starfruit feast.

Nature continues to surprise and remind us of its resilience and fragility – from squirrels bravely squaring off against slithery snakes to skinks basking in the dappled pockets of sunshine that slip through the forest canopy – despite our encroaching urban world.

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Red tailed racer vs. plantain squirrel. Photo by Marcus Ng.

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A beautiful striped sun skink basking on the forest floor. Photo by Risk Koh.

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Blue-rumped parrot enjoying its starfruit feast! Photo by Chloe Tan.

Aside from walks, our volunteers also gave talks to the public and schools, and manned conservation booths, reaching an additional 3968 people! In March 2016, we organised the March for MacRitchie movement, which brought together passionate advocates from various nature groups to speak up for the conservation of MacRitchie Forest.

We hope that these activities will continue to inform and inspire people to greater ownership of our remaining precious forest biodiversity while enthusing others about this urgent cause. May they help nurture our collective consciences to ponder questions such as the cost of exchanging our priceless carbon sinks for a faster train-ride home. Or what our future generations may miss of our retreating native ecosystems as society advances materially. Let’s Love Our MacRitchie Forest!

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Our forest skies! Can we look forward to a greener future? Photo by Chia Han Shen.

 

Sign the letter to LTA here:

http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl

Join us for our walks:

https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks/

 

 

 

 

Sun 05 Jun 2016 – Journey to the East with Pedal Ubin! (30 places)

Sun 05 Jun 2016: 8.00am – 12.00pm – NUS Toddycats, volunteer guides of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum are offering Pedal Ubin’s Journey to the East for Balik Chek Jawa.

This event is part of the month long 2016 Pulau Ubin Open House, now rebranded as Pesta Ubin – check out the truly amazing list of activities offered by the community to the public on Pulau Ubin.

The Pedal Ubin team will head to Chek Jawa with 30 participants to enjoy the special open house planned there by the community and will include a guided tour of the boardwalk and the fun activities at House No. 1. On the way we cycle through the sensory trail, past old plantations, old kampongs, forest, quarries and mangroves, stop for a coconut or two and hear stories of Ubin’s wildlife, past heritage and present conservation efforts.

This ride is partly on dirt roads with slopes so is slightly technical ride, and not suitable for very weak cyclists. Participants must be at least 12 years old and can rent their own bicycle on Pulau Ubin, from shops in front of the Wayang Stage.

More details and for registration, see Eventbrite.

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This is the 15th year of Pedal Ubin. It was run from 1998 – 2009 and restarted in 2014 for the annual Pesta Ubin.

Discover Pulau Ubin during Pesta Ubin, 14 May – 12 June 2016!

“Pesta Ubin” is the 5th iteration of Ubin Day and offers a wonderful array of activities by more than 30 groups who enjoy nature, heritage, adventure and recreation activities on Pulau Ubin. Many events are offered free of charge to share the joy of this unique island with Singaporeans.

For more details, see the Pesta Ubin blog and facebook pages.

Pesta Ubin 2016

The festival starts on the 14th of May 2016 with a Chek Jawa boardwalk tour, a basic mountain-biking course, and an evening at the Wayang Stage, explorations of the western tip, a specialist heritage tour, and learning kampung cooking in a 100-year old kampung house! The truly marvellous array of activities continue until mid-June!

This festival is a ground-up exercise coordinated by WildSingapore which facilitates the offerings of various groups.

The Ubin Way

A unique feature is a code of conduct the groups subscribe to, called the Ubin Way:

  1. Greet each other with a smile, a “Hello” or “How was your day on Pulau Ubin?” Respect the culture and get to know the people of Ubin, and each other.
  2. Do not litter – and pick up litter that we see. Bring it back to the mainland.
  3. Be gentle with wildlife – no balloons release, avoid noisy activities, be considerate during photography, don’t pluck plants or harm animals. At night, do not blind animals with the glare of strong lights.
  4. Minimise our footprint – avoid bottled water, styrofoam, plastic bags, useless freebies, pamphlets and single use items
  5. Encourage participants to patronise local businesses and share news about activities on the island.

To contribute an activity or volunteer, see the About page.

NUS Toddycats will be in action with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore booth and Pedal Ubin.

Operation No Release 2016 – an annual exercise to prevent the release of the wrong animals in the wrong place!

As in previous years, NUS Toddycats are participating in Operation No Release (ONR) this May 2016. Volunteers will be engaged in public surveys and providing advise to visitors as needed, in support of NParks and PUB officers at 17 sites around Singapore.

Joelle Lai with Chen En (ACRES) participated in the pre-event publicity about ONR and fielded questions in Mandarin quite well on “Hello Singapore” (12 May 2016) on Channel 8 – start at 12:25 mark on Toggle. Joelle thanks Mu Lao Hu, Chiawei Lin, Alvin Wong, Ivan Kwan and Marcus Ng for help with her script.

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NParks says up to 90% of animals released into the wild die within a day because they are unable to fend for themselves.

The first round of duties were conducted last weekend and Alvin Wong who was at Venus Drive on Sunday says students are particular effective in obtaining responses for the public awareness survey!

“I was on ONR duty on Sunday morning session. Three Nanyang Junior College students and myself were attached to NParks officer Sunia Teo, our I/C. The NYJC students conducting the ONR survey were polite and approachable – the public were less inclined to flee from students in uniform conducting surveys! The students did a good job and were a credit to their school.”

This year, many students participated to help conduct surveys. 60 students from NYJC alone are participating in ONR at different locations around Singapore.

To learn more about the issue of animal release, watch this SPH Razor video from 2013 (Part 1 and Part 2) and read the fact sheet from Wild Singapore.

The team at Venus Drive (photo by Alvin Wong)
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Singapore, 06 May 2016 – The National Parks Board (NParks) and PUB, Singapore’s national water agency will be carrying out ‘Operation No Release’, an annual initiative that aims to spread public awareness on the dangers of releasing animals into parks (including ponds), nature areas and reservoirs on 7-8 and 14-15 May (see Annex for full list of locations).

Besides keeping a lookout for any sign of animal release at parks, nature reserves and reservoirs, the agencies will educate and advise members of the public on the harmful impact of releasing animals into the wild.

2 “Animals that are bred in captivity or captured from the wild deliberately to be sold are seldom equipped with the skills they need to survive in the wild,” says Mr Wong Tuan Wah, Group Director of Conservation, NParks. “Upon release, they would find it difficult to fend for themselves, especially in an unfamiliar environment and many are unlikely to survive. The ones that manage to adapt to their new surroundings may outcompete native species for resources, disrupting the delicate ecological balance.”

3 “Reservoirs and reservoir parks are important habitats for a wide variety of freshwater flora and fauna. The release of non-native species may introduce novel parasites and diseases into our native environment and waters, which may have impact on freshwater ecosystems and water quality. We strongly urge members of the public not to release animals into our reservoirs and waterways,” said Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB’s Director of Catchment and Waterways.

4 Ms Jessica Kwok, Group Director of AVA’s Animal Management Group reminds pet owners that a pet is a lifetime commitment. “It is irresponsible and cruel to abandon pets. Pets may not survive in the wild as they usually lack the natural instincts and ability to find food or fend for themselves. Pet owners who are unable to look after their pet anymore should find a suitable home for their pet. They can also approach an animal welfare group for help to re-home their pet,” she said.

5 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.

Annex: List of parks, nature reserves and reservoirs taking part in Operation ‘No Release’ 2016

  1. Bukit Batok Nature Park
  2. Bedok Reservoir
  3. Dairy Farm Nature Park (includes Singapore Quarry)
  4. Jurong Lake
  5. Kranji Reservoir Park / Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
  6. Labrador Nature Reserve
  7. Lower Peirce Reservoir Park
  8. Lower Seletar Reservoir Park
  9. MacRitichie Reservoir Park
  10. Marina Reservoir
  11. Pandan Reservoir
  12. Punggol Reservoir
  13. Pulau Ubin
  14. Serangoon Reservoir
  15. Springleaf Nature Park
  16. Upper Peirce Reservoir
  17. Upper Seletar Reservoir Park