Packing for the Festival of Biodiversity @ Vivocity this weekend!

It’s finally here! NUS Toddycats head down to Vivocity tomorrow morning, bright and early with our haul of specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

The interns have been busy pulling out additional specimens and ensuring all are in order for action this weekend and it’s all ready now!

Join us and many other nature groups on our massive annual public outreach with NParks in celebration of Singapore’s biodiversity, to (hopefully) more than 10,000 people over Saturday and Sunday, 27-28 Jun 2015. 

  

  

Meeting the interns!

I’m just back from the Horseshoe Crab workshop in Japan and the SG50 Toddycats (Sankar A & Lynn Ng) & IKEA-ICCS (Becky Lee) Interns have shanghai-ed me for debriefes and discussions with Joelle Lai.

We’re not done after three hours because NUS Toddycats have been active! The projects we talked about include Kent Ridge Heritage Walks (monthly this year), Bukit Timah summit patrol (Apr-May), Op No Release (May), Ubin Day (June), Festival of Biodiversity  (this weekend) and the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV (1st August 2015). 

Phew! 

Gallery

Toddycats at Ubin Day! 

 Good morning everyone! This weekend is Ubin Day and the Toddycats are out at Pulau Ubin conducting outreach on marine and terrestrial biodiversity of Singapore.  Besides our booths, there are many activities available to every visitor, to experience the Ubin … Continue reading

REGISTRATION OPEN – Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV on Sat 01 Aug 2015 @ NUS

bossposter1

The fourth Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium, to be held at NUS University Auditorium 2 on 01 Aug 2015 is now open for registration!

SIGN UP FOR BOSS HERE!

The theme of the symposium is “What’s Next?”, alluding to the changing Biodiversity and Conservation landscape of Singapore. Researchers, managers, educators and conservationists will share you news from Singapore’s biodiversity landscape and inspire youth to play a greater role in biodiversity and the environment in Singapore.

Presentations will be organized into four broad categories — Human-Ecosystem Conflict, Connecting with nature, Ecosystem and species studies, and youth efforts in the biodiversity scene. Join us at this symposium and find out more about our changing biodiversity scene!

To defray costs, the symposium registration fee is $10/person and $6/student. The early bird fee (until 30 Jun 2015) is $8 per individual, and $5 per student. 

Two hefty teas to mingle over are provided between sessions, so you will be well fed!

To find out more about BoSS IV, visit biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com or drop us an email at boss4@nus.edu.sg.

We look forward to meeting you in August!!

Highlights of Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats, Season 4

16370960525_bf50bc1c75_o

Young and not-so-young participants delight in the forest that is full of surprises!

Between January and May 2015, Toddycats conducted Season 4 of our (almost) fortnightly Love MacRitchie Walks. On these walks at Venus Loop, our guides shared with participants the amazing wildlife that we have in the heart of Singapore, raising awareness about our natural heritage at risk. Love MacRitchie Walks are part of the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement, which was launched in response to the LTA’s proposal for the new Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) to tunnel under the fragile ecosystem of MacRitchie Forest. This season, 141 participants were treated to a leisurely walk through the rainforest. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for each walk:

  • 24 Jan – 19 participants, 4 guides (photo album)
  • 7 Feb – 21 participants, 7 guides (photo album)
  • 22 Feb – 27 participants, 8 guides
  • 7 Mar – 16 participants, 8 guides (photo album)
  • 21 Mar – 17 participants, 7 guides
  • 4 Apr – 20 participants, 4 guides (photo album)
  • 2 May (Jane’s Walk) – 21 participants, 7 guides (photo album)

Looking at the feedback that our participants shared, it seems that once again, the cute and cuddly mammals, especially the Malayan colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) made the deepest impression. Well, that’s hardly surprising because these really weird looking creatures that are so hard to spot are extremely adorable! We managed to spot colugos during most of our walks. And when we got really lucky, we saw two colugos together!

With a young one in tow!

With a young one in tow.

One above the other!

One above the other!

Slender squirrels (Sundasciurus tenuis) also showed up pretty frequently but being the skittish creatures they are, we never really managed to have a good look at it. Not until one was spotted just as we rounded up the 7 Feb walk. It was resting on a branch right where we would usually take our final group photo!

Slender squirrel resting on a branch.

Slender squirrel resting on a branch.

Not forgetting the long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) that showed us just how capable they are of looking for their own food in the forest. So please do not feed the monkeys as this would condition them to approach people, sparking human-wildlife conflict. This was one of the key take-home messages, which was reinforced by the HUGE new sign put up by NParks near the start of the trail!

Long-tailed macaque eating fishtail palm fruits.

Long-tailed macaque eating fishtail palm fruits.

Long-tailed macaque foraging among the leaf litter.

Long-tailed macaque foraging among the leaf litter.

Please do not feed the monkeys!

Stop feeding the monkeys!

The Malayan blue coral snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) appeared on a couple of walks. This species made quite a statement with its flashy colours, warning others that it’s highly venomous. Here’s a video of it slithering across the forest stream! Some of the other reptiles and amphibians we came across include the black-bearded flying dragon (Draco melanopogon), yellow-bellied puddle frog (Occidozyga sumatrana) and American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana). The latter SHOULD NOT be found in the forest stream and it is likely to have been released by somebody. This alien species has the potential to outcompete and threaten the survival of our native forest amphibians. With Vesak Day just around the corner, Toddycats with PUB, NParks and other volunteers are conducting Operation No Release to raise awareness about the harm releasing animals into nature areas can inflict.

Black-bearded flying dragon (female).

Black-bearded flying dragon (female).

Juvenile yellow-bellied puddle frog.

Juvenile yellow-bellied puddle frog.

Juvenile American bullfrog, an alien species.

Juvenile American bullfrog, an alien species.

We also saw many birds, including the usual suspects like the greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), olive-winged bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus) and red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus). One of the more unusual sightings was the changeable hawk-eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus), an uncommon resident, perching up high on an Albizia tree. Our sighting of the blue-throated bee-eater (Merops viridis) in April signaled the end of the bird migratory season. The blue-throated bee-eater tends to make a comeback in Singapore when its cousin, the blue-tailed bee-eater (Merops philippinus), a winter visitor, returns to its breeding grounds in the higher latitudes. More on the bee-eater’s migratory behaviour HERE.

Changeable hawk-eagle.

Changeable hawk-eagle.

Blue-throated bee-eater.

Blue-throated bee-eater.

And now for the creepy crawlies a.k.a. arthropods! Where ever we looked, we would spot these little creatures so we hardly ran out of things to talk about. Every little thing in the forest is interesting. You just need to look closely!

A mating pair of grasshoppers.

A mating pair of grasshoppers.

A green jumping spider!

A green jumping spider!

Flower chafer beetle (Taniodera monacha).

Flower chafer beetle (Taniodera monacha).

Millipede on a bracket fungus.

Millipede on a bracket fungus.

What did these two young men spot?

What did these two young men spot?

A bright red net-winged beetle (Taphes brevicollis)!

A bright red net-winged beetle (Taphes brevicollis)!

Heartgaster ants milking honey dew from scale insects under a common mahang leaf. Tripartite symbiosis in action!

Heartgaster ants milking honey dew from scale insects under a common mahang leaf. Tripartite symbiosis in action!

Just a few of the butterflies we came across.

Just a few of the butterflies we came across.

The butterflies got this girl all excited!

The butterflies got this girl all excited!

Over these few months, we witnessed some changes in and around the forest at Venus Loop. Across the stream from the trail, we saw bulldozers and some new tree saplings. The area is to become the new Windsor Nature Park – one of the four new nature parks that will serve as buffer zones for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). These buffer zones will help ease visitor numbers within the reserve. The construction works will be completed by end 2016. More information HERE.

Windsor Nature Park under construction.

Windsor Nature Park under construction.

During the final walk on 2 May, we were shocked to see how badly the forest was hit by the previous days’ storms. Several trees were uprooted, including an Albizia tree and a couple of strangling fig trees. The forest here is what we call an edge habitat that is exposed to the elements, making it pretty susceptible. We took the opportunity to talk about the importance of buffer zones like Venus Loop in reducing the exposure of the core forest within CCNR to storms.

First fallen strangling fig.

First fallen strangling fig.

Second fallen strangling fig.

Second fallen strangling fig.

Fallen Albizia that had been sawed into segments by NParks.

Fallen Albizia that had been sawed into segments by NParks.

The Albizia brought down some bamboos with it.

The Albizia brought down some bamboos with it.

To round things up, here are some of the group photos we took at the end of the walks. Up next – Love MacRitchie Walks Season 5 in the second half of 2015! Keep supporting the Love MacRitchie movement to help encourage our government to reconsider the alignment of the CRL through the CCNR.

  1. Follow us on Facebook
  2. Sign the Show of Support – http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl
  3. Tell your friends/family about the Love MacRitchie Walks – http://lovemacritchie.wordpress/love-macritchie-walks
  4. Write in to the government (Land Transport Authority) to voice your concerns about the proposed alignment of CRL
  5. Watch, enjoy and share “Love Our MacRitchie Forest” – Official Music Video, specially produced for this movement – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMKsHZzYMRw

16877808459_6ba5edea11_o 16152837303_8287cc7d7f_o 16772768545_5a94b7d090_o 16302614878_cca2b96c1b_o 15870199253_02a62706c1_o 16370060612_eb48057169_o 15751000363_4b5648e847_o P1170300

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.

UbinDay2014
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.