Author Archives: otterman

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

The 15th Battle of Pasir Panjang Anniversary Walk, Sat 13 Feb 2016

Sat 13 Feb 2016 – The Pasir Panjang guides took 36 members of the public on a five-hour commemorative walk from 7.00am to 12.00pm, tracing the events of the Battle of Pasir Panjang in World War II, and adding the layers of heritage which surround the area.

Thanks to the participants for their lovely company and the guides for their excellent service – Kok Oi Yee, Alvin Wong, Kenneth Pinto, Airani S, Quek Kiah Sen, Wendy Sim, Yap Von Bing, Lai Chee Kian and N. Sivasothi.

147 photos of the walk on Flickr here.

This is the 15th year of the walk, which initiated in 2002 in response to the lack of awareness about the Battle of Pair Panjang at the time, and of natural and other heritage of the area.

The walk up the ridge from University Cultural Centre, past NUS Museums
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The trail board outside NUS Museums
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Yusoff Ishak House, where we are reminded of the moniker,
the “National University of Stairs
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Lai Chee Kien introduces the architecture of NUS
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Kok Oi Yee, Quek Kiah Shen and Wendy Sim share stories about
the many traditional uses of Kent Ridge plants.
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Yap Von Bing explains the interaction of wildlife with ridge vegetation
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Visiting the 1946 outpost in small groups,
here with guides Kenneth Pinto and Alvin Wong
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At KE7, a traditional picture with the traffic mirror!
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The 1952 visit of Princess Marina of Greece, aka Duchess of Kent
and how Kent Ridge got its name, recounted by Airani S.
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At Kent Ridge Park, the story of the Battle continues
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Thanks everyone for the wonderful company!
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The 4th Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium – 24 five-minute presentations and 30 posters! (Sat 01 Aug 2015)

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is pleased to announce the Fourth Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium (BoSS IV) to be held on Saturday, 1st of August 2015: 8.30 am – 4:30 pm. The symposium will be held at UTown Auditorium 2 (Stephen Riady Centre) at the National University of Singapore.

We are really pleased that our Guest of Honour will be non other than the Minister of State for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee, who has been very active in this arena and always encouraging of youth engaged in biodiversity research and education.

BoSS IV showcases a cohort of young and passionate folks who have stepped up to study and champion various aspects of Singapore’s biodiversity in four, one hour-long sessions. 24 speakers will excite you through snappy five-minute presentations with news and developments in the field. And we just had to include a special update about the Singapore Whale.

The symposium tradition is maintained with two hour-long teas featuring 30 posters, and of course sumptuous food to promote interaction and collaboration! Programme details can be viewed at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com.

Registration
There is a registration fee is $10 for adults and $6 for students (includes grad students!) Please register at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com/registration, which has cash, electronic and cheque payment options.

Do inform colleagues, friends and acquaintances who may enjoy this interesting approach to getting quickly acquainted with some aspects of biodiversity research and education in Singapore.

Make a difference – Toddycats eulogised by Joseph Koh during NUS Life Sciences commencement!

Mr Joseph Koh, aka Spiderman of Singapore, is a distinguished alumni of the Faculty of Science who has been very active in conservation since retirement from a distinguished career in government service. As such, he has observed local natural history scene including the activity of undergraduates in public education. and research.

Joseph Koh NUS Commencement 10 Jul 2015

During the commencement ceremony for Life Science graduates, he talked about “Making a difference” and highlighted their efforts in nature conservation, through Toddycats and NParks.

Indeed just this year alone, we have seen them actively contributing to Ubin Day, the Festival of Biodiversity, numerous Year-Round Coastal Cleanups, Love MacRitchie walks, OtterWatch Bishan, Operation No Release, Bukit Timah patrol, Kent Ridge Heritage Trail and the Himalayan Mutt fundraiser. They do this as pure volunteers, as this is not an incentivised volunteer group.

Joseph had this to say about “Making a Difference”:

“My third life lesson is that we will be warmed with joy if we try to make a difference in whatever we do.

Here, I am not trying to preach that we should change the world, level up inequalities, touch the life of others, or do something to reduce global warming. These lofty ideals are good. We should contribute where we can.

To me, “making a difference” is simply a state of mind: we just need to resist our natural tendency to keep things going, to carry on business as usual.

It means we constantly remind ourselves not to fall into the trap of mindlessly following the crowd, mindlessly copying precedents, and mindlessly doing “more of the same”.

Such a state of mind has simply made my job, and that of many of my public service colleagues, more satisfying.

We were happy that we had not ended up as just another robotic gate-keeper, another defender of the status quo.

With this consciousness to make a difference, it became natural for us to constantly find new ways to work smarter, encourage our junior colleagues to think more creatively, inspire them to be more curious and more passionate, and get everybody to grow and blossom.

And you don’t have to be in the government to make a difference for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Today, I can see that many passionate Singaporeans are already making a difference towards nature conservation through their voluntary work.

Some of them are here, sitting in front of me as part of the graduating class, or as young academic staff “arrowed” to attend this ceremony.

They organise and participate in river and coastal clean-ups. They blog about our jungle in jeopardy, the biodiversity of our seashores, and the plant life in our “city in a garden”. They volunteer as toddy-cats, or as NParks nature guides, helping out in biodiversity surveys and taking children, “uncles” and “aunties” out for nature walks.

Many of them brave the scorching sun, thunder storms, sinking mud, and for those doing marine surveys, wake up at two am in the morning just to catch the low spring tide before sunrise.

They may not realise it themselves, they are actually making a difference by igniting the passion of the next generation of Singaporeans to better appreciate and protect our precious natural heritage.

I salute all such people.”

The full text of Joseph’s speech can be viewed here: Joseph Koh NUS Commencement – speech, 10 Jul 2015.pdf.

Well done to all the undergraduates who have been contributing as volunteers in NUS Toddycats, NParks, BES Drongos, Naked Hermit Crabs and various other groups. Keep up the good work!

Toddycats are now preparing for the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium IV.

Photo by Dr. Jeffrey Low.

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.