Author Archives: otterman

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

There is a registration fee is $10 for adults and $6 for students (includes grad students!) Please register at, 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. 



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). 


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: 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.

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 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.


N. Sivasothi & Joelle Lai
NUS Toddycats


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.

Introducing the #SG50interns: Lynn & Sankar will change the world!

Joelle and I are ecstatic to have two interns to torture in this special year of SG50! Thanks to NUS’ Provost Office who egged us on, we now have two young firebrands to amplify the nature and environment education potential of our undergraduates and extend the number of opportunities for the public to discover their natural heritage. They are, in essence, going to unravel the bottleneck caused by our teaching, research and administrative roles.

At our first meeting, we had Lynn and Sankar warmed up immediately by getting the first Kent Ridge Walk off the ground, had recruitment initiated for a workshop for new guides and then they dived into supporting the Himalayan Mutt Project through a talk in NUS and sales of merchandise in collaboration with NUS PEACE.

In the midst of the flurry of learning the tricks of the trade, they were made to pen their introductions which we are happy to feature here. This also serves notice to the the world at large that if they come knocking at your door (or email), realise that Toddycats have a much more efficient mechanism this year – fuelled by the NUS Toddycats’ #sg50interns!

Wish them happiness!

SG 50 Intern – Lynn Ng

20150210 sg50 Lynn

About yourself

Hello! I am Lynn, a recent graduate with a firm interest in animal welfare, I was a in NUS PEACE for two years and have frequently helped plan and organize road shows, fundraising events, and symposiums. A large part of my undergraduate life was actually spent away from campus, and you may have instead found me with a foot stuck in mud in Costa Rica, netting damselflies in Munich, marking Lyssa zampa in parts of Singapore, or just scurrying around hugging unwilling dogs and cats.

What you are looking forward to
One thing I am definitely looking forward to is working with a great bunch of enthusiastic individuals all eager to make a difference in Singapore. Apart from gaining new knowledge and perspectives, I also look forward to the exciting challenges of planning and organizing outreach activities in order to pique interest in more people! More importantly, I look forward to Singapore having a great environmental outreach scene this year, and to finally seeing those dinosaur fossils for myself!

What you can see happening in the next few months.
I can also definitely see myself becoming really busy planning for a flurry of events in the months to come. But more importantly, apart from an impending backache and headache, I also see the next few months to be so full of activities that it will be a great year for nature enthusiasts to come together in this significant 2015. The revival of the Kent Ridge Heritage Walks, opening of LKCNHM and the Biodiversity Symposium are just some of the key events due to happen this year, with many more to come!

SG 50 Intern – A Sankar

20150210 sg50 sankar

About me

Hi! My name is Sankar and I’m one of the new Toddycats interns! If you see a tall, skinny, Indian guy hunched over a computer this semester, it’s probably me… I just finished my NS and I’ll be matriculating into Faculty of Science this August. I’m really looking forward to it! Anyway, I love being in nature and I spend a large portion of my time walking around nature trails with my friends looking for snakes. I hope to be a herpetologist some day and work with these horribly misunderstood (and amazingly cool) animals.

What I’m looking forward to

I’m really looking forward to meeting people who are passionate about nature and conservation. I’m also trying to expand my horizons. As I’m more accustomed to fieldwork, doing administrative work provides a refreshing insight into what goes on behind the scenes of every single walk and event that we hold. I’m honestly very glad to finally be able to do something meaningful with my time (after 2 years of NS).

The next three months

The next three months are going to be busy, frankly. It’s SG50, NUS110 and the Museum is finally opening its doors again. So there will be no shortage of things to do. I’m very excited for the Kent Ridge Heritage Trail, which is being revived after quite some time. We are also in the midst of organizing the next Toddycats HOWL, which will be a great opportunity for us to meet up and find out what’s going on. Of course, the perennial Love Macritchie Walks are always something to look forward to. And last but most certainly not least, the opening of the Museum! I can’t wait to see those fossils…