Category Archives: protect

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!

 

Operation No Release 2015 – Volunteer Experience

In the weekends leading up to Vesak Day, 12 Toddycats volunteered for Operation No Release 2015 to raise public awareness on the harmful effects of releasing animals into our nature reserves and reservoirs.

Alongside PUB and NParks, Toddycats were stationed at various nature reserves and reservoirs across the island. Below are some of what the volunteers, both new and experienced Toddycats, have to say about this:

Dayna Cheah says:

I participated in Operation No Release on the morning of 17th of May at Bukit Batok Nature Reserve.

When I was going around surveying people, I had been surprised at the amount of people who thought that releasing animals into the environment was not harmful at all.

It made me realise that there was a lot more that needs to be done to raise awareness about this subject. It was a very interesting experience and I was glad to have participated in this.

Joelle Lai recounts: 

I was on duty at Lower Pierce (24 and 30 May), from 2 pm to 6 pm.

General observations include:

1) LP is deserted at 2 pm, with a small crowd of anglers and hikers appearing from 3:30 PM. Perhaps shift timings can reflect this; perhaps 7 AM to 10:30(11) AM for morning shifts, and 3:30 PM to 7 PM for afternoon shifts.

2) Majority of people polled using the PUB questionnaire do not think releasing animals in the reservoir is harmful. Most think it is good.

3) PUB has a bigger problem with illegal fishing. I saw three fishermen at Oncospermum trail. One man was fishing with life bait. More enforcement is needed here.

Joys Tan says:

I was on duty at MacRitchie Reservoir Park on 30 June, from 8am to 12pm. No attempts of animal release were observed.

There were several times when I saw people going very close to the water edge, so it made me a little nervous. But upon closer examination, I realised they were looking at the creatures in the reservoir, such as the water monitor! So nice to see visitors being interested in the wild animals.

Two troops of long-tailed macaques were also spotted during the patrol, at the Prunus-Petai trail and near the Mushroom cafe. It was great to see that the visitors kept an appropriate distance in watching the macaques and I had an enjoyable time watching them too!

Delia Quek says:

I was stationed at Jurong Lake Park the weekend before Vesak Day (30-31 May). It was a relaxing weekend spent with nature and I was glad that I did not catch anyone releasing animals

As I was doing the survey and was heartened to see that the younger generation (< 20-year-olds) are well-aware that they are not allowed to release animals in parks and reservoirs.

However, Jurong Lake has many migrants and foreign workings visiting it too. As I spoke to them, I realized that many of them are unaware that releasing animals into the park is illegal and is bad for the environment. These people make up a sizeable portion of our community and I wonder if there are ways to reach out to them. Signs in the park are sometimes not effective as they are mostly in English. I had spoke to a few foreign workers from China in Mandarin and some of them highlighted the oversight to me.

 

BTNR Jagah Experience

After a closure of six months announced on June 2014, the Summit Trail of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has been opened to visitors from 4th April 2015 on weekends from 7am-6pm (last entry at 5pm). On the 26th of April, Joelle Lai (Toddycats coordinator), Law Ing Sind, Becky Lee, Ng Kai Scene and myself went to BTNR for the Toddycats afternoon shift o the Bukit Timah Patrol or ‘jagah duty’ as Sivasothi aka Otterman has branded it.

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Photo by Joelle Lai

Armed with nothing but NParks Volunteer Badges, we climbed Bukit Timah Hill. Along the way, Joelle explained that we would be ensuring that nobody was going off the trails and that everybody had left the reserve by 6.00pm. As it was our first time, we were slightly worried. However, we were also eager to do our part. Ing Sind, Joelle and I kept watch at the summit, while Becky and Kai Scene positioned themselves at the base of the stairs. We also advised the public about the correct behaviour when encountering macaques!

It was an uneventful afternoon. Toddycats’ first instruction is to greet visitors with a big smile and most visitors are co-operative. Despite the skies threatening to pour, it never actually rained. Eventually, at 4.30pm, it was time to swap positions and Ing Sind, Becky and I went down to patrol the trail.

Well, well, we had a brilliant herping streak!  Our first herp was a Peninsular Rock Gecko, (Cnemaspis peninsularis) resting on a tree at the base of the summit. On the other side of the trail, we saw a Five Banded Gliding Lizard (Draco quinquefasciatus) resting on the trunk of a tall tree. We took that opportunity to point it out to the passers-by. Just 20 meters down the road, Ing Sind stopped in his tracks and pointed out a Brown Tree Skink (Dasia grisea) on the trunk of a tree.

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Five-banded Gliding Lizard!

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Brown Tree Skink that was sitting on the tree trunk!

After finishing the patrol, we returned to the summit. Near the end, Ing Sind and I noticed some people photographing something in the foliage. We got there just in time to see a Blue Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris) slipping away. We happily went to report to Joelle. At 5.30 pm, we ended our duty by closing the summit trail. To top off the day’s herping, the same couple who had found the Blue Bronzeback had found a juvenile Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)!

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The tail of the Blue Bronzeback as it slipped away! Photo by Law Ing Sind.

 

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A Juvenile Wagler’s Pit Viper that was very well hidden.

After photographing the viper for a while, we proceeded back to the entrance, advising  stragglers we encountered about the reserve’s closing time of 6pm.

We had a wonderful time – we had observed five herptiles (of which three were rare) in just an hour! BTNR is undoubtedly a valuable Nature Reserve. It was closed to allow the ecosystem to recuperate from the heavy usage, as well as to allow for slope stabilisation works. While many people who visit Bukit Timah come to enjoy the natural beauty,  some may try to take advantage of the system. The ‘jagah’ duty allows us to ensure that our nature reserve is not abused and that the BTNR ecosystem remains healthy!

What to do when you spot a trapped bird?

On 8 Apr 2015 (Wed) at noon, Mr. Sivasothi reported a bird calling loudly outside 34. SG50 Interns Sankar and Lynn, along with ICCS Intern Becky swiftly went to check the place out and found a myna trapped in the stairwell of S17 leading to LT 33 and 34.

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The stairwell of NUS S17 (leading to LT 33 and 34) where the trapped myna was spotted. NUS S17 is also home to the Department of Mathematics and CRISP.

The Office of Estate and Development (OED) was quickly informed of this issue and Mr. Atif arrived at the LT within minutes. He helped us open the windows within reach and advised us to stay away from the stairwell as our presence may prevent it from flying lower to where the windows were located.

The windows are all well within reach and open-able by everyone to allow a small gap for the bird to escape by. So next time if you spot a bird trapped in this stairwell (or any other buildings in NUS), open any windows within reach and move away from the windows and the trapped bird.

You can try to bait the bird by placing biscuit crumbs or a small bowl of water by the window, but do remember to clean up after the bird has gotten out!

If the bird is still unable to get out on its own after opening the windows, do call the OED Maintenance hotline at 6516-1515 and report the situation. If these still do not work, do call the ACRES wildlife rescue hotline at 9783-7782.