31 December 2010

2011 is International Year of Forests!

With the theme of “Forests for People”, 2011 is designated International Year of Forests and will celebrate the central role of people in our world’s forests.
The elements in the design depict some of the many values of forests and the need for a 360‐degree perspective. Forests provide shelter to people and biodiversity; provide food, medicine and clean water; and a vital role in global climate and environment. More on the official International Year of Forests website.


Busting Myths about Monitors


(Photo by Ria)

In my previous post, I discussed some basic aspects about the biology of the Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator). Despite being relatively common, and often encountered by visitors to many of our parks and coastal areas, a great deal of misinformation about this lizard exists. And despite its size, it also faces a number of threats from human activities.

Magnificent Monitors



Today is the last day of 2010, and to conclude the International Year of Biodiversity, I decided it would be a good idea to talk about an iconic member of Singapore's native fauna.

Where it comes to scaly encounters, almost all of us would be familiar with the little house geckos that scurry about on walls and ceilings. Many of us would also be familiar with the changeable lizards (often misidentified as chameleons) that are often seen basking on trees and fences in parks and gardens. But these lizards are featherweights compared to their massive cousins, the monitors.

What does civet cat poop look like?

And why should we care?
Apparently, civet cat poop doesn't always look like 'blueberry jam' (oops, sorry to those eating while reading this).

Poop is important because it tells us more about what civet cats eat.

30 December 2010

22 Jan (Sat): Race Against Time – Science behind a Botanic Garden Tour

A unique behind-the-scenes look at research being done on our rapidly disappearing flora.
Join this free tour by staff of the Singapore Botanic Gardens to learn more about the Gardens’ research work.

26 December 2010

Why DIDN'T the chicken cross the road?

Because it can fly! So says Subaraj Rajathurai about our wild Red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus). Other ways this wild bird is different from domesticated chickens are outlined in the photo below posted by Sivasothi much earlier.
Amanda Tan of the National University is studying these birds. Members of the public have been contributing their sightings to her study too. So what has she found out?

18 November 2010

Biodiversity for kids during the December holidays!

Exciting nature activities for kids are lined up for the coming school holidays! Lots of fun ways to learn more about Singapore's biodiversity!
Have oceans of fun at Pasir Ris with marine-themed activities, join a Nature Camp for kids at Sungei Buloh, go for a night walk to check out owls, bats and frogs, find out about our forests, learn how to take nature photos and more!

Here's highlights of some of the many nature events for kids during the December holidays.

14 November 2010

NEW! Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online

Teo Siyang has just announced the effort towards creating this awesome resource on Singapore's plants!
The Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online already has more than 500 entries!

11 November 2010

13 Nov (Sat): "Capture the moment in Nature" A Talk on Nature Photography at Pulau Ubin

Nature photography is for everyone! says Jeremy Ang.
Come for Jeremy's talk at beautiful and wild Pulau Ubin to get photo tips and find out where you can get started taking nature photos in Singapore.

05 November 2010

DIY walking guides issued by NParks

Explore our marvellous biodiversity on your own with these Do-It-Yourself trail guides just issued by NParks.
The trail guides cover a wide range of places including: Changi, Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris, Labrador, Bukit Batok Nature Park, MacRitchie boardwalk, Fort Canning Park, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Southern Ridges, Western Adventure Park Connector Network.

Each trail guide includes photos, information and estimated walking time. What a great way to find a perfect trail to match your schedule and your interest!

04 November 2010

2-4 Dec: Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research Open House 2010

This Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) Open House is for anyone and everyone curious about Singapore’s Natural History! Participate in a treasure hunt, a tour of the museum and an opportunity to talk to curators and scientists in the museum and more.
The event is free and all are welcome.

13 Nov (Sat): Talk on "Fabulous Frogs & Terrible Toads"

Fabled as the lowly, green and slimy partner of a Princess in a fairytale, it was planted with a reluctant kiss and transformed into a charming Prince!
Is there more to frogs in the real world than this popular bed‐time story? The truth is: many frogs in the wild may not enjoy a life of ‘happily ever after’ with current threats to their survival.

01 November 2010

Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity adopted in Nagoya

It's official! The Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity has been endorsed for use globally!
Singapore is "a small city-state with limited land resources, but rich in flora and fauna. It is our contribution towards ongoing global efforts on biodiversity conservation" said Minister Mah Bow Tan.

30 October 2010

My Green Space: A flying 'tree doctor', rare tree rescue and more!

The latest issue of NParks My Green Space is packed once again with interesting articles about Singapore's biodiversity!
Our trees are looked after by human “tree doctors”. As well as a species of birds that carries out a similar job. Meet the Laced Woodpecker, a bird that plays an interesting and vital role in maintaining the health of trees. Find out how this bird helps our trees in A Most Odd Tree Doctor.

29 October 2010

20 and 27 Nov (Sat): A Walk with Your Neighbours: The Macaques of Bukit Timah

Learn more about the misunderstood macaques in our forests.
Long-tail macaques (Macaca fascicularis)
Just like us, they have family networks, power struggles, friends and enemies. This walk is led by by resident primatologist Dr Michael Gumert, who also teaches at Nanyang Technological University.

08 October 2010

16 Oct (Sat): Talk on "Butterflies of Singapore"

Fluttery beauties, with intriguing names like Studded Sergeant, Sumatran Sunbeam and Gray Tinsel. What are they and what's with all the mysterious military names? Where can we find them?
Learn more about Singapore's delightful butterflies! Come for this talk by Khew Sin Khoon, the author of the brand new "A Field Guide to Butterflies of Singapore" (to be launched on 10 Oct).

05 October 2010

13 Oct (Wed): Launch of the WWF 2010 Living Planet report in Singapore

On 13 October, WWF will release the 2010 edition of the Living Planet Report ahead of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.

The Report is built around two indicators: the Living Planet Index, which reflects the health of the planet’s ecosystems; and the Ecological Footprint, which shows the extent of human demand on these ecosystems.

30 Oct (Sat): Public Forum on Biodiversity - Singapore's plant and freshwater biodiversity

To celebrate International Year of Biodiversity, the Singapore Institute of Biology (SIBiol) and Science Centre Singapore presents this Public Forum on Biodiversity.
What biological, medical and bioengineering lessons can we glean from plants? Does Singapore still have interesting freshwater life? Find out at these talks by Dr. Benito C. Tan and Dr. Darren Yeo which promise to be fun and educational!

25 September 2010

Rainforest in the City to be bigger and better!

Did you know that there is a real primary rainforest just minutes from Orchard Road? It's at the Botanic Gardens! The 1889 Gardens’ catalogue described it: ‘With one or two exceptions, this is the only piece of original jungle left on the island ... It gives the visitors some idea of the wonderful richness of tropical vegetation.’
This 6 hectare primary rain forest will now be expanded to include a 9.8 hectare Learning Forest to showcase the best of tropical trees. Through thematic walks, visitors will be able to see giant trees, a conservation collection of rare fruit and nut species and a bamboo garden. National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan announced this at the opening of the 'Wealth of the Rain Forest' exhibition at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Friday morning.

17 September 2010

The Birds of Singapore - an online book

The Bird Ecology Study Group is broadening its base with the launching of a website on The Birds of Singapore.
The website will also allow everyone to contribute and thus be actively involved in creating the online book!

06 September 2010

Our fireflies: in the latest issue of Wetlands

Fireflies twinkling in mangrove trees are a captivating sight! But what do we know about these tiny creatures?
The fascinating findings of a meticulous study is shared in the latest issue of Wetlands, a magazine of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

04 September 2010

How's Singapore doing in efforts to conserve our biodiversity?

Singapore is in the final stages of developing the world's first Cities' Biodiversity Index. This self assessment tool helps cities benchmark their biodiversity conservation efforts.
Living lagoon of Kusu Island with city skyline
And how is Singapore itself faring on this Index?

23 August 2010

3 Sep (Fri): Workshop for Nature Guides - Dragons and Damsels

Specially for nature guides, learn from the experts about our very own dragonflies and damselflies. Tang Hung Bun, an author of the recently launched "A Photographic Guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore" and Robin Ngiam give this workshop.
Organised by the Leafmonkey Workshop, this session introduces the ecology, biology and identification of dragonflies and damselflies. Our local Odonata experts will also share about the dragonflies species and its conservation in Singapore.

20 August 2010

Sivasothi and the best of biodiversity blogs

Congratulations to The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS!The blog has been featured by the Pimm Group among the best biodiversity blogs, right next to legendary blogs such as Mongabay.com!

This recognition is well deserved. The blog is led by the inexhaustible N. Sivasothi and gives me an excuse to share about him.

17 August 2010

Biodiversity for kids during the September holidays!

Exciting nature activities for kids are lined up for the coming school holidays! Lots of fun ways to learn more about Singapore's biodiversity!
Kids are fascinated by mangrove critters!
Join a Nature Camp for kids at Sungei Buloh, learn about nature through drama, find out about our forests, or have an adventure at Pulau Ubin!

Here's highlights of some of the many nature events for kids during the September holidays.

07 August 2010

24 Aug (Tue): "Turtles Towards Extinction: How late are we? Is it too late?"

Is it enough to be breeding animals and learning about them in the zoos and aquariums? Or should future steps endeavour to not only breed them but reintroduce them into the wild?
These and other issues will be discussed at the Multidisciplinary Forum & Turtle Release@Big Sister Island: "Turtles Towards Extinction: How late are we? Is it too late?". Plus the event includes a field trip to tag and release hawksbill turtles at Big Sisters Island!

04 August 2010

New books on Singapore's dragonflies and freshwater life

Launched this week are two brand new books about Singapore's biodiversity!
"Private Lives: An Expose Of Singapore's Freshwaters" provides a glimpse into Singapore's freshwater bodies, to get people interested in some of the 'strange and unusual' aspects.

01 August 2010

Tiger orchids, Otters on Orchard Road and Tree Weeds

The awesome Tiger orchid is featured in NParks Buzz Aug 10 newsletter
According to the article, this orchid is extremely rare if not already extinct in the wild in Singapore. The orchid was last found in the wild in Tuas and Pulau Ubin. Since a mature plant could weigh more than a ton, it is a wonder that such a huge plant could live on the trunk of a tree!

30 July 2010

BeMUSE features Singapore's biodiversity!

The latest issue of BeMUSE Jul-Sep 10 has lots of articles about Singapore's biodiversity!
From the Banded leaf monkey, to Singapore's awesome mangroves, and more about the early history of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) with an interview with the current RMBR director Prof Peter Ng.

28 July 2010

5 Aug (Thu): Talk on "The Red Jungle Fowls: here again or lost forever?"

What's the difference between a domestic chicken and the Red Jungle Fowl? How many of these special birds do we have in Singapore?
Find out in this talk by Amanda Tan in the first Toddycats Engage! event.

26 July 2010

Breeding boost to Singapore's native frogs?

In her study of our sticky frogs, Teo Yea Tian provided artificial habitats in plastic and bamboo cups and plastic and ceramic basins to see if these encouraged the frogs to breed.
Black-spotted Sticky Frog
The black-spotted sticky frog got its name because it secretes a glue-like mucus when threatened. It is tiny with a huge call! And is horribly difficult to spot.

23 July 2010

A new home for Singapore's natural history in 2014!

There will be a new home for the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in 2014!
A brand new building at the National University of Singapore will showcase Singapore's biodiversity for everyone to better appreciate the awesome biodiversity of Singapore and more!

21 July 2010

31 Jul (Sat): Talk on "Hornbill Nesting - The 'Intelligent' Nest"

What happens during the mysterious ‘confinement’ of the female Oriental Pied Hornbill during breeding? The breeding female is sealed up in a tree cavity to lay and raise her young, and stays sealed inside the nest 24/7 for up to 3 months!
Many observations over the last five years has revealed more about what goes on in the dark nest!

19 July 2010

"Our HOME" - a nature education programme for children by Cicada Tree Eco Place

Just as we treasure Singapore as our home, so too do many native plants and animals call Singapore’s wild habitats their home. Sadly, most kids and grown-ups know very little about our natural areas where many wild species live.
Through “Our Home” lessons, kids will learn about animals, plants and the ecology of Singapore’s wild habitats: freshwater ponds and streams, rainforest, grassland, mangroves and the seashore!

09 July 2010

16 Jul (Fri): The Wallace Talk: "An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles" by Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

Charles Darwin has been lionized as one of the giants of western thought for his theory of evolution.
from "The Man who wasn't Darwin" National Geographic Jul 2010.

But what about Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin’s who independently developed the theory of natural selection during his eight-year sojourn in Southeast Asia? Why did Darwin become a household name while Wallace became a historical footnote?

05 July 2010

Bats in Singapore: one new record and two rediscovered

Unseen and unappreciated, we know very little about these secretive and fascinating mammals.
Common Fruit Bat feeding on nectar of Golden Penda flower.
But thanks to a two-year survey by NParks and volunteers, led by the intrepid Dr Leong Tzi Ming, we now know more about our bats!

04 July 2010

Wetlands magazine now online!

Wetlands, a magazine of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is now online for free download!
This is the first issue of Wetlands that is online in pdf form!

21 June 2010

Mega workshop series for all shore guides (Jul-Aug 10)

Specially for Singapore shore guides: veteran, newbie, wannabe! A series of intensive workshops that covers all our favourite shore ecosystems, and ends with a field session!
The focus is on developing and learning guiding techniques. So that we can better raise awareness about our shores. The series is very hands on, with lots of discussion and sharing. The finale is a field assessment session on an actual shore!

All shore guides from all groups are welcomed to attend! So it's also a unique opportunity to meet other shore guides. Together, everyone can share, learn and DO!

"Wetland in a City" - NEW book by Dr Chua Ee Kiam

Dr Chua Ee Kiam's latest book has just been launched! I think it is his best book ever!
Although I have been to Sungei Buloh countless times, Dr Chua shares awesome images of my favourite place that I cannot imagine, or have simply failed to see!

Sungei Buloh to be bigger and better!

Have you visited Sungei Buloh and waited patiently for some shy animal to emerge. Only to have a crowd of noisy visitors scare it away? Or have you been at Buloh with your friends having a good time only to be 'shushed' by other grumpy visitors? These situations may soon be less frequent!
A Master Plan for a bigger and better Sungei Buloh as been unveiled! The Plan will make space both for wildlife and wildlife watchers AND others who prefer to enjoy nature out loud. How will this be possible?!

03 June 2010

5 Jun is World Environment Day!

There's lots of activities for us to learn and enjoy our biodiversity this weekend!
From Purple Mangroves, who conduct the origami sessions.

On 6 Jun (Sun), go for a special Mandarin guided walk of our mangroves at Sungei Buloh. 9.45-11.30am. At 2-3.30pm join their origami session to make delightful creatures of the mangroves. The activities are free but entrance fees apply: $1 per adult, 50cents per child/student/senior citizen.

Lots more activities on 5 Jun (Sat)!

31 May 2010

Nature lovers band together amidst oil spill tragedy

Volunteers band together in clean-up efforts on Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. Photo shared by Tan Hang Chong on the oil spill Facebook page.

Following the tragic news of the oil spill off Changi East in the early hours of 25 May 2010, many were bracing for the worst: just how much of our shores will be spared?

23 May 2010

BiodiverCity 'Voters' Choice' competition

The BiodiverCity photo competition is over but you can still win prizes by voting for your favourite photo!
Vote for your favourite photos and you could win iPod and other prizes.

22 May 2010

Nature Keeper - a biodiversity programme for our primary school students

Nature Keepers is the first programme in Singapore for primary school students that focuses on Singapore's forests.
Designed to interest kids and stimulate their appreciation of our forests, the programme will take place at the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves.

Beyond the workshops, the programme also aims to nurture young volunteers in protecting our natural heritage over the longer term.

Bridge for biodiversity: Eco-Link to reconnect Bukit Timah and Central Nature Reserves

When the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) was completed in 1986, it divided our last primary rainforest.
To heal this gap, NParks and the Land Transport Authority are working on a bridge to allow trees and animals across the BKE! It will be a first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

21 May 2010

Nature in Singapore: Frogs, fig snails, aliens and rediscovery of plants

The latest findings of Singapore's biodiversity is out on Nature in Singapore by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.
Find out the latest to intriguing questions such as: How many kinds of frogs are found at Sungei Buloh?

20 May 2010

Saving Singapore's wild orchids

Singapore used to have 226 native wild orchid species. Now there are only 48 species left, and only five are common. The remainder are rare or critically endangered.
Dr Yam Tim Wing is holding a specimen of Dendrobium leonis which is extinct in the wild and will be reintroduced. Photo from Straits Times, Ng Sor Luan

To protect our remaining orchid biodiversity, NParks has launched a programme to reintroduce our wild orchids, even in the heart of the city!

22 May-20 Jun: BiodiverCity Photo Exhibition @ Orchard

The final selection of photos for the 'BiodiverCity' photo competition will be exhibited at Orchard! The exhibition celebrates the rich biodiversity found in our urban environment. Singapore is often known as a bustling city state and a centre for commerce. Through the lenses of residents, we hope to show that it is also a haven for biodiversity.

17 May 2010

22 May (Sat) is World Biodiversity Day

More properly called International Day for Biological Diversity, this special weekend in a special year is packed with biodiversity activities in Singapore!
Find out about otters, hornbills, mousedeer. Try your hand at prawn farming. Explore the Chek Jawa boardwalk. And top it off with a Gala Dinner that saves animals. And don't miss the rare Raffles Museum Open House on Sunday!

14 May 2010

Biodiversity for kids during the June holidays!

Exciting nature activities for kids are lined up for this June school holidays! Lots of fun ways to learn more about Singapore's biodiversity!
from the Cicada Tree Eco Place website.

Join a one-day Young Naturalist Passport Camp, learn about plants and animals at the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, and enjoy a wide range of family activities at the HortPark Family Fiesta 2010.

13 May 2010

Getting close to aquatic biodiversity at MacRitchie

Kids can now splash in the 'longkang' again!
Image from the PUB media release.

A submerged boardwalk will be built at MacRitchie Reservoir so that visitors can walk "through shallow waters (ankle-deep) to see water plants growing alongside the boardwalk and be in close contact with tadpoles, fish, snails and other aquatic life."

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