Monday, December 26, 2011

Ribbons: Terrestrial Nemerteans of Singapore

People with a fascination for marine life would probably have heard of nemerteans, commonly known as ribbon worms.

Ribbon worm (Baseodiscus delineatus)
Black and white ribbon worm (Baseodiscus delineatus), Terumbu Pempang Darat;

Red ribbon worm (Nemertea)
Red ribbon worm, Kusu Island;
(Photos by Ria)

Most ribbon worms live in marine environments, with a small proportion adapted to freshwater habitats. Just earlier today, I learnt that a small handful of nemertean species have actually managed to colonise the land, and that they can be found in Singapore!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Toddycats are going to Geylang!

The Toddycats! will be hitting the heartlands, with a very special exhibition at the Geylang East Public Library this Saturday, 10th December. With an exhibition of specimens, educational posters, games, and talks, it's the perfect opportunity to learn more about Singapore's wildlife.

Here's a sneak preview of what you can expect to see, based on our briefing and training session yesterday evening.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Timberland's Vivocity Concept Store opens


It's been months since I last saw my travelling companions and friends during my trip to Inner Mongolia and Sichuan in August, and last Friday, I had the excellent opportunity to catch up with them at an event organised by Timberland Singapore: the official opening of the new 2,400 sq ft concept store at Vivocity, a first for the brand's Asian outlets.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Nuffnang Story

Where it comes to blogging, it's essential to establish good relationships with people. Bloggers inevitably tend to form communities, reaching out and building friendships with not just readers, but also with fellow bloggers. We are after all highly social animals, and the whole point of blogging is to communicate ideas to an audience that could potentially number in the thousands, if not millions.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Chironomids Part II: Millions of Midges

Male adult midge, Sungei Buloh;
(Photo by Marcus)

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, 'This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them. But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.'" And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh's palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.

- Exodus 8: 20-24

Midge swarm, Utah;

In the previous post, I discussed some aspects of the biology and ecology of the Chironomidae, also known as non-biting midges. I briefly mentioned the tendency of many midge species to form huge swarms, which can have negative effects on human communities in the vicinity. This post will look at one such swarming event in Singapore.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Chironomids Part I: Marvellous Midges

Bedok Reservoir Park 27
(Photo by zh3nG 正)

Most of us are familiar with mosquitoes, and public service messages constantly remind us of the fact that there are commensal species which breed in stagnant water in and around our homes. In one aspect of their life cycle, mosquitoes (F. Culicidae) are not unique; numerous other species of flies have aquatic larvae, and the adults are often referred to as midges. One family in particular, commonly known as the chironomids or non-biting midges (F. Chironomidae), is well-represented throughout the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wild boar... in Tampines?

"He's dead, that's what's wrong with it!" "No, no, he's uh... he's resting."
Wild boar resting beneath diesel tank, Tampines;
(Photo from Channel 8 news Facebook page)

As a longtime resident of Tampines, I pay very close attention to sightings of wildlife in this part of Singapore. True, we may not be very close to the forests of the Central Nature Reserves, and most of our parks are little manicured gardens nestled amongst the HDB blocks, but we do have much larger patches of vegetation. While these areas are little more than wasteland composed of a mixture of fire-tolerant woodland, scrub and grassland (wildfires are not uncommon occurrences during the drier months), they provide habitats for many species. One such pocket of greenery was recently converted into the Tampines Eco Green.

Still, the thought of a wild boar (Sus scrofa) living here was a big surprise for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macaques, Conflict and Keyboard Warriors

Sadly, I saw no monkeys
(Photo by John 3000)

About a week ago, someone named Paul Chan wrote in to the Straits Times Forum, in response to reports of several long-tailed macaques attacking visitors to the Forest Walk along the Southern Ridges.

Hort Park (Animal Encounter)
Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis);
(Photo by gamebit)
(The photos in this post feature several macaques that have been encountered by visitors to various parts of the Southern Ridges over the past few years)

Cull monkeys if over-population is the problem (Mirror)

I WAS shocked to read that a search was on for a monkey believed to have attacked three people over the past three weeks ("Attacks spark hunt for monkey"; last Friday).

I was also disappointed with the response of National Parks Board (NParks) officials that the monkey-feeding problem might have reached a tipping point and that sometimes, animals just go crazy. Did NParks do an extensive survey or study to arrive at such conclusions?

Despite many reports of rogue monkeys attacking people and foraging for food at bus stops and households, NParks prefers to pin the blame on human feeding or provocation.

The attack on Hort Park visitor Tang Mae Lynn was apparently due to the monkey pack invading her personal space at the Forest Walk; she carried no food or drink. The problem could be due to monkey over-population or lack of monitoring by NParks officials.

I disagree with NParks about not going after the monkeys because the creatures belong there as much as humans. Does that mean we should silently accept monkey attacks as normal?

It is the job of NParks to ensure monkeys behave where they co-exist with us. NParks has a duty to patrol and monitor the growth of the animal population within the forest boundaries. The animals should be culled if they encroach on human living space and disturb our peace. They should also be punished if they misbehave.

NParks could install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras along the Forest Walk and areas prone to monkey attacks to check on the culprits while initiating programmes to control such disturbances so that both animals and people can share the limited space on our island in peace.

Paul Chan

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ready for the weekend

This weekend, a very important event will be taking place. A culmination of the efforts of people from various organisations, this event promises to be fascinating and exciting, and showcases a side of Singapore most of us might not see very often. No, I wasn't referring to the Singapore Grand Prix, but the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III, which will be taking place tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: Like the deserts miss the rain...

Over the last two days, as part of Timberland's contributions towards fighting desertification, we helped to prune poplars, and also planted pine saplings. Today, we bade farewell to Inner Mongolia, and embarked on the next leg of our journey, to the city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province.

To find out why I'm so gleefully holding a leafy branch, read on.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: Circle in the sand...

(Photo from Timberland Singapore)

Yesterday, it rained for most of the day, making our pruning of poplars a cooling and enjoyable (if somewhat wet) experience. While it meant that we didn't end up baking and getting burnt to a crisp, I was somewhat hoping that the weather would change, and we would get to experience the desert. After all, deserts are defined by low amounts of precipitation; it would be ironic (and disappointing) if we ended up spending our days here in the Horqin Desert getting soaked in the rain.

Today, we finally found out what it was truly like being out in the desert. I'm just hoping that I don't suffer too much from this sunburn.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: With you in the summer rain...

(Photo from Timberland Singapore)

During one of our briefings before this trip, Cheryl did mention how it rained unexpectedly last year, catching the Timberland Earthkeepers participants unaware and out in the open. I came here expecting to experience the scorching sun and blasting winds of the desert, only to end up cold, wet, but definitely not at all miserable here in Horqin.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: I try to discover...


I'm currently writing this from an Internet cafe somewhere in the town of Ganqika, Inner Mongolia. Yes, I survived the long, grueling journey, and though I am a long, long way from home, and feeling quite crippled without my laptop and free Wi-Fi (the infamous Great Firewall of China isn't helping matters either), I am certainly very excited to see what's in store for this year's Timberland Earthkeepers trip to fight desertification in Horqin.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: Breaking in the Gear


Ever since I obtained some gear from Timberland that I will be using for my upcoming trip to Inner Mongolia and Jiuzhaigou, I've been wanting to try bringing my jacket and boots out on a hike somewhere in Singapore. Not only was it a good way for me to get used to wearing them, I decided to take the opportunity to show off the items I received in the best possible way: with a little photoshoot.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: My Travelling Companions

I'm not the only person who has been fortunate in getting the chance to go on a trip to Inner Mongolia and Jiuzhaigou. In this post, I will be sharing about a couple of my travelling companions, who also took part in contests organised by Timberland Singapore, and won the opportunity to be a part of Timberland Earthkeepers' desert greening efforts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: Grace's Articles from 2009...

Planting a four year old pine sapling in 2009;
(Photo by Grace Chua)
He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.
Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;
Leaves unfold into horizons free.
So man's life must climb
From the clods of time
Unto heavens sublime.
Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

He who plants a tree
Plants a joy;
Plants a comfort that will never cloy;
Every day a fresh reality,
Beautiful and strong,
To whose shelter throng
Creatures blithe with song.
If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,
Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

He who plants a tree,
He plants peace.
Under its green curtains jargons cease.
Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;
Shadows soft with sleep
Down tired eyelids creep,
Balm of slumber deep.
Never hast thou dreamed, thou blessed tree,
Of the benediction thou shalt be.

He who plants a tree,
He plants youth;
Vigor won for centuries in sooth;
Life of time, that hints eternity!

- Lucy Larcom

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers: The Journey Begins...

As many of you would have known by now, I've been chosen to be a part of Timberland's reforestation efforts in Horqin, Inner Mongolia, not to mention that I will also get to go on a nature appreciation and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan.

On Sunday, my journey begins, thanks to a contest that I was initially quite hesitant to join. I'm really quite excited, and I'm sure that I will have a memorable experience over in China.

But of course, there is the issue of getting the proper gear.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saga of the Seacil

Seacil model
Model of a seacil

Yesterday, I attended a very illuminating and fascinating discussion about the controversial seacil project. It has brought a conclusion to a topic that has weighed heavily on the minds of many who have come to love our shores and the amazing diversity of marine life we still possess, and also spurred some debate over how we should protect and conserve our often fragile habitats.

For those who are puzzled as to what a seacil is, here's some background information...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Some of you might have recalled this post I wrote about Timberland Earthkeepers and the Horqin Desert, which I submitted as an entry in this contest.

I'm really happy to announce that I've won for myself an all expenses paid trip to join the Timberland Earthkeepers reforestation efforts in Horqin in Inner Mongolia, as well as a nature appreciation trip to Jiuzhaigou Valley (worth S$3,500). On top of that, I get a S$1,000 Timberland voucher.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Parliament of Owls

Today marks the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. The final instalment in the movies based on JK Rowling's best-selling series of novels, countless people all over the world have followed the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts for more than a decade, ever since the first of the books was published in 1997 (and the first movie released in 2001).

(Image from Harry Potter Wiki)

Given that the stories take place in a world populated by wizards and witches wielding magic, much of the 'wildlife' appearing in the stories are completely fictitious. Unfortunately, muggles like us will never get the chance to learn more about acromantulas, Hungarian horntails, phoenixes, hippogriffs, or basilisks. However, there is one group of animals that are very real creatures indeed, the owls.

I covered the owl species that can be found in Singapore over at the Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity blog, so here I will be talking about the owl species that are featured in the Harry Potter stories. A lot of information about the owls in the books and movies is available on this page by bird enthusiast Laura Erickson ("Professor McGonagowl").

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dead python with smashed head found near Kallang River. Did someone kill it?

Dead python with smashed head found near Kallang River. Did someone kill it?

A new look for Monday Morgue

Equatorial spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana)
Woodlands, 27th June 2011

One of the regular features of this blog has been my weekly Monday Morgue updates, featuring photos of a dead animal I encountered somewhere in Singapore, whether it's dead fish on a shore or a crushed snail in my neighbourhood. You may have noticed a lack of new Monday Morgue entries on this blog in recent months. That's because after a suggestion from some friends, I decided to move my Monday Morgue posts over to a blog specially dedicated to sharing photos of animal carcasses.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dangerous prank: Man releases large hornet on bus, causing panic

Dangerous prank: Man releases large hornet on bus, causing panic

Timberland Earthkeepers Contenders

Nuffnang Singapore and Timberland Singapore held a blogging contest to send a blogger to Inner Mongolia and Sichuan as part of the Timberland Earthkeepers programme. Thursday (30th June) was the deadline, and it'll be an exciting time for me as I wait for the results. My entry can be seen here (Apparently, it got picked up by last Friday's edition of Friday Ark). And here are the posts written by other bloggers, which I managed to find through Google.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Timberland Earthkeepers and the Horqin Desert

This post was submitted as an entry in the Timberland Earthkeepers blogging contest with Nuffnang Singapore

UPDATE: I WON! Check out this post for more details.

"Sureg amgalan sun shim arvin boltugai"
(Let the herd be peaceful and milk be in abundance)

- Mongolian greeting

As a person who is very passionate about wildlife, conservation and the environment, reading the news can be a terribly depressing daily affair. The multitude of issues which plague our planet and threaten the future of our wild places and even our own civilisation are too numerous to list here, but at least, once in a while, there are glimmers of hope and inspiration, stories of efforts that illustrate the will to make a difference, and to do one's part, no matter how small it may seem, to help make the world a better place.

Where it comes to narratives about environmental destruction and protection, large multinational corporations are often depicted as the bad guys, wreaking havoc in a limitless hunger for profit, no matter the ecological or social costs. Yet this is a myth that ignores and overlooks the good that many companies do, often under the banner of corporate social responsibility. Skeptics may claim that it's usually just greenwashing or mere token efforts that in no way override the environmental damage that is wrought in the name of the almighty dollar, but I like to be optimistic and believe that business entities involved in environmental efforts do have the ability to make a powerful impact.

One would think that companies which specialise in manufacturing products for outdoor use should be especially interested and involved in such activities; after all, their business relies on consumers choosing to explore the so-called great outdoors, whether it's hiking, mountain climbing, or camping in the woods. This in turn relies on there being some semblance of wilderness or nature area that people find worth visiting in the first place. Timberland, with its Earthkeepers, and the subject of this blog post, is one such example.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bishan Park canal clear and doesn't stink now, thanks to STOMP tip-off

Bishan Park canal clear and doesn't stink now, thanks to STOMP tip-off

Nature-related Blogs in the Singapore Blog Awards

The Singapore Blog Awards are back, and I thought I would like to help publicise a few blogs that are currently in the running for various categories. While there isn't any category that best suits a nature or environment blog (a flaw in these awards, considering the large number of people who write good blogs about nature in Singapore), some of the finalists do have recent posts about the environment, and it would be good to show these bloggers our support.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The King and I: King Cobras in Singapore

Wild King Cobra
(Photo by gerry morgan)

Singapore is home to many species of snake, from tiny burrowing blind snakes less than 20 centimetres long, feeding on soft-bodied invertebrates in the soil, to gigantic pythons more than 5 metres in length, lurking in our drains and sewers in pursuit of rats and even stray cats. While most of our snakes are quite harmless, our forests have their fair share of kraits, coral snakes and pit vipers, with venomous bites that are a genuine cause for concern. The equatorial spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana) is perhaps the most dangerous of our venomous snakes, since it is commonly encountered living near people. Yet these serpents, for all their deadly beauty, pale in comparison to a snake so feared and so iconic that it has become a symbol of the Asian rainforests, a true superstar among the snakes - the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah).