LZB features ex-hons Lynette Loke’s project on artificial substrate in marine environments

Lynette Loke, 2009/10 honours student with Peter Todd in Marine Biology Lab and now a Research Assistant appears in Lianhe Zaobao on 1st August 2010. The article apparently talks about her work on creating artificial substrates for enhancing biodiversity on Singapore’s seawalls.

Lynette and her mini-construction site from Oct 2009

A translated abstract would certainly be welcome! If you can do it, please email me at sivasothi@gmail.com

See also: “Designing innovative coastal protection using ecosystem-based approaches,” by Peter Todd. Hantu Blog, 24 Nov 2009.

Hantu Island an experimental site for costal protection design | Pulau Hantu

Banded Leaf Monkeys, RMBR, mangroves in beMUSE

Get your hands on the latest copy of beMUSE, the quarterly magazine published by the National Heritage Board! There are plenty of interesting articles in this issue, including one written by Andie from our lab, on the banded leaf monkeys of Singapore (Living treasures in the treetops: A fresh look at Singapore’s banded leaf monkeys). In it, she discusses the ecology of the banded leaf monkeys, their natural heritage value and relationship to the greater question of biodiversity conservation in Singapore, as well as the banded leaf monkey’s long term prospects for survival, It’s accompanied by plenty of lush photographs, (as are all the other articles in the magazine). She also discusses the fate of some other charismatic animals of Singapore, including Marcus’ mousedeer, along with a picture he took of the shy, nocturnal creature.

You can enjoy more of his photography in the following article on mangroves (Rainforests by the sea: Celebrating Singapore’s mangrove forests), written by Jean Yong, Joanne Khew (from Plant lab) & Ng Yan Fei, which includes an useful comparative mangrove guide sheet. Last but not least, there is also an article on RMBR (Learning from looking: The natural history collection of the former Raffles library and museum). Written by Clement Onn from the Asian Civilisations Museum, it not only offers a good read, but also includes a very useful timeline of the RMBR’s history.

Follow up article on Weiting’s honours project: Threats to the Siglap Civets

Weiting just finished her exams. Before that, however, she presented her poster, submitted her thesis and delivered her first public talk to some 300 people during the during the “Zoological Explorations of Singapore” on 16th April 2010.

Relieved of all that pressure, I am quite sure Weiting looks like this these days:

Of course she’s not done yet. There are debts to pay. One of which is public education. Well, I suppose she has bought some time now, as she has just had some help.

Update (06 May 2010) – Ria Tan has blogged about Weiting’s lovely public talk, see: “Celebrating Singapore’s Biodiversity“.

The Straits Times has followed up on the results of Weiting’s honours year project on the civets of Siglap, which they first reported on last November, (“The great ‘musang’ stakeout“) (30 Nov 2009). Read on…

“‘Musang’ facing threat from annoyed residents,” by Ang Yiying. The Straits Times, 04 May 2010.

WRS photo - civet project
The musang, believed to be the last small wild carnivore in Singapore, has made its home in the east. A study team puts its population in Siglap and Opera estates at between 20 and 30. — PHOTOS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

THE musang, or Asian palm civet, is clinging on as a species in the urban environment of Singapore. It is believed to be the last small wild carnivore here.

A study of its presence in the Siglap and Opera estates shows that the animals are breeding, which bodes well for its preservation. But this delicate balance is being threatened by residents snaring them and possible changes to housing developments.

Weighing about 3.2kg, with grey, coarse shaggy hair and a tail about the same length as its body, the musang, also known as the toddy cat, is common to the region.

While their numbers in Singapore are not available, these nocturnal creatures have been sighted in the east. The Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) and National University of Singapore’s biological sciences department put the musang population in the Siglap and Opera estates at between 20 and 30.

The estimates are based on sightings in the area and photographs taken by the study team and remote camera traps that are triggered by motion.

About five offspring were caught on camera, a sign that the musangs are breeding and could be a sustainable population. Their food sources include small birds and fruits.

But residents say more of the musangs are being snared by those who consider them a nuisance. The animals are known to patter on rooftops and eat fruits from trees grown in residents’ gardens.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said the number of musangs it received went up from 23 in 2007 to 31 last year. Almost all came from the Siglap and Opera estates. So far this year, seven have been turned over to the agency, all from that area.

Musangs handed to the AVA are released into nature areas. Those that are weaker may be sent to the zoo.

The Night Safari’s acting assistant curator of zoology Abdul Razak Jaffar, who is part of the study team, thinks the musangs should be left alone in their urban stronghold. ‘Right now, we’re not sure how these animals are doing in the nature reserve,’ he said.

‘So, if we keep pushing them there, there may be a point of time when the resources are not enough to sustain the introduced population or they may not adapt well because they are from a different location.’

WRS is looking into organising night walks in the area to allay people’s fears about the harmless wild animal which also eats pests such as rats.

Dr Vilma D’Rozario of environmental group Cicada Tree Eco-Place, which teaches children about local flora and fauna, has another concern.

The musang, which likes to stay under the eaves of old houses, may have nowhere to go as new buildings may have sealed rooftops that they cannot get into. ‘I feel that as old homes get torn down, there won’t be many musangs left,’ said Dr D’Rozario.

Thanks to WildSingapore for the alert – as usual!

Ang Hui Fang’s Banded Leaf Monkey work in The Straits Times

Monkey species in better shape than thought,” by Victoria Vaughan. The Straits Times, 10 Apr 2010. Study finds number of banded leaf monkeys 3 times greater than previously believed.

NUS’ Andie Ang spent 11/2 years tracking the monkeys. She found, among other things, that their offspring’s definitive colour is white, not orange as reported. — ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

ONCE feared to be on the brink of extinction, data has surfaced to suggest that Singapore’s banded leaf monkey population is healthy and is, in fact, growing.

A student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) who spent 11/2 years tracking the black monkeys in the Central Catchment Area has concluded that the number is roughly treble of what was previously thought to exist.

The last reliable data, recorded in the 1990s, reported that there were 10 to 15 of these shy tree-dwelling monkeys left in Singapore.

But Miss Andie Ang, 25, has documented evidence to prove that there are at least 40 roaming the MacRitchie and Lower Peirce Reservoir areas. From September 2008, she spent five days a week in the forest to gather data for her master’s biology programme. It took 13 dawn-till-dusk sorties before Miss Ang found the first monkey and she has since seen at least 40 individuals.

By carrying out simultaneous surveys with help from a National Parks Board (NParks) ranger, she could determine that she was seeing different monkeys and, therefore, had a good population count. ‘I was pretty surprised to find 40. I don’t want to stop this work, I hope to see what can be done to stabilise the population,’ she said.

But it is unclear whether the increase in number is because the population is recovering or because previous surveys were not as comprehensive. The data collected, which covers social, breeding and eating habits, will go into Miss Ang’s master’s thesis, to be completed in July and submitted to journals for potential publication.

Associate Professor Rudolf Meier, who is supervising the project, said this was a significant study but it was hard to predict if the number was big enough for the population to recover. ‘There is a genetic bottleneck – the genetic diversity is low,’ he said. This lack of diversity could lead to vulnerability to disease or reproductive problems. ‘Also, the infant mortality rate is extremely high for these monkeys – probably more than 50 per cent.’

Deputy director of the NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, Dr Lena Chan, said more had to be done to boost future conservation measures. ‘This species has special significance for Singapore as it was first described here in 1838. When we know what it likes to eat, we could look at planting more of those plants,’ she said. She added that the soon-to-be built Eco-Link – set to cross the Bukit Timah Expressway and link Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve – could help extend their habitat.

There is also a possibility of using the leaf monkey, believed to be related, from Johor to help increase the genetic pool.

The banded leaf monkey is one of three primate populations here, along with long-tailed macaques, which number about 1,500, and the nocturnal slow loris, the population of which is unknown.

The study was the first to be supported by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, which committed $500,000 over five years to NUS’ Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund, set up about a year ago to support this kind of work.


Weiting’s civet surveys – The Straits Times (Nov 2009) and continued work

I am playing a bit of catchup here – Systematics & Ecology Lab’s Honours student Xu Weiting’s research with civets in Siglap was featured in The Straits Times in November last year: “The great ‘musang’ stakeout,” by Ang Yiying. The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2009. The aim: To observe the Toddy Cat’s population size and habits. [pdf1pdf2]

At the time, Wild Singapore carried the news – link. Some of her honours classmates accompanied her on the survey and you can see them in the larger pdfs of the newspaper pages – just click the images below:

Civetgirl Weiting is still surveying Siglap and she has since seen civets in the day time too., demonstrating that persistence pays off in mammal work. Here she is looking very civet-like during one of our meetings!

This is a photo she obtained of one of the lovely wild carnivores of Singapore – we liked it so much, we use it for the sidebar thumbnail image for the link to mammal records entry on Habitatnews! If you wish to follow her on her night surveys, email her at xuwt87@gmail.com

Ang Yi Ying previously wrote about Marcus honours year project that discovered mousedeer populations on Pulau Ubin – link.