Wildlife on the Ridge - a diary of encounters

To figure out the locations, please see: The NUS Interactive Campus Map: locations are between grids C3 and E7; click to enlarge.

Who's who:
Sasi Nayar, a postgraduate student with Reef Ecology Lab, Deparment of Biological Sciences & Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS. Works late nights in campus; Kelvin Lim, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS. Tony O'Demspey, naturalist and snake-hunter, also known a Orang Ular. Victor Muthu, first year undergraduate who spotted a hornbill on the ridge, Jeffrey Low, his ; Alvin Wong,

From: Sasi Nayar <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 04:51:32 +0800
To: "'otterman@sivasothi.com'" <otterman@sivasothi.com>, Lim Kok Peng Kelvin <kelvinlim@nus.edu.sg>

Subject: Snake diversity along the ridge

Hi both

Offlate I have been observing a lot of snakes along the ridge. Hotspots being the road [Kent Ridge Road] leading to Tropical Marine Science Intitute (TMSI) and between the Institute of Molecular Agrobiotechnology (IMA) and Prince George's Park Residence (PGP).

Saw a viper on the IMA stairs leading to the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) about 2 months back. Last night (or early this morning) I saw a 1.5 m long adult banded krait in the middle of the road. Fortunately it wasn't a road kill....I saw it move away a while later.

Most of these sightings were a day or two after a heavy shower (probably when there are many toads) [or when rain forces them out of burrows]. The most unforgettable was a pit viper (a very beautiful specimen which looked something like the Sumatran pit viper featured on the cover of the journal The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology sometime ago, which I saw near TMSI. I got really close to the fella (unknowingly I was walking close to the railings on which it was perched) and he came strait for me with a hiss. It was a close shave. From what I know, they have a nasty temper!? By the time I took out my camera, the fella disappeared.

Interesting, so thought of sharing the info.

BTW, I have a terrible phobia for snakes...! ;-)



From: "tony odempsey" <todempsey@hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 09:15:21
To: otterman@sivasothi.com
Cc: webmaster@ecologyasia.com

Subject: Re: FW: Snake diversity along the ridge

Hi Siva

this guy has two very interesting possible sightings - the Krait and the viper although a young Waglers might look like a sumatran viper given its greenness. and the Krait could have been a Gold Ringed cat snake. Oh for a photograph we could confirm those sightings.



From: Sasi Nayar <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 19:16:58 +0800
To: "'N. Sivasothi'" <otterman@sivasothi.com>, Lim Kok Peng Kelvin <kelvinlim@nus.edu.sg>
Subject: RE: Snake diversity along the ridge

Thanks Siva.

From my descriptions, even Kelvin said it could have been a Mangrove snake. Highly unlikely in my opinion for two reasons

I have had countless encounters with the banded Kraits in India (Maharashtra). This one looked exactly like the one I have seen in the past. The place where I sighted was pretty dark, but then the bands were definitely white. I did mention to Kelvin that the white ones were thinner than the black one. I just checked one of the herp guide in the lab and, to me it now looks closer to the Malayan Krait than the Banded Krait (which has a very distinct dorsal keel, which I didnt really notice in the one I saw).

Could a mangrove cat snake come all the way to PGP? I thought they were mostly found on trees?

As for the viper, it was a juvenile/young one. Not more than 30-40 cm long with a very distinctive triangular head and a very pretty greenish colouration. Something like a reddish/orangish/brownish pattern along the lateral side. I have seen the mock viper and that comes nowhere close to this. As Kelvin said, it could have been a shore pit.

Darn, didnt have a camera this time.



From: "tony odempsey" <todempsey@hotmail.com>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2002 05:29:32
To: otterman@sivasothi.com
Subject: Re: FW: Snake diversity along the ridge

Hi Siva

maybe could have been a Krait if the observer has had previous experience - the kraits rings are uniform width while the cat snake rings taper as they approach the ventral scales (that's a good visual clue) - also the tails are different with kraits having stubbier tails (cat snake is a tree climber and has longer tapered tail).

BTW - Mangrove snake is a misleading common name Gold Ringed is better - they are more likely to be found in forest and like sitting on branches that overhang streams - we come across these in central catchment for example, however I have never seen one in the mangrove areas of Pulau Ubin or Sungei Buloh (have you ever seen one at Buloh ?). So it is entirly possible that these fellows could be on Kent ridge.

In any case if this fellow has expereinced kraits before then possibly the possibility is more possible if that were possible, possibly I say.

I think the viper was waglers [Wagler's pit viper] - the juveniles are nice green and have some red dots - although the agression that was described is uncharacteristic for waglers.



From: Sasi Nayar <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 15:43:00 +0800
To: "'otterman@sivasothi.com'" <otterman@sivasothi.com>, Lim Kok Peng Kelvin <kelvinlim@nus.edu.sg>
Subject: Yet another wonderful sighting

Hey Siva and Kelvin,

Guess what? Saw another beautiful snake-same location and almost the same time. Was returning back at about 3 AM. Was behind this gal who was about 50 m ahead of me. All of a sudden I saw her running away and I guessed it right. What I saw was a very beautiful 2 m long rock/ reticulated python juvenile. Exactly the same location - + / - 5 m from where I saw the Malayan Krait.

Dunno why I keep running into them! ;-) This one was pretty fearless and wasnt bothered about my presence. For the first time I managed to get about 5m from the snake...that was the closest I could get at the same time keeping my heart beats under 250! The most wonderful thing is that I was pretty well prepared with my manual camera. Managed to get about 2-3 shots...my only fear is that the film I used was a 100. Lets see how it comes out. [Did not come out, light was too poor!]

Details as follows:
Type of snake sighted : Rock/reticulated Python
Location : 300m from Blk 13 PGP road
Date and time of sighting : 27 Feb 2002, 0310 h
Overall body length : 2m
Max girth : 3 inches
Stage : Probably a juvenile

Anyone interested in joining me for this early morning walk back?

Hope this interests you



From: "Sasi Nayar" <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 01:52:54 +0800
To: <otterman@sivasothi.com>, "Nick Baker (E-mail)" <webmaster@ecologyasia.com>, "Tony Odempsey (E-mail)" <todempsey@hotmail.com>
Subject: Snake sighting -PGP

Hi all

Saw another one early this morning after a very long break - same place at about 5 AM. Unfortunately it was a fresh road kill with blood splattered all around it. The body was lying with the ventral side up and was too badly crushed to make out what it was. It measured about 1.25m and had a girth of about 3cm. That was sad!



From: "Sasi Nayar" <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 08:17:03 +0800
Subject: Snake sighting Part 2

Hi all,

Good morning all.

Who said everyday is a gloomy day? Soon after I sent out the account at about 2AM on the road kill along PGP on sunday, I wound up for the day and left for PGP. It was about 2.10 this morning when I reached the same spot.

Guess what? There was a big surprise waiting for me at the very same corner.

It was a 3.5m long (8cm girth) glistening adult of a rock python stretching all along the road gradually slithering away. Wow! That was an awesome sight! Again, since I was going for a field trip the next morning, I deliberately left my camera in the lab (wish I had anticipated this encounter!). I stood there admiring the snake (at a very safe distance ofcourse!) at the same time keeping a watch for passing mororists (didn't want this to landup as another road kill).

Within 5 min I saw a guy on a bycycle and signalled him to stay clear of the footpath where the snake was. He was listening to his portable walkman and to figure out what I was trying to convey stopped the cycle RIGHT in front of the snake. He was barely half a meter from the tail of the snake and about 3.5 m from the head. While the snake didnt seem too concerned, he was obviously keeping an eye for this guy in case he accidently stepped on him. By the time our friend realised what I was frantically signalling all along, he got a fright of his life (after all how many S'poreans realise we have such wonderful wildlife right at our backyard!?).

He was totally frozen for a while and I broke the ice by warning him about this special spot. Still not recovered from his shock, I was bombarded with 6 rapid fire questions which sounded totally unrelated to the context (well, I would have done the same after such a narrow scrape!)- The questions in the sequence were, whether I was a local or a foreigner, an undergrad or postgrad, which dept, what I was doing at that time of the night, whether I am that crazy to return usually at that time of the night and my place of residence. I calmly answered all his queries and went on to get the topic back to snakes (I was so excited seeing something so beautiful!). By this time he had gained his composure, he admired how beautiful the animal was and admitted how close the encounter was.

Satisfied that the guy (who apparently is an undergrad) got the message, I went home happy.

More to come as I stumble across more in the days to come!



From: Victor Muthu
Sent: Friday, March 08, 2002 5:54 PM
Subject: Hornbill spotted!

Dear Jeff [Jeffrey Low],

I am a student of your C4 group. Two weeks ago, I spotted a Hornbill here in my hall of residence KE 7 which is situated at Kent Ridge. Thinking that it might be a rare sighthing, I take it that the bird must have lost its sense of direction. However, this morning, I spotted it again in KE 7. It was abt 1 1/2 feet tall. Now, are Hornbills common in Singapore, or are they rare inhibitants of nearby secondary forest at Kent Ridge or Pasir Panjang?

Pls inform me ok. Thanks!


Victor Muthu


From: Sasi Nayar <scip8370@nus.edu.sg>
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 16:47:33 +0800
To: "'otterman@sivasothi.com'" <otterman@sivasothi.com>
Subject: Hornbills

Hey Siva,

When I told the birdy folks that I saw a pair of roosting horn bills near TMSI sometime in December 2001, no one believed me. They were "mighty sure" stating, what I saw "probably was" a cocktatoo! To prove my point I thought of showing them the tree on which they were roosting...near TMSI. Since things change overnight in Singapore, as luck would have it this tree disappeared overnight. It was cut off the next morning for reasons not known to me. Never got to prove my point until you mentioned yesterday afternoon of an independent sighting by some students! Made me happy ...for what I saw was actually a hornbill!




PS : Our ridge is a biodiversity hotspot!

From: Subaraj Rajathurai
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2002 05:58:51 +0800
To: "N. Sivasothi" <otterman@sivasothi.com>
Subject: Re: Hornbill on ridge

Dear Siva,

The only native population of hornbills are the Oriental Pied Hornbills found at Pulau Ubin. We also have a record of 3 Oriental Pied Hornbills at St. Johns for a week when a fig was in fruit (probably from Riau).

There is however a feral population of the same species in the Central Catchment that originated from a pair at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park and now accounts for records from Lower Peirce, MacRitchie, Toa Payoh and perhaps even Bukit Tinggi. Besides that, there is an escaped Great Hornbill that is seen from time to time between Mount Faber and Sentosa.

This individual may be the one now reported from Kent Ridge. Best to have a description or photo as there have been up to 5 other species of hornbills recorded as escapees in the past and this includes a Bushy-crested Hornbill that survived for 5 years at Gillman Park (Ulu Pandan Woods, opposite the poly).

I trust that the info above is useful. Let me know if there is a description/photo. Take care!


Subaraj Rajathurai

From: Victor Muthu
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 09:05:56 +0000
Subject: Hornbill Again

Hi Jeff,

Guess what...I saw a hornbill again and this time I did not let it go without getting a few shots first! However, the cam that I used is an old cam (fixed focus) and I'll have to use my scanner later on to zoom in and print it out. The peculiar thing is, this is not the hornbill that I've been seeing all this time. This one is more like the Rhinocerous hornbill which you can find in Sarawak, and it is much bigger as well. Don't know what brought them here, but I'm definitely interested in finding out why.


Victor Muthu

From: Thng Hui Hien
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 21:50:24 +0800
Subject: Re: [habitat] Hornbill on ridge

i saw black baza along kent ridge/normanton park. not seen the hornbill though.. is black baza common in singapore?

From: Benjamin Lee
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 15:17:50 +0800
To: Thng Hui Hien
Subject: Re: She doesn't mean me - answer please?

The Black Baza is a common visitor to Singapore. It arrives in small numbers every year during the boreal winter. My last sighting was a few birds on Pulau Tekong in November (or was it October?). May be overlooked as crows.

From: Alvin Wong
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2002 06:55:09 -0800 (PST)
To: "N. Sivasothi" <otterman@sivasothi.com>
Subject: baza

Black bazas can quite common during migration season. Since the Ridge is the southern most high point in S'pore, the bazas were prob using the Ridge to catch thermals. comparatively less common cf a few years back.

We used to hear abt hornbills on the ridge now and then. can't really be sure if they'r escapees or visitors from M'sia or Indon islands.

There was a pair of great hornbills in Sentosa a few years back. I think they were poisoned or died for other some reason. Pied Hornbills seemed to be quite common in Ubin. could even be nesting if I remember correctly.

P.S. the birders here are foaming at the mouth and gearing up for raptor migration season. thousands of grey-faced buzzards can be seen near major mountain areas in Taiwan for their migration to SEAsia.