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N. Sivasothi,
a.k.a. Otterman,
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Tue 21 Jul 2015

Announcing the 4th Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium, Sat 01 Aug 2015 – 24 five-minute presentations and 30 posters!

Category : events

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is pleased to announce the Fourth Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium (BoSS IV) to be held on Saturday, 1st of August 2015: 8.00 am – 4:30 pm. The symposium will be held at UTown Auditorium 2 (Stephen Riady Centre) at the National University of Singapore.

We are really pleased that our Guest of Honour gracing the event is the Minister of State for National Development, Mr Desmond Lee who has been very active in this arena.

BoSS IV showcases a cohort of young and passionate folks who have stepped up to study and champion various aspects of Singapore’s biodiversity in four, one hour-long sessions. 24 speakers will excite you through snappy five-minute presentations with news and developments in the field. And we just had to include a special update about the Singapore Whale.

The symposium tradition is maintained with two hour-long teas featuring 30 posters, and of course sumptuous food to promote interaction and collaboration! Programme details can be viewed at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com.

There is a registration fee is $10 for adults and $6 for students (includes grad students!) Please register at https://biodiversitysg4.wordpress.com/registration, which has cash, electronic and cheque payment options.

Do inform colleagues, friends and acquaintances who may enjoy this interesting approach to getting quickly acquainted with some aspects of biodiversity research and education in Singapore.

Biodiversity symposia in Singapore, 2003 - 2015

  • "The Future of Marine Science in Singapore." Wed 27 May 2015 [link]
  • "An Evening of Biodiversity: The Secret Lives of Mammals in Singapore." Wed 16 Apr 2014. [link]
  • "Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop." 31 Aug 2013. [link]
  • "The Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III" 24 Sep 2011. [link]
  • "An Evening of Biodiversity: Zoological Explorations in Singapore." Fri 16 Apr 2010. [link]
  • "The Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II." 22 May 2007. [link]
  • "The Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium I." 11-12 Jul 2003. [link]

Posted at 6:13PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 08 Apr 2014

Evening of Biodiversity 2014

Category : events

I am glad to announce "An Evening of Biodiversity: The Secret Lives of Mammals in Singapore” presented by six young graduates of the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. They share with us short stories about wild mammals from their recent student research and their hopes for Singapore's wildlife and heritage.

Come and be surprised by the stories about Singapore's wild leopard cats, small mammals, smooth-coated otters and the common palm civet. The graduates, Amanda Tan, Chloe Tan, Marcus Chua, Meryl Theng, Fung Tze Kwan & Xu Weiting do this as part of a desire to contribute to public awareness and the protection of our fragile ecosystems.

And they look forward to entertaining the audience!

An Evening of Biodiversity will be held on

Wed 16 Apr 2014: 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Lecture Theatre 25 (next to the Science Canteen)
Science Drive 2
National University of Singapore
Please RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/eob2014-reg

Map: http://map.sivasothi.com
(Parking is available at Car Park 10 across the road)

Veteran vertebrate naturalist Yeo Suay Hwee of the Nature Society (Singapore) had these kind words for the group,

"I hope this kind of presentation become a tradition where I can see more and more young scientists and new graduates/undergraduates ready to contribute in protecting our fragile wildlife and the habitat."

I look forward to your company.

Do RSVP if you are able to join us and feel free to forward this invitation to family, friends and colleagues.

Thank you!


Sivasothi aka Otterman
N. Sivasothi
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

About the talks

Small mammals have rarely been studied in Singapore and after over a decade Amanda Tan conducted a study of the diversity and abundance of small mammals around the Eco-Link. Once again the value of our unique, precious and fragile Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was demonstrated and the importance of the new forest connection with the Central Catchment realised.

Chloe Tan took small mammal exploration island-wide for the first time, documenting diversity in nine sites of varying forest quality. Eight species and three habitats later, she realised we cannot be hasty about connecting all our green areas - what were her concerns?

Sometimes we conduct surveys just for completeness. But on April Fool's Day no less, the eyes of a leopard cat gleamed at Marcus Chua from amidst the undergrowth. After more than four decades, three populations provide relief about the longevity of this rare species but new issues emerge for our attention.

The smooth-coated otter ("anjing ayer") returned to Singapore in 1998 exactly as predicted - Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, where these fish-eaters enjoyed prawns too! In the northeast, otters spread from Pulau Ubin through Punggol and eventually south to Marina Bay! Meryl Theng tracked the otters, not only by foot but through the enthusiastic and generous submissions of Singaporeans delighted at the return of this wild carnivore.

The common palm civet is a wild carnivore nestled in our backyard but surprisingly poorly understood. At Pulau Ubin, poop-specialist Fung Tze Kwan was surprised to discover that civets favoured the fruits of the common fish-tail palm and improved the growth of its seedlings! When adopted as the logo of the Raffles Museum, the toddycat was entwined with a palm leaf – little did we realise this poorly studied pair was linked in an ecological partnership which may prove to be relevant in habitat restoration in the future.

As wildlife spreads in this garden city, they feel the pinch of space too. As Xu Weiting studied wildlife-human interactions, orphan civets needed care and the protocols which arose went online and helped civets elsewhere in Southeast Asia too! This furry animal is not always greeted with delight, sometime conflict arises. Awareness of these neighbourhood acrobats has helped to transform fear to delight and a hope in the hearts of young researchers of a future of greater co-existence.

Posted at 3:18PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 29 Sep 2011

Jewels of the Forest - camera trap footage from Leuser rainforest, Sumatra

Category : cameratraps

Setting up camera traps are easy, but then you need to do maintenance, recovery, review thousands of images to eliminate false positives, and in this case, annotate, compile and upload to YouTube!

Well, "Eye on Leuser" has done just that and this clip below from their July 2011 footage presents highlights from camera traps placed in the Leuser ecosystem in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

Sit back and feast your eyes to Barking Deer, Eurasian Wild Pig, Golden Cat, Pig-tailed Macaques, Moon Rat, Long-tailed Giant Rat, Sambar Deer, Porcupine, Banded Civet, Mouse Deer, Argus Pheasant, Marbled Cat - the heart of forest researchers watching this will be pounding, and I felt almost breathless!

The Leuser ecosystem in Aceh and North Sumatra is host to orang utans, tigers, elephants, rhino and other endangered species. More than 170 mammals, 320 birds and 190 reptiles and amphibians have been recorded from the area.

See more on their Youtube channel, "Eyes on Leuser".

Thanks to @WiredScience for the tip.

Posted at 4:39AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 28 Sep 2011

Seminars next week in NUS: evolutionary biogeography and conservation in SEA, bats and viruses, exceeding earth's carrying capacity

Category : talks

Wed 05 Oct 2011: 4.00pm [poster]: "Studies of Evolutionary Biogeography & Conservation in Southeast Asia" by David Woodruff. Venue: S1A-02-17, Block S2, Level 4, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore [See map at: tinyurl.com/map-nusdbs]

Absrtact - Predicting the effects of on-going environmental changes on the future of Southeast Asia’s rich biodiversity is a grand challenge for biologists. Using examples from my own research I will illustrate how studies of the evolutionary biogeography of populations, species and higher taxa can illuminate the likely course of their future evolution. At the level of individual populations I will describe the first attempts to monitor genetic erosion in recently isolated populations of small mammals. At the species level I will describe studies of freshwater snails and snail-transmitted trematodes and on-going attempts to reconstruct gibbon phylogeny. At a higher level I will discuss the development of the species distribution patterns of terrestrial birds, mammals and flowering plants over the last few million years. Although some generalizations can be made about the future evolution of these groups it is critical to recognize that people are also part of nature in this region. I will therefore conclude with a brief discussion of the probable effects of (1) mainstream Mekong dams on fish and people, (2) sea level rise on coastal biodiversity and ecological services, (3) people living in protected forests, and (4) ecorefugees. Such interdisciplinary topics will be central concerns for the next generation of translational ecologists.

Wed 05 Oct 2011: 11.00am: "Bats and Viruses" by Dr Wang Linfa, Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Venue: The Auditorium, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, 1 Research Link, National University of Singapore.

Fri 07 Oct 2011: 6.00pm [poster]: "The Great Disruption" by Mr Toh Wee Khiang, Exec Dir, Human Capital and Building & Infrastructure Solutions Divisions, Economic Development Board (EDB). Venue: LR424 @ SDE3, Level 4, School of Design and Environment, NUS. Click to register

Abstract - What happens when the desire for endless economic growth hits against the limit of the earth’s carrying capacity? According to Australian author Paul Gilding, you end up with “The Great Disruption”. What are some of the effects of climate change we are already seeing? How can Singaporeans use basic science concepts to make informed energy choices? Do we have hope for a better future? Come find out in this talk.

Posted at 5:15AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 21 Oct 2009

Mammal sightings in Singapore

Category : nature

Animal sighting records have always been an important resource - over time, these can contribute to public awareness and education, suggest student research projects and supplement research in conservation and management projects.

So any mammal record on land, sea and air is useful and large marine animals too - this includes turtles and interesting fish!  

Just fill in the form at

We would love to receive photos, of course, please send them to: mammal@sivasothi.com

This data will be shared with other vertebrate researchers and managers in Singapore. Highlights may be featured on Habitatnews from time to time (if the records are not confidential), e.g. http://tinyurl.com/habitatnews-mammal

Your contribution is greatly appreciated, thank you!

N. Sivasothi & Xu Weiting
Systematics & Ecology Lab.
Department of Biological Sciences,
National University of Singapore

Posted at 9:16AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 18 Jan 2007

New book: "Colugo: The Flying Lemur of South-east Asia"

Category : books

This 80-page full-colour book authored by Norman Lim is published this week by NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Draco Publishing Pte. Ltd.. It focuses on an elusive part of Singapore's natural history. With contributions from many field scientists and nature photographers, this book put together everything currently known about this elusive gliding mammal.

Illustrated with stunning colour photographs of the animal's natural behaviour in the wild. The book may be pruchased with a DVD containing footage of wild Colugos.

The Colugo is a nocturnal mammal that can glide from tree to tree. Often seen in the rainforests of Singapore, Malaysia, Thaliand, Indonesia and parts of the Philippines, very little has been documented about this astonishing and charismatic animal.

This book will help you discover what Colugos are, where to see them, their diet, predators, husbandry and problems of living in captivity.

Special discounted price

From now until 3rd Feb 2007, the book is will be sold at a special discounted price of S$20 (without DVD) and S$30 (with DVD) at Nature's Niche (naturesniche.com) bookstore at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

After this special introductory period, the book will be sold at S$25.20 and S$37.80 (w/DVD).

Posted at 3:10PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sat 12 Aug 2006

Banded leaf monkeys seen at Lower Peirce, 11 Aug 2006

Category : nature

The elusive Banded leaf monkey, the rarer native species of monkey in Singapore, was spotted and photographed yesterday!

Thanks to nature spies for alerting us to Hiker's post at ClubSnap, 11th August 2006 - "Rare Banded Leaf Monkeys sighted!!" - where there are more photos.

No use rushing down for photos now, they have long since gone.


Posted at 10:31AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 13 Jul 2006

The Tekong Porcupine

Category : nature

Norman Lim, one of our graduate students at the Department of Biological Sciences in the National University of Singapore, has been studying the ecology and natural behaviour of the Malayan Pangolin (or Scaly Anteater, Manis javanica) on Pulau Tekong in the northeast of Singapore. His work has been supported by research grants from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Singapore Zoological Gardens.

In December last year, he had a wonderful surprise. It had nothing to do with pangolins, but instead a porcupine! An animal never before reported on Pulau Tekong, and hardly seen since the 1970's. In "Wild mammals of Singapore" (a review by Yang, Yong & Lim in 1990)the authors suggested that while the Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura) was once common in forested areas between 19th century to the 1960's, and was "sometimes found in secondary forests" by 1973, by 1990, it "must be very rare if it still exists in Singapore". As to physical evidence, the Raffles Museum holds a specimen from Bukit Timah in 1923.

So the photos of the porcupine were of considerable interest and the local papers carried the story earlier this year - "Tekong's Treasures." By Chang Ai-Lien. The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2006. [jpg scan]. For a map of Tekong, see Raffles Museum News.

Now Norman shares a little more about this spiny encounter:

08 Dec 2005 - "Yeo Suay Hwee and I heard rasping sounds in the vegetation near base camp. My torch beam picked up an eye-shine and I saw what appeared to be a huge rodent rocking to and fro. The bush was on the way but I managed to see short spines behind the head! The creature which was scratching its claws against a concrete kerb, seemed oblivious to my presence. Whistling to Suay Hwee to come over frightened the animal as it vanished into the bush.

I was sure it was a porcupine but that brief, partially concealed encounter, left me in doubt about the species identity. So an infrared-triggered camera-trap was setup at the same place the following evening, and I sweetened the deal with some sweet potatoes and tapioca bait.

A week later however, the camera recorded images of wild boar, plantain squirrel, emerald dove, rats and even a juvenile pangolin, all quite enjoyable scenes, but no porcupine. Just a week after that, however, the porcupine photographed taking the bait on two occasions - on 16 Dec 2005: 9:30 pm and 18 Dec 2005: 10.00pm!

The animal (believed to be a single individual) is estimated to be between 70 - 80 cm in total length. It has a a short tail and prominent black and white markings. We identified this animal as a Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura). There are no previous records of porcupines on Pulau Tekong. Even the military personnel stationed on the island reported pangolins, slow lorises and leopard cats, but not porcupines.

And there has been more- Pulau Tekong yielded two new records for Singapore in August 2005: a breeding population of the East-Asian Ornate Chorus Frog (Microhyla fissipes), and a Browns Flap-legged Gecko (Luperosaurus browni). Staff at both MINDEF and the National Parks Board who were updated about the finds, are very pleased!

The restricted access to the island and preservation of the natural habitat for training appears to be beneficial for wildlife. Poaching is likely non-existent or minimal, if at all. It appears that natural habitats, when left intact and relatively undisturbed, are a haven for native wildlife persisting in an otherwise urban Singapore!" - Norman Lim

Sequence of porcupine feeding on 16th December 2005.





The other exciting finds on Tekong will be featured in another post. Also, Norman wrote an article replete with colour photos for the May 2006 issue of Nature News, published by the Nature Society (Singapore).

Thanks to Joelle Lai for pestering me to put this up today.

Posted at 9:51AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 10 Feb 2006

Campaign to reduce wastage of plastic shopping bags

Category : coastalcleanup

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators Wei Song (Zone Captain), Airani (Data Manager), Chen Kee (Zone Captain) and Angeline (Dy Coordinator) responded to a last minute call to action just last Saturday and redesigned posters and recruited Toddycats for an event by NEA tomorrow.

Vilma D'Rozario of the Nature Society (Singapore) had asked for help to promote the issue of marine plastic litter and its impact on wildlife at the National Environment Agency's launch of "Why waste plastic bags, choose reusable bags" campaign at Parkway Parade Shopping Centre on Saturday, 11 Feb 2006.

The ICCS team will be sharing a booth with long time partners Nature Society (Singapore) and Raffles Girls Secondary School. With the help of a few more Toddycats who will be taking shifts at the booth, they will inform and educate the public about the problem with trash on our shores. Look out for updates on their blog.

Is there a problem?
Most people are not aware of the problem of coastal litter because highly frequented areas like East Coast Park and Sentosa are regularly cleaned up in the early morning by contract cleaners.

What the data tells us
The annual International Coastal Cleanup examines the kind of marine litter found, and from the data, the type and source of litter is determined locally, in the Asia Pacific and around the world. The data collected was based on the efforts of 2,000 volunteers on a single Saturday morning, amounting to some 7,000kg of trash collected island-wide along beaches and mangroves.

The three most frequent types of marine litter are styrofoam debris, cigarette butts and plastic items! Currently shoreline activities and washout from drainage systems play a large part in contributing to the waste buildup.

Consumers - both the problem and the solution
The public as consumers play a large role in regulating and managing the amount of trash ending up in our waterways, and the use of plastic bags is a significant issue.

The immediate factors that contribute to the consistent amounts of plastic bags found along our shores are:

  1. Improper disposal,
  2. Excessive use of plastics
  3. Insufficient recycling
  4. The non-biodegradable nature of plastics.

The mantra of reuse, reduce and recycle, and adopting alternatives have to be emphasized to curb the problem of marine litter. It is hoped that we can create awareness, inculcate a sense of social responsibility and influence consumer's choice in order to direct change.

Death by plastic
Not only is marine trash unsightly, it poses a real and continual threat to many marine animals. An autopsy of an adult albatross revealed various plastic items ingested and accumulated within the bird's digestive tract, probably leading to its ultimate demise by suffocation or starvation. Albatross chicks are also known to be fed with regurgitated plastic and die as a result.

"Marine trash, mainly plastic, is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year." - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Sea turtles are also known to ingest plastic bags floating in the sea, mistaking them to be jellyfish, one of their main food sources, and dying as a result.

The strength of plastic materials also caused many marine animals to be trapped, entangled or strangled when caught in it, such as abandoned fishing nets, nylon strings, 6-pack drink holders.

The actions of humans have had a direct and negative impact on the natural environment for decades and this has been amplified by plastic.

Marine animals are unable to protest or sound out their plight to us and it is thus up to us to raise this issue and clean up the mess.

Posted at 3:44PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 05 Jan 2006

WildAsia - articles Singapore bats and Malaysian tigers

Category : news

From the latest WildAsia.net newsletter...

"Talking Tough About Tigers." By Amy Tan. WildAsia, 04 Jan 2006.
A chat with Eugene Lee, the usually low-profile Regional Projects Coordinator at TRAFFIC, South East Asia. Find out why Malaysian tigers are dying out and why it is so important to save them. Find out about tiger poaching, tiger habitats, tiger eating, tiger hunting, tiger laws and oh, a little bit about ourselves. [Link]

"Singapore Goes to Bat." By Rick Gregory. WildAsia.net, 04 Jan 2006.
When the city expands and habitats shrink, where does the wildlife go? They adapt and improvise. Bats in Singpore are making flyovers, water tanks, houses and WW2 relics their homes, as RICK GREGORY finds out from two Singaporean conservation officers (Benjamin Lee and Derek Liew) training in Malaysian jungles to learn more about the behaviours of this flying mammal. [Link]

More articles, news, newsletter subscription and RSS feed at WildAsia.net.

Posted at 6:09AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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