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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 25 May 2010

Ship collision and oil spill in the Singapore Strait

Category : marine

In 1997, the oil tanker Evoikos and he very large crude carrier Orapin Global collided in the Singapore Strait, resulting in the worst oil spill of Singapore's history spill of 28, 500 tonnes of heavy marine fuel oil form the Evoikos.

In 2000, the oil tanker Natuna Sea went aground at Batu Berhanti Reef in Indonesian waters (8km south of Sentosa Island) spilling 7,000 tonnes of Nile Blend crude oil.

In 2004, cargo ship MV Hyundai No. 105 collided with oil tanker MT Kaminesan in the Singapore Strait, six km south-east of Sentosa. The MT Kaminesan was carrying a large load of crude oil but fortunately this did not result in a spill.

This morning (0605h), the tanker MT Bunga Kelana 3 collided with bulk carrier MV Waily at about 6.10am in the Singapore Strait, 13km south-east of Changi East. The spill from MT Bunga Kelana 3 is estimated to be in the region of 2,000 tonnes of crude oil.

"MPA activated oil spill response companies which have deployed three craft equipped with oil spill equipment. Work is ongoing to contain and clean up the oil spill." [MPA News Release, 25 May 2010]

WildSingapore has the full MPA report and media coverage. A facebook page has been setup to monitor news and observations, "Singapore Changi East Oil Spill (25 May 2010)."

Posted at 8:52AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 24 May 2010

Make Singapore an endearing home? How about we "cherish and safeguard our built and natural heritage"

Category : conceptplan

The Focus Group on Sustainability and Identity for the Concept Plan Review 2011 presented their "Summary of Preliminary Recommendations" on 6th May 2010 for pubic feedback. You can read the entire document and submit your feedback by 25 May 2010 at http://spring.ura.gov.sg/conceptplan2011/publicforum/

One question the focus group addressed was "Making Singapore an endearing home - Singapore is famous for being clean, green, safe, and meticulously planned. What is it about Singapore, however, that makes it special‚ endearing‚ to us, and how can we keep it that way?"

The focus group responded with two suggestions, here is the first:

Singapore has much built and natural heritage which can contribute to an increased sense of belonging to Singapore. These include our historic districts (such as Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India) and monuments (such as the old Supreme Court and City Hall), local areas of identity (such as Thomson Village, Joo Chiat, and Changi Village) and iconic structures (such as Esplanade and Merlion), public housing estates, parks and waterbodies, and nature reserves/areas (for example Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Pulau Ubin).

Our historic districts should continue to be relevant to our people in terms of their activities and uses.

  • A Heritage Charter jointly drawn up by the public, private and people sectors can be introduced to guide the kinds of activities and uses to be allowed in heritage areas, for example historic districts.
    • We should respect certain monuments when considering the type of uses to allow in their vicinity.
    • While the kind of activities and trades in historic districts would have to stay relevant with changing needs, the key traditional trades and activities within historic districts should be retained to better differentiate these areas from other places.
    • The activities in our local areas of identity should complement the character of the surroundings.
  • We also need to develop more iconic structures.

What is also unique about Singapore are our public housing estates, where more than 80% of Singaporeans live.

  • We should retain significant buildings and iconic structures in such estates even as we rejuvenate them so that they are differentiated and distinctive in the eyes of those who lived there.
  • Popular facilities that anchor people to our housing estates should be retained and enhanced so that they remain relevant to the needs of the people, such as schools, wet markets and hawker centres and town centres/squares.
  • Original names of places and streets can also be retained to strengthen our sense of identity.

Singapore's image as a City in a Garden can be further strengthened to make Singapore even more distinctive and to enhance our sense of belonging to Singapore.

  • We should make our parks more distinctive by designating parks with national or historical significance as 'National Parks.'
  • Town parks in public housing estates should also be made more distinctive through a combination of waterbodies, activities, landscaping, and greenery that reflect the history of the town.

Our natural heritage is also an important aspect of what makes Singapore distinctive and endearing.

  • We should give stronger and more explicit emphasis to recognizing the role of our natural heritage in creating an endearing home.
  • While much biodiversity on land has been retained, we should also retain and protect more of our remaining marine biodiversity.
  • We should also consider how biodiversity can be promoted in our urban environment at 3 levels:
    • (a) local, such as the incorporation of green features into our buildings including green roofs, skyrise gardens, and green walls,
    • (b) district or regional, by including the connectivity of green spaces as part of the general planning guidelines, and
    • (c) system-level, by thinking of and planning green spaces as urban ecosystems that support biodiversity and provide key ecological services to people.

Read the entire document and submit your feedback by 25 May 2010 at http://spring.ura.gov.sg/conceptplan2011/publicforum/

Posted at 1:37AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 13 Apr 2010

"Trash Travels," the 2010 International Coastal Cleanup Report

Category : coastalcleanup

13 Apr 2010 - Ocean Conservancy releases Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea, Around the Globe, and Through Time, the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem facing wildlife, economies and marine ecosystems. See the Ocean Conservancy page for a summary. To read the full report, download the 11MB pdf here.

Posted at 6:09PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 25 Mar 2010

Fri 16 Apr 2010: 5pm-7pm @ NUS - "Zoological Explorations in Singapore"

Category : talks

Zoological Explorations in Singapore

In celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010,
the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore
proudly presents an evening dedicated to conserving's Singapore's biodiversity.

"Zoological Explorations in Singapore"

Fri 16 Apr 2010: 5pm-7pm

Venue: Lim Seng Tjoe Lecture Theatre (LT27)
Lower Kent Ridge Road
Faculty of Science
National University of SIngapore
Map: see Gothere.sg

Registration is required, please register at: http://evebiod.rafflesmuseum.net/

For the abstracts, please click the image above or see the
NUS' Department of Biological Sciences [webpage - link]


5:00 pm - Introduction and talk by Professor Tommy Koh
Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Special Adviser of the Institute of Policy Studies and the National Heritage Board

5:15 pm - Conservation projects on flagship species in Singapore

  • "Is there hope for saving the Banded Leaf Monkey in Singapore?" By Andie Huifang Ang.
  • "Midnight Secrets of Ubin - the Greater Mouse Deer on Pulau Ubin, Singapore" by Marcus Chua.
  • "Johnson's Freshwater Crab - a National Treasure in Peril" by Chua Yi Teng.
  • "Stalking fruit bandits: the Common Palm Civet ('Toddycat') in Siglap," by Xu Weiting.

6:15pm - Summary and Outlook by Professor Peter Ng
Director, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
& Tropical Marine Science Institute,
National University of SIngapore

6:30pm - Refreshment

So, do they look like their animals?

Posted at 3:13AM 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 |

Wed 05 Aug 2009

Summary of Natural History, Heritage and Map exhibitions

Category : events

"Two Minds, One Theory, An Exhibition"
- Wallace & Darwin, the two faces of the theory of evolution
1st - 31st Aug 2009: 9am - 6pm

By the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Venu: Botany Centre (Acess by Tanglin Gate at the Hollad Road/Napier Road junction).
This exhibition highlights the lesser known 'father' of the Theory of Evolution, Alfred Russell Wallace as well as Charles Darwin and explains the theory in an understandable way.
Free entry; more details in Habitatnews.

Hunters and Collectors: The Origins of the Southeast Asian Collection
25 Jul 2009 - 21 Sep 2009

Special Exhibitions Gallery, Asian Civillisations Museum Empress Place [Map]
This exhibition explores the stories of six people who ‘hunted’ and collected some of the artefacts found in ACM’s Southeast Asia collection today. Much of their collections found their way to Singapore’s first museum - the Raffles Library and Museum and specimens from the present day Rafles Museum have been brought back to recreate the cabinet of curisoty effects of days long past!
ACM entrance fee applies. Free for NUS students (school membership); more details in Habitatnews.

Vignettes in Time: Singapore Maps and History through the Centuries
1st August – 31st October 2009

Organised by National Library Singapore and the Singapore Heritage Society.
Venue: Level 10, Exhibition Area, National Library Building
This exhibition depicts Singapore as seen through cartographers, geologists, mariners, military generals and town planners, beginning with the arrival of the British and merchants from the nascent East India Company, to military strategists of Imperial Japan and postwar city planners. With over 120 maps on display, this is the single largest showcase of maps in Singapore.
Free entry.

"I Polunin"
8th Aug - 22nd Nov 2009

An NUS Museums Exhibition
URL: http://www.nus.edu.sg/museum/exhibitions_polunin.html
Venue: University Cultural Centre, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, National University of Singapore Map]
Ivan Polunin arrived in Singapore in 1948 and taught Social Medicine and Public Health at the then University of Malaya. Initially a documentation on film of tropical diseases, Polunin’s ethnographies grew to encompass hundreds of hours of film footage on Malaya’s sociocultural practices and its rich biodiversity. "I, Polunin" presents rarely seen photographs, slides and film footage selected from the personal archives of Dr. Ivan Polunin of everyday life in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s and 1970s.
Free entry.

For all this and more, see WildSingapore Happenings.

Posted at 2:16AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 27 Jul 2009

Exhibition of Singapore Maps @ NLB, 01 Aug - 31 Oct 2009

Category : heritage

Vignettes in Time: Singapore Maps and History through the Centuries

1st August - 31st October 2009, Level 10, Exhibition Area, National Library Building

"This exhibition depicts Singapore as seen through cartographers, geologists, mariners, military generals and town planners. Beginning with the arrival of the British and merchants from the nascent East India Company, to military strategists of Imperial Japan and postwar city planners, Vignettes in Time provides snippets of little-known histories.

Displayed for the first time are many never-before-seen maps from the collections of National Library Singapore and Lim Shao Bin. With over 120 maps on display, this is the single largest showcase of maps in Singapore. Come explore a little-known Singapore through vignettes of the past. This exhibition is curated by Lim Chen Sian. "

Organisers: National Library Singapore & Singapore Heritage Society

Source: NLB

Posted at 2:57AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 29 May 2009

300 entangled horseshoe crabs rescued at Mandai Besar mangrove

Category : marine

Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda is one of four species of horseshoe crabs in the world. It is found in the inshore waters of the Indo-West Pacific and associated with the mangrove-mudflat ecosystem. In Singapore waters, from eyewitness accounts alone, their numbers have depleted significantly since the 80's. This is not unexpected given the massive quantity of habitat loss and increased pollution over the past three decades along the Johor Straits.

They still are found in the mangrove-mudflats of north-western Singapore, off the Johor Straits. However, nearshore fishing is unregulated, and Mandai mangrove and mudflats are not provided with any special protection by the law. It's fate appears to be undecided as yet. Meanwhile something else threatens its ancient denizen.

Telsons poking out of the net give an indication of the number of trapped animals in this section of a long net

Frequently over the past decades, monofilament gill nets have been left behind over several tidal cycles in several mangrove patches in north-west Singapore. These poorly frequented areas without popular access are commonly only visited only by recreational fishermen and researchers. Fishermen normally harvest fish caught in a gill net after a single tidal cycle as the dead fish would rot very quickly. However, many nets I have encountered are unattended for days and are regarded as "ghost nets". Entangled fish will die once exposed but arthropod mangrove residents, can survive trapped in the net for several tidal cycles. Eventually it is the heat of the sun during the exposed low tide or starvation that kills them.

skitched-20090529-183140.jpgIn several instances, I have found entire lengths of "ghost nets" with the still-trapped carcasses of animals in an advanced state of decay. In other instances, I have been fortunate enough to detect them early enough to release the living indiviudals. A few of such instances are featured in Habitatnews over the years, e.g. in March 2005 and July 2008. Members of the Nature Society Singapore Horseshoe crab research and rescue team scour Kranji mangroves on a quarterly basis to release trapped individuals as well [link].

Given the reduced population size of these Xiphosurans ("sword tail"), the the impact of indiscriminate capture by gill nets has been heightened and it tragic to see the senseless slaughter of these animals, mirroring the larger-scale problem in the world's oceans.

Two nights ago (27 May 2009) I chanced upon a gill net and the sound of horseshoe crabs struggling to be free at about 11pm. My labmates from Ecolab and myself had been in the area for about four hours and were leaving as the tide rose. Regretfully, we left behind the trapped horseshoe crabs.

I reassured myself that the incoming tide would keep them relatively safe, even if they could not bury themselves.

The next morning I returned alone to release the animals, thinking it would be a one or two hour job as was usually the case. Instead I discovered I had badly miscalculated the numbers trapped in the darkness of the previous night. And I had come directly without help or breakfast! But it was getting hot so I decided I'd best just work as fast as I could.

Mandai Besar mangrove, 27 May 2009

In the end it took five hours (8.45am - 1.45pm) to remove some 300 mangrove xiphosurans from a 100 metre gill net. They were in relatively good condition, being able to struggle reasonably vigorously. There was no mortality except for predator attack (possibly heron) on a two mature gravid females. Otherwise the other females were not full of eggs.

I cut the net into several sections and dragged them into different lengths of a stream through some thigh-deep mud. I turned the thick bundles over every couple of hours (or when I thought the carapace looked alittle too dry) to ensure that all the individuals were kept wet. Thankfully there were intermitted clouds that reduced that stress on the animals. I cut out an individual at a time, removing the entangled net with the help of a pair of scissors.

I tried to keep the cuts to a minimum to reduce littering the mud with short lines. By first removing the main tense filaments restricting the animal, the scissors was then used like a pair of forceps to pull loose any line entangled amongst its segmented legs. This often required cuts at either ends to remove knots before pulling a line free with the scissor tip - it helped that I was using a narrow-point scissors with a slightly dulled blade tip.

I had to be careful not to cut and injure a grasping leg or a telson - the latter looks like a twig so I kept saying to myself, "there are no twigs"! So the release was a very deliberate exercise and it was important to be vigilant while working quickly. Sand grains and the filaments were wearing into my skin and I was thankful the water was brackish and not salty.


As each animal was cleared of all filament, it was released away from the net to prevent re-entanglement - horseshoe crabs can move away quite fast in precisely the wrong direction sometimes! I bundled the net fragments away from the stream for collection later. Thunder crabs and forceps crabs were set aside as they require a much finer pair of scissors and would take too much time. Those I would bring back to the Systematics & Ecology lab at NUS for release and return later.

It was hot and I ran out of water but that spurred me to work faster before these creatures dried up. By creating sections, I turned a large job into a series of smaller jobs to encourage myself with intermediate success. By 10.30am (1 hour 45 minutes) I estimated that I had released over a hundred horseshoe crabs. By then I was sitting in the mud and pretty much covered with it as bending over and even squatting was too tiring.

As the tide rose, I went back to turn over individuals that had returned to a belly up position. I was encouraged when I saw some crawl off but did not examine them. As they were submerged, I cleared the cut nets and stuffed them into large plastic bags I found amongst the trash on the forest floor. Rain threatened but did not come, unfortunately. Eventually, the last individual was released about five hours after I had first started.

I dreamt of them later and woke up in the middle of the night hoping they were all okay.

Until the next ghost net appears.

Photos on Flickr

Posted at 10:50AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 21 May 2009

Envirofest 2009 and the handing over of The Blue Plan

Category : events

Sat 23 & Sun 24 May 2009 - Envirofest @ Toa Payoh Hub from 11am to 8pm will include the handing over of The Blue Plan, a proposal by civil society for an integrated and balanced conservation of Singapore’s Marine Heritage, to Minister Yaacob, the Guest of Honour at the official opening ceremony on Saturday 23rd May 2009 at 3.00pm. Everyone is welcome.

Envirofest is an annual celebration to share information about Singapore's biodiversity and environment with the public at large. Guiding and activities at the exhibition will be conducted from 11am to 8pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May at the HDB Hub, Toa Payoh (above the MRT). Raffles Museum Toddycats will be down in force over the two days and about 40 of us will turn up for various shifts over the two days.

At 3.00pm on Saturday, 23rd May 2009, Envirofest will be declared open by the Guest of Honour, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. Shortly after, the finalised version of the Blue Plan (which has been circulating for public comment) will be handed over to the Minister for the government's consideration. The Minister is also co-chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development (IMCSD).

This will mark the final act of the International Year of the Reef Singapore.



Entry is free and amidst the hustle and bustle of Toa Payoh Hub, friendly guides are on hand to escort and engage visitors to Envirofest around the arena as well at each exhibit. Free tickets and sign-ups for nature events around Singapore will be offered. 

Envirofest is a happy collaboration between groups from the non-governmental community, government agencies, businesses and schools. This is also a good opportunity to learn about and from various biodiversity groups in Singapore who will be manning booths and introducing Singapore fauna and flora to the public with the use of specimens from the Raffles Museum, games and guiding. Throughout the day, you will be able to interact with passionate volunteers manning the various booths. This year the biodiversity guides will pepper a trail of ecosystems from terrestrial to mangrove to marine.

Find out more at: envirofest.wordpress.com.


Posted at 5:30PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 23 Apr 2009

The Draft Blue Plan - released for public feedback

Category : marine

IYOR 2008 has released the Draft Blue Plan today. [Click to download]

"The Draft Blue Plan is a proposal to the Government and people of Singapore from the members and organizations that form “International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008 Singapore” – interested members of civil society concerned about the conservation and management of Singapore’s coral reef heritage. Contributions and advice from the leading marine biologists in Singapore have been incorporated. It was released on 23 April 2009. Members of the Public can download a copy of the Draft Blue Plan here.

Comments and suggestions from members of public are invited. You may email us at blueplan.singapore@gmail.com before the closing date, 14 May 2009. The Blue Plan will presented to the Government with the collated and edited comments in late May 2009.

Please note that blueplan.singapore@gmail.com receives emails only. While we will give every opinion/comment due consideration, due to human resource constraints, we are unable to respond to queries and may not be able to include every comment into the final Blue Plan due to editorial considerations. Please contact the Marine Conservation Organisations Listed in Annexes B & C of the Draft Blue Plan if you are keen to find out more about the wide range of activites and programmes that are being organised. We apologize for this inconvenience."

IYOR2008 - Draft Blue Plan (23 April 2009)

Posted at 6:32AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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