"No need to swim, no need to dive! Ordinary people can experience much of Singapore’s amazing marine life on the intertidal shores. Otters, wild dolphins, sea turtles, sea snakes, living corals and more!
I’ll be sharing lots of photos from our regular trips to about 40 local seashore locations. Lots of stories of recent adventures, and how we can make a difference for our wild shores. Bring your friends and family for a comfy intro to our amazing shores!"
A two-time recipient of the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium Award (2003, 2007) presented to exceptional volunteers who have contributed selflessly to biodiversity in Singapore, she has been indefatigable since I worked with her in 2000.
Her mission to spread awareness about Singapore's biodiversity began over a decade ago. In 2001, she played a critical role in the conservation of Chek Jawa. That fueled her to do more and she began to investigate our shores, generating voluminous tagged and labelled photos on Flickr which have become an international resource. A walking encyclopedia, she probably knows if any marine species has ever appeard on our shores! No wonder she is a valuable ally to scientists investigating marine life in Singapore.
She also supports and promotes others through Wild Singapore, a one stop resource for Singapore which sets an example for private and government efforts in resource generation. She learns, uses and adapts simple tools and it is backed by her marine life expeditions, participation in the community and engagement with people on the ground.
Her powerful delivery during her slide talk is the result of a LOT of preparation to integrate all that information bursting inside of her. When she compressed this into a 10-minute presentation at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III, she inadvertently created compulsory course material for the LSM1103 Biodiversity class in the National University of Singapore as well as for Organisers and Volunteers of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.
If you go for ONE talk this year, this is it. Ria Tan's "Secret Shores of Singapore" is unparalleled and she speaks from the heart. Don't wish you could be there, just go!
"Can you dive with wild turtles and sharks in Singapore? Yes! Pulau Hantu is one of Singapore's most renowned Southern Islands for its myriad of micro and mega fauna."
"Although it's been visited for decades, divers continue to discover new species records in the small but rich coral reefs of Singapore. How do these wild marvels cope with a relentlessly changing coastline, and how do they adapt to development?"
"Join us for this marine talk given by Debby Ng, a photojournalist with a passion for the environment, who will bring clarity to the usually murky waters of Pulau Hantu with her underwater photos and videos."
Debby's work with the Hantu Blog began in 2004 and has moved from strength to strength ever since. Join her this Saturday 26th November 2011: 2.30pm at the National Geographic Store at Vivocity.
Debby's talk is the second in a series of three talk on marine life in Singapore, held in conjunction with a marine life exhibition of posters by WildSingapore at the National Geographic Store at Vivocity this November and December.
The ICCS Otters who coordinate the island-wide International Coastal Cleanup Singapore were busy congratulating fellow-volunteer Cheng Wei Siong for his appearance in Today's National Day feature called "Singapore Dreaming".
Written by Temasek Polytechnic students pursuing a Diploma in Communications and Media Management, the special featured a variety of Singaporeans - "To imagine what this island nation could be like 20, 30 years from now, is to look inside the heads of its dreamers."
Sharing the page with Wei Siong is fellow-environmentalist Raina Ong who says, "I wish we all recycled".
In the ICCS programme, Wei Siong keeps the company of an illustrious group of volunteers who have served with the programme for many years, adopting a slow and steady approach to prevent burn out and disappearance. They recce sites, communicate and mentor organisers, coordinate cleanup sessions, ensure data submissions are accurate, blog, twitter and are the most tireless on the shores during the actual cleanups. Year after year, for they are all veterans.
When National Day dawned on 9th August, the ICCS Otters were cheered to see Wei Siong featured and delcared him a "poster boy" for the ICCS! Though a relative youngster, Wei Siong has been with the programme for eight years as participant, Site Captain and Zone Captain since his secondary school days (he is now a 2nd-year student in NTU). He has weathered his 'O' levels, 'A' levels, army days and university life while maintaining a role as a coordinator of the programme all this while - as he says in the article, "we have a personal responsibility for the health of the ocean".
The beauty of all this? Like his fellow coordinators, the only physical thing he gets from the programme is a t-shirt! The real reward, obviously, is priceless.
"I hope people realise that every little action makes a difference"
Cheong Wei Siong, 21, student and environmental volunteer
by Ng Hui Wen 05:55 AM Aug 09, 2010
"It's easy for him to hit Control-C and Control-V whenever he comes across a website talking about the ailing environment.
But for Cheong Wei Siong, forwarding emails to his friends and leaving website links on their chat windows is never quite as fulfilling as his work with International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).
There, he is able to reach up to 1,500 Singaporeans a year. And it is his hope that more people would have their eyes opened to the impact of their everyday actions on the environment.
It takes more than just getting the participants of ICCS' programmes to pick up the bottle caps, toothbrushes, plastic cups and other litter that pollutes the shores. Mr Cheong tells them stories of how birds, turtles and fishes are harmed after swallowing such items.
And when participants, who are usually sent by schools and companies, witness this first hand, they can see that "marine debris doesn't fall from the sky but from human hands".
Before each cleanup, participants attend workshops where they learn how the collected trash contributes to data used in tackling marine pollution.
It was his experience in just such a programme with his secondary school eight years ago that led Mr Cheong to contribute to the ICCS' cause. He came across a few horseshoe crabs entangled in discarded nets.
"It was a disheartening sight," he said. "This very first cleanup made me realise that we have a personal responsibility for the health of the ocean."
He remained active throughout his JC and army days, serving as a mangrove site coordinator for three years.
Now, he oversees the cleanup operation on beaches along the country's north-eastern shore.
But the nature lover, who is now pursuing business administration at the Nanyang Technological University, still believes it is the little actions that go a long way. At home, he switches off the lights when not in use and keeps his air conditioner at 25°C.
"As long as people do the minimum, that's actually really good already," he said."
In conjunction with the Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival 2010 and in celebration of the International Day of Biodiversity and the International Year of Biodiversity 2010,
the Science Centre Singapore presents a public talk
“In Celebration of Singapore’s Biodiversity: News, Views and Surprises!”
By N. Sivasothi
Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences Coordinator Raffles Museum Toddycats Coordinator International Coastal Cleanup Singapore National University of Singapore
Saturday 22 May 2010: 2.00pm - 3.00pm Maxwell Auditorium, Science Centre Singapore See map of location
ALL ARE WELCOME
Registration - Please register by clicking this link Upon registration, entry to Science Centre Singapore is free for the attendees. Each attendee will receive SSYSF2010 premiums, as well as access to the newly opened Copyright Nature and Wildlife of Gondwana Exhibitions.
About the talk - Amidst the urbanised city state of Singapore and her surrounding islands remain precious patches of tropical ecosystems which are still revealing new species to science. Lovely surprises still await the casual visitor including the ever popular otters, dugongs, sea stars, octopus, dolphins, sea snakes, turtles and crocodiles.
Photo by Marcus Ng
Surprisingly though, the ecology of even some of our well-known denizens remain elusive. In recent years, we have learnt more about the ecology of a variety of creatures including civets, freshwater crabs, mudskippers, mousedeer, pangolins and wild boar. This talk will share highlights of Singapore's biodiversity through stories about people, encounters, events and issues.
Despite these exciting developments, our ecosystem fragments face many challenges to their survival. Have we addressed or neglected these issues? Has public interest increased since the 1980's? What can be done about it now?
The natural history community has grown and is actively engaged in discovery, research, management, public education and feedback through a growing number of channels and engagement with government. Find out about the opportunities to tap into and contribute to this active natural history community in Singapore.
About the speaker - N. Sivasothi, a.k.a. 'Otterman' is most comfortable when immersed in the mangroves which formed the backdrop to most of his research, education and conservation activities at the National University of Singapore since the late 80's.
Currently focused on undergraduate teaching and research, his students have explored studies with freshwater and mangrove crabs, horseshoe crabs, mudskippers, civets, mousedeer, wild boar, otters and even stray cats!
During his years with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, he and a team of “The Body-Snatchers” would race to recover skeletons from fresh or rotting carcasses of dugongs, pangolins, dolphins and long-tailed macaques off the streets and beaches of Singapore. Many of these stories were shared with the public through exhibitions and talks.
In 2001, he led efforts to explore, share and appeal the fate of the newly-revealed jewel of an inter-tidal shore called Chek Jawa. Threatened with reclamation then, the "last chance to see" public education walks led surprisingly to the largest nature outing by the public in Singapore's history.
In 1999, he spent many nights at the Science Centre Singapore editing the "Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore". For over a decade now, he has been both the coordinator of the Raffles Museum Toddycats! and the national coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.
Since 1998, he initiated Habitatnews and numerous other blogs and mailing lists. The Otterman is also a bicycling, macintosh, web2.0 and history enthusiast and a great story-teller!
Photos also by Xu Weiting (civet)and Jani Thuaibah (dugong carcass).
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!
We would love to receive photos, of course, please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://mammal.sivasothi.com/
Reef Celebrations! Launch of International Year of the Reef in Singapore
Saturday 9th August 2008 Time: 10am-5pm Venue: Function Hall, Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens (above Taman Serasi foodcourt). How to get there.
Schedule of talks and activities
10.30am: "Life and Death at Chek Jawa" sharing experiences of a study of mass deaths on Chek Jawa following flooding in 2007, a talk by Loh Kok Sheng.
11.30am: “Wishing upon a Star” about our Knobbly sea stars, a recent emergence of baby Knobblies and discovery of a large population at Cyrene Reef, a talk by Tan Sijie, Star Trackers.
12.30-1pm: MAD for turtles (make a difference for turtles) : Games for kids about threats to turtles and how kids can help, by Cicada Tree Eco-Place and the Raffles Institution with four stations. Suitable for kids aged 4-8 years.
2pm: “Are there reefs left in Singapore?” lifting the veil to reveal the hidden biodiversity of this almost forgotten realm, a talk by Jeffrey Low, NParks Biodiversity Reference Centre.
3pm: “Southern Haunt” about diving at Pulau Hantu, bringing clarity to the usually murky waters with underwater photos and videos, a talk by Debby Ng, Hantu Bloggers.
4pm: "Green, Mean, Photosynthesizing Machines!" a talk by Yang Shufen, TeamSeagrass and NParks Biodiversity Reference Centre.
Toddycats! setup their biodiversity awareness both for the third year running at NUS Central Forum with specimens from the Raffles Museum. The age-old baby dugong worked its usual magic and guides led them in discovery from dugongs to dolphins to turtles to marine and terrestrial life. A handy mounted Singapore map helped that conversation along. There were more terrestrial specimens this year so the forest was not overlooked!
This year had nearby schools drop in for a visit so they were introduced to our denizen of specimens. Already in a conversation with Peck Thian Guan (NUS Campus Sustainability Committee) we figured we could construct a syllabus that will provide targetted exhibits within a variety of booths for the students, complete with worksheet. In which case we should feature more research, past and present. That will mean guides will have to prepare a little more - we conducted a tutorial this year and next year we figured we should do it next to a mock up of the booth - would be more helpful.
Well, we always make grand plans but tell ourselves in the end that we were lucky just to have a booth stocked with enthusiastic guides every hour! In fact the guiding didn't stop through for the speeches during the opening ceremony as its an open venue, but I listened with great interest to the Amy Khor (Mayor, SECDC) and the Danish ambassador's determined and practical speeches about the helping the environment.
Read more on the Toddycats new blog at toddycats.wordpress.com which also has news about the long awaited, inaugural Toddycats t-shirt!
On 1st August 2006, sea turtles with transmitters were released in the South China Sea. See "Sea Turtles to be released in the South China Sea for satellite-tracking." Habitatnews, 01 Aug 2006 - see news paper reports here.
The IOSEA newsletter has just reported that:
"An immediate cash reward of up to USD 500 is being offered for information on and return of two transmitters, which have been sending signals from land near the town of Krui, Indonesia."
"At its maximum, the area of the Pacific Trash Vortex can reach the size of Texas. It is made up of everything from tiny pieces of plastic debris to large ghost nets lost by the fishing industry.
As trash swirls through the world’s oceans to a handful of vortexes like this, it leaves a trail of death and destruction along its path. Plastic is often mistaken for food and has been found inside marine life of all sizes, from whales to zooplankton. It has been directly blamed for the death of a wide range of animals including albatrosses and sea turtles. While massive trash like ghost nets can ensnare and trap thousands of creatures, there are concerns that even the smallest pieces of plastic may pose a problem , as plastic often accumulates in the digestive tract, many animals essentially choke on plastic intake. Others starve to death from a lack of nutrition despite a full stomach (such as Laysen Albatross chicks)."
YOU may not realise it, but each day, nearly every one of us brings a pest into the home. They are small, mostly pink, blue or white in colour, adaptable to land and water, and have caused the deaths of countless animals and fish around the world.
This lethal monster is none other than the plastic bag, a flimsy everyday item that we simply cannot do without, yet has been the scourge of many cities, even countries, which have rallied to impose taxes or ban them altogether.
The global war against plastic bags - something that most people use for only a short while but takes hundreds of years to break down - is picking up steam, most notably in San Francisco, which last month became the first American city to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags. Shoppers there now must use paper bags when they buy groceries, or carry their own bags from home. The move came after weeks of intense lobbying from environmentalists.
San Francisco joins a select group that has taken a major step forward in saving the earth, including Rwanda, Bangladesh, South Africa, Mumbai and Bhutan which have already imposed their own ban. Paris will join the list at the end of this year, with the rest of France following suit by 2010.
Why, then, is Singapore, a much smaller city and one that has serious aspirations of making its mark as a champion of green technology, not following suit in a big way?
A National Environment Agency (NEA) study revealed that Singaporeans use about 2.5 billion plastic bags each year - the equivalent of 19 million kilogrammes of waste.
Ever since a heated debate on plastic bags was sparked off in this newspaper some two years ago, the awareness of the problem has gone up somewhat. A national campaign to encourage the use of reusable bags has taken off well with more than 100,000 such bags sold at many major supermarkets.
More significantly, today marks Singapore's first Bring Your Own Bag Day, where more than 200 supermarkets will encourage customers to use reusable bags. That it is not just a one-off campaign, but one that will take place every first Wednesday of the month, is also laudable.
But we can do better. We need to speed up the push to bring down the use of plastic bags here.
The Government certainly believes enough in Singaporeans' changing attitudes towards environment issues, seeing how it is investing millions of dollars to study clean energy and launching eco-friendly flats in Punggol.
But time and again, whenever the plastic bag problem surfaces, we get the same message from the lawmakers, that it prefers not to impose legislation, but rather work with voluntary schemes and allow consumers and the market to take the lead.
Encouragingly, the door to legislation is not fully closed, as NEA chief executive Lee Yuen Hee said last week that he had not ruled out making it a law if the plastic bag situation does not improve here.
Then the question is, when is that breaking point for such a move to happen? What would it take for lawmakers here to introduce a law in Parliament? I believe that if we continue to take the ground-up route, we can never expect any significant progress to be made in a country where people have grown up expecting plastic bags to be given to us free.
Realistically, banning plastic bags completely is not completely feasible, given our heavy dependence on them, be it at the wet market or to contain garbage at home.
A plastic tax is perhaps the best way to make consumers think twice about whether they really need that bag when they buy their pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a loaf of bread. Such a tax is already taking off in many countries around the world. If you're out shopping in Taiwan or Ireland, be prepared to fork out anywhere from five to 20 cents for a plastic bag.
Last June, Ikea stores in the United Kingdom started charging its customers 10 pence (30 cents) per bag, a move which the furniture giant said could cut down plastic bag usage by a whopping 20 million by this year. Its two stores here recently became the first retail stores to start charging for plastic bags.
How Singapore can do one better is to promise that every single cent collected from its plastic bag tax goes towards green effort, be it for more recycling centres, running environmental programmes in schools, or to various non-profit groups such as the Environmental Challenge Organisation and the Singapore Environment Council.
You do the maths - a nominal tax of, say, five cents multiplied by 2.5 billion bags would add up to an astonishing $125 million to fund meaningful causes. But until then, let us try to cut down our usage in whatever small way we can.
With April 22 being Earth Day - a special day to celebrate the Earth and remind ourselves of its scarce resources - each of us can do our part by refusing that plastic bag when we go shopping, or even better, bring along a reusable bag.
That would be the best present you could ever give to Mother Nature. And it's much better than having to deal with yet another law breathing down our necks.
San Francisco, first US city to ban plastics bag distribution at large supermarkets.
"San Francisco to ban plastic grocery bags." Reuters (at CNN), 28 Mar 2007. San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted ... to become the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets to help promote recycling.
CNN video."We can't sleepwalk into the future. The end of the era of cheap oil is here."
"Paper or plastic? San Francisco decides." By John M. Glionna. L. A. Times, 28 Mar 2007.
"Plastic-bag ban full of holes." USA Today, 01 Apr 2007.The real culprit is the slob who litters or refuses to recycle either one — or communities that don't provide the means for him to do so. Our throwaway society is to blame as well. ... Each individual can do more to help the environment by reusing whatever bags groceries distribute or buying a canvas sack to carry goods.
"NEA launches campaign to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags." By Wong Mun Wai. Channel NewsAsia, 11 Apr 2007
"Ikea to start charging customers for plastic bags." By Tania Tan. The Straits Times, 11 Apr 2007.Retailer hopes to cut waste; from April 22, shoppers will pay up to 10 cents for them.
"Campaign to reduce wastage of plastic shopping bags." Habitatnews, 10 Feb 2006 - campaign and background to problem.
"Make the difference." Today, 28 Oct 2005. Every gesture contributes to improving our environment.
"Semakau landfill to last 15 more years as recycling reduces waste." Channel News Asia, 16 Jul 2005.
"Is S'pore a nation of plastic bag junkies?" Habitatnews, 26 Apr 2005 - Lee U-Wen's article title (25 Apr 2005) and Yvonne Lim's editorial, "Say no to plastic bags." (26 Apr 2005).
"IKEA will not distribute plastic bags on Earth Day weekend." Habitatnews, 11 Apr 2005 - about The Straits Times report, and comments based on data from ICCS 2004 and NEA Clean Card 2005.
Impact on Marine Life and Public Education
"Battling the Curse of Marine Litter" - article that explains the problems, special impact of plastic, volunteeer efforts on the international coastal cleanup especially mangroves and what the data tells us.
"Drowning in an ocean of plastic." Habitatnews, 07 Jun 2004 - highlights from article of that title in Wired News, 5th June 2004 by Stephen Leahy.
"More than 100 horsehoe crabs rescued from gill net at Mandai." Habitatnews, 13 Mar 2005.
"Lazarus Island rescue for crabs and coral." Habitatnews, 28 Jul 2004.
"Two dead turtles, guts choked with marine rubbish (Australia)." Habitatnews, 15 Jul 2006 - Univ. Queensland report.
"Reaching heartlanders on World Environment Day - EnviroFest 2006." Habitatnews, 23 Jun 2006 - One way that various groups promote nature/environment education in Singapore.
"What an Albatross ate." Habitatnews, 06 Mar 2004 - Link to a Shifting Baselines feature on plastics.
"L. A. Times "Altered Oceans" features the plague of plastics." Habitatnews, 05 Aug 2006 - excellent web resource!
"Battling the curse of marine litter - volunteers around the globe take to the shores." Habitatnews, 18 Sep 2006.
"Here's the dirt on S'pore's beaches." Habitatnews, 05 Dec 2005- ST report by Radha Basu on the 2005 International Coastal Cleanup Singapore; 'Singapore has had an anti-littering campaign for more than three decades. Yet we seem to have a long way to go.'
"Worldwide Coastal Cleanup Bags 4,000 Tons of Debris." Habitatnews, 21 May 2005.
"World Oceans Day - ICC director speaks at the United Nations." Habitatnews, 09 Jun 2005.
"Coastal Cleanup data in FHM." Habitatnews, 22 Mar 2005.
"Reflections of Cedar Primary students." Habitatnews, 13 Oct 2005 - "The beach was very dirty. I think we P4s have done a good job in picking up the litter. But I wonder why there were so much litter. Does that mean we singaporeans don't care for our environment. In future, I wish I could see Singapore's beach clean." Hema Roshini 4-3.
Rubbish in Johor Straits - '15 tonnes collected daily'. Habitatnews, 23 Jul 2006 - NST article: "Tonnes of rubbish from polluted strait."
"Clean, Green S'pore? Not the beaches." By Radha Basu. The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2004.
International Coastal Cleanup Singapore Posters Click for link to Flickr images with an option to download the original size for printing.