Crashing Waves

Crashing Waves

Thursday, 29 October 2015


Hi everyone~ Hope you had a fine week, the haze in from Indonesia has given us a slight relief these few days and it so happens an article on Orangutans and the peat fires have been circulating and so I thought I should do an article of my own.

The name Orangutans come form Malay meaning "person of the forest". These great apes used to roam the forests of South East Asia but are now only found within the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. Their populations have decreased to a quarter of what they once were a century ago. Threats to their survival on top of deforestation and the subsequent loss of habitat also include illegal pet trade where infants are targeted and to get to them, poachers kill their parents. Now the peat fires in Sumatra are threatening to encroach upon the forest home to the Orangutans.

The Sumatran Orangutans are presently only found in North Sumatran. They are almost exclusively arboreal, meaning they rarely come down from the trees at all, and they are more dependent on the primary forest, being less tolerable of habitat disturbances compared to their Borneo cousins. However, even though the Borneo species are more tolerable, they cannot hold out against peat fires.

Hotspots in Indonesia taken from a screen at the Fire Command Post at the Ministry of Environmental and Forestry
Data from: Ancrenaz, M. and Lackman-Ancrenaz, I. 2004. Orangutan status in Sabah: distribution and ... 
 © In: Singleton, I., S. Wich, S. Husson, S. Stephens, S. Utami Atmoko, M. Leighton, N. Rosen, K. Traylor-Holzer, R. Lacy and O. Byers (eds.). 2004. Orangutan Population and Habitat Viability Assessment: Final Report. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

As you can see from the pictures above, the hotspots in Borneo do indeed coincide with known Orangutan populations. Hopefully relief reaches these great apes fast enough for their forests to be saved.


Foto, A. (2015). hot spots in Kalimantan, Indonesian part of Borneo. Retrieved from

Vidal, J. (2015). Indonesia's forest fires threaten a third of world's wild orangutans. the Guardian. Retrieved 30 October 2015, from,. (2015). Orangutans. Retrieved 30 October 2015, from

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Singapore's Chilli Crab

When most people talk about Singapore and crabs, the image of Singapore's signature Chili Crab dish comes to mind. Would it not be ironic for Singapore to have no crabs of our own. even with such a dish being one of the country's most famous dish? Luckly, we do not have 1, but 3 species of endemic crab that call Singapore home: the Johora singaporensis, the Irmengardia johnsoni and the Parathelphusa reticulata.

Mad rush to save this Singapore freshwater crab
The Singapore freshwater crab,  Johora singaporensis, has been making head line news this year as we struggle to find and maintain its population in the wild as habitat loss continues to poss a problem to the species. Staying in fast-flowing clean freshwater streams, these tiny crabs live out their lives, up until recently, out of the public eye. With 2 remaining known wild populations, scientist are struggling to help these crabs get back on their feet again. Not much is known about the ideal conditions, lifestyle and even the decline of the freshwater crabs and so scientist are in a mad rush trying gleam as much knowledge from these wild populations in order to start captive breeding programmes in order to boost populations numbers and prevent the species from going extinct.

Irmengardia johnsoni 03 RM_
Johnson's freshwater crab
The Johnson's freshwater crab, Irmengardia johnsoni, is another tiny crab, faring only slightly better then its cousin. This crab has its home in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment nature Resesrve. Facing habitat loss as well, it may well be wiped out as the new Cross Island Line intends to make its route under the reserve, threatening the streams this native crab inhabits by ground works.

The Singapore Swamp Crab hiding among leaf litter
Lastly the Singapore Swamp Crab, Parathelphusa reticulata, is one of the most critically endangered animals, it inhabits a small area of 20 hectares in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest. This crab is not as small as its freshwater cousins, but the small locality it limits itself to is a problem that pose a threat to its entire population.

Singapore's endemic crabs have only been discovered for around 40-50 years and yet they are already on the verge of extinction. If we want to continue to live along side these small marvels, Singaporeans in their own right, we are going to have to be more sensitive to the impacts we have on our own environment.


Cai, Y. (2013). Singapore Freshwater Crab top view. Retrieved from

Choy, H. Johnson's freshwater crab. Retrieved from

Chua, K. (2014). Parathelphusa reticulata (swamp forest crab). Retrieved from,. Flora Fauna Web - animal detail. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from,. Flora Fauna Web - animal detail. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from

Khew, C. (2015). Plan to save Singapore freshwater crab from extinction. The Straits Times. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from

Tan, S., & Cai, Y. (2015). The Endangered Singapore Crab | My Green Space. Retrieved 25 October 2015, from

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Armoured Anteater

One of the most famous, locally endangered animal, appearing on numerous logos, the most famous would be that of the Wildlife Reserve Singapore conservation fund (WRSCF) . Our very own armoured anteater, the Sunda Pangolin.

The Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica), is also known as the Malayan Pangolin, is a native animal of  Singapore. It is an nocturnal insectivore, preying on ants and termites. Their conical head, sticky tongue and toothless mouth are adaptations allowing the animal to efficiently extract ants and termites out of their nests. Their powerful front claws allows them to easily break apart nests and climb trees with the help of their tails. The signature scaly shell protects them not only from the ant bites, but from predators as well, when threaten the pangolin can curl up into a ball. The shell is made up keratin, the same material as your fingernails, but thicker, making it difficult to chew or break.

Pangolin cub rides on its mother's tail at the Night Safari
Pangolins are highly threatened by poaching and are still hunted for their meat and for traditional chinese medicine, where their scales are believed to be cures for ailments such as asthma and eczema, big markets still exist in China, Vietnam and Thailand. Hunting these animals in large numbers due to their demand as well as habitat loss, where forests are cleared for things like agriculture, are driving the population numbers of the species down.

Singapore has been investing much time and effort to save the local pangolins still present in our wild, most pangolin sightings do not happen on mainland, but on our offshore islands, such as Pulau Tekong. Some organizations helping to conserve and study them include the WRS, Save Pangolins and even the Singapore Night Safari, having successfully breed and raise 3 cubs in captivity. The WRS hosted in 2013, a convention to brainstorm on solutions to better conserve the pangolins. The brainchild of the conference, the Singapore Pangolin Working Group, was formed by the WRS and started in 2014. Other organisations like Save Pangolins conduct educational programmes in order to get the public more involved and informed about the situation, the conservation efforts and most importantly, what they can do to help stem the poaching of these unique beasts.

These majestic animals have a fighting chance to be saved and with everyone putting in effort, I hope to see these shy creatures gain a strong foothold for survival here in Singapore.


Lee, J. (2015). The Pangolin Perplexity. Retrieved 20 October 2015, from

Lee, J. (2015). The Pangolin Perplexity. Retrieved 20 October 2015, from

Lim, N., & Ng, P. (2008). Home range, activity cycle and natal den usage of a female Sunda pangolin Manis javanica (Mammalia: Pholidota) in Singapore. Endangered Species Research, 4, 233-240.

National Parks Board,. (2014). Pangolins. Retrieved 20 October 2015, from

Save Pangolins,. (2011). Conservation. Retrieved 20 October 2015, from

ST,. (2015). Pangolin mother and cub. Retrieved 20 October 2015, from

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Invasion of the Sparrows

Today I'll be talking about a little bird much closer to home. As to what inspired me to write on it, well, my class has been talking about how kids now a days spend more time indoors instead of out, so my next few posts will be more on the local wildlife here in Singapore. What better way to start these few posts with the adorable Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

The Eurasian tree sparrow has been around in Singapore for a long time, so much so that very few actually realize that the small bird is actually an invasive species. Not to be confused with its cousin, the Eurasian House Sparrow, this little bird has certainly adapted well to human environments and is now a common sight to see throughout Singapore. Some might wonder why it is called a "tree" sparrow seeing as it often builds its nests in buildings and structures.this is because in Britain, the tree sparrow is known as a woodland bird, making its nests in trees. However in Singapore, we ended up with tree sparrows making their nests in houses instead, the government did a good job relocating everyone into flats (pun intended). The house sparrow though rare in Singapore, can be differentiated from the tree sparrow by size and the colour of its head. The tree sparrow is smaller in size and has a chestnut brown head, whereas the house sparrow has a grey-slated head.

Tree Sparrow Japan Flip.jpg
Another way to differentiate the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (left) form the Eurasian House Sparrow (right) is the presence of a black ear covert on the white chin of the tree 

To be a successful invasive species, it has to be able to out-compete local species as wells as other invasive species. As an invasive species, the tree sparrow seems to be losing its touch. As of late, bird watchers have seen a slight decline in the number of tree sparrows sighted and it has been suspected that this is due to the sparrows slowly losing ground to the more aggressive Javan Myna and the House Crow. All 3 birds being scavengers they are usually seen around Singapore's hawker centers eating scraps, they compete for a decreasing supply of food available as hawker cleaner practices become more efficient. Not only is their food supply under threat, the holes in which these birds, including the sparrow, usually nests in have been continually blocked or fenced up. The tree sparrow is still abundant in Singapore and many are hoping for a come back of the species, preferring them over the mynas and the crows.


Eurasian Tree Sparrow. (2015). Retrieved from

Graham, J. (2015). Eurasian House sparrow. Retrieved from

Llow, J., & Subaraj, R. (2015). Bird Ecology Study Group The Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Urban Singapore. Retrieved 12 October 2015, from

The RSPB,. (2015). Tree sparrow. Retrieved 12 October 2015, from

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Munching on plastic

Everyone knows how plastic takes a very long time to decompose, one might hear stories of how turtles choke to death on floating plastic bags, or if you're slightly more well versed, you might even have heard of the infamous garbage patches in various oceans. For a long time, scientist have struggled to find ways to make plastic biodegradable, I find it slightly ironic when they discovered this solution to their problem, it was nature that once again provided it. Introducing the-plastic eating mealworms.

Introducing the mealworms
Mealworms are the larvae of a species of darkling beetle, Tenebrio molitor, they are detritivores, assisting in the cleanup of dead organic matter. They are also important in the wild and feed a variety of other organisms such as various birds, spiders and rodents. It was first discovered that several types of bottom feeders are actually able to eat polystyrene - commonly known as Styrofoam. The mealworms in particular, possess several types of bacteria in their gut, capable of breaking down these plastic compounds into carbon dioxide and biomass, excreting most of it in their feces. The process of plastic digestion in this worm is so efficient that they are able to solely survive on eating polystyrene. The polystyrene the mealworms readily ate were not treated in anyway before they were presented. it was also noted that the plastic diet did not affect the larvae's life cycle in any significant way when compared to those that were fed grains.

Mealworms eating Styrofoam
This is a huge step forward in solving the problem of solution. Not only have we found a way to degrade plastics, that are non-biodegradable, we now can dispose of them without emitting toxins into the air and further pollute the environment. This provides a sustainable solution, considering that majority of our products and waste contains high amounts of plastic. However, we have yet to explore the long term effects of this process, therefore, it is crucial that we continue to practise responsible waste management.

References,. (2015). Mealworm Care, Information, Facts & Pictures. Retrieved 4 October 2015, from

Mealworms eating Sryrofoam. (2015). Retrieved from

Picture of mealworms. (2015). Retrieved from

Yang, Y., Yang, J., Wu, W., Zhao, J., Song, Y., & Gao, L. et al. (2015). Biodegradation and Mineralization of Polystyrene by Plastic-Eating Mealworms: Part 1. Chemical and Physical Characterization and Isotopic Tests. Environmental Science & Technology, 151001073757000.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Sea God's Cup!

Hello! Today I'll be talking about an interesting find that happened right here in the waters of Singapore! Drum roll~~ Introducing the Neptune's Cup Sponge! This sponge was thought to be extinct since 1908 where the 2 specimens of the sponge was collected in West Java. Subsequently, the sponge has been identified after being dredged up in 1990 giving people hope that a wild population might still exist somewhere. it is not until 2011 that a live specimen of the sponge was found in Singapore's waters.

In the past, it is said that these sponges were extremely common is the waters round Singapore, so much so that they were a commonly used for a variety of purposes, such as bathtubs for children. Yes, they do grow pretty big!

A photo showing child bathing in a dried Neptune's Cup Sponge
(Lim, Tun & Goh, 2012)
The 2 specimens were found around the waters of Sister island, one of Singapore's few protected areas for wildlife. The rediscovery of the species, with 2 specimens in relatively close proximity, gives researches hope that there is a healthy wild populations of the sponges that they have not found.Little is known about the sponge, with scientist still debating if it does indeed belong in the genus Cliona. As such, live specimens, of which the only known 2 are the ones mention above, are extremely valuable to researchers wishing to study the sponge and its various aspects.

The rediscovery of the sponge, although a big news, was not highlighted upon much upon its initial discovery, perhaps it is best to keep it that way. This is as Singapore still has poaching activities present in its water. It would be a logical line of thought, that keeping the location of the sponges vague and not highlighting its presence to possible poaches, is part of a plan to protect the species. After all, Neptune's Cup Sponge is known to be sought after by collectors because of its unique shape and it is said to be the most well known sponge species in the world. Though there is speculation of a wild population, that may not necessarily be true. It is possible, that may have just found the last remaining survivors of the entire species. As such, it is important that we keep them protected. Cheers!

Neptune's Cup Sponge at Sister Island

Lim, S., Tun, K., & Goh, E. (2012). Rediscovery of the  Neptune's Cup Sponge in Singapore: Cliona OR Poterion?, 49-56. Retrieved from:
Last accessed: 24 September 2015

Platt, J. (2015). Amazing Neptune's Cup Sponge Rediscovered in Singapore. Retrieved from:
Last accessed: 24 September 2015

Sister Island Marine Park,. (2015). [The Neptune's Cup sponge (Cliona patera), long thought to be extinct here, was rediscovered off St John’s Island in 2011.] Retrieved from:
Last accessed: 24 September 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Survivor: Java

Unlike all the other survivor game shows, this show will probably give the prize money to the individual that manages to raise the number of participants. Introducing the Javan Rhino, Rhinoceros sondaicus.

The Javan Rhino's last wild habitat is the Ujung Kulon National Park, where all 60 individuals are said to live. In the past, there used to be 2 other subspecies of Javan Rhinoceros that live in Borneo and Vietnam. Today the Javan Rhino is the sole surviving subspecies still present in the wild.

Only males of the Javan Rhinoceros species grow the horn above its nose

Javan Rhinoceros grow to about 1.7m in height and 4m in length, having lose folds of skin giving them an armour-like appearance. Its single namesake horn grows to about 25cm atop the male's nose, it is used to plow away vegetation and uproot plants for them to eat. Due to the similarities Javan Rhinoceros was once mistaken to be of the same species as the Indian Rhinoceros due to their similar appearances, it is now noted that the species is a smaller relative of the Indian Rhinoceros.

As mentioned in the previous post on cheetahs, the Javan rhinoceros face the same problem of a small population, their genetic variability his been severely affected by large extinctions within their populations. Such events include those outside the sphere of human influence, for example, the Karkatoa volcanic explosion of 1883 which wiped out majority of the then Ujung Kulon Javan Rhinoceros population. The current population now present in the park is said to be a re-colonization of the species from other parts of Java.

However, even in light of its current crisis, the Javan Rhinoceros population shows that it is still fighting for its species survival. This ray of hope comes in the form of, much to conservationist's delight, 3 healthy looking calves - 2 males and 1 female!

Three new Javan rhino calves roam through an Indonesian national park
One of the 3 new Rhino calves with its mother
Yet this is only the first of many steps to a successful recovery of the population. The population needs to grow bigger and establish itself in areas other than the park to prevent further loss of genetic material, or face a possible sudden extinction like what happen in 1883. There is still along way to go, but for now, let us celebrate this small victory.


Belcher, S. (2015). [Partially Submerged Javan Rhinoceros Photograph]
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Fernando, P., Polet, G., Foead, N., Ng, L., Pastorini, J., & Melnick, D. (2006). Genetic diversity, phylogeny and conservation of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus). Conservation Genetics, 7(3), 439-448.
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Getty Images,. (2015). [Javan Rhinoceros Mother and Calf]
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Purnomo, H., Herawati, H., & Santoso, H. (2011). Indicators for assessing Indonesia’s Javan rhino National Park vulnerability to climate change. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change, 16(7), 733-747.
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