Helping the cat community in NUS

Civetgirl Xu Weiting and I met with Keven Ang and Ng Weiling, two life science PhD students who have been caring for cats in Science and Medicine Faculties in NUS since 2007. Keven is now also the project director of NUS Cat Café in NUS PEACE (formerly NUS Animal Welfare). We met through an introduction last year by Ong Say Lin (now spending a year in Canada) when he worked on sterilisation and after a recent reminder by Ang Yu Chen.

It is always heartening to meet Keven and Weiling for they are a dedicated pair and also fellow-regular blood donors! Weiting and I are playing a support role to their efforts and the four of us extracted time from impossible schedules for an admin meeting – Keven and Weiling have initiated a recruitment drive for help. While they are not expecting hordes to join them, the hope is a few kindred souls will weigh in to do wonders for the programme and its future.

The recruitment notice is up on the NUS Cat Café blog at:

Hazy days are here again

While we were tucked away in TEDxNUS last Saturday, Debby Ng went cycling and returned with a raspy throat. The overall Singapore PSI reading was 56 then, with the west the hardest hit. Then on Tuesday afternoon, a thick blanket of haze descended in the west. The haze has since persisted and now we are told it is likely to stay for another three days. The Malaysians in Johor appear to have it worse, though.

“Agus Salim Lacuda, an Indonesian climatologist and meteorologist, said the haze was likely caused by the forest fires, and slash-and-burn logging in certain parts of the Sumatra Island. “

Hazy days are here again
The view of the north from Block S3, NUS Faculty of Science, 19 Oct 2010: 6.15pm. Notably, Bukit Timah is hidden
Singapore Weather Information Portal - Hotspot Count Charts
Hotpot counts peaked on 19th Oct 2010 at 350.

When I mention the 1997 Southeast Asian haze to undergraduates, they do recall the experience even though they were in primary school then – it was a dramatic experience for the sun was hidden from us in Singapore for the first time.

That trans-boundary pollution incident finally initiated a series of ASEAN ministerial meetings starting with the first in Singapore that December. This eventually led to the regional plan, the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution [link], which was entered into force on 25 November 2003.

Although a lot has happened since, obviously challenges remain to be overcome, for we are experiencing this haze during a moderate La Niña!


“Should private hospitals run own blood banks?” – HSA responds

TODAY ONLINE, 19 Oct 2010


“WE REFER to the letter by M V Andeny, “Should private hospitals run own blood banks?” (Oct 16).

The Blood Services Group of the Health Sciences Authority has the national responsibility to ensure a secure blood supply that provides all patients in Singapore access to safe blood when they need it. This includes patients in both the public and private hospitals.

We agree with Mr Andeny’s view that blood should be provided based on need rather than ability to pay. Blood and blood components are indeed provided based on clinical need and clinical emergencies have the highest priority. Over the years, the clinical need for blood has continued to rise and this has been mainly due to an increase in transfusions for medical conditions such as cancer and blood disorders.

We would like to assure our blood donors that the national blood programme in Singapore is based on the principles of voluntary and non-remunerated blood donation, and patients who receive transfusions are not charged for the blood they receive.

Patients are only charged a blood processing fee that covers the costs of collection, processing, testing, quality control, storage and distribution of the blood and blood components they receive. The blood processing fee is uniformly charged, and is the same for both public and private hospitals. This fee is partially subsidised by the Government for all Singaporeans.

We do not advocate private hospitals setting up their own blood banks. In a small country like Singapore, a single coordinated blood service is the best model for ensuring that the precious limited resource of blood is efficiently utilised and the safety and quality of our national blood supply is consistently assured.”

Letter from Dr Diana Teo,
Group Director,
Blood Services Group
Health Sciences Authority

Xylo the cat said to fix the planet


Maybe the audience thought it was me speaking at TEDxNUS today, but really I was simply a tool of the overlords. “Let’s fix the mess we put the planet in,” they had me say, or words to that effect. I did not resist, really, since I agreed with the message. But I did shake off the “feed us plenty of fish” thoughts that were running through my head.

Meanwhile, Grace Chua who has been struggling of late, still manages this timely: “NO Plan B, Planet B – UN meet will highlight urgent need to protect biodiversity“. (Thanks to WildSingapore).

Timely reminder which had me turning on CBDNews on Twitter.

It’s Blog Action Day today, featuring WATER

See posts by

Read about the issues by Blog Action Day and a page of facts, quotes, photos, and videos about the water crisis at

Blog Action Day shares five facts about water we might not know:

  1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
  2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.
  3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water.
  4. It takes 6.3 gallons [24 litres] of water to produce just one hamburger.
  5. The average American uses 159 gallons [602 litres] of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world.

The “Ulu Pandan bear” – bedek or not?

14 Oct 2010 update: The hoax is confirmed, it is yet another Ad campaign gone wrong. Philips Electronics Singapore should compensate Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the police and ACRES for their immediate response and efforts to ensure public safety. See

—- beg —
More on the Ulu Pandan ‘bear’. STOMP has a better photo than the one ChannelNews Asia used (see below); and they all purportedly originate from a certain Mr Wilson Tay’s son (the dad a.k.a. STOMPer Philip3D a.k.a. YouTube’s Mr79coaster):


So everyone is asking, ‘bedek’ or not?

Well, first the species – this looks like the black bear, without the distinctive hump of the grizzly. It appears to be too large to be the Malayan Sun Bear which stands at up to 1.5 metres. It is heartening that people have mentioned this Southeast Asian native species as a candidate though.

Singapore has a long history of non-native species, enough for Frederick Nutter Chasen of the Raffles Library and Museum to comment as early as 1925 that it “…must be remembered that very large numbers of mammals are imported into Singapore each year for trade purposes. Individuals very frequently escape and are just as often captured or shot and brought to the Museum with the laconic statement that they were obtained in Singapore”.

So local naturalists have learnt to be cautious. Several are sharing the news clip on Facebook but without comment – reserving judgement since the photos and video are unclear. So no one is sure thus far.

The police and ACRES are on the case and have apparently taken into account the onset of Halloween, celebrated increasingly in Singapore as yet another chance to dress up, party and eat chocolate. With the emphasis on dress up. A check with costumed stores drew a blank. Assuming they are not in on the caper as well although you would think the thought of having the police comb Ulu Pandan woods would induce a confession.

Are authentic costumes available? Well, Animatronic has a decent black bear costume, and Burt the Black Bear travels to various locations so perhaps he’s here to promote something.

According to STOMP, Wilson Tay says, “My son took this video on his handphone, and after many views we realised it could quite simply be a bear! After it caught sight of us and started heading our way, it made sense to drive off without hesitation.” That is a sensible strategy but the clinical nature of the video clip has many thinking twice. The cynical almost immediately dismissed it in no uncertain terms as a hoax. After all, assuming the quotes were not edited out of context, the audio on the track does not, *ahem*, bear out the quote. Here is a close-up of that video below, looped a few times so you can observe and decide for yourself:

I thought the manner and appearance of the ‘bear’s face when it looks at the eye-witnesses and then turns away was odd; the poor quality video was too concisely edited; they uploaded it to STOMP but do not report calling the police and the voice-over saying “Singapore, got bear one, ah” is too well placed and contradicts the statement in STOMP which says, “after many views we realised it could quite simply be a bear”. Ditto the second phrase. And the absence of faecal samples, claw marks and the like in the vicinity (according to ACRES).

Meanwhile, while we ponder, the ‘bear’ has gone onto twitter to taunt us, purportedly after a lady dropped her phone and ran off, screaming. Follow the bear, who isn’t resorting to puns so far, @UluPandanBear!

The Ulu Pandan “bear”

Ulu Pandan bear

“Bear-like creature spotted along Ulu Pandan,” by Vimita Mohandas. ChannelNewsAsia, 12 Oct 2010: 2117 hrs.

“SINGAPORE: A bear-like creature was spotted along Ulu Pandan on Monday morning.

The strange scene was caught on an amateur video using a hand phone. Eyewitness Wilson Tay, a civil engineer, was driving home with his son when he spotted “something strange”. He said his son took the video when the creature was spotted near a dustbin.

By Mr Tay’s estimation, the bear was about the height of an average adult human being. It’s as yet unclear whether the creature is for real.

In a media release, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said no bears had been missing from its parks. Wildlife Reserve Singapore manages the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari.

It added it was unable to verify yet, if the creature was a real bear.


STOMP has more (via Ouyang Xiuling).