@loupok’s sms tweets from the NSS’ conference, “Nature Conservation for a Sustainable Singapore”

Twittering a conference can be fun and interactive and I did this at Nexus 2007, sms-ing Kenneth Pinto who relayed to to his blog and twitter accounts. It’s a great way to check back on ideas you might forget as well.

Marcus Chua presented our Ubin paper early last Sunday at the Nature Society Conference. Unable to join them, I asked Marcus for updates so he SMS-ed, relaying Shawn Lum’s tribute to the late Navjot Sodhi and Geh Min’s Talk which addressed “spatial justice: land for all,” e.g. public spaces for parks – but if land is parcelled for private use, e.g. condominiums and golf courses, that only benefits the few. Then she went on to talk about making EIAs mandatory by law.

This was very interesting and it’d be great if these topics could reached a wider audience for now or later. So I asked Marcus if he’d switch to twitter. He replied “dumb phone and no internet wireless.” During the break, he found a willing undergrad @loupok who cracked her knuckles and took up the challenge.

Here is a raw dump of that exciting Sunday which drew much applause from all of us – remember, she did it all by SMS!

Speakers have a December deadline and NSS will issue most of these papers. You’ll have the source to cite, but for now, you can whet your appetites with her tweets:


@loupok at the Nature Society (Singapore) conference on “Nature Conservation for a Sustainable Singapore“.

Refer to the programme here.

At the nature society of singapore conference.
First talk: the urbanization of the biodiversity of pteridnphyte flora in singapore by dr benito tan #nssconference

  • Pteridophytes are ferns. 2009 investigation of fern diversity of CCNR by John Tan found only 60 species.
  • Red data book: 121 species of ferns and fern allies listed as vulnerable, endangered or crit endangered. #nssconference
  • 2 fern ally genera in singapore: Lycopodium and Selaginella
  • An overlooked urbanized fern: Microlepia speluncae
  • Native fern of ornamental value: Nephrolepis acutifolia
  • Edible fern found in bukit brown cemetary: Diplazium esculentum
  • Problems in fern id: variability, cultivars, hybrids,confused species
  • Have documented 75 species and 39 genera of ferns and fern allies outside nature reserves, excluding cultivated species
  • Question about no. of non native ferns in singapore: dr tan says 5.

Second topic: bats in singapore, ecological roles and conservation needs

  • 2011 is the UN designated year of the bat!
  • Bat diversity in singapore: confirmed records for 25 species. 6 fruit and flower-feeding, 19 insect-feeding
  • Bat survey methodology: use of harp traps.
    Rediscovery of the bi-colored roundleaf bat. New record: Hardwicke’s wooly bat.
  • Bat with unique morphology: naked bulldog bat, from family of bats with ‘free tails’
  • Bats important as pollinators, dispersers, insect predators, and ectoparasite hosts
  • Nice photo of cave nectar bat pollinating petai flowers
  • Urban structures such as highways and buildings important as bat roosting places.
  • Pouched tomb bats live in human habitations, calls are within human hearing range
  • Use of sonograms in analyzing the echolocations of bats and for the study of bats
  • Question about changing the public mindset about bats. Speaker says: outreach and education.

Now the talk by marcus on the co-existence of medium-sized mammals and humans and the future of conservation on pulau ubin

  • ‘The big 4 of pulau ubin’: greater mouse deer, common palm civet, eurasian wild pig, long tailed macaque
  • High visitorship to pulau ubin, leading to habitat encroachment as roads and trails are created and people start entering the forests
  • Issues faced by wildlife on pulau ubin: poaching, coastal pollution, conflicts of interest with multiple landowners on the island
  • Also, development of energy grid on the island. This could affect 3 out of the ‘big 4’ mammals that are nocturnal.
  • Bi-phasic use of the island: human visitorship mainly in the day and on weekends; animals ‘free to roam’ on weekdays and nights
  • Long term conservation of pulau ubin: much is in limbo because future of the island is as yet uncertain.
  • Question about what the villagers living on the island hope for the future of the island.

Now ding li is speaking on ‘saving singapore’s biodiversity in an increasingly hot, hungry, foreign and fragmented world’.

  • Have lost 143 species of butterflies. Have lost a lower proportion of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians.
  • Most of the threatened species are forest-dependent species.
  • Habitat fragmentation in ccnr: ccnr is broken up into 4 fragments
  • Not all species are equal. Those more likely to go extinct: big size, poor dispersers, large ranges
  • Malayan pangolin apparently fetches $110 on the black market
  • Conservation goal: Maintain as many species as possible for the longest possible time for ecological integrity
  • Ding li suggests 3 ecological concepts to consider for conservation: Island biogeography theory, source sink theory, metapopulation theory
  • Look beyond species lists. Population studies of individual species necessary. Also, importance of habitat preservation.
  • Proposed 6 key measures to take: legal framework, reevaluation of species, protect habitats across a larger landscape
  • …Increase connectivity among fragments, evaluate impacts of alien species, monitor impacts of climate change.

The 5th talk is on insect conservation in singapore.

  • Small scale water bodies could be important for insects like dragonflies, danselflies and aquatic insects
  • Saproxylic insects are insects found in dead wood. Beetles are the most well studied of the group
  • Longhorned beetles are good indicator group for saproxylic insects. Relatively easy to id to morphospecies. Also charismatic.
  • Summary of principles and actions: multi-scale management and focal insect groups

6th talk on butterfly conservation at the butterfly trail @ orchard

  • The butterfly trail stretches from the botanic gardens to fort canning.
  • Butterfly visitors seen so far from tge trail include the Grass Demon, Peacock Royal..
  • Butterfly connector linking up istana park and penang road
  • Have conducted 8 public and member walks, 2 butterfly photography workshops.
  • At least 12 butterfly species known to be breeding on the trail
  • Current count 52 species. 32 common urban butterflies.
  • Increase in butterfly diversity from baseline no. of 13 species to 39 species at penang road open space.
  • Comment frm audience on extending this effort to hdbs and other housing estates
  • Public doesnt like to see caterpillars, but can get around that by hiding host plants behind more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ plants
  • Suggestion to target the istana as part of the orchard rd butterfly trail

Conferences like this make me feel hopeful 🙂

The next talk is on horseshoe crabs; the horseshoe crab research and rescue project

  • Background on hsc: ‘living fossils’; more closely related to spiders and scorpions than true crabs; have blue blood
  • Only 4 species of hsc in the world, 2 of which are found in singapore.
  • Hsc have cultural value in japan, taiwan.
  • Considered romantic by the malays.
  • Not clear if mangrove hscs in singapore are permanent residents here, and if they will migrate elsewhere
  • Not clear if the hscs have homing instincts. Use of electronic acoustic tracking to monitor hsc movement in straits of johor
  • Transmitters glued onto the hscs. Any negative effects on the hscs?
  • Submesible receivers suspended from fish farms at around 2m depth, 1km apart along the strait of johor
  • Prelim results frm 7 months: crabs detected abt 6.5km away from one of the sites.
  • Caught hscs at one site and released them at another site. Hscs didnt seem to migrate back to the site of capture
  • No homing instincts observed so far frm hscs.No apparent movement twds open sea.No regular movement patterns.Monsoon didnt seem to change movement.
  • Possible confounders of results: hscs might like to hang around fish farms where there is food; survey efforts.
  • Hsc conservation a matter of national interest? Since we have 2 of the 4 species found in the world.
  • Protect nw coast of singapore, and mandai mudflats from causeway to 2nd link. Extend sg buloh wetland reserve. Ramsar convention.
  • Transmitters are permanent on hscs until they moult.

Lunch break now! Phew.
Vegetarian food! How environmentally friendly 🙂
The mentos at the conference have undergone parthenogenesis

Next up at the conference: the Wild Animals and Birds Act, Issues and Questions

  • 3 main laws in singapore: the endangered species act, the parks and trees act, the wild animals and birds act
  • The wild animals and birds act (waba) protects all species equally. Especially terrestrial species.
  • Is a wildlife harassment the new battleground? Wildlife tourism and wildlife photography.
  • Do we need privacy laws to protect our wildlife?
  • Another question raised: should the waba move from protecting wildlife to supporting wildlife? Eg protect wildlife dwellings, food sources
  • Citizen policing: moving from reporting to deputizing.
  • Very interesting questions being raised. Do charismatic animals and birds and flagship species deserve special protection?
  • But will the waba then become vulnerable to ‘freakonomics’?
  • Do vulnerable animals (special threats) and birds deserve special protection? What about special needs animals (young, mothers with young)?
  • There is a ‘mother and child’ law in malaysia that penalizes the capture of animals with young more heavily.
  • Do we need specialist laws to protect ‘non traditional animals’? Eg horseshoe crabs, corals. These have trad been protected within protected areas
  • ‘attracting foreign talent’: do migrants deserve special protection? (hah)
  • Do we punish ‘pests’? Alien species: should owners be prosecuted?
  • Should the law define the circumstances under which wild animals can be killed? What abt population management or sci research?
  • Should we prosecute employers for wildlife offences committed by blue coloured workers?
  • With low penalties, does anyone really care about wildlife law?

Next up: the current botanical status of mangrove forests in singapore by jean yong

  • Mangrove plants have important role in carbon sequestration in marine environments
  • Current status of mangroves in singapore: 700+ hectares. Increase from 650ha in 1990s
  • Mangroves in singapore: 120ha at sg buloh; 150ha at P. tekong; 100ha at P. ubin – sg jelutong and sg besar. Also 40ha at P. pawai.
  • We have only lost 1 species of mangrove plants in singapore.
  • Bruguiera hainesii, a rare species found at pasir ris park. Internationally endangered, of the same status as the panda. 4 trees in singapore.
  • Whole of vietnam only has 2 Bruguiera hainesii trees. Singapore has 4 trees. (lost 1 when mas selamat escaped.) Hope for legal protection status.
  • Ceriops zippeliana: new record for singapore. More ‘inland’ species than Ceriops tagal.
  • Lost the last Kandelia candel tree in singapore in March this year.
  • But there is hope for recovering the species through recruitment of propagules from johor/pen. malaysia
  • There are 6 Bruguiera species in the world, Singapore has 5. The last species is found in Brisbane.
  • Natural recolonization is taking place for Bruguiera sexangula.
  • Why are there so few aerial plants (epiphytes, mistletoes and climbers) in singapore’s mangroves?
  • Except for p. pawai. “we need to thank the military for protecting our nature areas”
  • Conversion of aquatic environments to freshwater will affect the mangroves, esp Avicennia which require salty conditions
  • Pub/cuge has proposed a list of mangrove species that can grow in freshwater conditions
  • Increasing occurence of ‘albino propagules’
    Rhizophora stylosa: hardy mangrove species to grow for carbon sequestration. ‘biodiversity engineering’.
  • 4 species at risk: Merope anugulata, Cassine viburnifolia, Aegiceras corniculatum, Avicennia marina.
  • To end off, a nice photograph of customized boardwalks that accomodate the mangrove tree roots.

Next talk by Vilma D’Rozario, co founder of The Cicada Tree Eco-Place, on making a difference for wildlife through outreach

  • Cicada Tree Eco-Place has ‘Make A Difference’ lessons for kids.
  • ‘MAD lessons’ include slideshows and nature walks. Kids make native animal crafts which they can bring home.
  • Conduct guided nature walks. Free walks for kids frm low income background, funded by Lee Foundation.

Next up, more insights from the nss horseshoe crab project.

  • Dr Vincent Reyes shares about how teacher trainees from nie are involved in the horseshoe crab proj to get hands on interaction with nature in the context of the importance of first hand contact with wild nature

Last talk before the next tea break: ecotourism in singapore and its relation to biodiversity conservation, by Margie Hall, nature guide and nss hon sect

  • ‘Tourism’ is a means, and ‘conservation’ is the goal. Ecotourism is a type of tourism specifically set up to get money for conservation
  • In ecotourism there should be a strong emphasis on visitor management and education.
  • Visitor management: control the time spent on the nature activity, control the number of visitors allowed at any time, control the area where visitors are allowed etc
  • Ecological sustainability should be at the heart of ecotourism. (Argues that singapore has no ecosustainability and hence cant have true ecotourism.)
  • Conservation can be achieved and funded in many ways, not necessarily through ecotourism.
    Conserved areas can be visited by individuals or groups with guides WITHOUT BEING ECOTOURISM. It is important to use the term ‘ecotourism’ properly.
  • There is no ecotourism in singapore. Because conservation is funded in other ways (govt funds, donations etc), not directly frm money frm visitorship to the nature areas.
  • My first time hearing about this. ‘Monkey island’: ecotourism to see macaques at pulau tekukor.
  • Mandai road “nature” tourism project – another eg of an “ecotourism” project.
  • We don’t have ecotourism in Singapore and I can’t see that we ever will

Next lecture: Robert Teo on Pulau Ubin as a haven for wildlife

  • Pulau ubin in the 1950s was covered in plantations in the east and west
  • Land ownership in ubin shared by nparks, sla, obs and npcc. Pulau ubin is neither a nature reserve nor a wildlife sanctuary.
  • Ian Turner in 1997 found 207 plant species on ubin. Today, 565 native species (albeit some introduced by nparks).
  • Rare plants on ubin include the collared fig (looks like franghpani but has figs) and the seashore nutmeg.
  • Plant records from ubin: 254 new records of native plants for ubin, 69 rediscoveries, 1 new record for singapore
  • Mammals, reptiles and amphibians, 36 new records for ubin, 1 presumed extinct.
  • Birds: 71 new records for ubin, 1 new record for singapore. Butterflies: 109 new records for ubin, 4 new records for singapore.

Bian Tan speaking now on alien plant species in singapore

  • Characteristics of invasive spp: fast growing, fast reproducers, fast dispersers, tolerant of range of env conditions, opportunistic
  • How do we determine invasiveness? How invasive is invasive?
  • Incorporate into environmental education messages regarding the dangers of invasives

3rd last talk! By tony o’dempsey, chair of vertebrate study group. Fresh water swamp forest of the sungei seletar catchment.

  • Plants of the swamp forest: nutmegs, Sterculias, Syzygium papillosum, Alstonia pneumatophora, Alstonia spatulata
  • Freshwater swamp forests of singapore’s past were converted to reservoirs, residential areas, and other land uses

The 2nd last speaker is ding li on the recent trends of nationally threatened birds in singapore.

  • 376 bird species in singapore, including residents and migrants. 146 resident species. 70 species have gone extinct.
  • Improving trends for about 20 bird species in singapore including the blue-crowned hanging parrot, grey-headed fish eagle (at least 10 adult males in s’pore)..
  • bird species that have not showed changes in numbers: crested serpent eagle, cotton pygmy goose, spotted wood owl..the changeable hawk eagle, straw-headed bulbul (iucn globally vulnerable), purple heron, little grebe.
  • Consistently not recorded: white bellied woodpecker, and other mostly forest birds

The final talk! is on albizia woodlands and singapore birdlife, by dr ho hua chew and dr shawn lum

  • Albizia is from east indonesia, it is a fast growing tree, can grow 7m in 1 year
  • Albizia can be pioneer species which provide shade for undergrowth species, some of them native
  • Albizia woodlands can be breeding or nesting sites for resident raptors esp white bellied sea eagle, changeable hawk eagle, greyheaded fish eagle
  • List of known nest sites for white bellied sea eagle: 7 out of 15 so far are albizia woodlands
  • But wb sea eagles are not fussy nesters, can nest next to a busy road.
  • Changeable hawk eagle, 18 known nest sites, 13 of which are albizia woodlands
  • Grey headed fish eagle: 5 known nest sites, 4 of which are albizia woodlands
  • Birds found in albizia woodlands: Asian drongo cuckoo, common hill myna, rufuos woodpecker, banded bay cuckoo
  • And that marks the end of the conference.

Thanks for reading 🙂 now to rest my fingers..

  • @crunch_ranjani hahaha i am so sorry!!! And yea my fingers kinda ache nowz
  • @VaranusSalvator heh thank you!
  • @crunch_ranjani haha awesome! That’s what i like to hear 😀
  • to my new followers, thanks for the follow lol i hope my tweets made sense, was trying so hard to keep up *cracks knuckles*
  • live-tweeting was kinda fun. nice to know the past 10 years of sms-ing have come in useful.
  • at least 50% of the credit should go to @green3birdy for letting me parasitize on her phone when mine was about to die
  • @uaoh haha yes i am genuinely interested in plants now!
  • @green3birdy lol tell me you were inspired by me to join twitter 😛
  • @cubismwonder you’re most welcome 🙂
  • @green3birdy hahaha.it’s a service called tweetsg.you sms to a regular hphone no., regular sms charges apply. tweetsg.posterous.com
  • @sivasothi @green3birdy haha ok! yeah marcus deserves much of the credit too for egging us on 🙂
  • @yoonhuilian dunno, 10+ years of smsing? hahaha.
  • @VaranusSalvator @yoonhuilian haha well it wasn’t nearly 10 hours this time, maybe 6+ after factoring in the breaks? but thanks! 🙂