World Wildlife Day 2021 “Forest and Livelihoods, Sustaining People and Planet”

The lovely art for World Wildlife Day, yesterday.

WWD 03mar2021

I marked the day with an animal behaviour lecture and ended it with a dialogue about conservation. Thanks to Jack & Rai who hosted a World Wildlife Day dialogue with Anbu (ACRES) and myself last Sunday night.

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I am curently reading “Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants,” by by Jacob Shell. A geographer who read widely and travelled to visited a complex array of South Asian and Indochinese (prominently in Burma) peoples who work with elephants. Pushed to the mountains by historical waves of lowland conquests in the region, the geography led to an evolution of elephant working cultures.

giants of the monson forest

Shell sheds light on the co-dependency of elephant and man on forests, which are foraging and mating grounds for their elephants, and which suport the forest-based economies, logging and transport through seasonally flooded terrain. Roads, forest fragmentation and agriculture thereaten these areas but the dificul terrain is also the setting of some of the longest resistance wars which protect the forests.

I know very little about Southeast Asia, a tremedously complex region and the perspectives stitched together Jacob Shell, a geographer, are insightful.

Note: Marcus Chua shares what research reveals about Species Awareness Days tonight!

Have you been reading?

It seemed I had read just eight books in 2015, of which seven were non-fiction titles. A far cry from the voracious reading of my youth. Are we doomed to this decline?

The first National Literary Reading and Writing Survey by the National Arts Council found that 56% of the 1,000+ Singaporeans they sampled hadn’t read at least one “literary book” between March 2014 to March 2015 – these they defined to include fiction, poetry, graphic novels, creative non-fiction and the like (see the infographic below and read the links, for reasons).

I made the 44% cut due to the two graphic novels, Koh Hong Teng’s “Last Train from Tanjong Pagar” (fiction) and Jim Ottaviani’s “Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas” (creative non-fiction).

The bulk of my reading is scientific papers and book chapters, which are no substitute to for regular works with their attendant benefits. So I have been trying to maintain the habit. But I find I am hemmed in by work:

  • Late Jan – May: Sem 2 madness
  • Jun – early Jul (between Sem 2 & 1): some reading gets done here.
  • Aug – early Dec: Sem 1 madness
  • mid-Dec-early Jan (between Sem 1 & 2): usually one or two war history books in preparation for our annual walk in Feb to commemorate the Battle of Pasir Panjang

So how will I prevent neglect? Like other sleep-deprived Singaporeans, I must plan some breaks to allow my mind to breathe or else it will not happen.

So I began using Goodreads, and discovered friends struggling to do the same! I drop in once in awhile, vaguely aware of my 2016 reading challenge of 24 books.

Well, it’s May and I have managed six books. Dean Foster’s Star Wars book shouldn’t count, for it really was just the movie transcript, offering nothing new. Still, in the madness of May, I managed to read one of my neglected books. It seems keeping tabs is helping.

This June and July, the National Library Board will hold a two-month campaign to get more people to read. I look forward to being encouraged, will egg on my friends and look forward to exchanging stories!

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Relevant articles:

  • What would it take to get Singaporean adults to read more? [link (CNA)]
  • Parliament: First National Reading Day to be held on July 30 to help nurture love of books [link (ST)]
  • Singaporeans have an interest in literary books – inaugural National Literary Reading and Writing Survey 2015 shows [link (NAC)]
  • Less than half of Singaporeans read literary books, National Arts Council survey finds [link (ST)]
  • Less than 50% read one literary book a year: Poll [link (ST)]
  • “Low reading rate: Lack of interest, time cited as factors” [link (ST)]

NRWS 2016 Infographic  Web

“Otters of the World,” a new book by Paul and Grace Yoxon (Aug 2014)

I met Paul Yoxon at the Otter Colloquim in South African in 1993 and already then learnt how he intended to translate the interest and support of people in the UK for otters, into conservation work around the globe.

He told me then, “how can you not love otters?”

Since then, I have followed the work of Paul and Grace Yoxon at the International Otter Survival Fund and seen how they have worked with concerned people globally to help all 13 species of otters in 31 countries.

Indeed IOSF funded the search for the hairy-nosed otter in southern Thailand in 1998, at a time when we not sure if we had lost the species.

Now they announce their new book to be published in August, called “Otters of the World” which will raise awareness about otters and highlight the threats they face. They have a wealth of experience and massive amounts of photos, so I am looking forward to this!

Pre-order the book (~S$33) from the Book Depository, Amazon UK, Amazon US or the Ottershop in the UK.

All proceeds will fund otter conservation.

I’ve already ordered my first three copies!

Otters of the world

Naked Ape, Naked Boss – Kirpal on Bernard, an easy, enjoyable read of course!

Naked Ape, Naked BossI was busy with training the speakers for Evening of Biodiversity during the launch of Kirpal Singh’s book about Bernard Harrison, so one of my kakis Cynthia Lee picked up a copy for me.

She had Bernard sign it. He scrawled encouragement to look after the otters and she chuckled.

I sat down to it just now and unsurprisingly, finished it in a couple of hours. I especially liked, well all of it.

I had asked him to come for the Evening of Biodiversity but we were late in announcing this and he was already back in Bali. He would have enjoyed listening to the students speak and the small mammal studies are scientific descendants of his fathers interest.

My students are familiar with his father, Professor J. L. Harrison of the Department of Zoology at the University of Singapore as he had penned “An Introduction to Mammals of Singapore and Malaya” (1966) which they all cite. J. L. Harrison died too early at the age of 55, in 1972, possibly from scrub typhus.

Bernard Harrison’s management style was fascinating to observe, during his Singapore Zoo days and is something we wished would be more widespread. It is, however, unfortunately rare. When he left the zoo, it was for me the same feeling as when Singapore left the Malaysia Cup. Things would not would be same again.

Kirpal Singh writing about Bernard Harrison is just the sort of book to pass to my students. I encourage then to read, before they forget how and this one is easy-peasy food for thought.

Cat in my chair

I dug up this book, “Slide:ology” by Nancy Duarte (2008) to compare its contents with the procedure I used for the Evening of Biodiversity speakers these past couple of weeks.

Cleared the chair, found and unwrapped the book, turned around and found the chair claimed by Xylo the Cat.

Drats! Np, cats!


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