About Singapore’s primary & secondary forests (NParks video feat Shawn Lum)

This is an excellent video by NParks featuring forest ecologist Dr Shawn Lum, “Revealing Our Roots: Trees of Singapore”, who elegantly explains Singapore’s primary & secondary forests. I love the love the old footage interleaved into the explanation too.

As we gear up with the One Million Trees movement, it is important to appreciate the background against which we must sustain the 10-year effort.

This is now required viewing for all my students…

CLIck to join the One Million trees movement! OMT

“Otters: The waterdogs of Moyar” in Tamil Nadu, India

Kannadasan Narsimmarajan, a Conservation Leadership Programme recipient, shared this video with us at the 13th International Otter Congress.

He says the film crew shot the footage over seven days at his field sites in the River Moyar in Tamil Nadu, India, during which they were really lucky with capturing otter behaviour. They then had to work hard to keep the video length short for the unforgiving internet audience – I thought the end result was excellent! He uploaded this to Youtube and Vimeo just four days ago.

It is interesting that they call the smooth-coated otters “waterdogs”. That was the recorded name used by peninsular Malays in the 19th century – “Anjing Ayer“. Indeed otters are mustelids, one of the Caniformia, or dog-like carnivorans.

John Kerry (US State Dept) asks, “What will you do to help protect the ocean?”

John Kerry of the US State Department on human threat on our oceans and how we might protect it:

From the ourocean2014.state.gov webpage:

“Our ocean today is at grave risk – and it’s not happening by accident. Human activity is the cause. Harmful fishing practices, even illegal fishing; giant garbage patches; hundreds of dead zones; and rising carbon dioxide levels – all of it threatens life under the sea. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Governments, communities, and individuals can act now to reverse these trends. We can protect the ocean if we all start treating it like ‘our ocean.’”

‘The US Department of State will host the “Our Ocean” Conference on 16 & 17 June (#OurOcean2014). Invited individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities will gather lessons learned, share the best science, offer unique perspectives, and demonstrate effective action.

They aim to chart a way forward, working individually and together, to protect “Our Ocean.”’

The conference will be accessible on the internet.

They add, “wherever you live, you can help in some way. We can make a healthier ocean, for this generation and those to come.”
And ask. “What will you do to help protect our ocean?

“Show your support and tell others how you’ll make this commitment…”

  • I will let my national and local leaders know that protecting our ocean is important to me.
  • I will ask whether my seafood has been caught in a sustainable manner.
  • I will not eat shark fin soup.
  • I will not throw trash into our ocean or waterways.
  • I will volunteer at least one day a year to help clean our waterways or beaches.

Visit ourocean2014.state.gov/#s-action to make your pledge and help raise awareness of the conference and the awareness of marine pollution,sustainable fisheries and ocean acidification by joining the Thunderclap!

Our Ocean

“Love of my life” (Queen)

Queen was an extraordinary band, and at Live Aid on 13 Jul 1985, amidst an array of star performers, they created their finest moment and the 72,000 Wembley audience sang, clapped and cheered with them throughout their 20 minutes.

Their set featured six of their songs in an almost seamless medley: Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, Hammer to Fall, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions. Everyone realised that the unlikely Queen had stolen the show!

"Queen, their finest moment at Live Aid," by Peter Stanford. The Telegraph, 24 Sep 2011. Queen stole the show in front of a worldwide audience of two billion at Live Aid. Link

Queen would go on to perform the momentus Wembley concert in 1986. The videos are on YouTube and DVD and in this clip they are closing against Brian May's guitar rendition of "God Save The Queen" which the British audience sings to.

Brian May, an astrophysicist and animal rights campaigner, later plays "God Save The Queen" from the roof of Buckingham Palace for QE2's golden jubilee in 2002:

But it wasn't all electric guitar, here Brian coaxes beautiful tones with the mercurial Freddy at Queen's Wembley concert, playing "Love of My Life" as they always did together at concerts.

Freddie Mercury died in 1991. The loss was felt worldwide and back here in Singapore, at the Department of Zoology in NUS, grad student Christine Tan and myself turned up in black to mourn our loss. 

Brian May, who has said Freddie is in his thoughts every day, would dedicate "Love of My Life" to his now deceased lead singer in concerts around the world.

In this instance, he dedicates the song to Freddie's mum, present that night. May and the audience sing the song together, as they used to with Freddie:

In the comments, a fan who must miss Freddie very much, says, “I’m a grown man. Why am I crying? :O

Yes, Tanglish! “Why This Kolaveri Di” Youtube hit is the top song of 2011

I stumbled on this video on a facebook comment somewhere, Why This Kolaveri Di, and am tickled by the melody, rhythm and instrumentation.

This has raked up more than 30 millions hits on YouTube since it went up on 16 Nov 2011, obviously from India but also from Japan, amongst others. Described as “genre bending,” the song uses ancient south Indian folk rhythms, vocal styles and instruments. With everyone in the right mood, this was penned in minutes by a young composer who has decided to enjoy the success in case its his last! According to CNN, this title song for the upcoming movie “3” was the most popular song in 2011. It had featured in a flash mob performance in New Zealand and is being used to combat road rage in some parts of India and last I heard, the composer’s been invited to dinner by the Indian PM.

The lyrics were conjured up in a simple form of Tanglish (mixture of Tamil and English) – meant to depict a drunk boy singing about his rejection by his girlfriend; the title means Why This Murderous Rage, Girl? Oooh!

Wikipedia has the details and is quite well referenced.

BBC Radio discussed the hit, I think in the first week. Similarly, some of my non-Indian friends with their pulse on Indian movies and music knew all about this months ago. That’s genre bending enough for me.

Birdstrike! Paraglider entangles White-rumped Vulture over the Himalayas

Vladimir Tsarkov goes on his maiden flight as a paraglider and surprises a pair of vultures over the Himalayas – his helmet camera captures the incident dramatically!

Himalayan Vulture crashes into Vladimir_Tsarkov-02nov2011BBC.mov

The birds look to be White-rumped Vultures (Gyps bengalensis) from the underwing pattern:

White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)

The vultures were likely to have been soaring and struggled to manouever out of his way. The lower elevation vulture banks sharply and dives below the paraglider to escape collision.

Paragliding involves “sitting in a harness suspended below a hollow fabric wing whose shape is formed by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.”

Paraglidng by Greg O'Beirne

So ironically, Vladimir Tsarkov was soaring, just like the vultures.

Well, the other vulture tried to rise above the paraglider and got entangled in the rig. The aerodynamic surface compromised, he, or rather they, started falling!

Himalayan Vulture crashes into Vladimir_Tsarkov-02nov2011BBC.mov

See the video, “Paraglider brought down by bird strike over Himalayas,” BBC News Asia, 02 Nov 2011. You’ll like the narrative, presenter was good.

Gyps bengalensis was once possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world, but disappeared from most of South-East Asia in the early 20th century. It is now Critically Endangered due to catastrophic decline in the 1990’s primarily due poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac as they fed on carcasses of animals treated with the widespread drug.

Ladybug discovers “Battle of Kruger”


“Oh no baby buffalo!”


“C’mon, c’mon, who win, who win, Lion you can do it!”

“Uh-oh, buffalo come!”

“Rawr, reawr!”

“OH SHOOTS! OOOHHH….Run, run, run, run!”

“It’s injured…”

“It’s so scary”

“Oh no, no. no. no. *high-pitched; knocks table”


Ladybug discovers “Battle at Kruger” (revealed on Youtube in 2007) via a blog post of my former student Pamela Soo whom she just met.

I used this in LSM3251 Ecology in the early days and then LSM1303 Animal Behaviour regularly and sometimes in LSM3261 Form and Function.

Sometimes when there are enough assembled in the lecture theatre early, I decide to entertain the early birds.

I usually throw in a preamble relevant to the module but always, I ask that they listen to the voice of the woman tourist and her South African guide. This is a classic.

The scenery and sounds on the KTM train, from Woodlands Checkpoint to Ghim Moh

My last journey on the KTM train was in the last week of its operations after visiting Taman Negara by way of Jerantut. I had left after some intense work setting up International Coastal Cleanup Singapore immediately after exam marks were submitted in May and had simply grabbed my stuff and left.

Taking the train was the usual way and on my way back, it dawned on me that this was one of the last few rides into Tanjong Pagar Station. So I stayed at the doorway of a carriage and filmed the ride back from Woodlands Checkpoint to Ghim Moh until I ran out of camera battery!

Happily another camera (you can see a hand holding a camera stick out the window at times) has the complete journey albeit from a tighter view. I’d upload that to Vimeo in due time for another post.

The phrase “activity started” you hear at the beginning is the Runkeeper app on the iPhone which returned this route:

KTM to Singapore - 24.46 km | RunKeeper

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 Water.org.

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!