NATIONAL STRATEGY TO CONSERVE ELUSIVE NATIVE RAFFLES’ BANDED LANGUR LAUNCHED

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Collaborative effort between Wildlife Reserves Singapore and National Parks Board to save critically endangered primate; only one of three primates found in Singapore a valued part of country’s natural heritage

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The Raffles’ Banded Langur is a shy and elusive primate that is considered critically endangered at the national level. This National Day month, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and National Parks Board are joining hands to safeguard this species’ survival with the launch of a national conservation strategy for the Raffles’ Banded Langur. PHOTO CREDITS: ANDIE ANG

SINGAPORE, 12 August 2016 – Singapore’s Raffles’ Banded Langur (Presbytis femoralis femoralis) is getting a boost this National Day month, with the launch of a national conservation strategy for the critically endangered species. Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh, who will serve as patron of the project, launched the initiative during a ceremony at Singapore Botanic Gardens today.

 

Immediate priorities include managing the habitat and population through habitat enhancement such as establishing green corridors and exploring options for providing connectivity across forest fragments, focused enrichment plantings based on our understanding of the dietary requirements of the langurs, gathering data to understand more about the movements and habitat preferences of the langurs, and securing the necessary commitment and resources to ensure the long-term conservation of the Raffles’ Banded Langur in Singapore and Malaysia.

A workshop was held at the Singapore Zoo in early August in which over 30 stakeholders from 15 organisations, including representatives from Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), National Parks Board (NParks), International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group, Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia, conservation NGOs and universities came together to jointly develop a conservation strategy for the Raffles’ Banded Langur. The workshop was funded by WRS and facilitated by IUCN.

Securing a future for the Raffles’ Banded Langur will require targeted action in a number of areas. Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund will engage Ms Andie Ang, who has studied the langurs since 2008, and is a member of IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, to set up and chair a Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group. The working group will glean outputs from the recent workshop to map out a Species Action Plan, which will be used to guide and implement the conservation work for this species in the coming years. The project is fully supported by Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund over the next two years.

One of only three non-human primates to be found locally, the Raffles’ Banded Langur was first discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles 194 years ago. Up to the 1920s, they were still reported to be common in Singapore across Changi, Tampines, Bukit Timah, Pandan and Tuas. Deforestation for urban development led to the shrinking of their habitat such that the Raffles’ Banded Langurs were confined to only the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) and Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) in the 1980s. In 1987, the last member of a troop living in BTNR was reportedly mauled to death by a pack of dogs.

By 2010, it was estimated that there were 40-60 Raffles’ Banded Langurs left in Singapore. This subspecies can also be found in southern Peninsular Malaysia, where a number of isolated populations continue to be threatened by habitat loss and conversion. Small and isolated populations have a heightened risk of extinction from the effects of genetic deterioration, extreme weather, disease outbreak and other catastrophic events.

Dr Sonja Luz, Director, Conservation and Research, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “It is a fitting time to embark on a consolidated, comprehensive and integrated conservation strategy for the Raffles’ Banded Langur, to ensure the continued survival of this highly charismatic primate. This conservation project is of national importance for Singapore, and together with NParks, we are fully committed to be a part of the pioneering approach to manage the species over the long-term so Singapore does not have a primate going extinct on our watch.”

Dr Adrian Loo, Director (Terrestrial), National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board, said: “Reforestation, setting aside buffer parks such as the upcoming Thomson Nature Park and enrichment planting over the years have improved the rainforest habitat of the endangered Raffles’ Banded Langur. This will further help increase the foraging area and connectivity for the species, which saw an increase since the early 1990s. Even so, a multi-pronged approach is required to ensure the full recovery of the species. Thus, NParks looks forward to working with our stakeholders to guide the development of long-term conservation and management strategies for this shy, elusive species. We hope to see these animals thrive in our forests one day.”

Primatologist Ms Andie Ang, of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group said: “The development of a regional Species Action Plan signifies a first collaboration between Singaporean and Malaysian authorities, universities, and NGOs in the research and conservation of the Raffles’ Banded Langurs. Besides ensuring that the habitat of the langurs is protected and restored, we hope that this joint effort can also help raise public awareness and appreciation of this primate and the natural heritage in both countries.”

RIVER SAFARI’S KAI AND JUNIOR TAKE FLIGHT FOR LANDMARK MANATEE CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

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Manatee duo and best of friends set off early this morning
on a 34-hour chartered flight to Guadeloupe; Entourage includes two vets and an aquarist

LEFT: River Safari Singapore’s team of aquarists, keepers and vets coaxing Junior into the canvas stretcher, for transfer into the travelling crate. Junior and his best friend Kai are bound for Guadeloupe as pioneer manatees for the world’s first manatee repopulation programme spearheaded by the National Park of Guadeloupe.

RIGHT: Jayce Chua, Assistant Curator, River Safari Singapore, making a final check on Kai before he and Junior are loaded onto the chartered freighter aircraft for the 19,600km journey to Guadeloupe which will take 34 hours. Kai and Junior will be the first of 15 manatees globally to arrive for the world’s first manatee repopulation programme in the creatures’ historic range in the Caribbean, where the species have not been sighted in over a century.

PHOTOS CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE, 8 August 2016River Safari Singapore’s Kai and Junior have set off on their historic journey to become the first two manatees in over a century to arrive in Guadeloupe as pioneers for the world’s first manatee repopulation programme. The pair departed Singapore at 4.50am today.

At a farewell ceremony on Sunday, Mr Mike Barclay, Group CEO of Mandai Park Holdings presented a special flight comfort kit consisting of the manatees’ favourite treats—high fibre pellets—to Mrs Laurence Beau, Deputy Head of Mission from the Embassy of France in Singapore, symbolically signifying the handing over of River Safari’s two male manatees to Guadeloupe, a French territory in the Caribbean.

The journey to Guadeloupe will take 34 hours, and Kai and Junior will travel 19,600km across the globe before finally arriving on 8 August 2016, at 1:30am local time.

Under the Antillean manatee repopulation project spearheaded by the National Park of
Guadeloupe, 15 manatees from zoos around the world will be sent to their historic home in the Grand Cul-de-sac Marin, a protected bay which measures 15,000 hectares and will shield the manatee collection from boating traffic by way of an enforced no-entry zone. In addition to age and temperament considerations, genetic diversity is also key in the selection of the founding group. The future offspring from the initial 15 manatees will be reintroduced to the wild, eventually repopulating the Caribbean region. Kai and Junior from River Safari will be the first arrivals for the landmark project.

Mr Mike Barclay, Group CEO, Mandai Park Holdings, said, “As operators of four world-class wildlife parks – Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari, and Singapore Zoo – we are committed to offering the best possible care to the animals under our charge. Aside from maintaining a healthy living collection to educate and inspire an appreciation for wildlife among our park guests, we are also committed to breeding assurance populations for threatened species and, where possible, reintroducing them back into the wild. We are happy to have the opportunity to contribute towards repopulating part of the manatees’ historic range in the Caribbean, where they have not been sighted in over a century. Projects like this allow us to do our bit to protect and conserve the world’s biodiversity.”

In the last 20 years, more than 10 manatees were bred under human care in River Safari and Singapore Zoo. Among them, Kai and Junior have been selected for the repopulation programme in Guadeloupe as they have reached sexual maturity, and are best pals inside the aquarium. Their relative young age also makes it easier for the pair to adapt to a new environment. Kai was born on 8 October 2009 and Junior was born on 2 February 2010.

 

Manatee-shaped breeding facility at National Park of Guadeloupe.jpg

The breeding grounds for the 15 manatees, aptly shaped in the form of a manatee, in Guadeloupe. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL PARK OF GUADELOUPE

Due to Kai and Junior’s massive weight, River Safari’s team of aquarists, keepers, and vets took extra care as they placed the pair into travelling crates for transportation. These crates are lined with thick sponge to ensure that Kai and Junior remain comfortable throughout the journey, and also to absorb water which has to be periodically sprayed on the manatees to keep their skin moist. As an added measure for the manatees’ comfort, the National Park of Guadeloupe and River Safari opted for a chartered flight for Kai and Junior to minimise travel time.

Two veterinarians from the National Park of Guadeloupe and River Safari’s Deputy Head Aquarist, Keith So, are accompanying Kai and Junior throughout the 34-hour journey. Kai and Junior’s favourite aquarist at River Safari, Doris Su, will depart for Guadeloupe on a separate passenger flight this evening, to help ensure they settle down well in their new environment.

Manatees are currently listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers have declined in the last century due to hunting pressures, entrapment in commercial nets, and collisions with propellers and motorboats.

 

KANGAROOS ON TREES IN SINGAPORE ZOO? ENTER THE WORLD OF MAKAIA AND NUPELA

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Singapore Zoo, a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos, is now custodian to four of 50 individuals under human care globally; Hopes for recently arrived pair to breed under
Global Species Management Plan

Images 1 and 2: Adorable, sharp-clawed, somewhat clumsy, and very rare in zoological institutions – meet Makaia (left) and Nupela (right) in Singapore Zoo this August. The pair of Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos was brought to Singapore Zoo for breeding purposes under a Global Species Management Plan, as well as to form an assurance colony in the event the species goes extinct in the wild. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE, 3 August 2016Singapore Zoo guests visiting in August can look forward to witnessing the beginnings of an epic love story between Makaia the miracle tree kangaroo and his betrothed mate Nupela, with the opening of the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo exhibit at the Australasian Zone today. The newly created indoor space will bring guests in close proximity with these fascinating creatures and offer a rare chance to observe how tree kangaroos have adapted to a life above ground.

This species stands among the rarest animals kept under human care, with only approximately 50 animals in zoos around the world. With the recent arrival of Makaia and Nupela, Singapore Zoo is now the proud custodian of four tree kangaroos.

Distinguishable by a pair of golden stripes trailing down the centre of its back, the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo is also known as the ornate tree kangaroo. Each individual’s tail sports a unique pattern of yellow rings and blotches. As its name suggests, tree kangaroos live in trees and have well-developed and muscular forelimbs, which serve them well when navigating their canopy homes in the forests of Papua New Guinea. These master climbers have noticeably broader feet than their land cousins, and padded soles tipped with sharp curved claws that allow for a better grip on tree limbs.

While often somewhat clumsy, these elusive living plush toys have a few tricks of their own for survival in the wild—they have been known to leap up to 15 metres from tree to ground without hurting themselves. In addition, while their ground cousins can only move forwards, tree kangaroos have the ability to walk backwards, which makes it easier for them to traverse their treetop terrain.

The star amongst the four tree kangaroos in Singapore Zoo is no doubt Makaia, dubbed the ‘miracle baby’ by his carers in Australia. Makaia, whose name means magic in a Papua New Guinea dialect, came from Australia’s Adelaide Zoo on 4 July 2016. In a world first for conservation, the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo made global headlines in November 2014 when he was adopted by a surrogate yellow-footed wallaby at 47 days old, after his mother’s sudden demise. When he outgrew his foster mother’s pouch, a human caregiver took over, and he became the only tree kangaroo to have the distinction of being raised by three mothers!

Nupela hailed from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, and was a local celebrity in her own right, being the first Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo to be born in the Australian zoo in over 20 years. She arrived in Singapore Zoo on 1 June 2016.

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo numbers have dwindled drastically in the last century, and in 2012, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) set up a Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) to ensure their survival. Under the GSMP, participating zoos in Australia, Europe, North America, Japan, and Singapore would cooperate to enhance the sustainability of the global population under human care, and also act as an assurance population should there be a catastrophic decline in the wild.

Makaia and Nupela are paired up under the recommendation of the GSMP. Pairing suitable individuals from participating zoos also minimises inbreeding of related animals and enhances the genetic pool of the species under human care.
Last May, a young male that was bred in Singapore Zoo was sent to Yokohama Zoo, Japan, under the recommendation of GSMP.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “We are very happy to be the proud custodian of Makaia and Nupela, under the Global Species Management Plan for Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos. Such programmes enable zoos from different countries and continents to breed threatened species in a scientific and coordinated manner to achieve demographic and genetic sustainability. Together with conservation efforts in the animals’ natural habitats, these breeding programmes help to ensure the survival of the species.”

Named after Walter Goodfellow, the British zoological collector who discovered them, this species of tree kangaroo is classified as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN* Red List of Threated Species due to unsustainable hunting and loss of habitat. In the last 50 years, its population has declined by about 50 per cent.

*International Union for the Conservation of Nature