JURONG BIRD PARK 45th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS CONTINUE IN JUNE WITH ‘HOME TWEET HOME’

Project aims to highlight importance of avian conservation in Southeast Asia; Festivities include painting miniature birdhouses, arts and crafts, and ‘Birthday baby trail’

Image 1 [LEFT] A dedicated docent painting nest boxes which will be sent to Begawan Foundation and Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Indonesia
Image 2 [RIGHT] These beautifully hand-painted nest boxes will be used by the endangered Bali Mynah and Black-winged Starling species in Indonesia

Singapore, 22 May 2016 – In celebration of its 45th anniversary, Jurong Bird Park has launched the ‘Home Tweet Home’ project which aims to highlight the importance of conservation for Southeast Asia bird species such as the critically endangered Bali Mynah and Black-winged Starling, among many others.

As a kick off, over 30 docents in Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) parks spent Sunday morning lovingly hand painting 45 nest boxes that will be used in conservation captive breeding programmes of two critically endangered bird species – the Bali Mynah and Black-winged Starling  in their native Indonesia. In the month of June, guests to Jurong Bird Park can see some of the nest boxes and even try their hand at painting a miniature version for a small donation to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “Around 45 Southeast Asian bird species are listed as critically endangered today, and the threats they face include habitat loss and poaching for the illegal pet trade among others. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Jurong Bird Park, we remain committed to giving these threatened species a chance to survive into the future with our continued support of local and Southeast Asian bird conservation. We hope to raise awareness and engage our guests on the plight of these birds and for them to join us on our efforts to help these birds.”

The 45 birdhouses painted as part of the Home Tweet Home project will be sent to WRS’ regional conservation partners Begawan Foundation and Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre.

ABANDONED CRITICALLY ENDANGERED BABY PANGOLIN SUCCESSFULLY HAND-RAISED AT NIGHT SAFARI

Pangolin baby had 50 per cent chance of survival under human care;
Guests can find out more about the elusive creature at park’s upcoming keeper interaction programme

IMAGE 1 (left): Found weak, hungry, and wandering alone at Upper Thomson Road on 22 February this year, the abandoned critically endangered Sunda pangolin was taken to Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s rescued wildlife centre where vets made a desperate attempt to hand-raise him. To encourage his natural behaviour, the baby pangolin is taken for walks every morning and evening. Foraging exercises the critically endangered animal’s keen sense of smell and strong claws.

IMAGE 2 (right): The abandoned baby pangolin was bottle-fed kitten milk replacer (KMR), a substitute for his mother’s milk, before being introduced to ants’ eggs, which he now relishes. Eventually, the pangolin will progress to the captive diet, a protein-rich formula which includes minced beef, ants’ eggs, mealworms and insectivore supplements.

PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE, 7 April 2016 — Hungrily lapping up ants’ eggs, vigorously burrowing around his play tub and stubbornly clinging on to his caretaker’s arm despite being coaxed off—all heartening signs that the abandoned critically endangered baby Sunda pangolin was flourishing under the doting care of his human foster parents. This was a cause for celebration, for the robust creature today is a far cry from the wisp he had been weeks before.

Found weak, hungry, and wandering alone at Upper Thomson Road on 22 February, the four-month old pangolin was taken to Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s (WRS) rescued wildlife centre where vets made a desperate attempt to hand-raise him—a mammoth task as the delicate species generally does not thrive under human care.

The first and biggest challenge was his diet. While healthy, the baby rejected kitten milk replacer (KMR) as he was used to his mother’s milk. In addition, the scaly anteater was at a crucial point in his life of weaning off milk onto solid food, a diet of ants and termites. This change in diet caused intestinal issues and vets had to provide 24 hour care to the precious, critically endangered baby.

After a precarious one and a half week period, the pangolin proved resilient. He started drinking KMR four times a day and now relishes ants’ eggs. His milk intake has been reduced to twice daily and he is being eased into a specialised diet which the adult pangolins at Night Safari take.

Apart from diet, to encourage his natural behaviour, the baby pangolin is taken for walks every morning and evening on forested grounds. Foraging exercises the critically endangered animal’s keen sense of smell and strong claws.

Having grown from 776g to 1.1kg, the young pangolin’s makeshift quarters was upgraded to accommodate his growth. He now resides in the veterinary ward with a roomy tub for play and rest, complete with a large branch to climb on. When fully grown, a male Sunda pangolin can weigh up to 7.5kg.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said, “Successfully raising a Sunda pangolin from such a young age is a real achievement. This critically endangered species has notoriously low survival rates under human care, and this experience has given us invaluable knowledge on how to care for the species.”

Once the baby pangolin is independent and graduates to the captive diet, he will join the seven Sunda pangolins at Night Safari’s Fishing Cat Trail, two of which were born under human care. Night Safari opened the world’s first Sunda pangolin exhibit in 2009.

The Sunda pangolin is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species. Globally, all eight species of pangolins are threatened with extinction as a result of unsustainable illegal trade to supply human consumption and traditional medicine in East Asia. In Singapore, the Sunda pangolin is threatened with habitat loss and motor vehicle accidents. WRS is funding ecological and genetic studies of this species whose natural history is not well understood.

As part of WRS’ efforts to highlight the plight of this dwindling species, Night Safari will begin its new keeper interaction cum feeding programme in mid-May. During the session, a keeper will educate visitors on the pangolin’s history and situation in the wild while pangolin feeding takes place in the exhibit. Due to their secretive nature, few know about the world’s only scaly mammal, so the session will provide rare insights of this creature’s natural behaviour, such as climbing trees and foraging for food.

*IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of NatureImage 3_Baby pangolin climbs tree_WRS

 IMAGE 3 (left): Learning to climb trees exercises the tree-dwelling Sunda pangolin’s strong claws and semi-prehensile tail (tails which are capable of grasping), which it uses to grip bark and scale trees. Having grown bigger and stronger, he has taken to wrapping his tail around his caregiver’s arm, unwilling to let go.

PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

 

 

 

Image 4_Snoozing baby pangolin_WRS

 

 

 

IMAGE 4 (left): The baby pangolin curls up as he snoozes soundly. He only learnt to curl fully on 3 March 2016, as pictured. Curling up into a tight ball is the pangolin’s best defense against predators but ironically its worst defense against human beings, as it allows poachers to easily pick it up and toss it into a bag.
PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Image 5_Baby pangolin eats ants eggs_WRS

IMAGE 5 (left): The pangolin’s caregivers add his favourite ants’ eggs to the captive diet to encourage him to take it, but the sneaky baby would pick out just the ants’ eggs and leave the rest untouched.
PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE PRESENTS WORLD’S RAREST BABIES TO MARK WORLD ANIMAL DAY 2014

Critically endangered Sunda pangolin, cotton-top tamarin and southern river terrapin
among animal births this year; giant river otters produce two babies.

Radin, Night Safari’s third and newest Sunda pangolin baby, rests in the protective clutch of his mother Nita. Found throughout primary and secondary forests of Southeast Asia, Sunda pangolins, also known as Malayan pangolins, are critically endangered as populations in the wild are experiencing rapid decline. Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Radin, Night Safari’s third and newest Sunda pangolin baby, rests in the protective clutch of his mother Nita. Found throughout primary and secondary forests of Southeast Asia, Sunda pangolins, also known as Malayan pangolins, are critically endangered as populations in the wild are experiencing rapid decline.
Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Singapore, 2 October 2014 – To mark World Animal Day this year, Wildlife Reserves Singapore announced the arrival of some of the world’s rarest babies, among them the critically endangered Sunda pangolin that is native to Singapore.

Between January and August 2014, over 400 animal babies were born or hatched in Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari and Singapore Zoo. Nearly one in four babies belongs to animals listed as ‘threatened’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species* and these include the Bali mynah, Javan langur, proboscis monkey and giant anteater.

The birth of a critically endangered Sunda pangolin in Night Safari is one of the most iconic births for WRS as the species is native to Singapore and is the logo for the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund. Night Safari is the world’s first zoological institution to house the elusive, solitary, nocturnal creature which in recent years has been driven closer to extinction by illegal animal trafficking, habitat loss and being hunted for their meat and scales at an unsustainable level. This is the third successful birth of a Sunda pangolin in WRS since 2011.

Another exciting development comes from the giant river otters at River Safari which displays this rare species for the first time in Asia. While their first pup in 2013 did not survive, the giant otters are now proud parents of two new pups. Parents Carlos and Carmen have become more experienced in raising their young and have started teaching the pups how to swim.

Giant river otter Carmen brings her pups for a swimming lesson at River Safari – the first zoological institution in Asia to display this endangered species. Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Giant river otter Carmen brings her pups for a swimming lesson at River Safari – the first zoological institution in Asia to display this endangered species.
Photo credit: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Over at Jurong Bird Park, a Goliath palm cockatoo is successfully bred for the first time. Goliath palm cockatoos have one of the lowest hand-rearing success rates among the parrot species due to their specialised diet. The park also successfully bred eight critically endangered Bali mynahs. Conservation efforts for the species intensified in 2010 – the year which marked the start of a partnership with Indonesia’s Begawan Foundation. Bred specifically to increase the off-site numbers of Bali mynahs in the wild, all progenies will eventually be sent back to Bali.

Singapore Zoo is ecstatic to welcome the births of two critically endangered species to its collection: the cotton-top tamarin and southern river terrapin. Singapore Zoo also saw the birth of an endangered proboscis monkey this May and the park continues to house the largest collection of proboscis monkeys in the world, outside of Indonesia.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “The world is undergoing an unprecedented loss of wildlife as a direct result of human related activities. Each of these births represents a precious glimmer of hope in our effort to help save the planet’s biodiversity. Many of them are part of coordinated conservation breeding programmes to safeguard against extinction in the wild. All of them are invaluable ambassadors for their species
to connect our visitors to the need for their protection.”

*International Union for Conservation of Nature

EXPERTS AIM TO SAVE ONE OF SINGAPORE’S MOST THREATENED UNIQUE SPECIES AT INAUGURAL ROUNDTABLE ON FRESHWATER CRAB CONSERVATION

NParks, NUS, IUCN, and WRS among agencies collaborating to save endemic crabs, including Johora singaporensis which is among the 100 most threatened species in the world.

Singapore, 29 March 2014Johora singaporensis, commonly called the Singapore freshwater crab, is arguably one of the most threatened unique species of Singapore. To discuss ways to develop an overall plan for conservation of this species, experts convened in the inaugural Roundtable on Freshwater Crab Conservation which began with a two-day closed-door panel discussion, and concluded with a public forum on 29 March 2014.

The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. Found only in Singapore, it grows up to 3cm across the carapace, or the shell, and up to 5cm with the legs stretched out. It performs an important role in the proper functioning of hill streams by helping in nutrient recycling, and is potentially an indicator of pollution and climate change. PHOTO CREDITS: DANIEL NG
The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. Found only in Singapore, it grows up to 3cm across the carapace, or the shell, and up to 5cm with the legs stretched out. It performs an important role in the proper functioning of hill streams by helping in nutrient recycling, and is potentially an
indicator of pollution and climate change. PHOTO CREDITS: DANIEL NG

The four organisations involved are National Parks Board (NParks), National University of Singapore (NUS), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). The inaugural Roundtable on Freshwater Crab Conservation is funded by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund.

First discovered and described in 1986, the Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis) is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, and is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. This endemic species, only found in Singapore, grows up to 3cm across the carapace, or the shell, and up to 5cm with the legs stretched out. It performs an important role in the proper functioning of hill streams by helping in nutrient recycling, and is potentially an indicator of pollution and climate change.

The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. Found only in Singapore, it grows up to 3cm across the carapace, or the shell, and up to 5cm with the legs stretched out. It performs an important role in the proper functioning of hill streams by helping in nutrient recycling, and is potentially an indicator of pollution and climate change. PHOTO CREDITS: CAI YIXIONG
The critically endangered Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis), is among the 100 most threatened species in the world. Found only in Singapore, it grows up to 3cm across the carapace, or the shell, and up to 5cm with the legs stretched out. It performs an important role in the proper functioning of hill streams by helping in nutrient recycling, and is potentially an indicator of pollution and climate change. PHOTO CREDITS: CAI YIXIONG

“When I discovered and named this species in the 1980s, I had no idea that its future would be a matter of debate and concern some 25 years on,” said Professor Peter Ng of the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science. “It heartens me that so many people are now trying to save this ‘insignificant invertebrate’ from imminent extinction. It would indeed have been a dark tragedy if discovering the species all those years ago was merely a prelude to its extinction. I hope it is not.”

“Crabs such as Johora singaporensis are typically found in hill streams, which is a rare habitat in Singapore to begin with, being restricted to only the central part of the island,” added Assistant Professor Darren Yeo, who is also with the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science.

Decade-long monitoring of the populations of Johora singaporensis has revealed that these crabs have an environmental preference for relatively clean and fast-flowing streams in the highlands with a near neutral pH. Presently, the crab is found largely in Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. They can persist even in small fragmented habitats under the right conditions. Current conservation efforts include plans to establish a breeding programme, as well as an ongoing two-year research project launched in 2013 by NParks and NUS to study the conditions of the crabs’ existing habitats and possible remedial actions. As conservation efforts gain momentum, the next important milestone is to gather key stakeholders together to improve them.

The Roundtable on Freshwater Crab Conservation brings together key stakeholders involved in conservation of the iconic Johora singaporensis, for consolidation and dissemination of results of ongoing freshwater crab conservation efforts in Singapore. Foreign and local ecologists including researchers from the National University of Singapore and officers from the National Parks Board working on Johora singaporensis, as well as other members from Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Nature Society Singapore, Ministry of Defence, Singapore Land Authority, National Environment Agency, Public Utilities Board, and Urban Redevelopment Authority have all been invited to participate, brainstorm, contribute their unique perspectives, and help mould a future conservation plan for this species.

Dr Lena Chan, Director of National Biodiversity Centre, NParks, said, “NParks is committed to the conservation of our native freshwater organisms, particularly endemic species like the Singapore Freshwater Crab Johora singaporensis, Johnson’s Freshwater Crab Irmengardia johnsoni and Swamp Forest Crab Parathelphusa reticulata. We look forward to our usual amicable multi-agency co-operation which is crucial for the success of this conservation initiative.”

Dr Neil Cumberlidge, Chair of the IUCN SSC Freshwater Crab and Crayfish Specialist Group, and Dr Philip McGowan of the IUCN Species Survival Conservation Planning Sub-Committee will both participate in the Roundtable, adding valuable inputs to the design of the conservation plan. Dr McGowan said, “Effective conservation in today’s world has to balance the needs of species with those of people and their interests. Our approach has evolved to reflect that. The purpose of strategic planning is to understand what is driving the threats to the Singapore freshwater crab and then develop a holistic and realistic way forward that gives this iconic species the best chance of survival. Strategic planning on its own will not save the species, but the understanding and agreement that is part of the planning process, greatly improves its survival prospects.”

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore said, “Wildlife Reserves Singapore is continuously exploring ways we can work with field researchers, and contribute to the ex-situ conservation of Johora singaporensis. A possible method may be to establish a trial breeding project in River Safari for these native crabs, followed by the eventual reintroduction of the species into restored, rehabilitated streams.”

This Roundtable is also indicative of Singapore’s willingness and seriousness regarding the protection of its freshwater biodiversity and the ‘not-so-charismatic’ fauna.

WORLD’S RAREST TORTOISES TO LOSE FACE VALUE

Tattooing the tortoise and keeping Ploughshares out of the Illegal Trade
Tattooing the tortoise and keeping Ploughshares out of the Illegal Trade

Singapore, 16th December 2013 – Conservation organizations fighting to save one of the world’s most threatened tortoises from poachers are resorting to a drastic measure—engraving identification codes onto the animals’ shells to reduce their black market value.

Although fully protected, Ploughshare Tortoises are prized for their beautiful high domed shells, but are being pushed closer to the brink of extinction due to high demand as unique and exotic pets. Engraving a tortoise’s shell makes it less desirable to traffickers and easier for enforcement agencies to trace.

Found only in north‐western Madagascar, the tortoise is Critically Endangered and only an estimated 400 adults remain in the wild. Numbers have been devastated through illegal collection and export to meet the international demand for the pet trade, especially in South‐East Asia, where they are sold in markets particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

In March, two smugglers were arrested with 52 Ploughshare Tortoises in suitcases while attempting to enter Thailand, where traders redistribute the animals to dealers locally and abroad. This was the largest ever seizure of Ploughshare Tortoises in Southeast Asia. One of the smugglers, a Malagasy woman was jailed, while the other, a Thai man, was released on bail.

This case exemplifies the increased audacity of smugglers, the urgency of the situation and the need for enforcement agencies to take the illegal trade in this species far more seriously. Based on seizures reported in the media, at least 86 Ploughshare Tortoises have been seized since 2010. Over 60% of these seizures occurred in Thailand while remaining seizures took place in Madagascar and Malaysia; with at least one of the shipments destined for Indonesia.

Four organisations – Wildlife Reserves Singapore, TRAFFIC, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Turtle Conservancy – are joining forces to hold a “Tattoo the Tortoise” event on 16th December at Singapore Zoo to raise awareness of the plight of the Ploughshare and to build support to fight trafficking in the species.

Singapore Zoo currently houses two Ploughshare Tortoises which were confiscated by the Agri‐Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore in 2009. The pair will be used to establish an ‘assurance colony’ in Singapore. The top shell of each tortoise will be engraved during this event – a first for South‐East Asia.

The event will include presentations by experts working on the conservation of these tortoises and an exhibition open to the public. These activities provide an opportunity for the public, governments and other relevant bodies to learn about the dire situation these animals face, and what they can do to save the Ploughshare Tortoises.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Chris R Shepherd, Regional Director, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
T: +6012 2340790, E: chris.shepherd@traffic.org

Ms Natt Haniff, Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications, Wildlife Reserve s Singapore
T: +65 6360 8659 / +65 9362 8115, E: natt.haniff@wrs.com.sg

Mr Richard Lewis, Madagascar Programme Director, Durrell Wildlife Conservati on Trust
E: Richard.Lewis@durrell.org

Ms Kaitlyn‐Elizabeth Foley, Program Officer and Grants Manager, Turtle Conserv ancy
T: +01 212 353‐5060, E: kaitlyn@turtleconservancy.org

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED MEKONG GIANT CATFISH SPLASHES INTO RIVER SAFARI

Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park home to some of the world’s largest species of freshwater fish.

Singapore, 6 March 2013 – One of the many giants of River Safari – the Mekong giant catfish – moved into the soon-to-be-opened wildlife park today. This species is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, capable of growing up to 3 metres in length and nearly 300 kilogrammes in weight.

Found mainly in the lower Mekong River in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Mekong Giant Catfish is critically endangered as a result of human activities such as overfishing, pollution and the looming construction of hydroelectric dams. Experts estimate that the total population has decreased by 90% in the last decade, with only a few hundred individuals remaining in the wild.

As Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park, River Safari aims to create a greater awareness of freshwater habitat conservation by bringing visitors up close to fascinating animals – like the Mekong Giant Catfish – that are dependent on freshwater habitats. In addition, through captive breeding programmes, River Safari hopes to contribute to the population of endangered freshwater species.

Aquarists prepare to move the Mekong Giant Catfish – one of the world’s largest species of freshwater fish – into its aquarium at the Mekong River zone of the soon-to-be-opened River Safari. The Mekong Giant Catfish in River Safari were obtained from the only captive breeder in Thailand and arrived at the park’s holding facility in May 2010.
Aquarists prepare to move the Mekong Giant Catfish – one of the world’s largest species of freshwater fish – into its aquarium at the Mekong River zone of the soon-to-be-opened River Safari. The Mekong Giant Catfish in River Safari were obtained from the only captive breeder in Thailand and arrived at the park’s holding facility in May 2010.
A group of school children were among the first to marvel at the aquarium which houses the Mekong Giant Catfish (centre, right), one of the largest species of freshwater fish, on the day they were moved into the soon-to-be-opened River Safari. The aquarium is the highlight of the Mekong River zone and will also feature other megafishes such as the Giant Freshwater Stingray.
A group of school children were among the first to marvel at the aquarium which houses the Mekong Giant Catfish (centre, right), one of the largest species of freshwater fish, on the day they were moved into the soon-to-be-opened River Safari. The aquarium is the highlight of the Mekong River zone and will also feature other megafishes such as the Giant Freshwater Stingray.
Despite its extraordinary size, the Mekong Giant Catfish (that can be seen at the soon-to-be opened River Safari) is a herbivore that lives on a diet of algae and other plants on the riverbed. River Safari aims to create a greater awareness of freshwater habitat conservation by bringing visitors up close to fascinating underwater and terrestrial animals that are dependent on freshwater habitats.
Despite its extraordinary size, the Mekong Giant Catfish (that can be seen at the soon-to-be opened River Safari) is a herbivore that lives on a diet of algae and other plants on the riverbed. River Safari aims to create a greater awareness of freshwater habitat conservation by bringing visitors up close to fascinating underwater and terrestrial animals that are dependent on freshwater habitats.

SINGAPORE BRED, CRITICALLY ENDANGERED BALI MYNAHS RETURN HOME

SUCCESSFUL CAPTIVE BREEDING BY JURONG BIRD PARK PROMOTES REINTRODUCTION OF PROGENIES BACK INTO THE WILD

Singapore, 27 July 2011 – It’s a call for celebration as three Bali mynahs bred at the world’s largest bird park have returned to their native home in Indonesia.

As part of Wildlife Reserves Singapore’ joint conservation programme with Begawan Foundation, 2 male and 1 female three-year-old Bali Mynahs, successfully bred at Jurong Bird Park have been sent to Bali to increase the gene pool and boost the population of these critically endangered birds.

“We are very excited about the reintroduction of these lovely birds in Bali. We have been breeding them successfully since 1990 and 10 of them are in our collection now. Captive breeding programmes like ours will ensure the survival of such precious wildlife for future generations,” said Mr Raja Segran, General Curator, Jurong Bird Park.

“We are very proud to be working together with Jurong Bird Park’s parent organization, Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The arrival of the three Bali starlings from Jurong Bird Park adds to the professionalism of our breeding programme, and ensures improved breeding stock for future release on the mainland,” said Mr Bradley T. Gardner, Founder, Begawan Foundation.

The Bali Mynahs from Jurong Bird Park will be paired at Begawan Foundation’s Breeding Center and their progenies will be released into the wild.

The Bali Mynah, or better known as the Bali Starling was registered as an endangered bird species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1970 and is now classified as one of the most critically endangered animals in the world.

Bali Mynahs, the only animals endemic to the island of Bali, are famous for their clear white feathers, black-tipped wings and vivid blue skin around their eyes. They are often captured for the illegal pet trade. Coupled with rapid habitat destruction, this species is close to extinction in the wild with approximately fewer than 50 of them left in the wild.

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Olesen

SINGAPORE ZOO LOOKS SET TO EXPAND ITS FAMILY OF RARE GIANT RIVER TERRAPINS

Singapore, 28 December 2010 – Only a handful of these elusive and rare giant river terrapins are known to be left in their native homeland Cambodia – but the Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four of them, with more expected to join the family of eight in the months to come.

Both female terrapins at the zoo were recently found to be gravid with eggs, which are due to be laid anytime now. X-ray examinations on 13 December 2010 revealed that they were carrying over 40 eggs between them. The incubation period for these terrapins ranges from 68 to 112 days.

Giant river terrapins lay their eggs only once a year and the Singapore Zoo has successfully had four hatchlings to date in 2007 and 2009 – two of which are now on display at the Proboscis Monkey pool, while the others are behind the scenes in our turtle hatchery facility. The park is currently home to the two adult females, two adult males and the four hatchlings. Considered an extremely rare species, this breed, also known as Batagur affinis, is native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sumatra.

“It is relatively easy to get the terrapins to mate but the challenge is getting them to nest on an artificial beach. In the past, the terrapins have laid their clutches of eggs in water and we were only able to rescue a few of the eggs. This is why we have had only a small number of hatchlings despite each clutch consisting over 20 eggs,” said Biswajit Guha, Director, Singapore Zoo. “Similarly in the wild, as they migrate to their nesting beach, they can be deterred from laying their eggs by disturbances on or around the beach.”

During the mating season, the males’ head, neck and legs turn black and their irises change, from yellow to pure white, with the colours reverting at the end of the mating season. Females swim far upstream from their usual estuarine habitats, as far as 80km, to nest communally on sand bars and river banks.

Due to their picky breeding requirements and obscure nature, conservationists have tried very hard to rebuild their dwindling populations. In fact, this species was thought to be extinct in Cambodia until some specimens were rediscovered in 2001. They play a key role in the overall ecosystem by aiding in seed dispersal and vegetation management, controlling insect and snail populations, and keeping freshwater systems clean by scavenging on dead animals.

The giant river terrapin is listed as critically endangered in the 2009 IUCN Red List and in CITES Appendix I. This species and other Asian turtles are in grave danger for a number of reasons including the thriving illegal wildlife trade, and their appeal as a delicacy in Asia.

Earlier this year, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which operates the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to embark on joint studies in the region, including a project to conserve giant river terrapins in Asia. WRS also works closely with local authorities and conservation groups such as Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to re- home confiscated wild turtles and tortoises or distribute them to partner zoos to be integrated into breeding programmes and educational animal exhibits.

A giant river terrapin nesting on an artificial beach at Singapore Zoo’s Bornean Marsh exhibit
An x-ray showing the terrapin’s eggs

CRITICALLY-ENDANGERED BANDED LEAF MONKEYS CONTINUE TO BREED IN SINGAPORE

BREAKTHROUGH RESEARCH BY NUS, NPARKS AND WRSCF FINDS NEW EVIDENCE ON POPULATION GROWTH

Singapore, April 10, 2010 – A National University of Singapore (NUS) research team, in collaboration with National Parks Board (NParks) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF), has found breakthrough evidence that the population of banded leaf monkeys, believed to be on the verge of extinction since two decades ago, has been growing in Singapore’s forests. This includes the first-ever observations of breeding for the critically-endangered banded leaf monkeys in Singapore and is especially momentous, as 2010 has been designated International Year of Biodiversity.

Research findings point to significant milestones as the banded leaf monkey is one of only three species of non-human primates native to Singapore. Rare, elusive and threatened by habitat loss, the banded leaf monkey is critically endangered. It is part of Singapore’s natural heritage and has the potential of becoming a flagship species for conservation efforts.

This conservation research project was spearheaded by NUS student Andie Ang Hui Fang since July 2008 under the guidance of Associate Professor Rudolf Meier from the NUS Evolutionary Biology Lab, and assisted by Mirza Rifqi Ismail, an NParks research officer. Assistant Professor Michael Gumert from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also provided invaluable counsel throughout the project.

WRSCF, through the Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund (AMMCF) funded the research and provided equipment support. AMMCF, the first recipient of WRSCF, received $500,000 over a five-year period for conducting academic research and studies pertaining to endangered wildlife. The banded leaf monkey project is the first to receive funding from AMMCF.

The goal of this project is to identify the life history parameters of the banded leaf monkey in Singapore, including its population size, feeding ecology, intra- and inter-specific interactions and threats they are faced with in order to support its conservation efforts.

The research has uncovered important evidence that the population of banded leaf monkeys in Singapore has grown to at least 40 individuals, more than the previous estimates of 10 in the 1980s, and 10-15 in the 1990s. The research has collected first findings on the breeding cycle and species of plants they feed on, some of which are rare and locally endangered.

One particularly encouraging finding is that the females are reproducing successfully with at least one breeding cycle every July and infants observed. The project also used non-invasive sampling techniques to obtain genetic information that have helped to clarify the species’ taxonomic status in comparison with populations of banded leaf monkeys found in Southern Malaysia.

The project will continue with the monitoring of population changes and analysing of the botanical composition of the forest in order to examine the sustainability of the habitat for the monkeys. As part of the plan, a population viability assessment will be carried out and important forest fragments will be identified in the hope of connecting the fragments through reforestation. The information gathered will also be used to develop a management plan for conserving one of the last remaining primate species in Singapore.

Professor Peter Ng, Director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and the Tropical Marine Science Institute at NUS, said, “As a global university centred in Asia, NUS is well placed to address the myriad of challenges associated with urban city states, sustainable development and conservation. The university has a long history of biodiversity research, its Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research being one of the oldest and most highly regarded natural history museums in the region. Its researchers and affiliated staff from the Department of Biological Sciences are active in modern, often cross-disciplinary, research in many parts of Southeast Asia and they have contributed substantially to our understanding of the region’s biodiversity. In Singapore, NUS researchers work closely with various government agencies to generate baseline information and to ensure that key habitats and species are conserved; and there are also long term plans for monitoring their survival.”

Prof Ng added, “This is the International Year of Biodiversity and NUS is pleased to contribute to global efforts to slow down biodiversity erosion and promote the cause of conservation. The banded leaf monkey project and the suite of conservation projects currently undertaken by NUS researchers and students are important steps toward this long term goal.”

Dr Lena Chan, Deputy Director of National Biodiversity Centre (NParks) said: “The research findings are very exciting. We had thought for a long time that the banded leaf monkey population is on the decline but the findings show the contrary. This shows that with good management our nature reserves do have the potential to reverse population declines for endangered species. It also underscores the importance of safeguarding the reserves and keeping them healthy so that existing native species can continue to thrive.”

“It is most apt that these significant research findings are unveiled this year—the International Year of Biodiversity. Despite Singapore’s highly urbanised environment and land constraints, Singapore remains a safe haven for species that can live in small patches of lowland tropical forest, mangroves, freshwater swamp forest, seagrass beds, mudflats and coral reefs. This has been made possible through the protection of remaining patches of native vegetation and marine ecosystems and this approach has been successful in conserving the remaining biodiversity in a city setting. The banded leaf monkey project is one such effort to protect and conserve our natural heritage,” said Professor Leo Tan, Board of Trustee for WRSCF.

Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a strong advocate of conservation applauded the research efforts: “The biological diversity of our planet faces as great a crisis as our climate system. The loss of biodiversity poses a threat to our health, wealth and the ecosystems which sustain life. This is why we should all do what we can to prevent the extinction of our plant and animal species. The leaf monkey is a symbol of the challenge we face.”

Further details about the banded leaf monkey project will be shared during a public lecture event, to be held at NUS on 16 Apr 2010.
For more information or to up, please visit:
http://newshub.nus.edu.sg/headlines/0410/leaf_21Apr10.php.

Banded Leaf Monkey
Banded Leaf Monkey with baby
Banded Leaf Monkey