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.

ORIENTAL PIED HORNBILL WILD POPULATION GETS A BOOST WITH JURONG BIRD PARK’S RELEASE OF THREE BIRDS IN PULAU UBIN

Release will add to the genetic pool of Oriental Pied Hornbills in the wild; bird unsighted in Singapore for over 140 years prior to 1994.

An Oriental Pied hornbill in Jurong Bird Park being measured from bill tip to rear bill intersection prior to a planned release for the purpose of increasing the genetic pool of the species’ wild population.
An Oriental Pied hornbill in Jurong Bird Park being measured from bill tip to rear bill intersection prior to a planned release for the purpose of increasing the genetic pool of the species’ wild population.

Singapore, 8 July 2013 – In an effort to diversify the genetic pool of wild hornbills in Singapore, Jurong Bird Park will release three Oriental Pied Hornbills from their collection to Pulau Ubin on 10 July.

“Increasing the genetic pool of Oriental Pied Hornbills or any other bird is important to the conservation of the species because it allows for a healthier population of these birds. With more genetic diversity, the species is less susceptible to diseases,” said Dr Minerva Bongco-Nuqui, Curator, Avian, Jurong Bird Park.

Jurong Bird Park is the first institution globally to successfully incubate and hatch Oriental Pied Hornbills. The park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented.
Jurong Bird Park is the first institution globally to successfully incubate and hatch Oriental Pied Hornbills. The park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented.

Earlier in March, the Bird Park became the first institution globally to successfully artificially incubate and hatch three Oriental pied hornbill eggs, which had been rescued from Pulau Ubin by officers from the National Parks Board (NParks). These three chicks have been absorbed into the Park’s collection. Retaining these three chicks enables the Park to increase the breeding genetic pool of the existing collection. Similarly, releasing three other birds to Pulau Ubin gives the wild population of Oriental Pied Hornbills greater diversity in the genetic pool.

The Oriental Pied Hornbills selected for release include a bonded pair which are captive bred and a male which was donated to the Park. In preparation for the release and to allow these birds to acclimatise, whole fruit found on the island have been introduced into their diet. These birds were also tested to be free from diseases before the release.

Ahead of the release, the Oriental Pied Hornbills have undergone a physical measurement and health check. Data like the microchip number, sex, age, body length and casque length were recorded and kept for conservation and research purposes. Conservationists can extrapolate from this data as a reference point and make inferences to the general overview of the population, to understand the group’s dynamics, leading to better management of the population.

On 10 July, the bonded pair and one male hornbill will set forth from Jurong Bird Park for Pulau Ubin to be released. They will join an estimated 60 Oriental Pied Hornbills on the offshore island. The release site was chosen as it is the same location from which three Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued in January this year.

“NParks has been working closely with Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Avian Conservation Project team in hornbill conservation since 2004. Due to the concerted efforts of the parties involved, the population of Oriental Pied Hornbills in the wild has increased from a few individuals to about 100 hornbills all over Singapore. In addition to being a part of Singapore’s natural heritage, Oriental Pied Hornbills are also natural dispersers of seeds. As such, the birds reach various areas in Singapore, including remote forested areas in our nature reserves, re-populating the island with plants. This adds to the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna in our City in a Garden. Today, we are very excited with another step in our ex-situ conservation efforts and the release of three Oriental Pied Hornbills,” said Wong Tuan Wah, Director (Conservation), NParks.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill disappeared from Singapore in the mid-1800s, possibly due to hunting and loss of suitable habitats. In 1994, a pair was sighted on Pulau Ubin. Once virtually disappeared from Singapore, the bird is today re-establishing healthy colonies here, thanks to the collective efforts of the NParks, Jurong Bird Park, and Singapore Avian Conservation Project (SACP).

Jurong Bird Park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented. The Park has 17 Oriental Pied Hornbills, some of which can be seen at the Hornbills & Toucans exhibit. During breeding season which takes place from November to March, cameras will be installed in the Oriental Pied Hornbill exhibit, and visitors can catch a glimpse of nesting activities through television screens placed at the exhibit.

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

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE CONSERVATION FUND OPENS GRANT APPLICATIONS

AREAS FOR CONSIDERATION: NATIVE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION FOCUSING ON BIRDLIFE AND OTHER ANIMALS IN DANGER, AND IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON CONSERVATION

Singapore, 10 December 2009Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF) announces that it is now accepting grant applications for project proposals from interested parties working toward conserving endangered native wildlife. The grant applications will be for conservation and related research work on birds, native wildlife in danger and impact of climate change on conservation, in Singapore.

“As a conservation fund with the objective to sustain endangered native wildlife and ecosystems, we encourage like-minded individuals or organisations to come forward and submit their proposed scope of study of wildlife that are unique to our nation. From these efforts and studies, we hope to make concrete progress on the conservation front and to raise public awareness of native species,” said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

WRSCF is designed to provide accessible and flexible grants for persons who want to contribute to the conservation of native wildlife species. To be eligible, the scope of study needs to include at least one of these elements: conservation-related scientific research, direct field conservation work, education and public awareness, human-animal conflict resolution or capacity building and the sharing of best practices.

Thus far, National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund is the first grant recipient of $500,000 over a five-year period. The amount will support NUS students and faculty members conducting academic research and studies pertaining to endangered wildlife.

WRSCF grant applications will be reviewed by the Specialist Panel comprising scientists, academics and representatives from government agencies such as National Parks Board (NParks), Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), National Institute of Education (NIE), NUS, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) and Nature Society of Singapore (NSS).

With the establishment of WRSCF, parties keen to embark on projects contributing to the conservation of native endangered wildlife will have a financial avenue to support their cause. Application forms and guidelines can be downloaded from http://www.wrscf.org.sg.

NEW CONSERVATION FUND PROMISES A BOOST TO LOCAL WILDLIFE

– WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE CONSERVATION FUND LAUNCHED TO PROTECT AND SAVE SINGAPORE’S NATIVE ENDANGERED SPECIES
– NUS, FIRST RECIPIENT, WILL EMBARK ON A STUDY OF SINGAPORE’S NATIVE BANDED LANGUR
– S$1 MILLION SEED FUND FROM WRS; 20 CENTS FROM EVERY ENTRANCE TICKET  (TO JBP, NS SZ) SOLD DONATED TO WRSCF SINCE APRIL 1, 2009

Singapore, 10 July 2009Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS/新加坡野生动物保育集团) today launched an independent conservation fund to protect and save Singapore’s native endangered species.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF/新加坡野生动物保育基金) is dedicated to wildlife conservation and education. Its focus will be on native animal conservation efforts and the issue of climate change. Additionally, it will support the Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund, set up in conjunction with the National University of Singapore.

This will be achieved through direct field conservation work, education and public awareness, human-animal conflict resolution, capacity building and sharing of best practices.

“Singapore’s rich biodiversity is home to a lush variety of flora and fauna, including the pangolin, flying lemur and banded langur. Unfortunately, many Singaporeans are unaware of what wildlife can be found locally and even when informed, they tend to take these animals for granted. We would like to encourage more organisations and individuals to join us in preserving our natural heritage. In support of conservation, WRS has made a contribution of S$1,000,000 in seed money to the Fund,” says Ms Claire Chiang (张齐娥), newly appointed Chairperson of the WRSCF.

In addition, WRS has started contributing 20 cents from every entrance ticket sold to any of its three parks – Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and the Singapore Zoo. This will anchor the funds for the WRSCF. Public donations are also welcome.

The first recipient is the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund, which will receive S$500,000 over five years. This will support the academic research and study of endangered native wildlife undertaken by students and faculty members of NUS.

“We are honoured to be the first recipient of the fund as it definitely helps in furthering our cause to learn and gather information on data deficient animals. It is our duty as Singaporeans to seek new facts and records of our wildlife, and in the process train and develop future local conservationists,” says Professor Leo Tan (陈伟兴教授), Director (Special Projects), National University of Singapore. The first project to receive funding from the NUS’ Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund is a study on the banded langur, one of Singapore’s native endangered wildlife.

WRSCF will also be partnering with NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) of New York, to advance public education and awareness. Some of the issues that will be addressed include the illegal wildlife and bushmeat trade, that Singaporeans may unknowingly contribute to when they consume exotic dishes while overseas.

Individuals and organisations will soon be able to submit project proposals to WRSCF. Funding support will be subjected to approval by an independent Specialist Panel comprising professionals from National Parks Board (NParks), Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), National Institute of Education (NIE), NUS, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) and Singapore Science Centre.

Cheque Presentation
Time-capsule sealing

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE TO HOST SLOW LORIS IDENTIFICATION TRAINING AT SINGAPORE ZOO

Singapore, June 11, 2008Wildlife Reserves Singapore will be hosting a Slow Loris Identification Training Workshop on June 13, 2008 at the Singapore Zoo. Through a combination of presentations and interactive learning, the day long training workshop aims to raise awareness of the slow loris’ endangered status. A total of 27 enforcement officials and Wildlife Reserves Singapore representatives are participating in the training workshop.

Mr Kumar Pillai, Assistant Director of Zoology, Night Safari said: “The workshop will present a golden opportunity for participants to learn more about slow lorises and wildlife conservation. Learning from an expert in the field will help us better educate the public about slow lorises in the future.”

Conducted by acclaimed conservationist Dr Anna Nekaris, of Oxford Brookes University, UK, the programme will address numerous topics related to the slow loris. Reasons behind its endangered status, slow loris taxonomy and morphology, and the identification of various slow loris species as well as its look-alikes are just some of the many topics that will be addressed. Additionally, a glimpse into the workings of the illegal wildlife trade, specifically with regards to common slow loris smuggling methods will be touched on.

Participating officials include those from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), National Parks Board (NParks), NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research as well as representatives from the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.

The training workshop aims to ultimately contribute to a reduction in illegal slow loris trade and the inappropriate release of confiscated slow lorises.

Currently, Night Safari has 18 slow lorises, which can be seen along the Leopard Trail.