WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE, WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE CONSERVATION FUND AND SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL ORGANISE FIRST ASIAN PRIMATE CONSERVATION WORKSHOP

Singapore, 6 May 2011 – Primates have the closest genetic link to Man, but we have played a hand in the very extinction of many of their species. To stem the tide of destruction and reverse the damage we have inflicted, two industry heavyweights – Wildlife Reserves Singapore and San Diego Zoo Global, together with Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund – are teaming up for the first time to hold a regional workshop to share best practices in primate conservation.

To be held from 1-15 May at the Singapore Zoo, the intensive workshop aims to impart technical skills and knowledge as well as provide hands-on training for zoo professionals and primate researchers who study endangered species in captivity and in the wild.

It will be attended by 32 participants from all over the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, China and Taiwan. Students from the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, as well as staff from WRS will also participate.

Lectures will encompass broad overviews of primate taxonomy, behaviour and conservation, and these sessions will include discussions on the best sampling and recording methods, assessments of primate welfare and compilation of scientific data, reports and presentations. Participants will be asked to design behavioural monitoring projects and present their findings at the end of the workshop. Additionally, they will go on field trips to study local primates such as the banded leaf monkey and long-tailed macaques.

Workshop chairman Mr John Sha, who is also curator of conservation and research at WRS said: “This is a very useful workshop for anyone who wants to acquire the professional skills in primate research. Data gathered through behavioural studies and monitoring can provide us with a lot of information on how well the population of species is performing. Through this programme, we hope to develop and adapt methods of study to help these amazing creatures survive in their natural habitat.”

Dr Chia Tan, scientist at San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research said, “Previous partnerships with WRS such as conservation and research projects on the highly endangered proboscis monkeys and Douc langurs, and the turtle conservation workshop have reaped great rewards. We hope this event will strengthen our partnership and make a positive contribution towards primate conservation, especially in this part of the world.”

Human activities like logging are destroying the limited habitat of certain species such as the agile gibbon and proboscis monkey. The demand for pet monkeys also continues to fuel the illegal poaching of these animals.

Part of the funding for the workshop comes from a training grant from The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and contributions from San Diego Zoo Global, Offield Family Foundation, and Primate Conservation, Inc. Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF), an independent charity set up by WRS in 2009 with the purpose of conserving endangered native wildlife, is making up the rest of the cost.

Primate conservation is an important focus area for WRS. It has spearheaded several research studies in the past, including a field survey of proboscis monkeys in Sabah which was co-sponsored by WRS and San Diego Zoo Global. The Singapore Zoo houses one of the world’s largest primate collections, including three species of great apes, the chimpanzee, Sumatran orang utan and Bornean orang utan, the latter two of which are the flagship species of the Singapore Zoo. Visitors can learn more about them at the world’s first orang utan free ranging area built at the zoo.

Niu Kefeng, a participant from China tries to identify several Hamadryas baboons to observe for his workshop project.
San Diego Zoo Global workshop instructor Lance Miller shares tips on the art of observing chimpanzees with two of the participants.
Parkin Runcharoen, a participant from Thailand gets a closer look at the capuchins.
The proboscis monkey will also come under scrutiny during the workshop. Singapore Zoo has the largest breeding group of proboscis monkeys outside its range country,

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE HOSTS REGIONAL WORKSHOP ON TURTLE CONSERVATION

PARTICIPANTS TO OUTLINE 10-YEAR ROADMAP TO SAVE THE EARTH’S OLDEST LIVING REPTILE

Singapore, 22 February 2011 – Turtles are the oldest reptiles left on Earth, with the earliest species found almost 300 million years ago, but many species alive today may not live to see the next century. That is why conservation groups across the world are meeting here this week to discuss pressing plans to ensure their survival in the wild.

Hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the four-day workshop which kicked off at the Singapore Zoo yesterday aims to set the agenda for Asian turtle conservation in the next decade. It brings together delegates throughout Asia, Europe, Australia and the United States, including over 70 conservationists from 16 Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Philippines, China, and East Timor, who work closely with endangered freshwater turtles.

The event, themed ‘The Conservation of Asian Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles – Setting Priorities for the Next Ten Years’ is co-organised by Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and is supported by San Diego Zoo Global, the Turtle Survival Alliance and the IUCN Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and Kadoorie Farm & Botanical Garden in Hong Kong.

The participation of some 39 participants has been sponsored by collaborating organisations and Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF), an independent charity set up by WRS in 2009 with the primary purpose of conserving endangered native wildlife.

The last meeting was held 10 years ago in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and this year’s agenda will include discussions to critically assess what has worked – and what has not – in protecting chelonian populations and preventing extinction of the species.

Human encroachment, combined with over-hunting and the illegal wildlife trade, are decimating the world’s population of turtles at a pace faster than they can reproduce. Prized highly for their meat and medicinal value, particularly in Southeast Asia and China, nearly more than half of the species of tortoises and turtles in the region are now on the verge of extinction.

Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Species Program said: “Turtles are at a conservation crossroads. Some species are truly at the brink of extinction with just a few individuals remaining. We are hopeful that the results of this workshop will help bring turtles onto the road to recovery.”

Some workshop highlights include country reports on the current status of turtle populations in different countries, an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Listing session on individual turtle species and Trade Status Reports. An open forum on conservation priorities will be held at the end of the workshop for participants to discuss interesting ‘what if’ scenarios.

Following this event is another workshop on the conservation of large river turtles (genus Batagur) from 25 February to 2 March in Singapore and Malaysia, which will address the threats to the survival of these species. It will comprise regional presentations, round table discussions, and field trips to share ‘best practices’ in the collection of pertinent life history data, and methods for reducing adult mortality.

WRS, which operates award-winning parks Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming river-themed attraction, River Safari, has consistently supported the conservation of turtles through various partnerships with international wildlife institutions.

On the local front, it partners with national agencies such as Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore and National Parks Board to rescue and rehabilitate turtles and tortoises. Last year, the Singapore Zoo worked with the Turtle Survival Alliance to relocate 36 endangered Indian star tortoises, which were confiscated here, to Fort Worth Zoo in Texas.

WRS also runs a successful captive breeding programme for critically endangered turtle species like the southern river terrapin, which has produced excellent results. Recently on 10 February, a southern river terrapin had hatched from its egg after a two-month incubation period. At least 12 more Batagur hatchlings are expected to emerge from their eggs in the next two to four weeks.

Visitors will get a chance to see some 17 species of tortoises and freshwater turtles from around the world at WRS’ fourth park, the River Safari. Due to open in the second half of 2012, the collection will include the critically endangered Southeast Asian narrow headed turtle, one of the largest freshwater turtles that can grow over 1.1m in length and 100kg in weight, as well as the big headed turtle from China. These turtles are known for their impressive climbing abilities, a trait that is unique amongst the species, which enables them to cross over rocky stream bottoms and against fast current.

Batagur hatchling at Singapore Zoo