Author: marcuschua

[Research highlight] Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade

Did you know that a large number of snails and clams come into Singapore via the ornamental pet trade?

NUS Phd student, Ng Ting Hui, and researchers from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore found a total of 59 species of snails and bivalves had been brought into Singapore via the pet and ornamental animal and plant trade from 2008 to 2014.

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Shells of the 59 species of molluscs found from the ornamental pet trade in Singapore. Photos by Ng Ting Hui and Chan Sow-Yan.

Some of these are known or potentially invasive species which may cause harm to species that are native to Singapore, or to the environment. This study provides an important baseline and reference for future monitoring, and points the direction towards a more sustainable ornamental pet trade.

The findings of the research was featured on the Straits Times by Carolyn Khew on 4 Nov 2016.

Original paper:
Ng, T. H., Tan, S. K., Wong, W. H., Meier, R., Chan, S-Y., Tan, H. H., Yeo, D. C. J. 2016. Molluscs for Sale: Assessment of Freshwater Gastropods and Bivalves in the Ornamental Pet Trade. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0161130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161130

[Research Highlight] Freshwater fishes, terrestrial herpetofauna and mammals of Pulau Tekong, Singapore

While Pulau Tekong is an island familiar to many in Singapore as home to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), what is less known is the island’s importance for wildlife.

Realising this, researchers from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the National Institute of Education compiled a checklist with notes on the freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of Singapore’s largest natural offshore island.

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Freshwater fish and herpetofauna of Pulau Tekong. Photos by contributors (see paper).

In all, 18 species of freshwater fishes, 15 amphibians species, 45 species of terrestrial reptiles, and 31 species of terrestrial mammals were recorded. Some species such as the Kuhl’s gliding gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli), and brown tube-nosed bat (Murina suilla) are known from Singapore only from Pulau Tekong.

Additionally, several nationally rare and threatened species such as the Jasper’s cat snake (Boiga jaspidea), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) and Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) are also present, or are thriving on the island.

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Snakes and mammals of Pulau Tekong. Photos by contributors (see paper).

Pulau Tekong’s use as a restricted military area appears to have also served to conserve wildlife on the island well. It is hoped that substantial areas of natural vegetation is maintained, and that its rich biodiversity is taken into consideration for any development planning. This will help insure the survival of the island’s interesting and nationally threatened fauna.

 

Original paper:
Lim, K. K. P., M. A. H. Chua & N. T-L. Lim, 2016. Freshwater fishes, terrestrial herpetofauna and mammals of Pulau Tekong, Singapore. Nature in Singapore9: 165–198.

Visiting scientist feature: Arlo Hinckley Boned

Earlier this week, we hosted a research visit by Mr. Arlo Hinckley Boned, who came to collect data from the mammals in the Zoological Reference Collection.

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Arlo and a red giant flying squirrel collected by Charles Hose.

Arlo hails from the Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics Group of the Doñana Biological Station in Spain, and is working on the diversity of shrews and gymnures across biogeographical realms for his Phd thesis.

He recently completed four months of fieldwork in Borneo, sampling areas in Sabah, Malaysia, for small mammals. During this period, he shared that he lost a total of 9 kg from the intense fieldwork, but gained interesting insights on the distribution and diversity of the mammals there. Arlo maintains the Small Mammals of Borneo blog with his colleagues where they share about small mammals and their field experience.

As his research group is particularly interested in the diversity of vertebrates in the Sunda shelf, Arlo also examined specimens of the red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) in addition to gymnures and moonrats. On his last day, Arlo was particularly excited to come across a red giant flying squirrel specimen collected by Charles Hose, a prominent zoologist and British colonial administrator.

We wish Arlo all the best for the rest of his work in the region.

[Research highlight] Making its way down the Peninsula: Discovery of the non-native snail Cryptozona siamensis in Singapore

A new discovery by museum scientists and their collaborators of an introduced snail in Singapore was recently published in Occasional Molluscan Papers. We asked them to tell us more about the significance of their findings:


History is repeating itself. Another alien snail—Cryptozona siamensis—has made its way to Singapore. Several months ago, this species, which is native to Thailand, was recently found in Singapore. The snail is believed to have been accidentally introduced through horticultural trade activities. Presently the snails appears to be confined to a single locality in Mandai, which was formerly a plant nursery.

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Cryptozona siamensis at Mandai. Photo by Tan Siong Kiat.

This follows the 2011 discovery of Limicolaria flammea (a native of East Africa), in Singapore. Despite efforts to prevent the spread of that earlier invader, the snail is now found across Singapore.

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Spot the difference: three species of land snails found at Mandai, Sarika sp. (left), Cryptozona siamensis (middle), Quantula striata (right). Photo by Tan Siong Kiat.

The discovery of both species highlights the importance of being able to tell different species apart (also known as taxonomy). Both non-native snails superficially resemble species already known from Singapore. They may have gone unnoticed for much longer if researchers had not been actively studying Singapore’s fauna.

Although the introduction of a snail may seem harmless, it is known among researchers that introduced species can pose a threat to native biodiversity greater than most people realise. Worldwide, many native species are endangered because of the negative impacts brought about by introduced species. Besides being a possible plant pest, studies in Thailand have shown that Cryptozona siamensis can carry parasites that may infect humans; usually occur through ingestion of raw or undercooked snails or contaminated vegetables.

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Limicolaria flammea.
Photo by Tan Siong Kiat.

So far in Singapore, Limicolaria flammea has not done the same damage some of its close relatives have wreaked in other parts of the world, and the situation for Cryptozona siamensis is as yet unknown. While the news of yet another introduced species is typically bad news, there are documented cases of successful eradication of introduced species in other countries, especially if discovered quickly and action is promptly taken. In additional to physical removal and the tightening of measures to prevent accidental importation of non-native species, the public can play a big role by getting to know the local fauna and to keep an eye out for invaders. It is hoped that the relevant authorities will step up efforts to eradicate this snail based on the precautionary principle.

Let us do what we can to prevent history from repeating itself.

Original paper:
Tan, S.K., Chan S.Y., Nguang L.H.S. & Low M.E.Y. (2016). Making its way down the Peninsula: Discovery of the non-native Cryptozona siamensis (L. Pfeiffer, 1856) in Singapore, with a note on its status in Peninsular Malaysia (Helicarionoidea: Ariophantidae). Occasional Molluscan Papers 5: 1–9.

Contribution by Tan Siong Kiat and Martyn E.Y. Low

Job Opportunity: Scientific Officer (Publications)

We are looking for a full-time Scientific Officer to work on our in-house publications.

Description

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM), which is located in the National University of Singapore, is Singapore’s only natural history museum. We are looking for a self-motivated and hands-on individual who is responsible for copy-editing and publication of the museum’s scientific and general publications, which includes manuscripts for the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Nature in Singapore, LKCNHM eBooks, etc., as well as brochures and museum newsletters. The officer also is to provide administrative support in the handling and processing of manuscript submissions, and manage the online resources and publicity for the museum’s publications.

Qualifications

  • Relevant Bachelor’s degree (i.e., Life Sciences, English, Journalism).
  • Very good command of the English language.
  • Excellent organizational skills and detail-oriented approach to work.
  • Good knowledge of scientific writing (organismal biology) is an advantage.
  • Adept at use of basic software such as MS Word and Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • Basic knowledge of HTML, website management (some experience with blogging).
  • Able to maintain a professional standard of work, even with looming deadlines.
  • Works well in a team.

To apply, go to: https://nuscareers.taleo.net/careersection/jobdetail.ftl?job=0042X&lang=en

A tribute to Mr. S.R. Nathan—a patron we will remember

We extend our deepest condolences to the family of our former President, Mr. S.R. Nathan, who was an important benefactor to NUS and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM). We remember him fondly as a champion for Singapore’s natural environment and education, and his crucial role in supporting the museum’s transformation to what it is today. He was also a patron to the museum’s tome, Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development, and helped kick start the fund raising effort to set up the Leo Tan Professorship in Biodiversity for the museum to honour Professor Leo Tan.

Head of LKCNHM, Prof Peter Ng penned the following tribute to the late Mr. S.R. Nathan:

He was just a man. Like all of us. But what a man he was. A people’s president in his tenure… not just in name, but in deeds, and most importantly, in heart. A soft-spoken man with a sage’s temperament and a resolve of steel. A man who instinctively knew what was right or wrong, and lived by these basic principles… even when the world he lived in rarely cared. He was a man who made any man or woman proud to be a Singaporean. And we were proud he was our President.

NUS and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History owe him a debt we cannot repay. As our patron, he shared his wisdom whenever we needed it. Encouraged and helped us to reach heights we thought were impossible. And when we succeeded in spite of everything, he reminded us that success was not an endgame. He counseled that it must be tempered with humility—that we who have succeeded must help those who have not, have less, or have a harder time. That we must endeavour and continue to engage Singaporeans. All Singaporeans.

He will be missed. He is already missed. Thank you sir and rest well. We will remember.

LKCNHM Ground Breaking

LKCNHM Ground Breaking ceremony on 11 Jan 2013. Mr. S.R. Nathan is seated second from left.

Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 2016 Supplement No. 33 out: Distribution of and conservation priorities for Bornean small carnivores and cats

The second Raffles Bulletin of Zoology supplement from the 1st Borneo Carnivore Symposium (BCS): Road Towards Conservation Action Plans held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia in June 2011 is now available. Supplement No. 33: Distribution of and conservation priorities for Bornean small carnivores and cats follows RBZ Supplement No. 28 published in 2013.

RBZ 33

This supplement provides a road map for better protection of Borneo’s cats and small carnivores that are threatened by habitat loss, illegal hunting and fires. Majority of the papers are multi-author works by a team of international researchers lead by the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission.

Fifteen small carnivoran and five wild cat papers present the predicted distribution of these 20 Bornean small carnivorans and cats from the analysis of collaborative field data. This includes rare and threatened species such as the flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps), Hose’s civet (Diplogale hosei), and otter civet (Cynogale bennettii). Additional papers discuss zooarchaeology and carnivoran conservation planning on Borneo by identifying key carnivoran landscapes, research priorities, and conservation interventions.

Dr. Andreas Wilting, scientist at the IZW and lead editor of this supplement sums up the project, “The goal of the BCS was to understand better the distribution and conservation needs of Bornean cats and small carnivores and subsequently, to enable targeted conservation efforts to those carnivores which are most threatened. We achieved this goal through a collaborative effort of the Borneo Carnivore Consortium, a network of more than 60 national and international scientists, conservationists and naturalists working on Borneo.”

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Binturong from Deramakot Forest Reserve, Sabah. Photo by A. Mohamed / IZW, SFD.

 

 

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme Documentary Making and Poster Design Competition 2016

The Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Singapore and Southeast Asian biodiversity. Sponsored by Exxon Mobil, participants get to attend a customised workshop on Southeast Asian biodiversity conservation, and do their part in spreading conservation awareness.

Endangered species and conservation design

Secondary school participants are encouraged to take positive action and spread the conservation message by taking part in a documentary making competition. Last year, we showcased the first batch of winners for the documentary making competition. This year we will highlight documentary making competition winners for 2016.

These videos showcase the winners of the documentary making competition in the Secondary School category.

 

First place: River Valley High School, Group 9, featuring the Asian elephant. The team members are: Tan Li Qing, Lee Si Ning and Moo Jia Rong.

Second place: Dunman High School, Group 4, featuring the Bornean orangutan. The team members are: Amber Rose Pillay, Yap Tze Hiang, Poh Anna and Vidonia Tan Ting Yen.

Third place: Damai Secondary School, Group 8, featuring the Asian elephant. The team members are: Lim Jelene, Nicole Lee Wire, Phyllis Poh Lay Suan and Chelsea Teo.

We hope that these videos will encourage everyone to learn more about Southeast Asian conservation and its issues.

For more information about the Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.

 

Results of ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme Poster Design Competition 2015–2016

The ExxonMobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme aims to increase public biodiversity and conservation awareness of Singapore and Southeast Asian biodiversity. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, participants get to attend a customised workshop on Southeast Asian biodiversity conservation, and do their part in spreading conservation awareness.

Primary school participants share what they learnt to their peers via a poster making competition. We hereby congratulate the winners of the poster making competition for 2015 and 2016. Due to programme constraints, the poster making competition for 2015 and 2016 were held concurrently. The animals to be featured for 2015 and 2016 were given out randomly to participants to ensure fairness.

Here are the winners of the poster making competition in the Primary School category for 2015:

First place: Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (Kellock), Group 4, featuring the Tiger. The team members are: Shanyce Goh, Kimberly-Jeon Goh, Tan Ing Jya and Ysabelle Wong Sze

Second Place: Clementi Primary School, Group 9, featuring the Sumatran Rhinoceros. The team members are: May Phyu Thwe, Kong Shi Ting, Zeth Tay Cao Hui, Chloe Lim En Jia.

Third Place:  Pei Chun Public School, Group 9, featuring the Tiger. The team members are: Kai Wong, Jenell Lee, Gabriel Lee and Su Zhixuan.

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2015 First Place poster by CHIJ (Kellock) on the Tigers

 

The winners of the poster making competition in the Primary School category for 2016.

First Place: Geylang Methodist School (Primary), Group 7, featuring the Sumatran Rhinoceros. The team members are: Ng Yao Yi Marcus, Cassia Tay Kaixin, Wong Ke Ying and Heng Zheng Yu Thomas.

Second Place: Clementi Primary School, Group 3, featuring the Singapore Freshwater Crab. The team members are: Sharma Simran, Xu Rulin and Ethan Lee Yee Chien.

Third Place: Pei Chun Public School, Group 2, featuring the Singapore Freshwater Crab. The team members are: Renne Goh Xin Ru, Yeo Le Xuan Desiree, Leow Xin Yi and Shirlyn Woo She Leng

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2016 First Place poster by Geylang Methodist (Primary) on the Sumatran rhinoceros.

We hope that these posters will encourage everyone to learn more about Southeast Asian conservation and its issues.

For more information about the Exxon Mobil Endangered Species and Conservation Programme for primary and secondary schools, contact nhmlearning@nus.edu.sg.