Sunday, April 25, 2010

Workshop on Cruel "Animal Liberation"

Release not!
Birds caught for mercy release outside a temple in Bangkok. Many of the released birds are then caught again for the next round of release. Photo taken in 2006.

After the last workshop on Wiping out the trade in Wildlife with Louis of ACRES, we now continue on the flip side of the coin by examining the issue of releasing invasive and exotic animals into our ecosystems. We are most grateful to have Ms Karen Teo from NParks to join us at our upcoming workshop to talk about the subject.

Operation No Release
Many of the animals released into the wild also do not survive long. Find out why at the workshop.

In 2006, I wrote about NPark's Operation No Release which tries to reach out to those practising "mercy release" or "animal liberation". However, over the years, we've begun to hear more about animal release into our nature areas throughout the year, and not just on specific religious holidays such as Vesak Day alone. Mercy release has been said not to be so merciful in reality. Find out more about this issue and how it affects the animals and our natural habitats in Singapore. For the 40th anniversary of Earth Day or perhaps even for Vesak Day, find out how you can really help the animals!

Please do join us if you would like to find out more about what we as nature volunteers can do on this issue!

Operation No Release

Date: 30 Apr 2010, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College
31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983
Register now at:


This workshop focuses on the impact of exotic and invasive animals on our natural ecosystems in Singapore. Topics covered include:
(1) What is animal release? mercy release versus pet abandonment
(2) What are the impacts of animal release?
(3) How can you help?

This workshop is likely to be useful for anyone interested to do more about the release of animals into our natural habitats. It would be especially useful for anyone interested to volunteer for or would like to find out more about NPark's efforts on tackling this issue. The workshop requires active participation and includes role playing activities and is not to be mistaken for a public talk.

Karen Teo, NParks
Karen Teo is a Senior Outreach Officer of the Central Nature Reserve Branch (National Parks Board). An ex-teacher by training, Karen is passionate about conserving Singapore's natural heritage. She did her Master thesis on Bukit Timah Nature Reserve at the Australian National University. Currently, she develops, facilitates and organises outreach and educational activities/programmes at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. In addition, she gives talks on nature conservation issues of Singapore to schools, organisations and the universities and conducts training workshops for teachers on fieldwork activities in the nature reserves and nature parks.

For more details, visit

Read full article here

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Animal Welfare 2.0

Last Thursday, I was invited to talk about using social media for advocacy at "I am Cat. Hear me Roar.", a advocacy and mediation workshop by the Cat Welfare Society as part of their Tiger Show @ Post Museum on 25 Feb 2010. In case you missed the talk, here are the slides that I presented.

The panel that followed the presentations included ex-NMP Mr Siew Kum Hong and this monkey was celebrity-stricken. Well that happens when it's somebody I admire. Unfortunately I didnt get a chance to chat with him afterwards. I was also most pleasantly surprised when I had a few folks come up to chat with me after a presentation. That's very heartening. Thanks folks! That's the best encouragement a speaker can get - interest in the topic!

I look like I'm being inundated by questions! But I swear that's just a camera trick (grin) All photos by Marcus Ng

Read full article here

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Butt Watcher's Workshop - A New Perspective

Join the Leafmonkey Workshop in gaining new perspectives to watching butts... butterflies that is... with Khew of Butterfly Circle. We are most grateful to have Khew to share with us on the local butterflies in Singapore despite his very busy schedule!

Date: 5 March 2010, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College
31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983

Register now at:

For more details, visit The Leafmonkey Workshop website.

Read full article here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Have a say in shaping our home

I always lament to my parents that when I was young I was never given an opportunity to have a say in shaping my home. As I got older, I fought for every chance to have a say in what goes in (and out) my living environment. If that sounds familiar to you, you'll probably be happy to hear that we now get a chance to have a say in shaping our island home!

The Urban Redevelopment Authority, the national planning agency in Singapore, is seeking feedback for its next Concept Plan 2011 which determines Singapore's development plans for the next 30-50 years.

URA wants to know what you, fellow Singaporeans, want for our island city state. Here is your chance to speak up for our sea shores and other nature areas! And our heritage areas too!

Do the URA survey for its Concept Plan 2011.

To quote Ria Tan of WildSingapore, "the survey is simple to do, with lots of free-text options for you to leave comments about your favourite places in Singapore. Speak up for our shores (and other nature areas)! Every voice counts! You can be sure lots of people will speak up for shopping centres so please speak up for our wild places! Get your like-minded friends to also speak up for our wild places and shores. "

For more on about the survey, see:
Wild shores of singapore blog

Read full article here

Friday, January 15, 2010

Crabby Tales: No Chili Required, Fri 15 Jan 2010, 7pm

The Leafmonkey Workshop is celebrating its 1st anniversary with its 13th workshop on Crabby Tales. But not to worry, no chili will be required! All you need to do is sign up and brace yourself for crabby tales accompanied with our birthday cake, good company and plenty of fun.

Thank you for supporting the Leafmonkey Workshop over its past year. We'll love to see familiar (and new faces) at our birthday celebration. Hope to see you there!

Date: 15 January 2010, Friday
Time: 7.00pm - 9.30pm
Venue: Civil Service College
31 North Buona Vista Road Singapore 275983

Register now at:

For more details, visit The Leafmonkey Workshop website.

Read full article here

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Impacts of Marine Aquaculture & Possible Solutions

It has hit the news of late that algal bloom over the Straits of Johor have deeply impacted the fish farms clustered in the straits off Pasir Ris, Changi and Pulau Ubin. A reporter from TODAY contacted me yesterday asking for comments on the impacts of fish farms and some possible solutions to allay these possible environmental impacts. This was probably after reading my blog post on Pulau Ubin Stories on Red Tide affecting Pulau Ubin. Interestingly, in September 2009, I also commented about the need to manage our aquaculture farms carefully in a Straits Times article about vanishing Kelongs in Singapore.

Knowing the limitations of a news article, I decided to share my long reply on this blog with all my readers as well. I must confess that I am no expert in aquaculture or marine systems, but here are my two cents worth based on some research I did doing my blog post as well as projects done on aquaculture in university.

Fish farms, if done sustainably, are important for supplementing our seafood supply and prevent overfishing. However, fish farms if not managed well, could result in major environmental pollution and further harm the wild population of fish in our seas. The sea is not an enclosed farm with concrete walls and any food, antibiotics fed to the fish, as well as the fish waste would eventually dispersed into the sea.

Also the household waste and sewage of the farm also needs to be managed properly. In a deep sea system with good water circulation, perhaps the concentration of nutrients and chemicals would be naturally diluted by the ocean currents. However, in the straits of johor, there is very poor circulation of water due to the causeway blocking circulations. Furthermore, locating large number of fish farms in clusters with poor circulation is potentially problematic as the sea is unable to naturally dilute the nutrients.

When nutrient level is very high, massive algal bloom will occur which may deplete oxygen supply in the waters. This not only kills the fish in the farms but all wild fish population. If the species of algae blooming contains toxin, then when humans consume the seafood affected by this algal bloom, they too will become sick.

For fish farms located near river mouths like those at Changi and Pasir Ris, they are affected by the monsoon flood discharges from both Singapore and Malaysia. The freshwater will float above the salt water and prevent oxygen from circulating and resulting in fish death as well. But these flood discharges may also carry with them more nutrients from agriculture or sewage discharges from the land into the sea. Combined with existing nutrients from fish farm, these could easily exacerbate the problem.

For solutions, we can do several things:

1) Understand well the geographical environment and ecological system of our waters before we locate our fish farms. For example, the fish farms off Semakau were not affected by the mass death because they are not near the coast or river mouths,and they have good circulation. Make sure that fish farms are not located too near existing coral reefs as well to minimise impact to our wild fish population. Changi, Ubin and Pasir Ris are all very near existing reefs such as Chek Jawa, Changi and Pasir Ris. Monsoon flood discharges will happen every year so perhaps locating far from river mouths and coastal areas will be helpful.

2) Do not cluster too many fish farms together in close vicinity to one another. This reduces the environment's natural ability to dilute pollutants and nutrients in the water. Overcrowding is a known problem in aquaculture. Both overcrowding of fish in each cell of a farm, and in this case, overcrowding of farms in one area with poor water circulation. [On hindsight: It's important to have scientific studies done on the treshold and carrying capacity of our waters and the number of fish farms it can support without resulting in future calamities]

3) Strong regulation and monitoring of fish farm practices are most critical. The amount of antibiotics and fish feed given, how the farms deal with fish waste, as well as, the sewage and household waste from the farm should be strongly regulated and monitored. Farmers should also be educated on proper practices. Good practitioners should be rewarded and best practises shared.

4) Consumers can also play a part in encouraging good practises if fish farms can be awarded sustainability labels for good practises by the government. These sustainable fish farms should be rewarded by consumers by buying only these sustainably-reared fish, identified by these labels. Most of the time, the problem in Singapore lies with ambivalent conusmers who do not question where their fish comes from. Also, there is a lack of information in our markets and supermarkets where there are no labels indicating origin of fish or how they are reared, especially those from local fish farms.

Please feel free to share your ideas and comments. Have you spot any factual errors? Please let me know!

Related Reads:
Marine Aquaculture, David Suzuki Foundation

Read full article here

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Nature in the Heartlands: Toa Payoh Town Park

dragonflies at toa payoh!
Located beside the Pan Island Expressway and the Toa Payoh Swimming Pool, the Toa Payoh Town Park is one of the oldest neighborhood parks in Singapore developed in the 70s with Singapore's first satellite town. Despite being located beside the highway, the green belt acts as a buffer to the noise. It offers a relaxing sanctuary from the bustle of the mall that is just across the road. New plantings could be sighted amongst the old angsana trees heavy with staghorn ferns. These grand dames have probably seen the park change over the last 40 years.

Neighborhood parks like Toa Payoh Park are like a green oasis in the concrete landscapes that we are familiar with in our housing estates these days. One minute I could be walking past crowds at the HDB Hub and the next minute I feel like I have entered a secret garden, lined with trees that form a wall separating the garden and the madding crowd. It almost feels like they don't design parks the way they used to. New generation parks designed today seems to adopt an open concept which I suppose is inclusive but the concept of an enclosed lush green hideaway in the middle of the madding crowd appeals to me. Another of such a green oasis is the Istana Park located in the middle of orchard road.

View Toa Payoh Town Garden in a larger map

What more, wildlife appears to be teeming at the park as well! In fact, we were pleasantly greeted by these information boards about the dragonfly species which you can find at the park. And just as we were reading the signboard, a damselfly flew and settled on the blade of grass right in front of us. An excited monkey exclaimed immediately, "quick! quick! see which dragonfly is it!" but confronted with a choice of 6 different species on the board, we concluded that it must be "the red one", for obvious reasons.

For those who are unsure about the difference between dragonflies and damselflies, the next informative signboard down the path answered just that question! The table below from the insect page gives you some clue.

Eyesmost have eyes that touch, or nearly touch, at the top of the headeyes are clearly separated, usually appearing to each side of the head
Bodyusually stockyusually long and slender
Wing Shapedissimilar wing pairs, with hind wings broader at the baseall wings similar in shape
Position at Restwings held open, horizontally or downwardswings held closed, usually over abdomen
Discal Celldivided into trianglesundivided, quadrilateral
Male Appendagespair of superior anal appendages, single inferior appendagetwo pairs of anal appendages
Female Appendagesmost have vestigial ovipositorsfunctional ovipositors
Larvaebreathe through rectal tracheal gills; stocky bodiesbreathe through caudal gills; slender bodies

If you noticed the google map satellite image of the park, a series of freshwater habitats make up part of the park. The information board also pointed out how damselflies and dragonflies are important keystone species as they prefer clean clear unpolluted waters. In fact, in environmental assessment studies, the presence of eggs laid by mayflies, a relative of dragonflies and damselflies, are used as indicators of lake ecosystem health in the US. Perhaps likewise, dragonflies and damselflies play similar roles in our freshwater habitats. In Singapore, there are now about 117 species of dragonflies and damselflies, including some new records from last year. According to the signboard, a few species have gone extinct due to habitat loss.

If you're an enthusiast of our fragile winged friends, here's a guide from the Butterfly Circle blog which tells you more about butterfly photography at the Toa Payoh Town Park. It even includes a map of the place. In 2009, NParks held a workshop on creating dragonfly friendly habitats at the Toa Payoh Town Park! Personally I only happen to go there because dinner is in the middle of the park!

Read full article here

Saturday, January 02, 2010

NEA reaching out to new migrants

Chinese Version Tamil Version?

Spotted at 2 consecutive bus stops along boon lay way - the indian one at lakeside mrt and the chinese version one bus stop later. It's very interesting and creative for NEA to adopt targeted marketing outreach at our new migrant populations, using cultural design styles which they may be familiar with. It may also be the population in this residential area which sees large number of new transient migrants. Before you think it's discrimination, we must acknowledge that it is important to educate those who may not be familiar with our many 'fine' laws. These are purely information posters from what I can see. Anyone know which language is the indian one in? Hindi? Tamil? Urdu? Bengali?

Just as we need to understand more about natural systems when we design our developmental infrastructure, we also need to take into account cultural systems when we design our outreach efforts. Props to NEA for their creative effort!

On hindsight: @struthious on twitter commented that the ads are targeted at "foreign workers" and not "new migrants". I think that the issue here is their "newness" so let's not dispute whether the ads are for transient workers or new citizens. And we definitely cannot stereotype the demographics of what constitute "new migrants" - whether citizens, permanent residents or transients. Cultural habits, and baggage(!), may also transcend education background. For all its worth, I'm sure it'll serve its purpose for all new to Singapore. And perhaps some Singaporeans too!

Read full article here