Sunday, January 24, 2010

Concept Plan 2011 - Express your views to preserve nature in Singapore

Was reading the newspaper today, and saw that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is embarking on the review of the Concept Plan and is seeking the public's views and aspirations for Singapore's future.

More details can be found at Thought this is really a good opportunity for nature lovers to express our views on how badly we want to preserve the few nature spots we have left in Singapore!

Quoting from the website:

As the Concept Plan will shape Singapore's future, it is important that the CP2011 incorporates the views and aspirations of the public. Through this online survey, we would like to seek your views on:
  1. How we can maintain and enhance our quality of life even as we continue to plan for future growth
  2. How we can provide for the needs of an ageing population
  3. How we can nurture and retain our unique identity to make Singapore an endearing home
  4. How we can all contribute to create a sustainable Singapore which balances growth with responsible environmental management
There are 4 main sections that there are surveying, and I have included them here as well for your reading convenience:

Enhancing the quality of our living environment

As Singapore continues to grow and develop over the next 40-50 years, we need to ensure that we continue to maintain and even enhance the quality of our living environment. Considering Singapore's limited land resources, we will need to make choices in how we accommodate diverse interests and aspirations.

Your feedback will help in determining the kind of living environment that we should plan for in the long term to ensure that Singapore remains a great city to live, work and play in.

Meeting the needs of the eldery

In the coming years, Singapore will have a larger ageing population. It is thus important to examine both how to care for the elderly and the types of elder facilities that we should cater for. Beyond just providing for housing and healthcare needs of the elderly, are there ways that we can better support and encourage active ageing & independent living?

We would like to seek your views on housing, healthcare and activity needs of the elderly to ensure good quality of life for all.

An endearing home

As Singapore continues to grow and develop into a distinctive global city, it is important to consider how we can continue to nurture and retain our unique identity to ensure Singapore remains an endearing home.

We would like to seek your views on what aspects of our country or which places are special to you and give you a sense of belonging to Singapore.

Sustainiable growth for Singapore

With limited land resources, sustainable development has always been a necessity and not an option for Singapore. The government has taken the lead in guiding our sustainable efforts. In January 2008, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development (IMCSD) was set up and in May 2009, the IMCSD unveiled the Sustainable Development Blueprint to guide our development for the next 10 to 20 years. The government has also carried out a wide-ranging and comprehensive study of what more can be done to further reduce our emissions growth, and has committed that Singapore will undertake voluntary actions to reduce its emissions growth to 16% below 'business-as-usual' levels by 2020, provided other countries also commit to do their part to adopt significant targets and implement their commitments in good faith.

The blueprint has identified key goals and initiatives to:
  1. Improve our resource efficiency (eg. reduce domestic water consumption, raise recycling rate),
  2. Enhance our urban environment (eg. improve air quality, increase skyrise greenery),
  3. Build Singapore into an international knowledge hub for clean technology,
  4. Make environmentally-friendly practices an integral part of our daily lives.
  5. Everyone needs to play a part in building a sustainable Singapore. We hope to seek your views on how we can contribute to build a sustainable Singapore together.
Looking at the above, it seems like it's possible to add in some nature concerns into each category.

So if you are passionate about preserving the nature spots in Singapore, this is the time to voice your opinions.

Whether they accept the suggestions or not is a different issue though, but at least, let's get our views heard! :)

Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Flying Dragons at NUS

When Marcus saw me with my camera hooked to my belt as we were going for lunch yesterday, he asked me why I brought it along and jokingly commented that it was so "tong tong hi" (too hard to translate, but those who understand teochew will know what it means...).

And I told him that you won't know what interesting organisms you might see on the way to lunch.

And little did I know that it turned out to be true, and we spotted this female Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus, formerly confused with Draco volans)!

Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus)
It was just there, flattened itself against the tree trunk. Flying dragons, also known as gliding lizards, have a flap of skin extending from each side of their bodies, supported by their long ribs. They are able to glide from place to place by spreading out its ribs (somewhat like opening a folding fan) to form a gliding surface.

Then all of a suddenly, it ran higher. I initially thought that it was because of me, until I saw another one!

Common Flying Dragons (Draco sumatranus)
There was a male flying dragon just higher up the tree trunk!

Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus)
On seeing the female, the male, which has a bluish head, suddenly turned and face upwards.

Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus)
It then started extending its large yellow throat flap - a courtship behaviour!

Common Flying Dragon (Draco sumatranus)
Here's a closer look at the flying dragon's head upper body with the throat flap extended.

From, now on, I think I'm going to bring my camera along whenever I go out for lunch... :P

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Back at Tanah Merah

Yesterday, I was back at Tanah Merah with a few friends. As usual, night time at Tanah Merah was a lot livelier with more organisms coming out to feed.

The flatworms are one of the animals which are more active at night. This is an Acanthozoon Flatworm (Acanthozoon sp.), one of the more common flatworms that we can see on our shores.

Pseudobiceros uniarborensis is another flatworm often seen on our shores. It has a bright orange line running by the edge of its mantle.

This should be my favourite flatworm of the night, a Pseudobiceros gratus.

As we were exploring, we noticed quite a number of these little flatworms. They looked like juvenile Pseudobiceros stellae to me, but were really a little small to say for sure.

Yet another night animal will be the moon snails, such as this Natica zonalis that had a really pretty orange shell with a pinkish head and striped foot.

The Ghost Crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma) were particularly active at night, foraging for small animals to feed. I saw one feeding on a smaller crab that was still alive! Did not managed to get any photos of that one though. It ran too fast.

Swimming Crabs (Thalamita spp.) were really abundant here too, though most of them were rather small. They got their common name because they can swimming really well, using their paddle-like back legs to propel them around.

One other crab that we spotted was this Velcro Cab (Camposcia retusa), which was really a master of camouflage, provided it was among the rocks, of course, unlike this one which was on the sand. It has tiny hair on its exoskeleton, acting like velcro which allows sponges and algae to stick to it, helping it to blend into surrounding rocks.

The sandy surrounding would probably be more suited for this scallop, camouflaging it nicely. But apart from being able to blend into the surrounding, a scallop is able to escape predation by swimming away quickly too. It does so by flapping its shells and creating a jet propulsion as it closes its shell quickly.

Yet another master of camouflage in the sandy area would be this flatfish. Just look at how its colour blended into the surrounding sand. And that's not all. It could also flap its fins to stir up the sediment to cover its body to conceal it from predators and prey. Interestingly, this fish had both its eyes on one side of its body, hence allowing it to lay down on one side to flatten itself against the sand for better camouflaging.

However, not all fishes laid down on one side by choice. This poor Cardinalfish (Cheilodipterus sp.) was probably stranded in a shallow pool by the receding tide.

This False Scorpionfish (probably Centrogenys vaigiensis) was another unlucky one. While this fish had spines on its dorsal fins, it's not venomous like the scorpionfish that it's mimicking.

This fellow was the real venomous Scorpionfish (probably Parascorpaena picta) with venomous spines, which could gave extremely painful stings to anyone who accidentally step on it barefooted.

Unlike the scorpionfish which stings for defence, this tube anemone stung and trapped tiny plankton or small animals to feed on.

Like the tube anemone, these fan worms also feed on plankton and other tiny food particles from the water. They, however, do not sting, but rely on their crown of feather-like tentacles to trap their food.

Also armed with tentacles, this synaptid sea cucumber pick up tiny food particles from its surrounding by lashing these oral tentacles around.

The Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra) also has oral tentacles, which it used to feel and pick up sand rich with organic matter to feed on. It got its name from its ability to burrow into the sand to hide from predators and to find food.

Indeed, the sandy habitat is the perfect place to live in for burrowers. The Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus) is one of them. This particular sea star had only three arms, unlike the usual ones with five arms.

And we explored and walked on, we eventually reached the area that Kok Sheng had wanted to visit - the area with soft corals and allied cowries! Upon reaching the area, we found a pink soft coral with one allied cowrie.

I soon spotted another one with two of them! Well, mission accomplished!

Heard from James later that they approached a fisherman who showed them a huge sea cucumber. From his photo, it had the general look and feel of a Stichopus hermanni, but the coloration was not one which I have seen before, so can't really say for sure.

Quite a pity that this huge sea cucumber probably ended up in the cooking pot, but guess that's something happening every now and then in Singapore. Certainly hope that we can have a Marine Park soon where the marine life will get more protection.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Huge Sea Stars at Changi

Have not been to Changi Beach for quite a while, and thus decided to ask a few friends to go with me. As usual, Changi was a great place to find sea stars, and our luck was really good and we saw some really huge sea stars!

Eight-armed Luidia Sea Star (Luidia maculata)
We saw a total of 4 Eight-armed Luidia Sea Stars (Luidia maculata), and these were certainly the biggest living sea stars that I had ever seen in Singapore in terms of their diameter! Each was about 50cm wide! The biggest sea star I had seen (including dead ones) were also of this species, when Kok Sheng and I found a dead one about 60cm wide last time, also at Changi.

Eight-armed Luidia Sea Star (Luidia maculata)
Here's another one. These sea stars are known to feed on other smaller sea stars, and they can burrow into the sand to seek for their prey.

Rock Star (Asterina coronata)
We also found a few Rock Stars (Asterina coronata) hiding under rocks at the rocky area.

Sand Star (Astropecten sp.)
As usual, Sand Stars (Astropecten spp.) were rather common here. These was one of the smaller species, and was only about 3cm wide.

Sand Star (Astropecten sp.)
Not sure if this one is a different species. It's more colourful than the earlier one, and was about 5cm wide.

Sand Star (Astropecten sp.)
I later found this bigger one which was a little more brownish in colour and much bigger, about 8cm wide.

Biscuit Sea Star (Goniodiscaster scaber)
There were lots of Biscuit Sea Stars (Goniodiscaster scaber) that I lost count of them.

Cake Sea Star (Anthenea aspera)
We also saw 2 Cake Sea Stars (Anthenea aspera) about 15-18cm wide each.

Six-armed Luidia Sea Star (Luidia penangensis)
Luan Keng later spotted a Six-armed Luidia Sea Star (Luidia penangensis). Some of its arms appeared to have been chomped off. Somehow, I hardly see any "complete" Six-armed Luidia with long arms. Good thing that it can regenerate lost arms, or else it's going to have problem moving around fast enough to seek food and to escape from predators.

Pink Warty Sea Cucumber (Cercodemas anceps)
The Pink Warty Sea Cucumber (Cercodemas anceps) appear to be in season, and we saw lots of them.

Pink Thorny Sea Cucumber (Colochirus quadrangularis)
So were the Pink Thorny Sea Cucumbers (Colochirus quadrangularis). This one was extending its oral tentacles to collect plankton in the water to feed on.

Pinkish Red Sea Cucumber
We also came across this pinkish red sea cucumber with dotted lines by the sides which I do not know the ID.

Ball Sea Cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.)
Ball Sea Cucumbers (Phyllophorus sp.) were really abundant here, and many of them had burrowed into the sand, leaving only their front end sticking outside.

Sea Cucumber
We have seen this sea cucumber many times, but I am still not sure of its ID.

 Sea Apple (Pseudocolochirus axiologus)
But the top sea cucumber of the trip must be this Sea Apple (Pseudocolochirus axiologus). It got its common name from the fact that it's round-shaped and reddish in colour.

Salmacis Sea Urchin (Salmacis sp.)
I only saw one Salmacis Sea Urchin (Salmacis sp.). It had several shells, seaweed and seagrass stuck to its shell to camouflage itself.

We also saw this octopus, which was really cooperative and did not even move much when we were taking photos of it.

Hairy Sea Hare (Bursatella leachii)
There were lots of Hairy Sea Hare (Bursatella leachii), and I saw a number of their egg capsules too.

Leafy Sap-sucking Slug (Polybranchia orientalis)
Yet another animal in season will be this Leafy Sap-sucking Slug (Polybranchia orientalis). This animal has projections on its back known as cerata which it drops to distract predators.

Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)
There was a pair of Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) too. The smaller male was riding on the back of the female, which was hidden in the sand. They practise external fertilisation though, and the female will lay the eggs first, and then the males will release their sperm on them.

Dead Grouper
I heard from Luan Keng that when they were at another part of the beach, they saw a lot of dead fish and jellyfish. This part of the beach seemed better with just a few dead fish here and there. Among the dead fish were a few groupers, catfish and other unidentified ones.

Dead Seahorse
But we were all really sad when we saw a dead Spotted Seahorse (Hippocampus kuda). The colour was so bright that initially from afar I had wondered if it's a toy seahorse. But a closer look told me that it's a dead one, but certainly a real seahorse and not a toy.

It was really nice to be back here on Changi Beach and seeing so many familiar marine life. They were like old friends whom I visit once in a while. Hopefully the situation will improve and the fishes will stop dying.

3 New Sea Cucumbers at Semakau

It never even occurred in my dreams that we would be able to find 3 new sea cucumbers on Semakau in one trip! We had visited Pulau Semakau so many times, and although I had expected to find new sea cucumbers that were not recorded from the island previously, I was still very much surprised (though it's a pleasant one) to actually find 3 of them!

Ball Sea Cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.)
Found this Ball Sea Cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) half buried in the sand. This sea cucumber is very common on our northern shores, but this was my very first time seeing it on Semakau! It usually hide in the sand, and during high tide, only its tentacles will be out in the open, picking up edible tiny decaying matter from teh water to feed on.

Holothuria notabilis
Also at the sandy area, I saw a lump in the sand, and decided to check if anything was underneath. And indeed, this was what I found - a Holothuria notabilis sea cucumber! This was yet another new record for Semakau.

Holothuria notabilis
Not to far away, I saw another lump, and there's another one underneath!

Brown Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Bohadschia vitiensis)
And the third new record was spotted by Peiting. It's a Brown Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Bohadschia vitiensis). This sea cucumber can eject white sticky threads which stick to and confuse its predators.

Apart from these 3 new sea cucumbers, we also saw a number of other interesting stuff.

Galloping Sand Star (Stellaster equestris)
July managed to find a Galloping Sand Star (Stellaster equestris) again. Later, Marcus spotted another one. Both of them appear to be in a rather bad shape though. Their colours were somewhat faded, and their arms are partiall broken. We would have thought that they were dead except that they were still moving.

Galloping Sand Star (Stellaster equestris)
The Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.) appear to be in season, and I saw many of them. This jellyfish is usually found in this position, as it harbours algae in its body and being upside-down exposes the the algae to more sunlight for photosynthesis, The algae will share the food produced with the jellyfish, and in return, they receive shelter and protection.

Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.)
I was rather surprised to see many Hell's Fire Sea Anemone (Actinodendron sp.) too! I certainly did not recall seeing so many of them the last time I visited this area. This sea anemone can give very painful stings, hence its common name.

Sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta)
We saw so many dead sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) that I was really glad when I finally found one that was still alive!

Sand-sifting Sea Star (Archaster typicus)
The sandy beach had lots and lots of Sand-sifting Sea Stars (Archaster typicus), and here's a special one with only 4 arms instead of the usual 5.

Bigfin Reef Squids (Sepioteuthis sp.)
We saw a number of Bigfin Reef Squids (Sepioteuthis sp.) too. The 2 above were spotted by July. They were really cooperative and did not really move much as we took their photos.

Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)
It was nice to see a Knobbly Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus) near the seagrass area. We later found a few more, and in fact, July who was walking at the outer edge when we were combing the area came across more than 20 of them!

Flower Crabs (Portunus pelagicus)
I spotted this pair of Flower Crabs (Portunus pelagicus) near one of the knobblies I found. The male was the more brightly colour one, and it was probably guarding the female, waiting for her to moult before it can mated with her.

Tube Anemone
Tube Anemones were somehow not as common on our southern shores compared to our northen shores. These animals live in a tube made from sand and mucus.

Sandfish sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
One of the more commonly seen sea cucumber was this Sandfish (Holothuria scabra). This sea cucumber is also the one normally served in restaurants. It need to be properly processed to remove its toxins before it can be eaten though.

Noble Volute (Cymbiola nobilis)
As per other Semakau trips, we saw quite a few Noble Volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) laying eggs. It's always nice to see them laying eggs, even though I had seen it so many times.

Sea Cucumber (Stichpus horrens)
On my way back to the forest entrance, I came across this Dragonfish Sea Cucumber (Stichpus horrens) in the seagrass meadow. This sea cucumber has an interesting way it defend itself - it can actually drop off part of its skin to distract would-be predators.

Sea Star (Pentaceraster mammilatus)
And just when I had cross the seagrass meadow, July shouted that he found a Pentaceraster mammilatus! Have not seen a Pentaceraster on Semakau for almost a year!

We were really lucky that the weather held and everyone had a good time with new discoveries!