Happy International Biodiversity Day! Today, 22 May 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of the day the Convention on Biological Diversity came into effect. Why not celebrate by donating a tree or two in support of our planet?
The Trillion Tree Campaign has allowed people around the world to pledge and donate to plant trees since its 2006 launch by the United Nations Environment Programme. As of 2016, more than 14.2 billion trees have been planted by people who care about the earth. Last year, the campaign set a new goal of a trillion trees. A 2015 study by Yale found that there are about 3.04 trillion trees on earth. However, we lose about 15 billion trees each year – imagine what a difference we could make with a trillion trees! You could become a part of that movement with just a few clicks.
Tired of being the same ol’ skeleton for Halloween? Looking for a costume to stand out in the crowd? Want to rack up those likes on Instagram? Look no further as we present some spooktacular Halloween costumes inspired by Mother Nature and her fantastic creatures. Although the Halloween culture in Singapore isn’t that strong, you never know when you need some killer costume ideas. From classic to cute to completely vile, we have it all covered in this post.
If you’re looking to fit in with the Halloween colours of black, orange and yellow, you should certainly be inspired by the Halloween crab (Gecarcinus quadratus). This vibrantly coloured land crab inhabits mangroves, rainforests and sand dunes along the Pacific Coast. It’s basically dressed for Halloween – a black carapace with yellow spots, legs that are a mix of pumpkin orange and blood red and a splash of purple on its claws. These crabs create an underground system of burrows for shelter and brumation (a state similar to hibernation that cold-blooded animals use during cold weather) close to a water source. Like how Halloween comes to life at night, these crabby creatures are nocturnal as well and only forage at night.
Costume idea: Wear an entirely black outfit to follow the crab’s body. You could have some splashes of yellow on your shirt. Paint your arms purple and your legs orange and red. You’re welcome for this crab-tivating costume 😉
Some people dress up as deer. Some people dress up as vampires. What if you want to be both?
Be like the tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus).
This unusual creature is a small deer that inhabits mountainous forests across southwest China and northeastern Myanmar. Possessing a tuft of long, blackish hair from the forehead and large, sturdy upper canines, the tufted deer is a perfect combination of cute and scary. Male deer have tiny antlers which are almost hidden by the hair tuft. They either travel alone or in pairs and are most active during dusk and dawn. Unfortunately, very little is known about this species and it’s believed that population numbers are decreasing significantly.
Costume idea: Get those $2 antlers and fake fangs from Daiso. Put on a brown outfit, spike up part of your hair with some gel and you have yourself an awesome costume. Plus, you get to spread the message about these threatened creatures when people come up to you with a bewildered look!
Maybe you don’t want to fit in with the Halloween colours or look cute. That’s totally fine – this last option should fulfil your desire to look evil. One fine specimen to imitate is the Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer). This stork is a massive wading bird that can grow up to 167cm. Combined with its cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, it’s no wonder that “The Undertaker” is its nickname. The Marabou also possesses a huge bill and a distinctive pink gular sac at its throat.
These birds are scavengers and having a featherless head is their way of avoiding messing up their plumage when feeding on animal carcasses. The storks aren’t fussy about what they eat as they have been known to consume human garbage such as shoes and metal. Unfortunately, human feeding has conditioned some Marabou storks to react aggressively when humans refuse to feed them. Reports of children being killed by Marabous are not unheard of in southern Africa.
Costume idea: To achieve this look, an all-white outfit is ideal. You should stuff a pink sock with cotton balls and tie it around your neck. Attach a cone to your nose to imitate that humongous bill. Putting on a pink bald cap and a black cape would make your costume more authentic. You may also lash out at people if they refuse to give you food.
So there you go, 3 drastically different costume ideas which you will definitely not find anywhere else. We guarantee that all heads will turn as you strut down the street in these outfits. Happy Halloween and enjoy the festivities with your family and friends (if you still have any after wearing these costumes)!
According to TimeandDate, 2017, the UN General Assembly recommended all countries to introduce a new annual event in 1954 in hopes of promoting fraternity and understanding between children all over the world.
That’s right! This event is called Universal Children’s Day! The UN General Assembly also suggested all countries to set an appropriate date with respect to their own country. Singapore has, since 1961, set Children’s Day as October 1. It was only in 2012 that the Ministry of Education decided to move this event to the first Friday of October (Chew, 2016).
Let’s now delve into the event with some interesting facts of young of animals and how we can relate to them (Because hey, why should they be excluded?):
Young Orangutans stay with mum until they are seven or eight, having the lengthiest childhood among great apes (Beening, 2015). That is almost twice or more the amount of time for human babies to become fully weaned (two to four years)!
Once born, a giraffe calf can stand up and walk in one hour (Beening, 2015)! Humans need about a year after birth before they are able to walk. This could be because giraffe calves have to be able protect themselves in the wild while human babies are protected from birth.
Young Panamanian golden frogs, unable to defend themselves unlike the fully toxic adult, hide until they do so with their skin secretions (Beening, 2015). Humans do not have toxic skin secretions to protect ourselves even as we mature but we do have plenty of places to hide in, like buildings, all our lives!
At about five months, rhino calves begin the growth of their iconic horns (Beening, 2015). While humans do not have a “iconic” body part, one of the most important body part, the brain, grows to 80% of adult size by age two, imagine the amount of nutrients we need from birth till then!
Dogs have 28 teeth as puppies but mature to have a full 42 (James, 2014). Humans however start with only 20 when young (10 on top and bottom each) and 32 when grown up.
Before eggs hatch, chicks can “talk” to one another and mum by cheeping through the egg (James, 2014). Imagine if humans could do that! Too bad fetuses only communicate by kicking~
If a squirrel finds an abandoned squirrel baby, it will adopt the orphan (James, 2014). I believe humans do have this culture too, in a place called the orphanage.
Young chimpanzees make dolls using sticks and rocks, then have fun with them by scolding, feeding, and cuddling them (James, 2014). Looks like we aren’t the only ones with toys! Animals have their own version of Barbie dolls too.
Many eagle chicks perform homicide on siblings to gain access to more and better food from mum (James, 2014). Aren’t you glad this does not happen to us? Phew.
Young elephants suck their trunks for comfort (ViralForest, 2015). This might be similar to how it is a natural instinct for human babies to suck and therefore leading to the invention of pacifiers!
There you have it! Happy Children’s Day to all!! 😀
The time of the year that the moon is at its brightest, roundest and fullest has finally come! Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the loveliest Chinese festivals. For Chinese families, it’s a day for family gathering, moon-gazing and of course, indulging in delicious mooncakes.
When it comes to Mid-Autumn Festival, what comes to your mind must be mooncakes, lanterns, and (maybe) the legends related to it. However, this post is not going to be about any of them! Because today, October 4th, is also World Animal Day! World Animal Day is a social movement which aims to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe, making the world a better place for all animals (find out more here: https://www.worldanimalday.org.uk/). So, to celebrate both the Mid-Autumn Festival and World Animal Day, let us tell you about the story of the moon and the animals associated with it ~
Chapter 1: The Time Keeper
Most animals, including humans, have bodily rhythms governed by the sun. However, the moon also controls several mysterious circadian clocks in many animals, both marine and land, and especially nocturnal creatures.
How does the moon clock work? The moon provides time cues to animals via two ways: changes in moonlight and tides. These two environmental cycles are the result of the lunar cycle (the number of days required for the Moon to orbit around the Earth) and the lunar day (the number of hours required for the Moon to travel by the same spot on Earth). These environmental changes can be perceived by animals and plants, cueing them to behave in certain ways and perform certain activities at certain timings to survive in the wild.
During full moon, corals are all ready to make babies
For hundreds of species of corals, the full moon sets the great atmosphere for lovemaking. Corals keep close watch for changes in moonlight. As the full moon arrives, corals release huge amounts of eggs and sperm into the water at the same time – a mass-spawning event and one at the most massive scale on Earth. This mass coral spawning event just happened in Singapore in April 2017!
Researchers had found that corals are able to perceive the blue region of the visible light spectrum and are extremely sensitive to the spectra that match that of the blue moonlight. By synchronizing spawning, the free-floating sperm and eggs have a higher chance to come into contact with one another and undergo fertilisation in the vast ocean. This lovemaking event always occurs on or near a full moon.
Turtles ride waves onto shore during high tide to lay eggs
While the moonlight tells corals when to spawn, tidal changes inform sea turtles on when to lay their eggs. Females of most species come ashore at night during high tide to lay their eggs on the beach.
Light changes during the lunar cycle not only represent time cues to many species, but also affect the animals’ use of senses.
Chapter 2: The Compass
Not only do species rely on moonlight to tell time, some also use the moon to navigate their way to find food and go back home!
“Just keep walking, just keep walking”
Under a dark night sky, newly hatched baby sea turtles depend on moonlight reflecting off the ocean surface to guide them toward the sea. Just in August, 32 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings were sighted at Each Coast Park, trying to find their way to the sea!
Hawksbill turtle hatchling at East Coast Park in August (Source: NParks Facebook)
Besides sea turtles, dung beetles also use polarized moonlight as a compass to roll its ball of poop in a straight line in order to escape competitors.
Chapter 3: A fine dinner under the moonlight
Dining under the moonlight may be a romantic scene to us, but how is it like in the animal kingdom?
Let’s play hide and seek
Full moons shine extra light onto the landscape. Many predators in the animal kingdom take advantage of this, and find it easier to spot and hunt their prey. Nightjars and owls were found to be more efficient in foraging when there is moonlight, and avoid activity at dark nights. It may seem that predators have an edge as the moon brightens. However, many prey have also stepped up their game. During bright nights, prey dramatically reduce their night activity and go into hiding. There are also prey which find it easier to detect and evade predators, and are daring enough to increase activity levels. Doodlebugs, the larvae of dragonfly-like insects called antlions, dig bigger holes to trap insect prey during full moon nights as the prey are more active.
Light is important to both humans and wildlife. Lightbulbs are seen as one of the greatest inventions of all time. However, in today’s world, our use of light has become so excessive that it is disrupting the natural patterns of light and dark, altering the behaviour of wildlife and functions of ecosystems. The baby sea turtles found at East Coast Park were found to be circling on the beach. The bright streetlights were distracting the hatchlings, and they were unable to follow the moonlight to the sea.
Every flip of a light switch is contributing to altering natural patterns of mating, migration, feeding, and pollination, at a rate which species are unable to adapt. Not only does ecological light pollution affect wildlife, studies have shown that it has profound impacts on human health too. Nocturnal light disrupts our sleep and confuses our circadian rhythms. After all, humans are animals as well.
As you enjoy your mooncakes and appreciate the full moon tonight (if it is visible), we hope that this post will increase your appreciation of the importance of the moon to both humans and wildlife, and encourage you to reduce and fight light pollution!
We’ve reached the end of May, and what better way to say goodbye to this month than to celebrate World Otter Day? This year, World Otter Day falls on the 31st of May, and we hope that you’ll be motivated to learn more about these otterly adorable creatures after reading this post. World Otter Day was created with the intention of raising global awareness on these river-loving animals. This is due to the myriad of threats that otters increasingly face such as habitat destruction, hunting and road deaths. Before we talk more about otters, let’s start off with a joke:
Otters are carnivorous mammals that belong to the weasel family, which includes animals like the badger and wolverine, and there are 13 otter species which can be found all over the world. In North America, you can find the charismatic sea otters, who are often seen relaxing while floating on water. They even hold hands with one another while they’re sleeping to prevent themselves from floating away! In South and Southeast Asia, you can find the Oriental Small-Clawed otter, which is the smallest but one of the more social species among all the otter species.
In our own island home, we’ve become enamoured with the otter families that elicit squeals of excitement whenever they are spotted. These families comprise of smooth-coated otters, which as the name suggests, have smoother and shorter fur as compared to other otter species. These adventurous otters have been seen exploring places such as St Andrew’s Junior College and the i Light festival at Marina Bay, proving themselves to be highly adept in navigating our urban landscape.
Other than providing us with an overwhelming amount of cuteness, otters also play significant roles in their ecosystems as well. In the case of sea otters, they significantly influence sea urchin and kelp populations. Sea otters munch on sea urchins which consume kelp. By eating the sea urchins, sea otters keep the populations in check, which prevents kelp forests from being overgrazed on by sea urchins. It’s important to maintain healthy kelp forests as they are rich sources of nutrients to fish and other marine organisms.
Sadly, most otter species are facing falling population numbers and this can be attributed to a few reasons. One major reason would be pollution which contaminates water bodies where otters are mostly found. Harmful chemicals from the run-offs can accumulate in the otters and their prey are affected by the pollution as well, jeopardising the food sources of the otters.
You may be wondering, how can I contribute to World Otter Day? Well, even a small action is pretty significant! You could aim to spread the message about otters to people around you and raise awareness on their situation. Another simple way of contributing would be being considerate towards our local otters (and all other wildlife in fact!). Some tips include giving the otters adequate space upon encountering them and keeping our waterways clean to give them optimal habitats to thrive in. With that, happy World Otter Day and enjoy the rest of this week 🙂
It’s mid-week already, but this time it’s not just any typical Wednesday, but Vesak day! So, you may ask, what exactly is Vesak Day about? And why are we even writing about a religious festival on a website dedicated to Singapore’s biodiversity? Well, Vesak Day is observed by Buddhists to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddharta Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha. Buddhists would refrain from killing and many times carry out ‘Mercy Release’.
Firstly, what is mercy release? Basically, mercy release involves the release of animals kept in captivity such as the pets sold in pet stores and live fishes kept in restaurants. While at first glance, such acts may truly be benevolent and liberating, a deeper analysis proves otherwise. In fact, statistics released by NParks show that about 80-90% of the animals freed into the wild perish within a day (Heng, 2016). Doesn’t sound very liberating, unless death is your idea of liberation (instead of the conventional concept where animals are returned to their proper home – the great wilderness).
In fact, this tradition of mercy release has spurned off a darker side taking advantage of an activity borne out kindness for animals. In some places where the animals are bought from vendors specialising in this ‘trade’, the animals are recaptured after being released, thereby continuing a vicious cycle of catch and release. That’s not all. The animals that do survive being suddenly freed into the wild compete with native species for resources, upsetting the already delicate balance of Singapore’s wildlife. Common examples of non-native species include the Red-eared Slider and the American Bullfrog.
However, you can help put an end to this! For one, you could start by telling your friends and family about the consequences of mercy release. If people are not deterred by the ecological harm brought about by this activity, one should also note that animal abandonment is a crime under the Singaporean Law. Under the Parks and Trees Act, one could be fined up to $50,000, jailed for up to half a year or even both if caught releasing animals for the first time (National Parks, 2015). Also, if you wish to know more, NParks is currently holding Operation No Release this weekend in the various parks and nature reserves where they reach out to the public on this issue. Alternatively, after being armed with the knowledge listed above, you could sign up to volunteer with NParks to engage the public about mercy release and animal abandonment! 🙂
In conclusion, we need to realise that not all actions borne out of virtuous intentions have good results. In the case of mercy release, such acts may in fact do more harm than good. However, we can still do our part to help animals on this Vesak day through actions such as being vegetarian or donating to animal groups that fight illegal wildlife trade (Actman, 2017).
Stand up for workers all over the world because it’s International Workers’ Day (a.k.a. Labour Day)! It’s a day to pay tribute to everyone who has worked hard in their fields for the success and well-being of our nation: architects, designers, engineers, cleaners and many, many more. In the natural world, working is also part and parcel of animals’ lives for their families and their survival. Ants and bees are perhaps the most widely known hardworking animals. But, do you know of other animals that perform similar jobs as people do? As we celebrate this holiday with our family and friends, let’s take a moment to appreciate and applaud some of the most industrious animals in the natural world!
One of nature’s greatest engineers, the beaver is the only animal capable of changing their environment after man! These large rodents work diligently to construct dams in rivers or streams to transform fields and forests into large, nice and cosy ponds as their homes for winter. Preparation for this massive construction project starts all the way from late summer to fall. With the help of their strong teeth and powerful jaws, the beavers are able to chip away at tree trunks to acquire logs and branches for construction. After being broken down into smaller pieces, the beavers would carry the materials to the construction site and start building the dam by laying sticks and stacking branches in the mud.
Hardworking beaver constructing its dam. (Source: Dave Small-http://bangordailynews.com/slideshow/industrious-beavers-are-hard-at-work/)
A Beaver Dam in Wyoming (Source: Wildlife Conservation Society-http://www.livescience.com/7580-beaver-dams-boost-songbird-populations.html)
The male Satin Bowerbird is perhaps the most accomplished interior designer in the animal kingdom. The males spend lots of hard work and time to build and decorate nests to attract females’ attentions. Pebbles, shells and flowers are among some of the artistic objects the males use in their creative nest design.
Just like how we pay great attention on public health and hygiene, cleanliness is also an important concern in the marine world. And this heavy responsibility lies on the Cleaner Wrasse. These tiny fishes work 24/7 scrubbing off unwanted parasites and dead scales on the fins, tails and even mouths of other reef fishes. The reward of their hard work is the feast of parasites! The Cleaner Wrasse has a long list of clients, including larger fishes which might be potential predators!
Aren’t all these creatures amazing?! Not only do animals work long days and nights to survive, they also work hard in maintaining our ecosystem with their irreplaceable skill sets, such as acting as pollinators and decomposers. On this Labour Day, let’s also celebrate the contributions animals have made!