Category Archives: nature and technology

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

SPOILER WARNING. This movie review WILL contain spoilers regarding the film. If you have not watched it and do not want to be spoiled, please click away from this post. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

If you had the opportunity to opportunity to destroy the world in order to heal the Earth from all the damage that humans have caused, would you do it?

This was the central issue that Godzilla: King of the Monsters revolved around. Directed by Michael Dougherty, the third instalment of the MonsterVerse was released in May 2019 and was met with mixed reviews.

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Poster of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. (Source: Warner Bros. Pictures via Dread Central)

As a sequel to the previous Godzilla movie, this story picks up five years after the happenings in San Francisco. The movie starts off with the birth of a larval Mothra (a moth monster) and the kidnapping of paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell and her daughter Madison by an eco-terrorist organisation. This organisation aims to release the many monsters (now called Titans) around the world through the use of the ORCA, a system that emits frequencies to change the behaviour of the Titans so that they will destroy the world. They are doing this in hopes of creating a better future where the Earth is “healed” from the anthropogenic destruction of the environment. The organisation believed that the appearance of Titans was the Earth’s way of naturally repairing itself. As it turns out, Emma was the one who masterminded this plan and sought the help of the eco-terrorist organisation. MONARCH, an organisation which covertly handles the Titans, together with the military were tasked to stop the organisation from doing so. However, they failed to prevent this from happening.

Many dormant Titans were awakened, including the likes of Ghidora (Monster Zero), a three-headed alien dragon which seeks to craft Earth to its liking, and Rodan, a fiery giant Pteranodon. The Titans caused massive destruction in many countries around the world, leading Emma to think that the destruction was much worse than what humans would do to the Earth, thus regretting her actions. MONARCH pins their hopes on Godzilla to stop Ghidora from controlling the other Titans and save the world. Godzilla eventually succeed and earns the title of the “alpha” from the other Titans.

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Fight scene between Godzilla and Ghidora (Source: Warner Bros. Pictures via San Antonio Express-News)

If you love movies about giant monsters/kaiju fighting or if you are just a big fan of the Godzilla series, this will be the right movie for you. The movie features beautifully crafted battle scenes between Godzilla and Ghidora which were especially jaw-dropping! Furthermore, the polished CGI of the majestic monsters will leave one in awe after watching the film. The film carefully pays tributes to its predecessors by having the designs and sound effects of the monsters stay close to their roots.

Every movie is not without its flaws, and this one in particular lacks in character development. The film focuses more on the action of fight sequences rather than the main cast, causing many cliché and awkwardly funny conversations to occur. However, if you are watching the film all for the action scenes, this flaw will not be of much concern to you.

The eco-terrorism that this film focuses on provides a social commentary of such occurrences. Eco-terrorism is the use of violence to further an environmental cause. While the one seen in this film talks about the destruction of the world, real-life examples are of a much smaller scale. An example would be the Niger Delta Avengers who seek to topple the oil industry in Nigeria through the destruction of pipelines owned by oil companies. They are motivated by the pollution of the Niger Delta which  affects people’s livelihoods.(https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/07/01/who-are-the-niger-delta-avengers)

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Niger Delta Avengers. (Source: Mint News Press)

Now, eco-terrorism poses an ethical question: is the use of violence justified when trying to further a great cause? Even though I am an avid lover of the environment, I feel that any acts of violence should be condemned even though they may be for a great cause. In recent months, the Extinction Rebellion (XR) (https://rebellion.earth/) has become synonymous with the fight against climate change. Some may consider their actions as overboard (read this to see what they did recently! https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/irelands-changing-climate/extinction-rebellion-protesters-brave-the-rain-in-shorts-and-swimwear-to-highlight-leos-fantasy-island-38658962.html) while others see their actions as necessary. The XR operates using non-violent civil disobedience and its actions are hard to be considered as eco-terrorism. However, its actions have brought about chaos and inconvenience through the blocking of roads and the gluing of supporters’ bodies to vehicles. These protests could potentially be met with a backlash of governments which may increase anti-protest legislation. My personal take on this would be that such issues should be discussed in a civilised manner at the institutional level if changes are to occur. Diplomacy should be the way to go when targeting environmental issues.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section!

Written by: Wei Qiang

Thoughts on the National Day Rally

“We should treat climate change defences like we treat the SAF – with utmost seriousness.”

On the 18th of August, 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech, addressing, among other issues, climate change and Singapore’s plan to meet the coming challenges. The title of my blog is a quote from his speech, which I took the liberty of making a minor edit that reflects my personal view. In this post, I’ll be picking out and summarising what I feel are the most important parts of the rally (that pertain to climate change), and giving some of my comments along the way. I understand that the measures listed out during the NDR are not comprehensive, and I must mention that my opinions are greatly summarised as well. While there are too many aspects of climate change to cover in this article, hopefully I’ll be able to give you an additional perspective!

What is climate change?

PM Lee began with a summary on the concept of climate change. He mentioned the greenhouse effect of rising CO2 levels – due to the effect of these greenhouse gases, we have already seen an increase in global average temperatures of 1°C and he even emphasised the gravity of this seemingly small increase. He later went on to list some of the issues Singapore will face: food shortages, diseases, extreme weather. Amongst the problems listed, he singled out the issue that he felt Singapore is the most vulnerable to: sea level rise. He then goes on to mention Singapore’s three-pronged approach to tackling climate change: Understanding, Mitigation and Adaptation.

Understanding Climate Change

Make no mistake, the effects of climate change are already being felt right now, but the scary part is what comes in the next few decades. These effects are difficult to predict, given the complexity and unpredictability of the world’s atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. PM Lee introduced us to the Centre for Climate Research Singapore which was set up in 2013 for research on climate science, to better understand the effects of climate change in the context of Singapore.

While having scientific basis behind policy-making is paramount, it is just as important for Singaporeans to be educated on climate change. An addition or integration of environmental studies into the formal education system would increase the literacy of Singaporeans towards key ideas like sustainability and stewardship. This would prepare the future generation for tackling problems like climate change and biodiversity loss while working towards a sustainable future.

Mitigating Climate Change

PM Lee mentioned Singapore’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, and mentioned one of the steps the government has taken to limit our CO2 emissions is through a carbon tax. At $5 per tonne of CO2 emitted, however, could this tax be a bit too low? Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli explained that this tax is a nudge to businesses to begin improving efficiency, and that taxes will be increased with certainty, just over a longer time frame. Still, The World Bank estimates that to keep warming to within 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we would need a carbon price of US$40-80/tonne of CO2 by 2020 and US$50-100/tonne of CO2 by 2030. So is Singapore doing enough to persuade businesses to shift to greener technology?

Furthermore, PM Lee mentioned that the aim was to cap Singapore’s emissions by 2030. However, the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C explicitly states that to keep temperatures within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the world would have to peak our carbon emissions in 2020 and become carbon neutral by 2050. Is Singapore setting too lenient a goal?

These are just a couple of signs that Singapore isn’t taking its mitigation measures seriously enough, and this sentiment was echoed by the thousands of Singaporeans that attended the Climate Rally a few weeks ago. PM Lee goes on to say: “Although Singapore may not be able to stop climate change by ourselves, we can contribute to solutions, and we must do our fair share. Then we can be credible asking others to reduce their emissions too, and work towards a global solution to climate change.” Are we doing our fair share?

Adapting to Climate Change

PM Lee focuses solely on sea level rise. The grand plan is to build polders, inspired by the Netherlands. Polders are pockets of land reclaimed from the sea. Seawalls are first built around an area, and the area is pumped dry. PM Lee explained that these measures would likely be necessary for our eastern coastline, which is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

These polders increase our land area while at the same time, keeping the sea out. They could even potentially be used to harness tidal energy. The drawbacks would be the cost of building them, which is estimated to be more than 100 billion dollars. Additionally, there are the costs of maintaining these polders as water has to be constantly pumped out. Constructing these polders may also be destructive to the marine ecosystem around the eastern shoreline. There is also another problem.

Let me introduce you to a graph.

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Transient sea-level rise versus committed sea-level rise. (Hardy & Nuse, 2016)

Hank Green explained this graph well in his Youtube Video: “This is the scariest graph I’ve ever seen”. In a nutshell, while sea level rise by 2100 may be about 1m as we have planned for in our adaptation measures, the sea level rise that we subscribe to due to the additional heat in our atmosphere is far greater. If we do nothing about our emissions, sea levels could rise as much as 6 meters in the future. So how high are we going to keep building our sea walls?

While sea level rise is an issue that will affect Singapore significantly, other issues posed by a warming climate are just as serious. We import over 90% of our food, and climate change may soon render agriculture more difficult in many places. We may face a huge problem with food security. Singapore is also a hot and humid tropical country, which means we are especially vulnerable to fatal heat waves. All these problems will have to be addressed in the coming decades, perhaps even sooner than our rising sea levels.

Conclusion

While the measures that PM Lee went over in his NDR speech are laudable, there are still some areas where Singapore can do better. Though I’m no expert, it does seem that our mitigation measures are severely lacking. I understand that with every tax/investment/solution that is proposed, there are certainly challenges and costs. But Singapore is a wealthy country and if we do not take responsibility for our emissions, how can we expect other countries to, especially when they might not have the luxury to do so?

PM Lee said this in context to sustained effort to building adaptation measures: “We must make this effort. Otherwise one day, our children and grandchildren will be ashamed of what our generation did not do.” The government has to realise that this applies to our mitigation measures too. More emphasis has to be placed on mitigating climate change, even if the upfront costs may be great. Because the longer we wait, the greater the costs will become. With each tonne of CO2 we continue to release into the atmosphere, we increase human suffering in the future. Climate change is a moral issue, and it’s time treat it with utmost seriousness.

References:

Hardy, R.D. & Nuse, B.L. Climatic Change (2016) 137: 333. https://doi-org.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/10.1007/s10584-016-1703-4

Where the skies are not blue

A field trip! To a farm! That seemed like the kind of things we would only get to experience back in primary school. But the BES freshmen recently had the opportunity to visit a local farm called Sky Greens. Here’s a little bit more about it!

BES students getting a guided tour around the farm

Sky Greens is a vertical farm located in Yio Chu Kang and it was founded in 2010 by Mr Jack Ng. It is the world’s first low carbon and hydraulic driven vertical farm. Woah woah… what does this mean?

Basically, the vegetables are grown on shelves fitted on 9m high structures. How this farm works is that the shelves will rotate throughout the day to ensure that the vegetables on different shelves will receive sufficient sunlight for growth. Rainwater collected on the farm is pumped into the system to allow the shelves to rotate and also irrigate the plants.

Vegetables being grown on shelves

Mr Jack Ng shared that he started this project because he was interested in doing farming after he retired. However, as current farming methods are very labour intensive, he decided to explore better farming methods.

While some farms may use hydroponics, Sky Greens grow their vegetables in nutrient rich compost. The contents of the compost include “Nespresso” recycled coffee grounds, recycled vegetable waste, beneficial microbes, seaweed extract, bean sprout waste, recycled woodchips and chicken manure. It was really amazing how he was able to reuse food waste and incorporated them into his compost, turning waste into something useful instead! Such efforts to reduce waste are truly admirable. In fact, the coffee grounds act as a form of natural insect repellent due to its acidity, thus benefiting the vegetables as well.

More photos pf the farm

The efficiency of this farm also was truly mind-blowing. It required 95% less water, 75% less labour, electricity and 10x more yield compared to an open field vegetable farm.  It honestly sounded too good to be true! Such green solutions are definitely needed, given that the global demand for food is increasing while resources are becoming more scarce. Moreover, the farm produces approximately 500kg of greens per day which are packaged and sold at FairPrice express outlets around the island. The greens sold are mostly what locals consume (Cai Xin, Xiao Bai Cai, Mai Bai etc). In fact, it only takes 4hours for the greens to hit the shelves after being harvested, in comparison to imported produce which can range from 3 days to 3 weeks. (Lim, 2015).

A packet of Nai Bai Cai from sky greens

Mr Jack Ng explained that he wanted to keep his produce organic and not use pesticides to keep the pests away. As such, he resolved this problem by producing “mini vegetables” instead. These mini vegetables are smaller in size than regular vegetables, but also required less time to grow (only 3-4 weeks are required!) By harvesting the vegetables earlier, he would be able to reach the food before the pests, so that no pesticides would be needed. I personally thought that was a pretty genius idea.

Test results proving that the mini-series contained higher levels of Polyphenol, which acts as an                                                                                            antioxidant

Moreover, this mini-series was also found to contain 35% more antioxidants than regular Cai Xin. What struck me as well was his heart behind producing the vegetables this way. Mr Jack Ng shared that he was adamant about not using pesticides as he would only be willing to grow what he would be willing to eat. As a farmer, he had the responsibility over what he was producing, because it was what people were going to consume. Truly, being a farmer is more than just planting crops, but also impacting the health of whoever would be consuming your food!

As a country that imports more than 90% of our food (AVA, 2019), we are heavily dependent on other countries to supply us the food we need. Honestly, that is quite scary, because we definitely cannot sustain ourselves if we were to stop importing food. With urban projects such as Sky Greens, we are certainly heading towards more efficient and sustainable methods of food production and increasing our food security in the long run. What an eye-opening trip!

Written by: Ann Shin

References

LIM, J. (2019). Vertical farming invention wins global award. Retrieved 9 September 2019, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/vertical-farming-invention-wins-global-award

AVA Vision | AVA Unveils Updated Food Security Roadmap. (2013). Retrieved 7 September 2019, from https://www.sfa.gov.sg/files/avavision/issues3-4_2013/food-security-roadmap.html\

Let’s talk about animal relationships in film

Back in June, we talked about how accurately animals are being portrayed in Disney films. This time, let’s move on from individual characters and talk about the interesting relationships between animals portrayed in different animated films and how they are like in real life.

  1. Musophobia

Untitled.png

Credit: http://www.cartoonswallpapers.net/dumbo/timothy-mouse-dumbo-walt-disney-characters-hd-wallpaper-image-phone/

In Disney’s “Dumbo”, Dumbo the elephant was seen hiding in a haystack avoiding Timothy the mouse after it has tickled his trunk. Timothy told Dumbo that this fear came from the primordial reversed sizes of elephants and mice, which elephants in “present time” still couldn’t forget.

There has always been a misconception that elephants are afraid of mice due to the fear of them running up their trunk, or that their small and agile movements make their movements unpredictable. How true is this in real life?

A popular Discovery series “Mythbusters” tested out the hypothesis of elephants being afraid of mice in one of their episodes and they concluded that elephants are indeed afraid of mice.

Josh Plotnik, a researcher of elephant behaviour and intelligence, posits otherwise. He debunked this myth by arguing that elephants react the way they do when they see a mouse not because of fear, but more of an element of surprise. He proceeded to explain that anything that runs or slither can likely startle elephants in the wild and induce a similar reaction.

Looks like elephants’ specific fear of mice is indeed a myth, but aren’t we all glad that Dumbo overcame his fear and became friends with Timothy in the end?

  1. Mutualism

Some of the greatest examples of animal mutualism are found in the sea. And what better movie to watch than Disney’s Finding Nemo for a good idea of the life under the sea?

Mutualism refers to a relationship where two species of organisms both benefit from the presence of one another.

Untitled1.png

Credit: https://nypost.com/2017/07/17/finding-nemo-is-a-hermaphroditic-lie-says-science/

In Finding Nemo’s opening scene, Nemo’s first day of school, he was seen waking his dad up in the centre of a sea anemone. Why was Marlin able to sleep so soundly within the poisonous arms of an anemone? The mutualistic relationship between these two organisms shall explain this.

Most clownfish, or anemonefish, species are resistant to the toxins generated by sea anemone. For certain species that are not resistant, the mucus membrane on their skin protects them from the toxins. This resistance allow them to hide and camouflage themselves within the arms of a sea anemone, protecting them from predators which are not resistant to the toxins. While protecting the anemonefishes, the sea anemone derive benefits from them too. The anemonefish help to get rid of parasites in the sea anemones and provide them with nutrients by excretion.

Though only one side of this relationship was clearly portrayed in the film, Disney surely drew more attention to these special interactions between animals among the general public!

  1. Predator-prey relationships

Untitled2.png

Credit: https://dettoldisney.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/disney-vs-nature-3-the-lion-king/

This relationship is rather accurately portrayed in the circle of life of The Lion King.

The bottom of the food chain is trees, shrubs and grass in the savanna, which are fed on by zebras and elephants. They’re in turn preyed on by cheetahs, hyenas and lions. This was explained by Mufasa to Simba as they overlooked Pride Rock. In The Lion King, the lions were not seen interacting with gazelles and zebras the way different species of animals do in other anthropomorphized films.

On the flip side, in the recent popular film Zootopia, predators and preys live in a community together in the city of Zootopia. The rabbit Judy Hoops and the fox Nick Wilde even became best buddies at the end of the story. While the threat of predators pouncing onto their prey out of “animal instincts” still remains, it is social stigmatised rather than recognised as natural behaviour. This shows that in the attempt to reflect societal issues by personifying animals in their films, Disney has inevitably compromised the biological relationships between certain species.

With the animation industry’s fondness towards non-human characters, the element of anthropormorphism in films has definitely been significantly amplified. From simply giving the animals linguistic speech and humanistic emotions, animals in recent films have increasingly human behaviours and cultures. Perhaps from now onwards, we can all pay a little more attention to the details that filmmakers have purposefully incorporated into the films!

References

Aquaviews. (2018, October 05). 5 Symbiotic Relationships in the Ocean – AquaViews. Retrieved from https://www.leisurepro.com/blog/explore-the-blue/5-marine-symbiotic-relationships/

Extreme Science. (n.d.). Are elephants really afraid of mice? Retrieved from http://www.extremescience.com/elephants-afraid-of-mice.htm

Mebs, D. (1994). Anemonefish symbiosis: vulnerability and resistance of fish to the toxin of the sea anemone. Toxicon, 32(9), 1059-1068.

Melina, R. (2016, June 01). Are Elephants Really Afraid of Mice? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/33261-elephants-afraid-of-mice-.html

Yin, C. (2013, May 20). Lion King-Biology Project. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/l39zl1itkw_c/lion-king-biology-project/

 

The Bio”D” in Disney

It is a widely known fact that many of the beloved Disney characters that we are all too familiar with are based on actual animals. But really, how well do we know about the real-life creatures that inspired them? And how accurate are their real-life behaviours being portrayed through their fictional counterparts? Amongst many, five characters across the Disney universe have been chosen for you to compare fact to fiction because it is honestly such a pity that many of these real-life creatures and their equally interesting character traits lay hidden behind the spotlight.

  • Winnie the Pooh- Canadian Black Bear

(Credits: Heroes Wiki, Alex Pawlowski, New York Public Library)

One of the most timeless and oldest characters in Disney history, Winnie the Pooh, needs no introduction. He was based upon a teddy bear owned by the creator’s son, Christopher Robin Milne. Though the original teddy bear was not based on any actual bear species, the boy named it “Winnie” after a Canadian black bear that lived at the London Zoo. Perhaps this explains the stark difference in fur colour!

Fact:

Winnie the Pooh had a chronic addiction to honey and constantly plotted ways to raid hives with his Hundred Acre companions. Canadian black bears, or bears in general, do in fact love raiding hives too! They have short, non-retractable claws that allow them to climb up trees to reach the heights the hives are at.

Fiction:

While you only ever see Pooh Bear consuming honey, actual bears may be going in for the more succulent prize, as they are rather opportunistic eaters with a taste for almost anything. The bees and larvae are extremely nutritional and rich in protein and fat.

Also, actual bears are coated with long, thick fur which makes it hard for bees to reach the skin surface and sting them, thus making them resistant to bee stings. Their faces and ears, however, are areas uncovered with fur, so they are not completely immune either. So in fact, Pooh doesn’t have to make such elaborate plans just to get to his meals.

2) Zootopia’s Mr. Big – Arctic shrew

 

(Credits: Disney Wiki, Clara Chaisson)

You’d be surprised at the amount of thought that went into casting the characters of “Zootopia”. As a good example, the filmmakers consulted animals experts for “the most vicious carnivore” to play the part of the Mafia king of sorts, and it surprisingly was this petite little creature.

 Fact:

Shrews are as much of savages as Mr. Big in the film. Though seemingly adorable and harmless, these rodents will not hesitate to take on animals larger than them, such as mice, snakes, and scorpions. At one point, it was even believed that the shrew’s bite was poisonous, but it was later discovered that the saliva of some shrew species are lethal to mice and can cause substantial pain to humans. In fact, they hold economic value to farmers, ridding them of pests like insects and slugs.

Fiction:

It would be highly unlikely that an arctic shrew would possess such a wide network of family, friends, and servants, for they are highly solitary animals. Adults are territorial to the point where any forced extended interaction between two shrews would render one of them dead within a matter of days, as studies have shown.

3) The Lion King’s Timon and Pumba – Meerkat and Warthog

(Credits: Toonbaboon, Metro News)

It’s everyone favourite comedic duo and #BFFgoals, Timon and Pumba from “The Lion King”! Have you ever wondered whether these inseparable characters are based on actual, real-life animal interactions? Let’s put their friendship to the test.

It’s…fiction!

The meerkat-looking animals you see in the photograph on the right are actually mongooses and not meerkats! (That’s right, it’s not mongeese.) Warthogs and mongooses have been observed to share a rather rare form of symbiotic relationship between mammals known as mutualism, where both parties benefit – the warthogs cleaned and the mongooses fed.

Limited research has been conducted on this behaviour, though if you would like some evidence, do check out the 2010 BBC special called “Banded Brothers”, here:

4) Finding Nemo’s Pearl – FlapJack Octopus

(Credits: Disney Wiki, Dante Fenolio)

That’s right, for all those of you who thought this adorable character was a jellyfish or squid of sorts, you were wrong! This is a flapjack octopus, appropriately named after the way it collapses on the seabed, looking like mush. Unfortunately, that’s about the point where the resemblance ends, and from here it’s mostly…

Fiction:

If there were indeed fish schools, Pearl would probably not be going to school with the other fishes as octopuses are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, and very possibly the most intelligent invertebrate on earth. They have highly developed nervous systems that allow them to solve puzzles, mimic other animals through camouflage, and develop both long and short-term memory.

Sadly, Pearl and her father would not have coexisted in the same time period either. Octopuses mate sacrificially, as after they practice external fertilization, the males wander off to die shortly after, and the females either starve to death obsessively guarding the eggs for many months (depending on the species), or her own body degenerates on its own. This, coupled with the fact that octopuses only live from a few months to a few years, is why experts think that humans are instead the dominant intelligence on earth because there was no way for octopuses to accumulate and pass down knowledge without generational overlap, despite their incredible cognitive and learning abilities.

5) Jungle Book’s King Louie – Gigantopithecus

(Credits: Walt Disney. Co, Wookieepedia)

Enough of the present, let’s dig up some of the past! Those of you who have watched the 2016 version of The Jungle Book might have guessed that King Louie’s character is based on the extinct ape species, Gigantopithecus, the largest primate to ever roam the earth.

Fact:

Indeed, it is possible for an early human and this real-life King Kong to have crossed paths. Archaeologists found the fossil remains of the Gigantopithecus in parts of Asia, India included (where the movie was set in), and it existed alongside human ancestors, Homo Sapien and Homo Erectus, for tens of thousands of years.

Its size is no disappointment either, as the Gigantopithecus easily stood up to 3 metres tall and weighed up to 600 kg! (There is, however, a slight locational discrepancy, as the species found in India, G. Giganteus, is only slightly taller than a human, as compared to its much more massive China counterpart.)

 Fiction:

Sadly, a meetup between King Louie and Mowgli would not have been possible, as the Gigantopithecus has been extinct for around 300, 000 to 400, 000 years ago.

Poor King Louie might also have been overly demonized as the Gigantopithecus, after research on its dental structure, has been proven to be a gentle giant with a general liking for bamboo – its cavities closely resembles that of a giant panda, indicating similar diets.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed this magical carpet ride, and realised that actual animals can also be as fascinating as their fictional counterparts!

 

 

 

 

References:

 

  1. Barras, C. (2018). Jungle tales: the real King Louie was the biggest ape of all. [online] Newscientist.com. Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2088989-jungle-tales-the-real-king-louie-was-the-biggest-ape-of-all/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Bear.org. (2018). North American Bear Center – What do bears like to eat in a beehive?. [online] Available at: https://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/foraging-a-foods/206-what-do-bears-like-to-eat-in-a-beehive.html [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Defenders of Wildlife. (2018). Basic Facts About Black Bears. [online] Available at: https://defenders.org/black-bear/basic-facts [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Disney Wiki. (2018). Mr. Big (Zootopia). [online] Available at: http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Mr._Big_(Zootopia) [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Encyclopedia.com. (2018). shrew facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about shrew. [online] Available at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/animals/vertebrate-zoology/shrew [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Arctic shrew. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_shrew [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Gigantopithecus. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigantopithecus [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Griggs, M. (2018). Consent Form | Popular Science. [online] Popsci.com. Available at: https://www.popsci.com/warthogs-take-themselves-to-mongoose-gleaners [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Harness, J. and 1, R. (2018). 11 Things You Might Not Know About Winnie the Pooh. [online] Neatorama. Available at: http://www.neatorama.com/2012/01/18/11-things-you-might-not-know-about-winnie-the-pooh/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Manning, E. (2018). ASK A WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. [online] Adfg.alaska.gov. Available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=371 [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Nuwer, R. (2018). Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses. [online] Smithsonianmag.com. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-curious-facts-about-octopuses-7625828/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. Softschools.com. (2018). Octopus Facts. [online] Available at: http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/octopus_facts/23/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

 

  1. YouTube. (2018). A Warthog Spa – Banded Brothers – Series 1 Episode 1 Preview – BBC Two. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXW_1i1pA0w [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

Endangered Species Day

Summer break is finally here and perhaps you’re thinking of going on a vacation and exploring the world. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who will actually be doing that this summer. However, for those who aren’t that lucky, fret not! In commemoration of Endangered Species Day, we’ll take you on a journey around the world (all seven continents!) while showing you some of the endangered species that inhabit these places.

First off, what’s Endangered Species Day? This special day is part of a campaign organised by the Endangered Species Coalition. Through the Endangered Species Day, the Coalition hopes to educate people of all ages about the significance of protecting endangered species, as well as inform people about the everyday efforts that they can undertake to contribute to conservation. In 2018, Endangered Species Day will be commemorated on May 18th. Although efforts for Endangered Species Day are largely concentrated in the United States, we will be focusing on species found around the world for this blog post and the conservation statuses of these organisms will be based off the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Asia – Gymnoderma insulare [Endangered]

asia

Starting from home in Asia, we have Gymnoderma insulare, which is a well-documented lichen due to its rarity in the wild. This lichen was only found in five locations in Japan (during the period of 1926-2012) and Taiwan (in 2007). It grows at the bottom of tree trunks in old forests, specifically the trees Cryptomeria japonica (in Japan) and Chamaecyparis obtusa (in Taiwan). Old-growth forests with these two tree species were and continue to be threatened by forestry and natural hazards such as typhoons.

Australia – Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) [Critically Endangered]

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(Credits: Jeremiah Blatz)

Going down under, the hawksbill turtle can be found nesting in small numbers along the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The Dampier Archipelago and Montebello Islands (off the northwest coast of Australia) are home to one of the biggest hawksbill populations globally. Sadly, these majestic creatures face many threats such as tortoiseshell trade, egg poaching and destruction of nesting habitats – all of which severely affect their population and ability to reproduce.

Antarctica – Amsterdam albatross (Diomedea amsterdamensis) [Critically Endangered]

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(Credits: Dominique Filippi)

Prepare your thick fur coats and stay warm, for we’re heading to Antarctica! Look up, as you may see the Amsterdam albatross, which is a humongous bird with a wingspan of up to 340cm. It is an endemic species, which means that it breeds only on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island. The latest data shows the total population standing at about 170 birds. Although the recent growing population has been encouraging, it is projected that in the long run, the albatross populations will see a continuing decline due to a disease that results in chick mortality.

Africa – Senecio exuberans [Endangered]

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(Credits: Peter Wragg)

Ditch the winter wear and get decked out in easy breezy clothes as we traverse the vast grasslands of Africa. Senecio exuberans was once described as ‘one of the most characteristic features’ of the grasslands around Pietermaritzburg. It’s not hard to see why, as it can grow up to 1.5m tall and its bright yellow flowers stand out among the African grasslands. This species was initially a common sight on such habitats. Unfortunately, as a result of agricultural and developmental pressures, this charismatic plant is now close to extinction.

Europe – Dusky winged fritillary (Boloria improba) [Endangered]

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(Credits: Magnus Unger)

Next, we move on to Europe to see the beautiful dusky winged fritillary. This butterfly can only be found on exposed, grassy areas, frequently on gentle gradients within a limited geographic range in Northern Europe. Owing to its restricted range, long-term threats to this species include climate change and the subsequent changes in vegetation and timberline.

North America – Red wolf (Canis rufus) [Critically Endangered]

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(Credits: https://www.lifeandscience.org/red-wolves)

Say hello to the red wolf in North America! Interestingly, these wolves were declared to be Extinct in the Wild by 1980. A successful reintroduction in 1987 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) led to a reintroduced population in eastern North Carolina, USA. Current population numbers within this area are less than 150. Anthropogenic threats such as moving vehicles and gunshots can pose serious dangers to this fragile population.

South America – Orincoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) [Critically Endangered]

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(Credits: Fernando Flores)

Finally, we end off our world tour in South America, where the Orinoco crocodile resides exclusively in in the Orinoco River. Holding the title of being the largest predator in the Americas, the male Orincoco crocodiles can grow up to 6m long (that’s how tall giraffes are!). In the past, these reptilians were nearly hunted to extinction for the production of leather. Today, pollution, hunting and the collection of juvenile crocodiles for the live animal trade are the biggest threats to the population, which has been reduced to about 500 individuals.

As Endangered Species Day approaches, you could contribute to conservation efforts through simple acts such as sharing this post with your family and friends, or just by learning more about the threats that biodiversity faces. With that, we hope that you now know more about endangered animals around the world and have a great summer vacation!

References

Endangered Species Day. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.endangered.org/campaigns/endangered-species-day/

Ohmura, Y., Nadyeina, O. & Scheidegger, C. 2014. Gymnoderma insulare. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T58520980A58520984. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T58520980A58520984.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.

Hamann, M., & Riskas, K. (2013). Australian endangered species: Hawksbill Turtle. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/australian-endangered-species-hawksbill-turtle-16218

Mortimer, J.A & Donnelly, M. (IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group). 2008. Eretmochelys imbricata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T8005A12881238. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T8005A12881238.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.

BirdLife International. 2017. Diomedea amsterdamensis (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22698310A110677305. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-1.RLTS.T22698310A110677305.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.

Senecio exuberans | Plantz Africa. Retrieved from http://pza.sanbi.org/senecio-exuberans

Kloof Conservancy » Rare and Endangered Plants. Retrieved from https://www.kloofconservancy.org.za/rare-and-endangered-plants/

van Swaay, C., Wynhoff, I., Verovnik, R., Wiemers, M., López Munguira, M., Maes, D., Sasic, M., Verstrael, T., Warren, M. & Settele, J. 2010. Boloria improba. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T174312A7048346. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.

Kelly, B.T., Beyer, A. & Phillips, M.K. 2008. Canis rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3747A10057394. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3747A10057394.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2018.

Schley, R. (2016). On the brink: 10 South American species endangered by environmental changeClimate & Environment at ImperialInsights from staff and students across Imperial working in climate and environment related areas. Retrieved from https://granthaminstitute.com/2016/03/02/on-the-brink-10-south-american-species-endangered-by-environmental-change/

 

World Water Day 2018

world water day

Psst, World Water Day is coming up soon! Here’s a little tip for you to celebrate the upcoming World Water Day on March 22nd:

Go on down to one of the Singapore World Water Day (SWWD) roadshows with your latest Singapore Power (SP) bill, and if the folks at the roadshow see that you’ve been a diligent water saver, you’ll be able to receive an exclusive premium. This sweet opportunity will be waiting for you during the entirety of March, but limited stocks are available (just like one other precious, precious resource).

Find your nearest roadshow here: https://www.pub.gov.sg/getinvolved/singaporeworldwaterday

The above link is also where you can find SWWD’s official partners, including Ben & Jerry’s and oBike, who are eager to offer you a steal of a deal for the right water-saving attitude.

Here’s something to think about this World Water Day: wetlands. Sure, we need to do all we can to keep that fresh, clean, thirst-quenching clear water running out of our taps. But is that enough? Nature needs water too, and we need nature.

Urbanising cities have a common trend of gradually encroaching on natural spaces like wetlands. These cities will only expand and multiply as time passes, and it may seem a waste to preserve a wetland when it could be a bustling hub. The truth is, however, that wetlands are important to us, even to those of us who live highly urbanised environments. Wetlands provide a wide array of ecosystem services, such as absorbing excess rainfall during storms and helping to reduce the risk of flooding. Now, that’s relevant.

In particular, Singapore boasts a sprawling Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which is not only a site teeming with heritage, but also with birds of every shape and size. Native birds, exotic birds that have travelled from across the world to spend the winter in sunny Singapore – our very own wetlands are a key stopping point in the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Site Network, which include Kakadu National Park in Australia, Mai Po in Hong Kong and the Yatsu Tidal Flats in Japan.

This World Water Day, maybe leave a little room in your thoughts for the wetlands around the world and in our own garden city, while you’re taking a short shower.