Category Archives: Special Occasions

What are the millennials up to lately?

Self-centred, self-absorbed, self-entitled. They are always on their phones, can’t let go of what they love, and seriously, they always think they deserve better in this world.

They are the millennials the society all so frown upon this day… right?

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Article posted by The Straits Times last week!

If you have seen young people watching their instagram feed every moment at noon on 15 March, looking disconnected and dissatisfied with the world, you have probably just encountered someone who has joined the Global Climate Strike 2019 (Tan, 2019). And he or she is probably more conscious about her surrounding and the world than you did at that moment.

Advocating for greater climate action is no longer the sole responsibility of climate scientists or influential businessmen and politicians; the young ones are taking charge, telling the world how the future generations deserve better and how the planet deserve better.

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Greta Thunberg (in yellow) the 16-year-old millennial who started this movement!

The global climate strike was a concerted effort of thousands of students from all over the world. In many of the countries, the students were skipping school and physically coming together to show the grown-ups that one doesn’t need to be rich and powerful to demand a change from the world.

Despite the growing movement towards sustainable development, climate change scepticism still prevails. This clearly shows that we should no longer rely on the scientists and statisticians to persuade the authorities and the general public.

In Singapore, where strikes and protests are not an option, the young people chose to make their voices heard by having a virtual strike on social media.

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Post for the Global Climate Strike from local advocates @theweirdandwild and @tingkats.sg

Several of the climate action and sustainability pioneers in Singapore have also expressed their support for this initiative. Singapore, as the forefront of urban development in Asia, has the ability to lead and set an example on sustainable development for the region (Hermes, 2019). While the booming trend of adopting zero-waste lifestyle such as ditching single use plastic straws and other disposable products used to be criticised as simply a fad, the fact that a growing number of young people have stayed religiously faithful to their commitment shows that the millennials in Singapore are ready to be the change they have envisioned.

Indeed, the millennials are still self-centred, self-absorbed and self-entitled. However, the sense of “self” has grown out of the stereotyped individualism. To the fervent advocates of climate actions and environmental sustainability, they feel the sense of entitlement not for themselves but for the environment, they are so stubborn that they refuse to budge from their pledges to slow climate change and most of all, while the world label millennials to be full of themselves, their belief that every individual has a power to change allow them to push forth many successful ground-up initiatives in the past years.

The strike may be over, but climate change doesn’t stop, and neither should our climate actions!

Written by: Andrea Law

References:

Tan, A. (2019, March 11). Global youth movement on March 15 calling for greater climate action may be held in Singapore as well. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/global-youth-movement-on-march-15-calling-for-greater-climate-action-may-be

Hermes. (2019, March 15). Strike by Singapore students unlikely. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/world/strike-by-spore-students-unlikely

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International Biodiversity Day 2018

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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.

Join in the effort at https://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/en/treecounter/billion-tree-campaign-2, and spread the word!

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]

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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

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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.

 

Save A Spider Day

It’s Save a Spider Day! OK, I know you’re about to click away because spiders are, well, look at them. If you haven’t gazed deep into a spider’s multiple eyes and shuddered, then you’re just a big, hairy, leggy, liar. But if you think about it, like really think about it, you’d probably still choose to live in a world with spiders in it, rather than without. I mean, I doubt Baygone would be a good enough substitute for a worldwide population of diverse spiders deviously conspiring 24/7 to eliminate their next insect. Do you like birds? Well, good, because birds love spiders. (As food.) Do you like diseases? No? Then thank your lucky stars, because spider venom will soon be used to treat a variety of diseases that cause muscular dystrophy. By the way, can YOU pull the natural world’s strongest material out of your butt? No? Then please, take a seat. (If yes, call 995.)

Hey, check out this fancy boy over here.

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Video: Jurgen Otto (https://www.youtube.com/user/Peacockspiderman)

Fashion week has nothing on this male peacock spider. When it’s time to find a lady, the male peacock spiders show off their brightly coloured backs and sweet moves. Peacock spiders are tiny, with the largest species measuring a whopping 5mm. Imagine that, a tiny colourful speck waving its arms at you because that’s the sexy thing to do. Also, the females eat the males who don’t dance well enough, but let’s not dwell on that.

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This spectacular shot by local wildlife photographer Nicky Bay does great justice to the silvery markings on the mirror spider’s abdomen. When the spider is at rest, the silvery shapes on its abdomen visibly enlarge. It almost looks like a piece of stained glass art!

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Photo: ggalice via Flickr

Net casting spiders are metal as it gets. They weave webs that resemble fishnets, which they then launch at their prey to capture them.

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Photo: Nicky Bay

Look at those eyes. They’re not messing around.

Next time you see a spider, maybe think twice before screaming and squashing it (you can still scream, though). First of all, it cannot be denied that spiders are way cooler than us and also do us a huge favour by catching insects. Second of all, I don’t think you’d want to make an enemy of a spider at this point.

 

Sources:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/venom-medicine-how-spiders-scorpions-snakes-and-sea-creatures-can-heal-328736

http://animals.mom.me/importance-spiders-ecosystem-6242.html

 

What If Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day

Happy ‘What If Cats and Dogs Have Opposable Thumbs’ Day!

It’s a mouthful, but a joy to say! I personally will be saying this non-stop to all my friends today.

You’re probably wondering why we even have such a day in the first place. Well, you can blame none other than Thomas Roy, who together with his wife have created over ninety holidays – it’s a pretty respectable hobby. Roy invented the holiday while pondering the endless hijinks his pet cats and dogs could get up to if they had opposable thumbs. They would probably eat with their hands, for instance, like monkeys, instead of sticking their entire faces in their food bowls. They could open the fridge and help themselves to your cake. The possibilities are both wonderful and terrifying.

A whole new world.

Opposable thumbs, which are able to face in the opposite direction to the rest of your fingers, are more vital to your daily life than you’ve ever considered. Without them, you couldn’t grab anything, not even your second helping of cheese rings. You wouldn’t be able to shake hands with anyone and would probably resort to slapping at them with your helpless paws, the way cats do now when they want a facerub.

Let’s celebrate the fact that we have opposable thumbs and our pets don’t! After all, it is because of opposable thumbs that we can squeeze their cheeks and they can’t squeeze ours. If they could, life with them would change forever.

Then again, it might not make that much of a difference. I mean, if your cats had opposable thumbs, they could clean up their own poop, but would they?

Halloween Fashion Week

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.

Classic Colours

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Dressed perfectly for Halloween! (Photo: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/0a/e8/02/0ae802a869cfd2c005d71a9b9d4d93a9–rare-animals-strange-animals.jpg)

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 😉

Fresh Fusion

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A one-of-a-kind combination (Photo: https://www.biolib.cz/IMG/GAL/271622.jpg)

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!

Foul Fowl

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The Undertaker (Photo: http://creepyanimals.com/2013/04/marabou-stork/)

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)!

References:

Stephenson, K. (2015). 8 Things to Know Before Getting a Halloween Moon Crab. Petful. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from https://www.petful.com/other-pets/halloween-moon-crabs/

Stempien, A. (2017). 7 Animals That Were Made For Halloween. Smithsonian Science Education Center. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from https://ssec.si.edu/stemvisions-blog/7-animals-were-made-halloween

Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker’s mammals of the world (Vol. 1). JHU Press.

Geist, V. (1998). Deer of the world: their evolution, behaviour, and ecology. Stackpole books.

7 Scary Bird Species | Holbrook Travel. (2012). Holbrooktravel.com. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from http://www.holbrooktravel.com/blog/birding/7-scary-bird-species

Hancock, J., Kushlan, J. A., & Kahl, M. P. (2010). Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. A&C Black.

Words by: Tan Hui Xin