Taking the Leap at the Festival of Biodiversity

The Festival of Biodiversity is a massive annual event that brings most of the nature groups in Singapore together to spread awareness about their groups or societies and the efforts they put in to conservation. This year, it was held on the 27th and 28th of June, at Vivocity.

The Festival of Biodiversity gives green groups a chance to spread the conservation message to the general public and to enlighten them about Singapore’s nature. The HSS was proud to make our public de11667286_995999280419815_7974078394315626200_nbut at this year’s Festival! We eagerly set up the booth with our posters and models. We also had several herp specimens on loan from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Once our booth was all prepped, we were ready to take on the public! It was not long before the crowds started streaming in. We were thoroughly occupied, constantly on our feet and talking animatedly to the people coming to our booth.

11010628_996001700419573_3368925730135391103_nOur fellow herper and friend Noel Thomas (far right) helped us with the setup and was kind enough to lend us some of his pictures and help us procure specimens for the booth. It was Noel who first brought us together. We were joined by Mr Joseph Koh  a.k.a. the Spiderman. He is Singapore’s foremost expert on Spiders and it was truly an honour to receive both praise and advice from him.

11695527_997415656944844_1185392584273485866_n copyWe met the Guest-of-Honour, Minister of State, Mr Desmond Lee. He was with former Minister, Mr S. Dhanabalan; Head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Professor Peter Ng; CEO of National Parks, Mr Kenneth Er; Dr Lawrence Leong and Mr Wong Tuan Wah. We were excited to talk to these important figures about herps, their conservation statuses and needs in Singapore. It was a privilege to meet these people, who play huge roles in Singapore’s nature conservation. It was a group picture that we could not resist taking.

11429752_1001221743229996_5051972026339224901_oOver the next 2 days we were swamped with huge numbers of people from all age groups, crowding around our booth. It was such a pleasure and heart-warming sight to see so many people interested in herps. A lot of people were there to seek assurance that snakes are not the misunderstood killers that they are often made out to be. We were glad to lay their fears to rest.

We were also really pleased to see many kids crowding around our booth, eager to learn more about herps by playing with model animals. We had a lot of toys and models for kids to play with. They were also fantastic for teaching the kids about herps and where they can be found. 10485954_995999463753130_6168407869031130666_oWe talked to them about how important herps in Singapore are and why we should conserve them. We were really happy to see their parents learning alongside their kids. Many of them even expressed interest in future walks with us.

Several youngsters were keen on working with wildlife and were not sure where to start learning and experiencing their passion. They were thrilled to learn that we would be organising walks. We too were ecstatic that we were inspiring future generations to continue the conservation march.

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Every single one of us was caught up in entertaining the public and sharing as much as we could. Our passion and drive really shone through and it created a unique bond with everyone that stopped by. They were happy to listen to us and we were more than happy to share. We often got down on our knees just to talk to some of the youngsters and we practically stood from morning to night.

It was an amazing debut for the HSS. Like a Draco, we took a massive leap, spreading our patagium and glided for the first time. We could not have done it without the wind beneath our “wings”, that is all the people who have supported us thus far: NParks, LKCNHM and all the wonderful people at FoB, who have supported us since Day 1. A big kudos to the dedication and efforts from everyone at the booth. It was a fun and satisfying experience. The camaraderie, even between members who were meeting for the first time was amazing. We all come from different walks of life, are of different ages and differ in personality. But we stand united as one by our passion for the conservation of not just herps, but of all wildlife and their habitats.

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Thanks to Adriane Lee from International Coastal Cleanup Singapore, for helping us take some of these photos. Do check out their album here.

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A Night Herp in Mandai

Having a special permit to study the herptiles of the Mandai area, we were stoked to check the area out. We arrived at Mandai with high expectations and uncontrollable anticipation. IMG_6034The night air carried a vibe of a solid night awaiting us. We encountered a roadkill juvenile Malayan Racer (Coelognathus flavolineatus), which was collected to be sent over to the museum. We than heard an unusual call coming from a grove of trees. Suddenly the Greater racquet-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradiseus) start calling harshly and divebombing a large bird. It was a Buffy Fish Owl (Bubo ketupu) and he was not alone, he had a partner! Buffy Fish Owls are one of the largest resident owls in Singapore and it is an awesome hunter. IMG_9245This handsome predator has even been recorded taking on a Shore Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops pupureomaculatus). We continued on after this amazing encounter with these rare birds. We came upon a small stream where we found two species of frogs. Malayan Giant Frog (Limnonectes blythii) on the bottom left and a Black-eyed Litter Frog (Leptobrachium nigrops) on the bottom right. The Black-eyed Litter Frog was calling the night air was filled with the calls of at least 10 different individuals. The Malayan Giant is a massive frog and it has been seen clearing more than 2 metres in a single bound. The Malayan Giant is also one of only 9 species of amphibians that occur outside the nature reserves. IMG_6139 IMG_6071 We strove on hoping to encounter a snake. Ing Sind’s keen eyes picked out a flying squirrel (Most likely Iomys horsfieldi) at the top branches of a tall tree. As I rounded a tree to get a better view i came face to face with a sleeping IMG_6102Striped Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus). It was a massive individual, well over a meter and was quite robust. Its beauty was resounding and even though it is deemed a common snake, its beauty made us pause to gaze at its vibrant colouration. The Striped Bronzeback is one of 6 species of Bronzebacks in Singapore. Both this species and its cousin the Painted Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus) are the only Bronzebacks that occur outside proper forest and can be found in grassland and suburban woodland habitat. IMG_6171We then trekked to a different part of Mandai where we came across 3 more species of amphibians. The first two were a Malesian Frog (Limnonectus malesianus)  and a Copper-cheeked Frog (Hylarana labialis). The Malesian Frog (left) is often mistaken for a Malayan Giant Frog due the similar size and coloration, however the key feature that separates the Malesian is a prominent ‘W’ on the back of the neck. The Copper-cheeked Frog (below)  can often be found perched low on branches that are nearby streams. They have calls that sound much like the sound of dripping water!IMG_9295 We pushed on a little further to try our luck and we were rewarded with an uncommon Golden-eared Rough-sided Frog (Pulchrana baramica). This little frog is stunning in both features and colouration. It was also a lifer for Sankar! This frog is uncommon to moderately rare is Singapore as it is restricted in its range.IMG_6156 Thoroughly satisfied, we called it a night and left extremely happy and eager for our next herping adventure.