Wednesday, 5 February 2014

More Hornbills...

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You've heard it all before. But guess what? You're going to hear it all again, just better phrased and more convincing.

Hornbill Conservation: Bad for Wildlife, Bad for Us
I’ve been disgusted for a long time now by the posters around the city exclaiming, ‘Let’s make Singapore our garden!’ But what irritates me most about them isn’t their blatant propagandism, actually, nor their caption, ‘50 Years of Greening Singapore!’. It’s the bird in the corner, perching on the tree. It’s a distinctive bird, definitely: a huge bill with a pie-like structure balanced on top adorns its face. It’s a likeable bird. It’s a bird that was once extinct in Singapore. It is the Oriental Pied Hornbill, and it is the worst thing that the Singaporean government could ever have chosen to be the focus of their latest publicity campaign- oh, sorry, I meant conservation program.
Its re-introduction success story has been advertised far and wide. And I’m not denying it wasn’t a success. According to Innovation Magazine’s article ‘Hornbills in Singapore’, the population of hornbills has jumped from 15 in 2007, when it started, to over 100 today. But maybe, just maybe, we don’t need 100 hornbills here. Maybe, just maybe, there was something a little lacking in this particular conservation program- like, oh, I don’t know, maybe actual scientific studies on hornbills before we jumped headfirst into the project? Before it started, besides the scattered observations of bird-watchers, there was zero information about Oriental Pied Hornbills and their role in Singapore. Other than the fact it went extinct in the 1900s and a pair, possibly escapees from the pet trade, were spotted nest building in 1983 (Rajuthurai), we knew nothing. Not about the population trend, not about their feeding habits, not about how many hornbills Singapore can actually support before our fragile ecological balance is tipped irreversibly for the worse.
And that’s a question that’s coming up quite a lot now. Even world-renowned bird behavior blog BESG (Bird Ecology Study Group) who initially declared themselves as “proud to be partners of the Hornbill project” in a post ironically called, ‘Oriental Pied Hornbills Parental Infanticide’ is voicing concerns. “With such sudden increase in the population of hornbills in Singapore, there is a need to study how they would impact on our fragile biodiversity,” one doubtful post, titled ‘How Many Oriental Pied Hornbills Can Singapore Support?’ said.
The truth is, we have no idea about the future of Oriental Pied Hornbills here- other than the government’s tourist-friendly vision of delightful ornaments adorning our city-cum-garden. Even post-introduction, the only information on them is that gathered from one NSS population survey and sensors in their artificial nest boxes. But let’s see. According to the Straits Times, people have considered moving house due to the calls of Asian koels, a bird notable for early morning wake up calls. Replacing that bird with not one, not two, but a flock of up to seven Oriental Pied Hornbills? With their staccato crackling: yak-yak-yak all in unison, the cooing of koels would seem relatively soft in comparison.
I wonder how long it’ll be before the first resident calls Pest Control.
But they aren’t only powerful musicians. Oriental Pied Hornbills are also gourmets. Popular delicacies include baby birds and eggs. For example, the first actions of the Oriental Pied Hornbill released in Sungei Buloh was to devour a sunbird's nest, egg and all. There are also records of one raiding a Little Heron’s nest. Especially considering that this carnivorous consumption occurs during breeding season, and consists of egg-theft and nest-raids, this could have definite impact on our population of breeding birds in the future. As in, if we have too many hornbills eating too many eggs, we will have fewer birds in all. Period. Subjaraj Rajuthurai, well-known wildlife consultant, said, “They will definitely have an impact on our breeding bird population, an impact that will increase as we increase the hornbill numbers by introduction. We’re giving them an unfair advantage, and that can have major repercussions on the rest of the ecosystem."
Let’s face the facts. Singapore’s hornbill reintroduction program wasn’t thought out fully enough. It is grossly under-researched, and we have no idea of their possible impact in the future. There are so many more species that deserve a public spotlight and are slowly and steadily disappearing for lack of one. So next time you see a hornbill, don’t fawn over it, and gush over how lovely it is to see a once-extinct species in your neighborhood.
Because it isn’t lovely. At all.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Save MacRitchie

So, I am keeping two resolutions with this post. (It isn't late. IT ISN'T LATE.) One, to tell you more about MacRitchie, and two, to post every Wednesday.
I recently started a blog on Wordpress called Save MacRitchie. Which is a ridiculously uncreative name, but consider it a work in progress. Consider the layout in progress too, for that matter. It's a photo blog documenting MacRitchie reservoir's amazing bio-diversity. So far, two posts are up, and the reaction has surprised me, compared to what I was expecting (i.e. nothing). So... I guess what I'm telling you to do is follow it, and associated stuff?
I hate it when people do that.
But MacRitchie really is an amazing place and I felt like it needed a devoted blog to it. And I will be notifying you of developments there and should I see something absolutely amazing on a walk I will post here as well. But. For a closer look, follow that blog. It's like follow-the-leader, really... you know, I post something there, and then I follow myself and post something here-- fine, there's no association. Except the word follow.
Anyways. Enough rambling. What kind of posts do you want to see on Save MacRitchie? Or on my weekly Wednesday posts? (IT ISN'T THURSDAY. DO NOT TELL ME IT IS THURSDAY. PRETEND I AM LIVING A DAY IN THE PAST.) Comment below and tell me! Don't forget, if you have something you want to share, please send your post to More information is in the sidebar. Pawsome Scribbles, Lepidopteraphiles, Life in a..., Top Nine-ish Lists, are all welcome.
The Glasswing Butterfly

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Ten Animal Phenomena To See Before I Die (Part 2)

More 'cool-things-animals-do', i.e. another post from the Glasswing Butterfly everyone will just skim over and then trash.

1. Glowing seas
 Algae with phosphorous properties can sometimes be seen washed up on beaches at night. This is often Noctiluca scintillans but might also be other algae in that genus.

2. Bubble Net Fishing, a show brought to you by humpback whales

Whales are my favorite animals, and since I've already seen a humpback whale breach, here is another amazing thing they do (did I mention I love whales?). Bubble net feeding. They literally just blow bubbles and funnel all the fish into one spout by blowing bubbles in a circle. Then they go and eat it all. Amazing, right?

3. The Peace To All Creatures Mantis Shrimp
Not only can this creature see about nine times more colors than we can, it's also absolutely ferocious. But mostly, I want to see them attacking and killing something. They move so fast when they have their eye on dinner lights blink around them, something called sonoluminescence. And that's not all; their armor is so strong it's being studied for use in combat.

4. Rainbows on Trees

Eucalyptus trees. Yeah, we have a lot to thank the Australians for. Basically, what happens, is as the wood dries and flakes off, it happens at intervals. So you have one totally fresh piece of bark next to a flaking one, resulting in such rainbow colors. Pretty cool, huh?

5. The Great Turtle Hatching

I'm sure you all know what happens to turtles. Mommy lays them and says goodbye. If no predator (i.e., humans) discover the nest, they manage to hatch in hundreds of thousands. Only about one in a hundred actually survive the fifty metres from nest to shore. But it's bound to be an absolutely fascinating if heartbreaking spectacle to watch these baby turtles struggle their way to sea, and get steadily picked off by gulls and other assorted predators. But there's the fact, that due to stolen eggs, there are less and less turtles every year, something akin to the future fate of the Sardine Run. So, I want to see this as soon as possible. 

Yeah, so that's it. Anything you want more information on? Any questions? Any arguments? Let us know in the comments!
The Glasswing Butterfly

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ten Animal Phenomena To See Before I Die (Part 1)

Usually, when you see things like this, they're on travel websites or in airplane magazines and it's like, "These are all the stuff you should do in your life and if you want to do all this stuff HURRY UP THERE'S A LIMITED TIME OFFER ON TRIPS TO THE GALAPAGOS STARTING AT $999999.99!"
Of course, then there are blog posts written by people who are either a) sponsored by said travel agencies or b) really have nothing else to do with their time. I have no idea who that could be... do you?
The Amazing Animals Society is not a travel website. Nor is it an airplane magazine. I am not in the business of telling people what do with their lives (well, most of the time, anyways). So this is a list of ten animal phenomena to see before I die. See? I'm telling myself what to do with my life. Not you. But if you want to take the hint, that's fine with me. And in fact, if you visit that was a joke, by the way. I am not going to advertise anything.
Anyway. Back to the original point. Animal phenomena, i.e. cool stuff that animals do. I present you, ten animal phenomena to see before I die.
1. The Sardine Run
 There are a lot of reasons for this one. It's pretty darn cool. First of all, it's like SARDINES SARDINES SARDINES SARDINES. And you can get some pretty good pictures. Like the one above. And all the sardine are together, in this big, tightly packed mass. I've had some experience of that while scuba diving but those sardines? That's on a whole different level. But then comes the better part (if that's possible). All these predators follow these sardines as they migrate down the coast of Africa-- dolphins (squee!), sharks (double squee!), whales (megadruple squee!). Except that the thing is, this also presents a huge opportunity for fishermen, and the numbers on the sardine run are getting less and less every year. So, that's on the do-as-soon-as-possible-before-this-stops-happening to-do list.

2. Coral spawning
There are two types of coral reproduction. One is asexual, where the corals spring out branches that grow into totally different corals, and the other is sexual, where egg and sperm fertilize one another. That's what happens in this coral spawning. All at once, all the egg, and all the sperm, come out, and make baby corals. All at the same time, on the 2nd-6th day after November's full moon. You see the first picture up there? That's how it looks. From above. Yeah, those pink splotches are coral spawning. And the second picture is how it looks from the water. If you want an entire post devoted to this process because you want to know more, let me know in the comments!

3. The Wildebeest Migration
 What it sounds like. Where all the wildebeest migrate in one mega-herd across Africa. As well as the zebra. And lots of predators follow. So basically replace the sardine run with wildebeest and zebra. And the predators with lions, cheetahs, and leopards. So... pretty darned awesome.

4. The Monarch Migration
A lot of migrations, I know... last one. I hope. So this is a pretty famous migration that monarch butterflies make across the United States. However, the numbers of these beautiful butterflies are slowly declining, but not as fast as the sardine run. When they settle down, it's like a cloud come to rest; you're surrounded by orange butterflies, some dead in the undergrowth, but mostly just fluttering, fluttering, fluttering, till they all rise up in one big swarm. (I do not speak from personal experience-- see the title!)

5. Pfeffer's Flamboyant Cuttlefish
I am the Glasswing Butterfly, but I do not want to see this animal because of its cuteness. (It is toxic, you know.) I want to see this animal because of its miraculous color-changing displays. Like literally, colors flow through it, in wave after wave-- it's beautiful. (Again, no personal experience) It's actually a warning display because of said toxicity. It's as poisonous as the famous blue-ringed octopus. And that's our lesson for the day, folks: Cuteness can kill.
Also, Pfeffer? I want a last name like that!

The Glasswing Butterfly

To be continued... hopefully.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Look Ahead

Well, the new year has come around again! What a surprise! It's not like it happens every single year... And with the new year comes a fresh start, and all that rubbish. And resolutions. Lots of them. Which are usually never kept.
Which is the reason I'm going to make a couple of resolutions now, and hope to keep them, at least for a while. Let's say a month. A month sounds good. And I'm also going to give you a quick rundown on how the year ahead looks for this blog, and the Amazing Animals Society as a whole.
One of our Instagram uploads.
  1. The Safari Zoo Run is going to happen again, and I'm going to again demand money from people at form-point. Or wallet-point. Or perhaps pencil-point. (It's illegal to own a gun here, and I'm not such a huge knife person. They scare me.) Hopefully we'll raise more than last year's record total of $500+ and help more animals than ever! This is what we did last year. (Also, when I get information on Holly's doings, I will update you on that!)
  2. The Glasswing Butterfly (aka, me) is going to be helping raise awareness of MacRitchie Reservoir's impending destruction, so expect more posts on that theme. I'll also probably have a few other projects going on related to that, so keep an eye (or two, or three, or as many as you have... while you're at it, you can lend me your heart as well) out for that. 
  3. We've been posting rather... hmm... how do I say this nicely... erratically, this past month. Which I can justify for the Emu and Blobfish, but not for me, because I've had full internet access... heh heh. (Cue running away and hiding under a rock) But. But. (And this is the really big but.) I am going to start posting regularly. Every Wednesday, in fact, to spice up the boring middle of the week. So, come Wednesday, either expect a post on my wildlife outings (Wildlife Wednesday, geddit?) or a feature/exposé on a weird, and often ugly, species. I'll post at other points in the week too, if I get around to it. Which is unlikely.
  4. At other times that are not Wednesday and you're absolutely DYING to know what I've been doing wildlife-wise, check out my Project Noah account. The Blobfish has one too, and actually, so does the Amazing Animals Society, but that's not updated as regularly. Not updated at all, if you want to be honest. If you've forgotten, or have never known, what Project Noah is, check out this post.
  5. Speaking of social media (well, I wasn't really, but pretend I was), we have an Instagram account! Check that out here.
  6. Any more absolutely amazing animal stuff you want to see on the blog? (Ex., more facts from the Emu, more top ten stuff from the Blobfish, more updates from me? Maybe regular updates on what's going on in the conservation world? International animals?) Comment below, and tell us what you think. We love to hear your feedback!
The totally amazing Glasswing Butterfly

P.S. I never thanked Topaz Winters for the amazing banner she made for our blog, above. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Surfing With Friends

What's small, black and white, and enjoys surfing with friends? No, not a baby zebra on a surfboard. (Please ignore the picture. It's a mistake. The answer is not a dolphin.) Unfortunately. Can zebras even surf? Are there even zebras living by the sea? Hmmmm... There should be, even if there aren't.
But anyways, let's leave such essential questions of the universe for later. The answer to the riddle wasn't penguins, either, in case you were wondering. Though they fill the requirements a bit more thoroughly than baby zebras. The asnwer is the most endangered dolphin in the world: the Maui's dolphin. (Fooled you, didn't I?) There are fifty five of them left hanging around New Zealand's West Coast, and the number steadily decreasing due to the use of nylon fishing nets, which entangle them, strangle them, and eventually kill them as they sturggle, every movement just entrapping them further...
Cheerful, right?
Many researchers predict an unhappy future as well. It's likely they'll go extinct in 20 years unless we use one of the most cliched lines of all time: unless we do something about it. The New Zealand government has proposed plans for a ban on these fishing nets within a 450 km range, but conservationists have lashed back violently, saying that these plans merit a death sentence for the dolphins, as they don't cover enough of their range. They want a bigger area covered to guarantee full protection.
What do you think? Should people be satisfied with the government's plan and see that as a starting point for more? Or should one, big, plan be passed guaranteeing absolute safety for these undoubtedly cute critters? (Sorry, Blobfish!)

The Glasswing Butterfly

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Just Big and Colorful?

A century after they went extinct, Singapore’s campaign to save Oriental Pied Hornbills has been billed as a conservation-success story nationwide. In a conversation with Subaraj Rajuthurai, natural historian and well-known wildlife consultant, we discovered another side of the story. Oriental Pied Hornbills appeared not to have had the most positive impact on Singapore’s biodiversity, and run a risk of becoming a pest. In addition to that, the question also arises: Is this conservation for conservation’s sake, or are there ulterior motives? Tanvi Dutta Gupta reports.