Below are some excerpts of the Channel News Asia Insider wildlife documentary.
Singapore is at the southernmost tip of the Malayan peninsular, so it is a very important pit stop for migratory birds travelling from the northern hemisphere, especially birds of prey (hawks and eagles), to refuel before continuing to fly over the vast expanse of the sea towards Indonesia between August and March every year.
(That means it is vital for us to conserve our existing forests in order to ensure a sustainable population of birds of prey migrating through our island.)
In the last 200 years, we have lost almost a third of our native wildlife.
Examples of extinct wildlife include the Malayan tiger and the cream-coloured giant squirrel. The giant squirrel used to be common until the 1960s, and it was last seen in 1995 (supposedly after Bukit Timah expressway was built, separating Bukit Timah nature reserve from the Central nature reserve).
The main cause of wildlife extinction in Singapore is habitat loss due to land use change or deforestation and urbanisation, making it difficult for the wildlife to find food and living space.
More than 1,600 native species are on the brink of extinction, according to the Singapore Red Data Book, first published in 2008.
It was estimated that only 67 Raffles Banded Langur were left living in the wild.
As more lands are cleared, more wildlife venture into urban spaces, resulting in forest animals getting stranded in people’s homes or getting injured or killed by moving vehicles or cruel people or cats and dogs, as observed by ACRES.
According to a 2007 study, there were about 1,000 Sunda Colugos left in Singapore, hence every single one of them matters. Though they can do a single glide further than the length of a football field, they may get stranded when they fall onto the ground or get trapped by barb wires on fences.
Sunda pangolins are critically endangered, and every life matters. They have a habit of venturing out of forests to explore and may get themselves injured or killed in unfamiliar urban areas.
Singapore freshwater crabs are rare, critically endangered and endemic to Singapore, found in hill streams in forests in Bukit Timah nature reserve, Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak.
Narrator: What is at stake if this (Singapore freshwater crab) species vanishes from our hill streams?
Daniel Ng, Manager, Biodiversity (Terrestrial), NParks:
It plays a number of roles in the ecosystem. It will feed on leaf litter, as well as the animals that are present in the stream. It is also an opportunistic predator who will predate on small animals inside the stream. So, all these species are part of the ecosystem, or interdependent on each other. With the removal of one species, such as the Singapore freshwater crab, it may have an adverse impact on the stream ecosystem and potentially affect the entire stream ecosystem as well as its other inhabitants.
Narrator: So then, with the loss of one species, could the ecosystem collapse?
Daniel Ng: It’s possible.
Narrator: There is still so much that scientists don’t know, but if one tiny critter can potentially have a huge impact on our ecosystem, what about the most prolific group in the animal kingdom – the insects?
Delvinder Kaur, Junior animal care officer, Zoology, Wildlife Reserves Singapore:
Invertebrates are very unique. They play a part in almost every ecological process out there. We need them more than they need us. Insects are responsible for approximately 80% of the pollination out there. Pollination is needed for our crops, and that gives us food security.
Narrator: Without them, most plants can’t disperse their pollen, and butterflies are among some of the most important pollinators.
Most of the time, we tend to undermine (or underestimate?) the roles of insects in our ecosystem. But we have discovered approximately a million species. At the same time, scientists also predict there are so many more out there that we still have yet to discover. Having not discovered them, we don’t exactly understand the total impact of how much we are benefitting from them.
Phytoncides is a compound that protects plants from disease and bacteria, and inhaling them can boost our immunity and reduce stress.
Pangolins typically produce only one or two offspring every year, and they are notoriously hard to breed in captivity, so it is crucial to create the best chances for each male pangolin to sow their seeds in the wild.
Bernard Seah, Otter working group:
Our smooth-coated otters are a very urban and adaptive species, but not all animals that we find in Singapore are this adaptive. Singapore mainland doesn’t have ideal habitats , for example, for the Asian small-clawed otters to thrive – they need shallower waters, mangrove habitats, estuarine habitats, so it is important that we preserve some existing forests, mangrove areas.