Sighting of a reticulated python (and what to do if you encounter one)

During my lunch shift earlier this afternoon, I was pushing my bicycle past a large tree when I saw something moving on my right side.

It was a young reticulated python, apparently disturbed from its sleep at the foot of the tree along Kallang River PCN.

I stopped to observe it, and it appeared a little frightened as it adopted a defensive pose.

I remained standing behind the bicycle, while the python attempted a mock strike, gaping and baring its fangs but went no further, as if to say, “whoever you are that woke me up, don’t come any closer or I will bite you.”

I instinctively moved to one side to maintain a safer distance and watched it slide its head back to its cosy corner at the tree roots.

Soon the snake coiled its long body more tightly and settled in snugly to continue its peaceful snooze.

This is an educational opportunity for us to see that snakes aren’t dangerous to human beings, so long as we don’t disturb or provoke them and we keep a safe distance from them.

Pythons are also beneficial for our ecosystem, as noted in the articleSpot a python? Just leave it alone, advise wildlife groups” (10 July 2019):

“Most people may not be aware that snakes play a vital role in regulating Singapore’s ecosystem, said wildlife experts.

As an apex predator preying on small mammals like rats, reticulated pythons are a natural way of keeping pest numbers low.

“Pythons are an important biological control for local rat populations,” said Dr Sonja Luz, director of Conservation, Research and Veterinary Services at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

She cited a study funded by WRS, which had found that reticulated pythons in Singapore eat mainly rats – 75 per cent of its diet is made up of rodents.

Removing the reptiles may thus result in more rats in the area, ACRES said.”


Notes on Zoom workshop: What to do when we encounter wildlife in Singapore

Notes on “On the Wild Side” Zoom Video Meet

On 15 Oct, I attended an informative talk organised by Ace Adventure Expeditions.

The speakers, Kathy Xu of Dorsal Effect and Kalai of ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore), shared about how to respond appropriately when encountering wildlife in Singapore.

Understandably, we urbanites aren’t familiar with some of the native wildlife and their ways of life, due to a lack of interaction with them and a lack of education as well.

Hence, it is helpful of the speakers to create awareness about common mistakes the public tend to make when stumbling upon a rare or strange animal.

I attended this event because I want to educate myself more on our native wildlife so as to understand how we can better support biodiversity, which is under the threat of climate change and habitat destruction in the name of development.

Though my notes are not exhaustive, I hope they will be useful as a reference to my readers.

ACRES sometimes have to deal with non-native animals, due to illegal wildlife trade in Singapore.

Snakes – or reptiles in general – are not pests. They are wild animals protected by law under the Wildlife Acts.

Generally, snakes are gentle and don’t attack without provocation.

Most snakes are active in the morning. If spat in the eyes by a venomous snake, wash your eyes with water instead of rubbing the eyes.

Just because a snake may be venomous doesn’t mean it should be killed on the spot.

Snakes may be attracted to their prey such as rodents in housing estates, so if they are found too close for comfort, say in your house, call ACRES hotline 97837782 for help.

Sunda pangolins are native in Singapore, but they are rare and endangered, no thanks to poachers.

Pangolins are vulnerable and may get run over when crossing roads.

For more info on pangolins, check out the link:

If you see a roadkill of a rare animal, contact ACRES or NParks in case they may want to collect the dead body for record and research purposes. (ACRES may take time to respond if they are short of manpower.)

A Malayan colugo (flying lemur) may be helpless if it falls to the ground as it is mainly arboreal – call ACRES for help if you see one in trouble.

Never handle baby mammals that you come across with bare hands because their parents may be nearby and may not respond well to unfamiliar scents.

No matter how cute it is, whether it be a baby squirrel or colugo or palm civet, if the baby mammal appears lost, alone or injured outdoors, don’t bring it home to rear as a pet because it is a wild animal, not a cat or dog.

Instead, call ACRES to rescue and rehab or reunite it with its parents. Meanwhile, find a suitable box to protect the baby mammal.

Avoid hanging nets in the open, as bats may get entangled in them and die.

Monitor lizards are not crocodiles or komodo dragons, and they are generally shy and harmless if unprovoked.

If you take photos of a rare endangered animal, avoid sharing them on social media or avoid mentioning its location to ensure its safety.

Similarly, avoid using baits to take photos of wildlife because it is unethical.

If you encounter an unfamiliar animal such as a snake and are unsure of its exact species and whether it is venomous, seek advice from ACRES because some non-venomous species disguise as venomous ones.

Feeding wild animals and fish, such as sharks or whale sharks, with human foods such as snacks is inadvisable because it can change their diet and behaviour, and the sugar content may be toxic to them.

When walking on the sea shores, avoid picking up shells or hermit crabs to keep because we are stewards of wildlife, not just tourists or visitors.

Concerns over potential risks of underground construction impacts on wildlife in central nature reserve

The following is my unpublished letter sent to Straits Times Forum.

Dear ST Forum,

I read with concern about the potential risks of underground MRT tunnel construction impacts on wildlife in the central nature reserve, as reported in the Straits Times on 9 September 2019.

Despite the fact that EIA was carried out and mitigation measures were planned to reduce the construction impacts, we cannot fully ascertain the full extent of the impacts on the wellbeing of our vulnerable native wildlife species, such as pangolin, mousedeer, civet cat and so on.

It is a fact that animals in the wild are far more sensitive than humans to subtle environmental

changes and habitat disturbances.

For example, it is reported in Channel News Asia on 2 October 2019 that “Thailand was hit by drought this year and the elephants may have been looking for new sources of drinking water, but it is also possible they were trying to avoid contact with humans.”

As a result of disturbances around Khao Yao national park, the elephants had strayed near the dangerous waterfall and ended up falling over the cliff, and 11 of them died.

According to an article, studies have conclusively shown that noise and vibration can adversely affect breeding in laboratory mice. Continuous exposure to vibrations can impose fatigue and sleep deficiencies. Random vibrations occurrences have been known to invoke panic in mice whereby they cannibalize their pups when low frequency vibrations are suddenly perceived coming from under their bedding possibly sensing an intruder is approaching.

Another article noted that “In February 1975 hibernating snakes abandoned their hideouts in the north-eastern city of Haicheng. The city was evacuated and February 4, the region was hit by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.”

Therefore, I urge the authorities to reconsider the construction of the direct MRT line underneath the central nature reserve. We cannot risk harming the wellbeing of our wildlife residents. The construction works would invariably cause habitat disturbances, and the vibrations caused by the construction deep underground can resemble seismic activity, which can profound impact their lives in ways beyond our understanding. Not only their breeding and other survival behaviours may be adversely affected, but also they may be compelled to flee from the forests and become displaced, homeless or even end up as roadkill.

Finally, NParks signboard explicitly states that we are only guests in our vulnerable nature reserve, which should be left undisturbed, so that we and our future generations can continue to enjoy them. Surely it would be a moral and criminal offence for us to do any kind of major construction works in the nature reserve itself, whether in the air above, on land or below the land.