Join us as volunteer educators at Festival of Biodiversity!

Come join us as educators at our outreach booth at this year’s Festival of Biodiversity! Using animal and trash specimens, we will be sharing with the public about Singapore’s marine life, issue of marine debris and what we as individuals can do to help combat the issue.

Every year, NParks and the Biodiversity Roundtable organise the Festival of Biodiversity to reach out to the community about the conservation of our wonderful natural heritage. This year, it will be held over the weekend of 25 and 26 May 2019 at the open space at HDB Hub Mall in Toa Payoh.

If you are keen to help us reach out to the many heartlanders and share about marine life and threat of marine debris, please join us by registering here and select the “Marine/ICCS & Marine Debris” option under stations you are interested in:
However, if you are interested in learning and sharing about Singapore’s terrestrial or mangrove biodiversity, do feel free to select the other stations listed in the form.

Details of the festival:
Date: 25 and 26 May 2019 (Sat and Sun)
Venue: HDB Hub Mall at Toa Payoh
Time: 10.30 am to 10.30 pm (each shift is 3.5 hours)
Compulsory training dates:
15 May 2019 (Wed): 7:00pm – 10:00pm OR
18 May 2019 (Sat): 9:00am – 12:00pm

Materials for all stations (terrestrial, mangrove, marine) will be covered in the same training session thus you will also get a chance to also learn more about other wildlife we have in Singapore and the threats they face.

Thank you for caring for the environment!


Plastics in the gut of the sperm whale carcass in Singapore – “a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste”

Staff of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum salvaged a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) carcass (10 Jul 2015) with the help of the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and National Environment Agency (NEA), and have been working since Friday 10 Jul 2015 to extract tissue for genetic work, gut contents to understand diet and preserve the skeleton for display in the museum gallery.

While working on the carcass, museum staff found “pieces of plastic food containers and wrappers in the whale’s gut, a grim reminder to reduce plastic waste” and to ensure “proper disposal of these items.” Museum Officer Marcus Chua and Conservator Kate Pocklington were on Channel News Asia on 14 July 2015 to update Singapore  about the carcass salvage, and highlighted the issue of marine trash with some of the gut contents – numerous squid beaks and a plastic cup.

Do watch their segment between 33:00 to 38:15 here, and follow the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum facebook page to keep updated on their progress. You can also learn more about The Singapore Whale here!

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Source: Channel News Asia

sperm whale plastic 2 sperm whale plastic

Source: Lee Kong Chian Natural History Musuem Facebook page

ICCS 2015 Organisers’ Workshops: Why and how do we conduct coastal cleanups?

1 – 3 July 2015: 7.00pm-9.30pm @ NUS Faculty of Science Active Learning Room [S16-03] — 42 ICCS Organisers attended the 2015 workshops to learn more about why and how to organise coastal cleanups. Three consecutive nights of 150-min workshops conducted by 6–8 zone captains each night ensured small group interaction and adequate attention especially for the first-time organisers.

At the last Site Allocation Meeting (SAX3), ICCS Otters discussed the design of the workshop. N. Sivasothi aka Otterman reorganised workshop slides for brevity and adjusted session design to increase interaction. Zone Captains, some new at instruction, prepared their lesson plan based on this format to ready themselves for action! The workshop format also ensured Organisers had plenty of time to clarify queries.

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Each day began with an introduction into local marine biodiversity and the impact of marine trash. Despite a history of reclamation at out shores and a busy shipping port, Singapore has six different aquatic ecosystems and much marine life whic has survived this impact. Knowledge of our marine life motivates us to conduct coastal cleanups, as we realise otherwise that many animals such as sea turtles and horseshoe crabs ingest plastic, or get entangled in trash.

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Left: Sankar A, Ubin Zone Captain shares about the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Right: Joys Tan, Tanah Merah Zone Captain reveals what non-recreational beaches in Singapore actually look like.

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Left: Tan Chia Wu, Changi Zone Captain talks about the organisational process behind a conducting coastal cleanup.
Right: Airani S, Data Captain runs through the ICCS Data Card, familiarising everyone with the different categories.

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The group break-out sessions were extremely helpful, providing first-time organisers the opportunity to consult our Zone Captains, as well as the more experienced organisers who imparted useful advice!

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Our Zone Captains also role-played – here, they demonstrated the human-chain – an effective method in transferring heavy trash bags from the cleanup site to the Trash Collection Point (TCP).

We ended each day with a very important chapter – solutions for sustainability after the coastal cleanup. Cleanup events are very importantly about education. The exposure iotaof participants to the reality of marine trash must be coupled with useful ideas about daily life – thinking about the necessity of disposable water bottles or recycling.

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Next up for ICCS Organisers are their site recces. ICCS 2015 is picking up speed!

ICCS @ Festival of Biodiversity 2015: What can we do for our oceans?

27 & 28 June 2015 – With the help of passionate volunteers, ICCS headed down to VivoCity with the NUS Toddycats for Festival of Biodiversity 2015! The festival, an initiative by NParks and the Biodiversity Roundtable actively engages members of the public since 2012 to celebrate our local flora and fauna.

Do read more about the collective NUS Toddycats! effort at Festival of Biodiversity 2015 here!

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Left: Amanda Ng talking about the Dugong (Dugong dugon)
Right: Wu Bokai talking about the Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea)
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Left: Letchumi Mani shares about Horseshoe crabs on our shores (family: Limulidae)
Right: Fascinated by the Dugong!
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Left: Lesley Chng sharing about mangrove snakes
Right: Foo Maosheng holds up the majestic fruit of the Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans)
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Left: Max Khoo talking about the Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea) and sharing stories about the Smooth-coated Otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) in Singapore!
Right: Ng Kai Scene talking about the Giant Mudskipper in our mangroves (Periophthalmodon schlosseri)
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Left: Teo Kah Ming talking about the threat marine trash poses to our biodiversity
Right: Nishtha Anand talking about mangrove fishes!
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Left: Nicholas Yap talking about Stripe-nosed Halfbeak (Zenarchopterus buffonis)
Right: Sofina Ng sharing stories about the Dugong (Dugong dugon)

There were many more volunteers who spent the two days helping us spread messages from our seas, and we couldn’t be more grateful to them – they were up on their feet for hours, some nearly loosing their voice after constant talking!

Thank you to 34 wonderful volunteers who took different shifts throughout the two days: Theresa Su, Chris Zheng, Chua Li En Jacqueline, Erika Ivana Halim, Eyu Xue Yi, Kwok Yan Hoe, Lim Jin Hong, Low Xiang Hui, Lynette Ying, Mah Guo Wei, Max Khoo De Yuan, Neo Meng Yang, Ng Chao Xiang, Ng Kai Scene, Ng Wei Ling Amanda, Nur Azarina Khamis, Ong Yue Qi, Seah Shi Qi Cheyanne, Seah Shi’en Maryann, Sofina Ng, Steffi Loe, Tan Shiao Ying, Teo Kia Meng, Vincent Ong, Wang Jialun, Wong Siew Lien, Yang Yi Yong, Nicholas Yap, Nishtha Anand, Teo Kah Ming, Lesley Chng, Foo Maosheng, and Letchumi Mani. Lastly, thank you to Ng Chao Xiang and Adriane Lee for helping us with photography!

These outreach events hold great significance in the nature community. Not only does it bring everyone together with the common goal of raising awareness about our natural habitats, but also gives us an opportunity to interact with members of the public and encourage a greater appreciation for local biodiversity. Preparation for such events may be tiring, but after two days of being able to share what we are passionate about, we can definitely say it’s worth it!

Here’s to Festival of Biodiversity 2016 next year!

Stranded dolphin at Kota Kinabalu, dies with 4.25 kg of plastic in its stomach

News from Sabah shared the heart-wrenching reason for the death of a stranded dolphin – 4.25 kilograms of plastic materials inside its stomach.

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Screen shot 2015-03-29 at AM 12.22.54Location of Likas Bay in Malaysia, click image to visit Google Maps.

Villagers found a stranded dolphin in the shallow waters near Likas Bay in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, barely able to move, on Thu 19 March 2015 at 5.30am. The dolphin was treated at the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) at  Universiti Malaysia Sabah. identified to be a male Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), he succumbed to chronic starvation and died on 25 Mar 2015.

The cause? 4.25 kilograms of plastic pieces in its stomach, severely impairing the gastric muco. Asst Director Dr Sen Nathan at Sabah’s Wildlife Department explained plastics prevented the digestion of food “leading to severe malnutrition. … The dolphin may have ingested these plastics, having mistaken them for squids due to “similar textural or visual quality of the plastics to squids,” Dr Nathan added.

Read the original article, ” 4.25kg of plastics in dolphin,” by Jenne Lajun. Borneo Post online, 28 Mar 2015.


Three oil spill incidents near the Southern Islands in two weeks in Jan and Feb 2014

First, there were two, now a third collision adds to the toll of oil spilled in Singapore’s Southern shores.

The first two collisions occurred between chemical tanker “Lime Galaxy” and container ship “Feihe” o 29 Jan 2014 and between container ship “NYK Themis” and barge “AZ Fuzhou” on 30 Jan 2014. A total of 680 metric tonnes of fuel oil were spilt near the beaches of Kusu and St. John’s Islands. MPA reports that the affected areas have since been cleaned up by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and other agencies.

A third spill occurred on 10 Feb 2014. MPA reported that container ship “Hammonia Thracium” and chemical tanker “Zoey” collided off Sebarok Island, resulting in a spillage of 80 metric tonnes of bunker fuel.

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Oil slick at Seringat-Kias from St. John’s Island Marine Laboratory

While all the involved vessels are now in stable conditions, the same is not certain for Singapore’s reefs. Our shores boost a rich biodiversity of over 200 species of hard corals and other organisms such as sea stars, sponges and anemones, many of which are endemic to the region. They remain susceptible to acute and long-term physiological effects due to oil contamination and a destabilization of the fragile ecosystem.

With about 1000 vessels in Singapore waters at any one time, the risk of a catastrophic accident remains ever-present. Yet, the devastating news of the oil spill is but one of many challenges that Singapore’s marine biodiversity faces. From marine litter choking our waters to land reclamation resulting in habitat loss, the survival of Singapore’s unprotected marine life is constantly under threat.

However, the outlook on the health of our precious coastal habitats need not be invariably despondent. While we may not be able to do much about collisions of vessels, you can make an effort to keep up to date on the latest information and be conscious in your daily actions to minimize the impact on the environment.

You will find more updates on the oil spill and information about the biodiversity of our Southern Islands on Wildshores and a preliminary assessment of the situation on Kusu Island by Peiyan.

“Debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude”

Schuyler, Q., B. D. Hardesty, C. Wilcox & K. Townsend, 2013. Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles. Conservation Biology, open-access, early-view article (free download).

[The authors] “analyzed 37 studies published from 1985 to 2012 that report on data collected from before 1900 through 2011.

Turtles in nearly all regions studied ingest debris, but the probability of ingestion was not related to modeled debris densities.

Furthermore, smaller, oceanic-stage turtles were more likely to ingest debris than coastal foragers, whereas carnivorous species were less likely to ingest debris than herbivores or gelatinovores.

… oceanic leatherback turtles and green turtles are at the greatest risk of both lethal and sublethal effects from ingested marine debris.

To reduce this risk, anthropogenic debris must be managed at a global level.”

Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles

Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles

The authors raised several points about debris management:

  1. “Standardized reporting methods on debris effects on wildlife, including debris type and size, species, and life-history stage of animals affected, would go a long way toward creating a globally consistent and comparable data set.
  2. Increased efforts to understand debris effects in underresearched areas where turtles occur in great numbers (especially Southeast Asia, western and northern Australia, South America, and Africa), and in mid-ocean pelagic turtles would be beneficial.
  3. Our results show clearly that debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude. Our finding that oceanic-stage green and leatherback turtles are at higher risk than benthic-feeding carnivorous turtles means management actions to target these species and life stages should be considered. This is particularly important for leatherback turtles that spend the bulk of their lives in oceanic waters, and are listed as critically endangered (IUCN 2012).
  4. Ingestion prevalence at stranding locations was not related to predicted debris density, likely due to the long migrations of turtles. Thus, conducting coastal cleanups will not solve the problem of debris accumulation in the pelagic environment, where animals are most commonly affected, although it is an important step in preventing marine debris input into the ocean.
  5. Anthropogenic debris is not only a problem for endangered turtles and other marine wildlife, but also affects human health and safety (e.g., discarded sharps and medical waste and ship encounters with large items). Debris also has aesthetic and economic consequences and may result in decreased tourism (Ballance et al. 2000), reduced economic benefits from fisheries (Havens et al. 2008), and damage to vessels (Jones 1995). Furthermore, debris destroys habitats and aids in the transport of invasive species (Sheavly & Register 2007). It is therefore a high priority to address this global problem.
  6. An estimated 80% of debris comes from land-based sources; hence, it is critical to implement effective waste management strategies and to create and maintain a global survey and comprehensive database of marine debris ingestion and entanglement.
  7. Additionally, it is worth engaging with industry to create and implement appropriate innovations and controls to assist in decreasing marine debris.”
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Photo by Rafn Ingi Finnsson

The ICCS Briefing on 25 Aug 2012 – the prelude to the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore 2012!

Every year, a fortnight before the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) commences, an ICCS Briefing is conducted for Site Buddies, Independents and members of the public interested in marine life and the objectives of coastal cleanups.

This year, 82 volunteers and members of public left the cosy comfort of their beds to attend the briefing conducted by ICCS Coordinator, N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman who welcomed them with great enthusiasm!

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During the briefing, Siva highlighted and showcased Singapore’s marine wildlife that persist amidst our battered shores. The crowd was wowed by videos and images of baby turtles, dolphins, dugongs, crocodiles and otters. They piqued the participants’ interest and captured everyone’s attention.


After the introduction of Singapore’s marine wildlife, Siva talked about the threats that these aquatic denizens face and gave special attention to marine trash! Single-use plastics, carelessly discarded, end up in aquatic environments and dominate the shores. This affects the survival of many marine organisms which might mistake the fragments as food, eg. marine turtles mistakenly consume clear plastic and exploded balloons as jellyfish and even the albatross living far from humans, are affected.

An overview of cleanup methods prepared Organisers and Site Buddies for the cleanup and data collection processes.

Siva ended the session with suggestions about how each of us can help in a variety of ways, inspiring everyone to make a difference!


With the briefing over, volunteers stepped forward to have a chat with Siva and the ICCS Otters team. Many of them were old friends, such as Martha Began of Singapore American School and her students! New faces sought advice from their respective Zone Captains and discussed their cleanup sites. This face to face time is a welcome resource for Organisers.


It was lovely to see the energy and interaction in the room! Everyone was enthusiastic and we hoped they were glad to learn about Singapore surviving marine wildlife and will look forward to a safe, efficient and green cleanup!

Have a great ICCS 2012 everyone!

Zone Captains recce Tanah Merah for the Earth Day Cleanup

Earth Day is just round the corner!

In view of the upcoming cleanup at Tanah Merah on Apr 28th, 2012, Tanah Merah Zone captain: Benjamin Tan, Deputy Coordinator: Xu Weiting (formerly ICCS Tanah Merah Zone Captain) and I headed down to TM on the 14th of April to meet the organisers who will be involved in this Earth Day effort!

TM site 7 from a distance - A rather pleasant sight.

Sea view

A common sight - large cargo ships, tankers, ferries

After a slight delay, we finally set off to recce the beach!

Benjamin briefing the organisers before we set off!

Everyone listened intently as Benjamin spoke

Annie Layar, from Gammon Construction Limited (Singapore Branch), leading in the front!

Upon closer inspection of the beach, we noticed the following…

Littered with discarded bottles, glass pieces, styrofoam, packaging, and occasional balls of tar (remnants of the 2010 oil spill? See long-term effects of oil spill on marine life)

Exposed shore during low tide

The shore may seem bare, but the truth is far from it!

WildSingapore’s Tanah Merah marine life poster

Weiting holding the hermit for our friends to take a closer look!

These hermits are more active at night. Unlike true crabs with short calcified abdomens, hermit crabs’ abdomens are soft, long and curved. Because they lack their own hard shell, hermit crabs inhabit shells for protection against predation.

Me rambling on about hermit crabs and respecting wildlife

When a hermit crab outgrows its shell, it shops for another. They can be picky about the shells they choose. Witness the “Great Shell Exchange” as documented by Ria Tan on her blog.

Land Hermit Crabs are currently listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. They used to be fairly common until, according to the Singapore Red Data Book, the implementation of many beach improvement schemes along recreational shores, which led to the clearance of ‘unsightly’ natural beach vegetation. Other factors that could have contributed to the decline of Land Hermits, especially on mainland Singapore, include the casual picking of shells by collectors as they strolled along beaches, as well as the pet trade.

Rare sighting of Land Hermit Crab in the day! (Coenobita violascens)

Read more about Hermit Crabs here and on Ria’s wonderful WildSingapore Factsheets!

A balloon cleverly disguised as Spongebob - Not a true sponge!

In other news, ill-disposed balloons, which eventually end up in our waters, are devastating to marine life! Like plastic bags and other discarded non-biodegradable trash, balloons can end up being ingested (albeit accidentally!) by turtles, and other marine life surrounding our waters AND those thousands of kilometres away. Yes, our disposable culture implicates life on a global scale!

One of many glass shards

Glass bottles in the midst of our marine life

During the recce, we saw quite a number of broken glass bottles, florescent tubes & other glass fragments. Do look out for these items and do not pick them up with your bare hands!

Slippers are not allowed

And for safety reasons, we’ll NOT allow volunteers to help if they are not wearing covered shoes.

Tread gently.

Make friends, not fiends!
During the beach cleanup, you may come across a myriad of seashore creatures. Please treat them with respect, and let us not forget that we’re the ones swinging by their neighbourhood!

Hitchhiking algae on a bazillion (Batillaria zonalis)

Just a mosaic of sand grains?

Sand bubbler art

Sand bubbler crabs are tiny and so well-camouflaged to its environment that we often miss them!

But just because we don’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there!

Sand bubbler crab (Scopimera sp.)

Their quality of life lies in our hands.

Going the distance

Independents, sign up today – get your friends to join you too!

Bring your own bottles of water!

Reducing is probably the most effective of all 5Rs! More

Help us get the message out!

Every day is Earth Day. Make a conscious effort to live more sustainably and Mother Earth thanks you!

Will you answer our call?

*Important Reminders*

We will be covering a long stretch of beach (approx. 1km) hence, there will not be a “base station” for personal belongings

  • Carry a small bag with face towel & sufficient drinking water (min. 1L)
  • Stay hydrated and rest well the night before
  • Sun block & insect repellent would be useful in this non-public beach

For answers to FAQs, do circulate this link to your fellow friends & colleagues.

Feel free to contact Benjamin Tan and I, if you have any other queries that are not addressed:

Tanah Merah Zone Captain

Benjamin Tan

HP: 8318 8433

Tanah Merah Deputy Zone Captain

Gladys Chua

HP: 9689 7600

Hawksbill turtle from Melaka now off Sentosa

The turtle named Puteri Pulau Upeh was ‘first spotted on 29 July 2006 as she laid 108 eggs in an unusually shallow pit which she dug, on Pulau Upeh. The remains of what appeared to be a fishing net was stuck in a crack on the back of her shell.

The fishing net and some barnacles were removed and she was tagged. It was assumed that she was a young nester.’

“A satellite transmitter was attached onto her shell on 29 August 2006, after her third nesting for the season. She was released at 2.20am the same night…”

‘She began her journey southwards on 14 September 2006 and crossed over to Singapore waters approximately two weeks later. Since February 2007, she has stayed in the southern islands of Singapore and must be feeding amongst coral reefs that still exist today.’

Visit the WWF Malaysia Satellite Tracking of Hawksbill Turtles page to find out more.