2016, here we come! A year of talks and more

For us, it seems like 2015 ended with a subtle bang. The last quarter of the year was peppered with a flurry of activities concerning outreach and awareness, but upon taking a step back and reflecting on the whole of the year, there is always a nagging question at the back of our minds, “Have we done enough?”

One big positive is that generally, the local and international schools in Singapore seem to be more keen in educating their students on the local biodiversity as well as fostering appreciation and compassion for the native wildlife. Therefore, many schools have requested for us to share on other animals that inhabit our island as well. It is a phenomenon that we greatly welcome as it opens a whole new world of Singapore wildlife unbeknownst to the students prior and thus provides an introduction to important conservation issues.

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Speaking up for the civets and making a difference with each presentation! (Anti-clockwise: Students from Victoria School, CHIJ St Theresa, West Grove Primary School and MacPherson Primary School had a good time learning about our last wild, native urban carnivore!)

2015 was also a year in which we met many like-minded individuals who projected their concerns over the survival of the civets in Singapore. We participated in events such as the Festival of Biodiversity, Ubin Day, and Science Carnivals organised by schools, all of which served as a platform to connect with these individuals who wanted to know more about the roles that they can play in helping the conservation of this species. On the same scale, we also managed to reach out to many residents in civet hotspot areas to share with them the measures which they can take in the event of encountering a civet in their home. This is important for us (and the civets) as we hope to discourage trapping as a means of removing civets from the premises should their presence not be welcomed.

20150731_131343Toddycat volunteers get ready for action at the common palm civet booth at Victoria Junior College as part of the East Zone Science Carnival.

pulauubinOur civet intern, Claudia, speaking to a Siglap resident on Ubin Day.

Hopefully, 2016 will be an even more fruitful year for us and the civets. We do hope to continually increase our outreach efforts through school talks and roadshows, but we are also looking into other alternatives which we can harness to create awareness of the civet as well as the threats that they face. We hope to reveal the project which we’ve been working on very soon, and we can’t wait!

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It’s World Animal Day!

World Animal Day is celebrated annually on the 4th of October. It was initiated to promote conservation and awareness efforts for endangered animals, so that members of the public would be aware of the existence of these animals and also the threats that they face. Gradually. World Animal Day evolved into a platform that actively advocates animal welfare, pertaining to all kinds of animals whether endangered or not.

In conjunction with World Animal Day, we’ve decided to take a look back on the existence of different species of the Viverridae family in Singapore. Yes, the common palm civet is part of the Viverridae, but in the past, it was not the only Viverridae species on the island. Due to rapid urbanization, many of these species no longer exist on our island, but there are a few that are still sometimes sighted by nature enthusiasts, such as:

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Malay civet, Viverra tangalunga (John Bakar, 2008)

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Masked palm civet, Paguma larvata (Smith, 2011)

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Large indian civet, Viverra zibetha (Tontantravel, 2014)

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Three-Striped palm civet or small toothed palm civet, Arctogalidia trivirgata  (Nick Baker, 2015)

These civets are extremely elusive. For example, an image of the Malay civet was captured on a camera trap back in 2012, but no one has actually seen it in the flesh before. The rest of the civet species are restricted to Singapore’s nature reserves and are hardly observed. This shows us how they are, really, not too keen on getting our attention at all and would much rather be left alone. However, it is encouraging to know that there is still a handful of them amongst us, and that they haven’t fully deserted our garden city yet. If you are interested to find out the diversity and status of civets in Singapore, you can read the Chua et. al. (2012) report.

In addition, Singapore also used to be home to other species of the civet family. These include the large spotted civet (Viverra megaspila), small indian civet (Viverricula indica) and binturong (Arctictis binturong). The existence of the binturong on the island is indeterminate, for there was a recent capture of an individual in the Bukit Panjang area in 2004. Furthermore, the sighting of a certain “bear-like creature” in 2010 led to the speculation that the creature might actually be a binturong. Unfortunately, with no conclusive evidence and no subsequent sightings, that speculation was soon tossed out.

While it is sad that these species no longer exist in Singapore, it is also heartening to know that in spite of all the urban and industrial development that Singapore has gone through, the common palm civet’s adaptability has allowed it to survive here in urban Singapore.

However, we must remember that although some of these animals are rarely seen nowadays, we cannot be too quick to dismiss its existence in Singapore. After all, just because we do not see them does not mean that they do not live amongst us. This World Animal Day, let us know if you’ve had sightings of other species of Viverridae before, and maybe, if you’ve got a picture to share, send it over! We are always happy to hear from you. Meanwhile, let us spread the message and spirit of World Animal Day, to always be conscious of the existence of other creatures around us, to respect them and to always be kind towards them. 

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