Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (1923 - 2015)

Singapore's founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, passed away on Monday, 23rd of March. To many Singaporeans, including my parents, he WAS Singapore. His immense vision and determination made Singapore what it is today. It was a sombre week but as the nation mourned, I felt helplessly detached.

I grew up in the Singapore that was the result of Mr Lee's leadership and I've only lived fifteen years in this country - half of which I remember little of. The reality is that I can never feel the same about Mr Lee's passing as my parents or any other adult Singaporeans. I just don't have that same emotional connection. My journey as a Singaporean has been blissful; maybe even ignorant.

For many of us teenagers, our connection with Mr Lee is about gratitude; being thankful for all the privileges we enjoy today, the beautiful country carved out for us and the bright future ahead of us. It's unfortunate that the next generation may only see Mr Lee as a figure in history; a man who exists only in textbooks. 

But it shouldn't be that way. I feel that it is my duty - and every young Singaporean's - to get closer to him. I have heard and read so many stories about him this week and I think it's the least anyone can do. It is our job to live the values Singapore was founded on and fight for a better future so that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's spirit and legacy will live forever.

And if that's what it means to be Singaporean, then I couldn't be more proud.

Goodbye, Mr Lee.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Rediscovery and The Prime Minister - UBIN DAY

Pulau Ubin: An offshore island from Singapore and our last kampung. It's Singapore before all the tall buildings went up - natural, wild and rustic. Last Sunday, we had a celebration of all things Ubin - organised by the amazing Grant Pereira and Ria Tan, Ubin Day 2014 saw a huge range of activities to bring the public closer to the heritage and biodiversity of the little island. Here's something you don't often see on your way to Ubin, a traffic jam!

ButterflyCircle was there to show some registered participants around Butterfly Hill and to teach them about butterflies. I was attached to a really wonderful group of students and their enthusiastic teacher, who were there to learn more in order to set up a butterfly garden. We saw some pretty cool things: a Mottled Emigrant came to lay eggs just in front of us, we found a number of uncommon butterflies and I got them to get right up close with the butterflies that were willing. One of the rarer species around was this form-agenor female of the Great Mormon.

This stunning giant was laying eggs on the pomelo bush and caught everyone's attention. The great mormon is polymorphic, so the female occurs in many greatly differing forms, some of which have not been seen in years. Better still, my group got to see something extremely special - a rediscovery! A strikingly patterned butterfly was flitting incessantly around a tree trunk and I knew straight away that we had something new. And it was - a rediscovery for Singapore, the Malayan Nawab (polyura moori)! It has been suspected to still be extant here and now we have the proof. 

The excitement, however, didn't stop there. We were extremely honoured to have a different kind of visitor to the hill, The Prime Minister of Singapore. He - along with his troop of bodyguards, cameramen and the press - came to find out more about the hill and it's fluttering inhabitants. We took him around on a little tour and shared our knowledge of butterflies with him. What struck me was how willing he was to talk to us and hear our thoughts. Here's me sharing some of the places I love to go for butterflies.

Photo by Mr Loke PF

He was also incredibly friendly and down to earth so after having a short discussion about butterflies, we just had to take some pictures with him. Yes, by pictures, I mean we-fies. It's not everyday that you get to do this! There I am, beaming from the back. As you can see, height is something I don't have very much of...

Photo by Lemon TYK, whose in front

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also announced at the opening of the event, several plans for Ubin which were mostly about preserving the rustic charm of Ubin and enhancing it. I think it is great that the government is getting involved in the conservation of natural places like Ubin. Hopefully, with events like Ubin Day, more people will understand and respect nature and maybe even get down to help in the race to conserve. I had an amazing time on Ubin Day, all thanks to Mr Khew for inviting me and of course, Mr Grant and Ria for their inexhaustible passion and energy. Here's to the wilderness!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Male Banded Flower Mantis in Singapore!

Continuing from my previous post about the tiger orchids, here is one of my most exciting non-butterfly encounters: a small, delicate insect found hiding behind the giant orchid blossoms - a mantis. I was combing the orchid plant for butterflies when I saw it staring right at me. Encountering a mantis is quite unusual for me so I decided to look closer and take a few pictures.

It was an inconspicuous insect, only around 2cm long and given its intricate patterns of pink and green with whitish bands, it was surprisingly hard to spot from afar when it moved off somewhere else. Until I reached home, the little creature stayed a pretty mantis and nothing more but that changed when Mr Kurt cleared its identity. It was a Theopropus elegans, The Banded Flower Mantis and it was a male.

The banded flower mantis is strictly a forest dependent species and in Singapore, it is very rare. There have been a few sightings in the past that mainly come from the central catchment nature reserves. Surprisingly, no male specimens have been encountered here as of 2008 and I an unaware of any more recent records - possibly making this one the first!

Ferocious predators, these mantids are known to hunt a wide range of insects - flies, moths, grasshoppers and even katydids. I suspect this male had been lured out from the adjacent Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where there have been previous records of females, by the flowering orchids which attracted a great number of insect prey. The females are over twice the size of the males and their colour ranges from green to a stunning pink.

I am still in shock, having seen such a rare and beautiful creature. It was pure luck that I encountered it. Interestingly, a female was observed around the same time amongst tiger orchids at a different location. It is encouraging to know that this lovely mantis is still breeding in the depths of our small forest patches and hopefully we would be able to study it better in the future.  

I owe almost all my knowledge of the banded flower mantis to this fantastic report, published in 2008 by T.M. Leong and Npark's S.C. Teo. It documents previous sightings and also follows the rearing of the mantid's eggs. I believe it may also be the only comprehensive report on this species from our little island so give it a read!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

On Hold

I'll be busy for the next three weeks with my examinations.The rest of the Tiger Orchis posts will come after that. Sorry about that!