26 May 2019

Festival of Biodiversity 2019!

Festival of Biodiversity 2019!
HDB Hub @ Toa Payoh : 25-26 May 2018

The 8th run of the Festival of Biodiversity (FOB) for 2019 was held over the 25-26 May weekend this year. In keeping with its objective of bringing biodiversity awareness, education and conservation to the masses and unconverted, this year's FOB was also held at an urban location - this time at the Housing and Development Board Hub in Toa Payoh. Moving from a southern mall (VivoCity) to central (Nex Mall), then to the eastern part of Singapore (Tampines Mall), FOB2019 is back at a central location.

An overview of the venue of the FOB 2019 at HDB Hub @ Toa Payoh

Background of FOB - An annual event organised by the National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Roundtable, the Festival aims to create awareness and foster a sense of appreciation for Singapore's natural heritage. The festival showcases Singapore’s impressive and unique array of island biodiversity - both terrestrial and marine. This event celebrates Singapore’s natural heritage and in doing so, hopes to bring about greater awareness of the rich biodiversity that Singapore has.

The VVIPs, Minister Desmond Lee, President Halimah Yacob and CEO/NParks, Kenneth Er with winning photographers

This year's Guest of Honour at the FOB was the President of the Republic of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob. Minister Desmond Lee hosted the FOB for six of the eight festivals, as he shared during his opening speech. He is often seen as the "Minister for Biodiversity" by the nature and environmental community in Singapore. Minister is a keen supporter of the nature conservation efforts of the community and is very knowledgeable on biodiversity matters.

Our host of FOB2019, Minister Desmond Lee, delivering his speech

Minister Desmond Lee's speech outlined two key areas that Singapore needed to work on, in the area of biodiversity conservation. He shared that "Looking ahead, we need to work on two areas, in order to protect our biodiversity to co-exist with this urban and busy city of ours at the same time. First, we need to ensure that the passion for discovery and nature stewardship reaches the broader community. Only with our community’s buy in and support can our conservation efforts succeed. Second, we will continue to improve our data gathering and analysis with the help of technology."

Various nature groups and NParks' sub-groups set up a total of around 20 booths at this year's FOB. Although the venue for FOB2019 was not as generous in terms of space compared to last year's event at Tampines Mall, the compact space was nonetheless just adequate for the showcasing of Singapore's rich biodiversity.

There were about 20 booths featuring Singapores rich biodiversity, and school kids briefing President Halimah Yacob about their project work.

On Day 1 of FOB2019, the visitorship from the weekend mall shoppers and nature enthusiasts appeared to be pretty good, and the corridors around the booths were packed with visitors who were curious about our local biodiversity. The various groups, NGOs and NParks' staff were on hand to explain about their respective areas of focus on Singapore's biodiversity.

This year, ButterflyCircle did not set up a booth at the FOB, as we decided to continue with being a visitor rather than a participant, until we are able to find more enthusiastic volunteers to man the two-day 12-hour sessions for the FOB. Perhaps another year in future...

FOB 2019 also launched the Gardens Bulletin Vol 71 (Supplement 1) 2019. This was the culmination of a two-year comprehensive survey of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Many different groups covered various taxonomic categories and the surveys varied from transect to site surveys depending on the focus of the groups. For butterflies, we used several prescribed transects that were also used by other groups, whereby data could be analysed across the different groups to see if there are areas of correlation.

Excerpts of some pages of the survey paper for BTNR in the Gardens Bulletin Vol 71

Our paper entitled "Butterflies of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore, and its vicinity", is featured on pages 273-292 of this supplementary edition of the Gardens Bulletin Vol 71. In total, 13 field surveys were conducted, at the prescribed five transects and also the surrounding buffer parks of Dairy Farm Nature Park to the east of BTNR, Singapore Quarry to the west of BTNR and Hindhede Park to the south of BTNR from the period Jan 2016 to Dec 2017.

A total of 63 species were recorded only from the five transects in BTNR, whilst an overall higher number of 85 species were observed at the buffer parks. Of these, 49 species were found in both the BTNR transects and the buffer parks. In total, 112 species were recorded over the 13 field surveys.

Our conclusions show that, whilst the forested area within BTNR is a good base for the existence of many forest-dependent species, sightings of butterflies were relatively low due to the lack of food sources for the species. The buffer parks therefore provide an ideal source of nectaring plants and other food sources which the butterflies can come out to feed on.

The Bright Oakblue, a new addition to the Singapore Butterfly Checklist after the life history was completed

In the article, we also featured several species that were noteworthy of special mention. Amongst these were the newly added species to the Singapore checklist - the Bright Oakblue (Arhopala sublustris ridleyi). Whilst there are certainly more species of the cryptic lookalike genus to be recorded, forested areas such as BTNR is certainly a good location to look out for these Arhopalas.

A sample of some butterfly (and one caterpillar) species recorded during the BTNR survey

Other species observed during the surveys and mentioned in our paper included the Blue Helen, Malay Tailed Judy, Banded Royal, Fulvous Pied Flat and the Giant Redeye. The Fulvous Pied Flat was one species that was recorded as a new species to Singapore when it was observed at BTNR some years ago. During the survey, the elusive and rare Giant Redeye's caterpillar was observed, feeding on presumably a Nibong Palm (Oncosperma horridum).

Back to the FOB, it was a good gathering of old friends and catching up on the latest news. It was very encouraging to see the younger generation of Singaporeans stepping up for the biodiversity conservation cause and sharing their passion and effort in their respective areas of focus. Looking ahead to 2020, we hope that there are landlords of malls in the western side of Singapore who will come forward to host next year's FOB for a weekend as part of their CSR thrust to help in Singapore's biodiversity conservation initiatives.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Huang CJ, Khew SK and Horace Tan

Special thanks to ButterflyCircle members Chng CK, Foo JL, Huang CJ, Loke PF, Simon Sng, Horace Tan and the late Sunny Chir for their assistance in the photography and survey outings for the BTNR survey paper

Past Festivals of Biodiversity :

FOB 2012 at Singapore Botanic Gardens
FOB 2013 at VivoCity Mall
FOB 2014 at VivoCity Mall
FOB 2015 at VivoCity Mall
FOB 2016 at Singapore Botanic Gardens
FOB 2017 at NEX Mall, Serangoon Central
FOB 2018 at Tampines Mall