Help NParks keep tabs on wildlife in S'pore

Help NParks keep tabs on wildlife in S'pore
From right: Raffles Institution students Lim Xue Xian and Song Yijia with Dr Lena Chan (second from right), Director of National Biodiversity Centre, NParks, spot birds at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 16 April 2015.

HAVE a keen eye for birds, butterflies, water monitor lizards and other wildlife here? The National Parks Board (NParks) wants you to help document them. The agency has started several national citizen science programmes that aim to help Singaporeans learn about the country's biodiversity. As part of the programmes, people can help to monitor the wildlife's distribution and population.

The new initiatives include the NParks Garden Bird Count, where people can learn how to identify 30 common garden birds, such as the colourful pink-necked green pigeon and the spotted dove, and help to record them during the twice-a-year counts.

Launching the programmes at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said: "Citizens like you and me, who are not researchers but have an interest in plants and animals, can contribute data that could be useful to researchers."

Mr Lee also unveiled an app, the SGBioAtlas, where people can upload sightings of animals and plants. This will strengthen an existing online database that documents Singapore's biodiversity, and help NParks to improve its conservation strategies.

More than 400 people have signed up for the first Garden Bird Count, which will last until April 26. The islandwide count spans 60 locations, and the next one is expected to be in November.

Secondary 1 student Hannah Kho, 12, of the School of Science and Technology, took part in the count yesterday.

She was disappointed not to spot her favourite birds - the olive-backed sunbird and the brown-throated sunbird - but said she was keen to participate again. "We saw a lot of other birds and it was fun."

NParks had previously started several citizen science programmes, such as the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey and the Heron Watch.

The marine survey began five years ago and is expected to be completed next month. So far, more than 400 volunteers have helped researchers from NParks and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

At least 14 species new to science were discovered under the marine study, including an orange-tinged sea sponge found during a reef survey, a warty-looking sea anemone burrowing in mudflats in northern Singapore and a conical hermit crab from the seabeds near the Southern Islands.

In 2013, the Heron Watch, the first in a decade, found that the numbers of a common species, the black-crowned night heron, had fallen sharply, partly due to the loss of its nesting sites.

VOLUNTEERS

Citizens like you and me, who are not researchers but have an interest in plants and animals, can contribute data that could be useful to researchers. - Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee

zengkun@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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