World Wildlife Day falls on 3rd March every year, and it’s a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme for World Wildlife Day in 2018 is “Big cats: predators under threat”. Big cats, and their smaller relatives, are among the most widely recognized and admired animals across the globe. However, today these charismatic predators are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.
In Singapore, both the Tiger (Panthera tigris) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) were wiped out, but the Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) still survives. However, it too is threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The roads that run along and through our forest fragments take their toll. For example, it was feared that the Leopard Cat had become extinct in mainland Singapore, until 2001, when a roadkill was found in Mandai, on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Another roadkill was reported from Jalan Bahar, along the edge of the Western Catchment, in 2007.
Roads also threaten Leopard Cats and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia – even big cats are not spared. There are two notable recent incidents: in February 2016, a Malayan Tiger was hit by a car as it crossed the East Coast Expressway Phase 2 in Terengganu, which cuts through a forest reserve. A necropsy revealed that it was a pregnant tigress. And in June 2017, a melanistic Leopard (typically called a ‘black panther’) was found dead along Jalan Sungai Yu-Merapoh in Pahang, not far from an eco-viaduct that serves as a wildlife crossing.
Over the past century we have been losing wild cats, among the planet’s most majestic predators, at an alarming rate. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.
Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus)
Old Upper Thomson Road, 4th November 2015
This decomposing young Reticulated Python was found dangling from some vines along Old Upper Thomson Road. It is likely that it had been killed (possibly run over by a vehicle), then placed there by a passer-by.
Fig. 2. View of original position of the snake in the phytotelma upon discovery.
Fig. 3. View of snake rearranged to feature head and severed part of the
Fig. 4. View of the dorsum of the snake rearranged within the phytotelma.
Fig. 5. View of the dorsum of the snake, with its head at the lowest point.
Photographs by Connor Butler
Carcass of Banded Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis intestinalis) in a phytotelma
Location, date and time: Singapore Island, Windsor Nature Park, Venus Loop; 20 April 2017; 1000 hrs.
Observation: The anterior two-thirds of a dead Banded Malayan Coral Snake was found partially submerged in the phytotelma (Fig. 2). The posterior section of the snake’s body appeared to have been bluntly removed (Fig. 3). The remaining portion was 25 cm in length (Fig. 4 & 5).
Remarks: The incomplete carcass of the snake suggests that it had been partially eaten. As the Banded Malayan Coral Snake has semi-fossorial habits (see Baker & Lim, 2012: 116), its presence in the elevated phytotelma suggests that it was carried there. Possible predators include raptorial birds such as owls (see Chan, 2013), and
squirrels (see Ogilvie, 1958; Baker, 2017).
Baker, N., 2017. Slender Squirrel preying on gecko. Singapore Biodiversity Records. 2017: 54.
Baker, N. & K. K. P. Lim, 2012. Wild Animals of Singapore. A Photographic Guide to Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians and Freshwater Fishes. Updated edition. Draco Publishing and Distribution Pte. Ltd. and Nature Society (Singapore). 180 pp.
Chan K. W., 2013. Pink-headed Reed Snake captured by Buffy Fish Owl. Singapore Biodiversity Records. 2013: 89.
Ogilvie, C. S., 1958. The Arrow-tailed Flying Squirrel Hylopetes sagitta (Linne). The Malayan Nature Journal. 12 (4): 149-152.