Domestic Cat

Domestic Cat (Felis sylvestris catus)
Ubi, 7th May 2012

This was a kitten that had been abandoned, then rescued by the Love Kuching Project and named Ziggy. Unfortunately, being abandoned at such a young age probably took its toll, and Ziggy succumbed to Fading Kitten Syndrome.

Elaine Chiam, who runs the Love Kuching Project, will be speaking at the NUS PEACE Animal Welfare Symposium 2012 this Saturday. She will be sharing about her experiences with rescuing and fostering stray cats. Do come down for the symposium and show your support for the many organisations and individuals who commit their time and resources towards animal welfare in Singapore.


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Domestic Dog

Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
Mandai, 31st May 2012

This photograph of a carcass of a domestic dog washed up in the mangroves at Mandai was shared by Dan Friess on Twitter. From the bloating and loss of hair, it had clearly spent some time in the water.

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Discus (Symphysodon sp.)
Potong Pasir, 7th March 2012

This dead discus, a South American cichlid native to the Amazon Basin, was seen at the foot of an apartment block by Alvin Lim, who took a photo and shared it on Instagram.

There was no water nearby, and my guess is that this was not an abandoned pet. It’s possible that this was a case of a fish jumping out of a tank placed close to a window, only to end up falling all the way to the foot of the block. Alternatively, the fish could have died in the aquarium, only to be dumped out of the window instead of being tossed into the trash or flushed down the toilet bowl.

It is also possible that this discus fish had been released into a nearby canal or pond, only to get snatched and subsequently dropped by a piscivorous bird like a kingfisher, heron, or raptor. We probably won’t know for sure.

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The vast majority of discus seen in aquariums are captive-bred varieties that have undergone intensive artificial selection for distinctive colours and patterns. The taxonomy of discus in the wild is still unclear, but most traditional references list 2 species; consequently, the nomenclature regarding domestic varieties (some of which might be hybrids between discus belonging to different populations or even species) also requires further clarification.

Most of the Discus seen in the ornamental fish trade originate from one or more of the colour forms typically classified under the Blue Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus):

Thoughts on Roadkill, Part 2: Invasives & Non-natives

On Monday, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) posted the following image on their Facebook page:

Green iguanas are native to Central and South America. It is saddening and shocking to sight such exotic wildlife here in Singapore, smuggled in to meet the demand for reptiles as illegal pets. This poor adult male Iguana was found run over and dead on the roads on Sungei Tengah road, right in our neighbourhood – Another victim of the illegal wildlife trade being abandoned to fend for himself.

In recent decades, Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) have managed to spread beyond their native range, and establish breeding populations in places such as Puerto Rico, Texas, Hawaii, and especially in Florida, causing concern among residents. The descendants of iguanas that escaped from captivity or were released abandoned by owners, it appears that at least in Florida, completely eradicating them is no longer an option, and that they are here to stay. With the balmy subtropical climate (barring the occasional cold snap) and plenty of greenery to munch on, Green Iguanas are able to thrive all year round, with unknown impacts on native vegetation and wildlife. Some people are exploring the idea of harvesting Green Iguanas for meat as a means of population control.

Here in Singapore, the only reptiles allowed as pets are the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis). Hence, anyone seen selling, buying, or possessing a Green Iguana without a permit most certainly obtained it through illegal means. Like a number of other exotic species, Green Iguanas have been encountered in the wild, and while there are no signs to suggest that they’re breeding here, one does wonder about the potential threats to our parks and forests posed by a large herbivorous lizard.

Among the recent sightings of Green Iguana include one seen in the Japanese Gardens at Jurong Lake last year. Another was found in a residential neighbourhood in Bishan in 2008, and was most likely dumped by someone.

Green Iguana harassing Malayan Water Monitor at Sungei Buloh, 2005;
(Photos by Chua Eng Kiat)

Worryingly enough, a male Green Iguana was spotted from time to time at Sungei Buloh, where he was once seen behaving aggressively towards the larger resident Malayan Water Monitors (Varanus salvator), driving them away from a prime basking spot. I’m not sure if he’s still around though.

Green Iguana at Sungei Buloh, 2005;
(Photos by Con Foley)

Green Iguana at Sungei Buloh, 2008;
(Photo by Ee Poh San)

Other Green Iguanas found in the wild are rescued by the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Team. Some of these carry a slew of health issues, showing a lack of proper care at the hands of people ill-prepared for the commitment and resources involved in the upkeep of such large reptiles, or the trauma of suddenly being forced to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar environment. Given endearing (often fitting) nicknames, each iguana has its own story to tell.


(Photo by Anbarasi Boopal)

Midori was discovered roaming around an industrial estate in Singapore- a long way from the South American forests where he belongs. Unable to find proper food for a long time, Midori was dehydrated, thin and covered with sores and mouth ulcers when we rescued him. It became evident that he’d been forced to raid trash bins for food when he excreted a razor blade in his faeces soon after his rescue. Midori remained in critical care receiving special treatment for many weeks and didn’t want to eat for a long time, probably because his mouth ulcers made eating so painful.

Whilst he was recovering, our Animal Caregivers set to work making Midori’s new home as comfortable as possible for him, fixing up lots of furniture for him to climb and platforms to rest on, branches to rub himself on, water to soak in and plenty of nice warm sunny spots for him to bask in! Today, as well as enjoying his new surroundings, Midori enjoys feasting on fresh vegetables and fruits and pulling the flowers from the fresh twigs we give him daily before chomping them down. Midori is a feisty character- wild through and through- and we hope he can return to the wild one day.


(Photos from ACRES)

Valerie the Green iguana is, like all of the non-native residents at the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre (AWRC), a victim of the illegal exotic pet trade in Singapore. Like many other wild animals who are illegally kept as pets in Singapore, Valerie was cruelly abandoned by a careless owner. A member of public found her and a box was handed over to us, mentioning there is a huge monitor lizard inside. To our surprise, a severely stressed green iguana appeared!

Her black colouration showed how much pain she has gone through. And like so many others before her, help arrived just in time for Valerie to save her from certain death from serious health problems Having moved into a bigger enclosure with hiding spaces to feel safe, she is slowly turning colourful and showing interest in food and the environment. Our care-givers still worry about her and we hope that her health will improve soon!


(Photo from ACRES)

Just rescued Frankie, the green iguana who was found abandoned here in Singapore. He is native to Central and South America and is another victim of the illegal reptile trade. Thanks to the member of public who called ACRES in time. Sadly, Frankie has a deformed lower jaw and severe mouth ulcerations. He is currently under observation and critical care at the AWRC (ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre).


(Photos from ACRES)

Scratch is yet another victim of the illegal wildlife trade in Singapore. Probably abandoned by someone, a mamber of public found him at a nursery in Choa Chu Kang area, and called ACRES. Scratch does not like being handled, a clear indication that these animals do not make suitable pets and likes to leave a signature scratch on our care givers. He is currently under observation.


(Photo from ACRES)

Here’s a photo of Tentententen (the rescue story we posted about 2 weeks ago), a new resident to the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre. Tenx4 is yet another victim of the illegal reptile pet trade in Singapore, dumped into the wild by his owner possibly recently. We are relieved he did not end up like Frankie and other animals who were found too late. Stay tuned for some photos of him enjoying his new home. He was named as such because he was found on 10/10/10 at 10pm.

Green Iguanas are also featured in several local captive animal collections, including the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, and Sentosa’s Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom. Kept in large walk-in aviaries and other enclosures meant to simulate a rainforest habitat, complete with artificial waterfalls and colourful tropical birds, these reptiles lend an extra dash of the exotic without jeopardising the other captive animals or the safety of the visitors; most other large lizards like monitors (Varanus spp.) or tegus (Tupinambis spp.) would end up preying on the other inhabitants.

Green Iguana at the Singapore Zoo
(Photo by Agnieszka Wetton)

Green Iguana at the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom
(Photo by Sue323 🙂)

However, it is likely that escapes (or even thefts) do occur, and at the Jurong Bird Park at least, there are now free-ranging Green Iguanas. Some of these may have been escapees from the neighbouring and now-defunct Jurong Reptile Park. Indeed, during Peter Dickinson’s visit there, baby green iguanas were observed outside the enclosures.

I myself saw one mingling with the flamingos and ibis at the Flamingo Lake last December.

This Green Iguana at the Jurong Bird Park was apparently not inside any of the enclosures or exhibits
(Photo by MKBirder)

I wonder if there is the possibility that some of the sightings of ‘wild’ Green Iguanas in Singapore involved escapees from these zoological collections.

Besides the Green Iguana, a number of other non-native reptiles have also been recorded as victims of motor vehicles.

(Photo by ACRES)

For instance, this female Wattle-necked Softshell Turtle (Palea steindachneri), was run over near the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Despite emergency care by ACRES Wildlife Rescue, she succumbed to her injuries. This species hails from China and Vietnam, and is highly exploited for food; as a result, it is endangered in the wild, although non-native populations on Hawaii are thriving.

(Photo by ACRES)

This Red-eared Slider in Kranji had clearly been run over multiple times. This native of the southern United States of America is the turtle most often seen in the pet trade, and consequently, due to people releasing and dumping their pets when they’re no longer wanted, is the most commonly seen turtle in many of our ponds, reservoirs, and canals.

(Photos by Fung Tze Kwan)

Another non-native turtle species, albeit one that’s found closer to home in Indochina and northern Peninsular Malaysia, this Giant Asian Pond Turtle (Heosemys grandis) still had lots of growing to do, when it was run over near Upper Seletar Reservoir. Given that this was found on the morning of Vesak Day, there is the possibility that it had been dumped by people seeking to gain good karma by liberating animals (while oblivious to the possible ecological damage or cruelty). On the other hand, it may mean that this species has started breeding here; all previous local records are of large adults.

(Photo by Vilma D’Rozario)

An interesting record comes from this roadkilled Rainbow Mud Snake (Enhydris enhydris), also seen in Kranji. This provides confirmation that this species, already widespread throughout much of Southeast Asia, does exist in Singapore, although whether it is a native or was accidentally introduced remains a point of contention.

(Photo by Jocelyne Sze)

Native to Java, Bangka and Sumatra, the Striped Keelback (Xenochrophis vittatus) is considered locally common, and is one of the few confirmed non-native snake species in Singapore. This particular roadkilled individual was seen in Punggol.

(Photo by Fung Tze Kwan)

The Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) is the classic example of a non-native reptile in Singapore, having practically taken over most terrestrial habitats found throughout the country, from bushes planted along urban roads, to secondary woodland and scrub in rural areas. These are usually quick enough to avoid vehicles, but once in a while, one makes a fatal mistake. Another highly successful and widespread species that is found across much of Southern and Southeast Asia, it is likely that it represents a species complex of several closely-related but distinct forms.

We have fewer non-native amphibian species in Singapore, although one suspected non-native is now one of the most common frog species in Singapore; I remembered once coming across an oddly-coloured patch on a road in Pasir Ris that on closer inspection, turned out to be a truly flattened Banded Bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra), ground into the tarmac by the wheels of countless cars.

One particular incident involving roadkill stands out, because I witnessed it happening.

I had just visited Khai Seng Trading & Fish Farm, a farm in Kranji that raised American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) and various freshwater fishes for food. The bullfrogs were confined to high-walled concrete enclosures, although I’m sure that a frog might occasionally make a leap so exceptional that it manages to clear the walls.

American Bullfrog escaping from pen, Jurong Frog Farm;
(Photo by Jacqueline Lau)

As I was walking out of the gate, I saw this frog by the roadside, having obviously escaped.

In any case, the bullfrog started leaping across the road, and in fact, almost made it to the other side. Many cars simply passed over it, but one eventually struck the frog with a loud pop.

The results weren’t pretty. I tried to take whatever photos I could, while moving out of the way of approaching vehicles.

It’s a nasty way to go, but knowing the potential for ecological disaster should American Bullfrogs become established in our freshwater habitats, I was feeling quite conflicted. Should I be relieved that at least there was one less American Bullfrog managing to escape into the wild and contributing to the feral population? Or should I have felt sad over the tragic loss of life, regardless of whether it was a native species or undesirable invasive; perhaps the least I could have done was to chase it back into the farm compound.

I am appreciative of the fact that drivers (and their cars) inadvertently contribute to Monday Morgue by creating entries for submission. Still, I always get a shudder when I think about how the animal must have felt, the moment its life was snuffed out beneath the tyres of a car, with the driver most probably oblivious or completely ignorant of the carnage.

Roads can provide avenues for invasion, creating trails for opportunistic species, often non-natives, to colonise new areas, and make inroads into often otherwise pristine habitats. However, in the case of this American Bullfrog, and the Green Iguana that started off this post, they paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Next up: in my final post, I’ll share some examples of native wildlife clearly affected by roads and the habits of drivers, and how we can contribute to efforts, whether it’s in rescuing animals wounded by cars, documenting roadkill and providing vital information on species diversity and population dynamics, or supporting projects to create wildlife corridors, enabling animals to cross roads without the risk of getting run over.

(Cross-posted to The Lazy Lizard’s Tales)

Giant Asian Pond Turtle

Giant Asian Pond Turtle (Heosemys grandis)
Upper Seletar Reservoir, 5th May 2012

These photos of a turtle roadkill were taken by my friend Fung Tze Kwan and shared on Facebook. It was identified by Kelvin Lim of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) as a hatchling Giant Asian Pond Turtle. This species is believed to be introduced to Singapore, with sightings of wild adults likely to represent abandoned pets* and other former captives. However, there is a specimen in the California Academy of Sciences which was supposedly collected from Singapore in 1908, although it could also be of captive origin.

This very young individual may represent evidence that this species has managed to reproduce in the wild. On the other hand, as it was found on Vesak Day, a day when many Buddhist devotees carry out the practice of releasing captive animals in a bid to to gain spiritual merit, this turtle could have simply been liberated by a well-meaning person, only to get killed after it wandered onto the road.

*Apart from the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and the Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amboinensis), which are sold as pets, and the Chinese Softshell Turtle(Pelodiscus sinensis), which is sold for human consumption, the trade in any other turtle and tortoise species (including the Giant Asian Pond Turtle) in Singapore is considered illegal.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
Hougang, 7th November 2011

This photograph of a dead Red-whiskered Bulbul was shared by Jocelyn Yin.


My guess is that someone’s pet died, and the owner opted for an extremely lazy means of disposal, by abandoning the cage with the body of the dead bird inside at the refuse collection point.

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