40 species potentially new to Singapore discovered in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve survey

40 species potentially new to Singapore discovered in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve survey

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve survey 2
The Paculla bukittimahensis is named after Bukit Timah. (Photo: James W B Koh)

SINGAPORE: More than 40 species potentially new to Singapore have been discovered during a comprehensive survey of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, according to a National Parks Board (NParks) media release on Saturday (May 25).

In total, around 200 species new to the nature reserve were listed during the survey.

Of these, more than 30 species of spider and 10 species of beetle are potentially new to Singapore. Some may also be new to science, said NParks.

These include two new types of armour-plated spiders - the Paculla bukittimahensis, named after Bukit Timah and a type of jumping spider with white and gold scales - as well as a species of stick insect. 

Researchers also found records of more than 160 plant species not previously listed in the nature reserve. 

These plant records were collected during the survey, as well as during previous surveys conducted by researchers from the Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, NParks and expert enthusiasts.

In addition, the Yellow-striped Caecilian, a critically endangered amphibian, was also listed in the survey. It was last seen in Singapore in 1989, according to NParks.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve survey 1
The critically endangered Yellow-striped Caecilian. (Photo: Noel Thomas, National Parks Board)

In spite of the new discoveries, the findings also "serve as a reminder" of the fragility of nature as many of the new species were not found in large numbers, said Mr Lim Liang Jim, group director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre.

"While there have been many new species listings, many of them were not found in large numbers," he said. "This finding reflects the fragility of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the need to strengthen the conservation and resilience of the reserve."

The survey, which was first proposed in 2014, involved more than 300 researchers and volunteers. Pre-survey preparation work started in 2014, while fieldwork was carried out from 2015 with most data collection finishing two years later. Some data analysis is still ongoing, said Mr Lim. 

It was the first comprehensive survey of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in two decades, with the previous major survey carried out between 1993 and 1997.

NIGHT VISION GOGGLES, BAT DETECTORS

New technology will be used to add "relevance and diversity" to NParks' biodiversity surveys, said the agency, adding that new techniques can improve data collection and reduce the impact on wildlife. 

"For example, night vision equipment employing thermal imaging can be used to observe animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them through the conventional use of spotlights," said Mr Lim. "These methods also have a much better detection rate, especially for fauna which may be masked by dense vegetation."

It highlighted the example of ultrasonic bat detectors, which are already in use to detect and identify bats.

In future, these detectors will be complemented by other acoustic sensors which can remotely monitor the calls of birds, frogs, reptiles and mammals in the forest, distinguish between different species and assess the number of individuals of a species nearby.

Marine acoustic sensors will also be used to monitor marine species - such as dolphins - in the water, while drones will be deployed to take aerial images of habitats and track changes over time.

NParks is also working with researchers to compile DNA databases, so that minute traces of DNA in the environment can be used to detect plant and animal species without the need to see or disturb them.

Source: CNA/nc(hs)

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