How should we tread upon the earth we live and depend on? As a thinking and caring community, we need to engage in thoughtful discourse in order to form a land ethic that can be passed down to future generations.
The ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic must surely drive us to ponder how we humans perceive and connect with nature. It presses home the message that we need to care for humans, nature, land, and the inter-connections between them.
In an ongoing art exhibition titled ‘The Seeds We Sow’, four Singaporean artists do just that by exploring the theme of human intervention in nature through photography and installations.
‘Artificial Conditions (2019)’ by Ang Song Nian – an installation consisting of biodegradable plant pots – ponders the manipulation of plants, nature, terrain and landscape.
‘The Colony – Archive (2019 – ongoing)’ by Marvin Tang is a study of botanical gardens established during the former British Empire. Scattered across the globe yet bearing similar aesthetics, they share a common colonial agenda to convert botany and land for economic purposes.
‘Monitor, Swimming (2019)’ and ‘Laughing Thrushes, Scolding (2019)’ by Robert Zhao Renhui, are snapshots of the adaptive behaviour of native and non-native species in a secondary forest. Robert Zhao is well known for his constant fascination with man’s controlled coexistence with nature.
‘Reclaimed Sculpture: Domestic Landscape’ by Zen Teh presents a collage of different landscapes to form a real yet imaginary cliff at Little Guilin.
The use of a refurbished second-hand cabinet is a conscious effort by the artist and educator Zen Teh to reduce waste, and is an invitation for others to do the same.
The exhibition held at Mizuma Gallery at 22 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks, is on till 19 July 2020. To learn more, visit the gallery’s event site here. Due to COVID-19 safe distancing requirements, you must make an appointment before visiting!
To make an appointment for your visit, please email the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is World Sea Turtle Day (16 June 2020). As we celebrate Sea Turtles, we remember the magical and fortuitous event which took place at East Coast beach of Singapore just weeks ago on World Turtle Day (23 May 2020). A critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) came ashore to nest!
Nesting in Broad Daylight
To the amazement of the few out exercising at East Coast Park beach during the COVID-19 lockdown, this Hawksbill Sea Turtle dug into the sand and laid her eggs in broad daylight before safely heading back to sea.
The closed beaches, off-limits to humans for their own good, meant more space, peace and quiet for our native wildlife to do their thing.
Flying Foxes Galore
Not long after, another rare phenomenon took place serendipitously on World Environment Day (5 June 2020) – a large colony of about three hundred Flying Foxes (Pteropus sp.) flew into the rainforest of our Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
With faces that resemble foxes and with a wingspan of about one metre, they are among the biggest bats in the world.
Mega-bats Under Threat
Flying Foxes are found in parts of Asia, Africa, Australia and some oceanic islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They can fly long distances to forage for food. In Singapore, resident colonies of the native Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus) have long been extirpated. Many species of Flying Foxes are threatened by hunting, habitat loss and deforestation.
Time to Turn the Tide for Nature
As we witness more of such phenomenon, and with one million species believed to be facing extinction, will our children and our children’s children be able to see nature’s wonders as we now still have the privilege to enjoy?
If we all act decisively now, there is still time to turn the tide for Nature and ourselves!
“The food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable, all come from nature. Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves, we must care for nature.
It is time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices. It’s time to build back better for People and Planet. This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.”
THE UNITED Nations
To help save Singapore’s population of sea turtles, a protected turtle hatchery located in Sisters’ Islands Marine Park was launched in September 2018.
What can you do? To contribute to turtle conservation, volunteer with the ‘Biodiversity Beach Patrol’ by NParks to patrol beaches at night during the nesting season.
Reports indicated that the 2020 edition of Chinese Pharmacopoeia aims to curb use of pangolin scales, with authorities threatening imprisonment of up to 10 years for the hunting, killing and smuggling of the animals.
There are eight species of pangolins and all are under threat due to large-scale illegal hunting across Asia and Africa.
At least a million have been killed and sold over the past decade and half, according to CITES. The massive bloodbath was documented in a National Geographic report.
Conservationists have been fighting for decades to protect the scaly mammal, and momentum has also been building within China – activists there recently released a lone pangolin seized from poachers back into the wild, vowing that more would be done.
Chinese authorities have now moved to grant Class 1 Protections to three species, which include the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata).
“This is a good start … but this is not good enough. We will release a lot more soon.”
Dr Zhou Jinfeng, secretary-general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Fund
Global wildlife regulator Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – of which China is a party – has banned international commercial trade of pangolin in a bid to protect the animal.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the native Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), as critically endangered.
Their research — fast-tracked into publication in March to aid epidemiological research and the search for a vaccine or cure — identified cousins of COVID-19 or “SARS-CoV-2-relatedcoronaviruses in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China”.
The researchers conclude: “pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of novel coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission“.
We hear from Dr Kae Kawanishi (Tiger Biologist, General Manager and Head of Conservation, MYCAT) on takeaway lessons from the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic crisis and human impact on wild nature:
Q: What is your take on life in the time of COVID-19?
Dr Kae: “We live in an extraordinary time in human history where major events on a global scale seem to not only accelerate in frequency but also grow in scale and impacts. COVID-19 is one of them but there will be other zoonotic diseases as interfaces/interactions between humans and wild spaces/wildlife increase. This global pandemic is a once or twice in a lifetime stress-test for people, companies, and nations.”
Q: What do you think brought this about, and how do you think we will fare in this crisis?
Dr Kae: “In my opinion, much of human suffering in general is brought about by the inequality of wealth, inefficient distribution of resources, and weak governance. This in turn, usually has huge implications on wild nature. This weakness in our society came to light in this stress-test. I don’t think that COVID-19 has changed the fundamental flaws in the current capitalism or consumerism, but the pandemic has shaken everyone and I am optimistic about the resilience of nature and humans’ ability to learn to be better or cope with the stress.”
Q: What do you think are some of the lessons we could learn from Covid-19?
“I hope one of the takeaway lessons is about humility. Humans are not that special, and our lives too are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. Growing up in Japan, I was constantly reminded of our relative insignificance by the sometimes violent nature of our planet. Over the millennia, the forces of nature, be they earthquakes, landslides or tsunamis, and beautiful and bountiful blessings of the seas and mountains have shaped Japanese’ psyche.”
Q: How do you think this unprecedented event will impact our future survival and the survival of wildlife including the Malayan Tiger?
Dr Kae: “The extreme weather patterns, severity and frequencies of mega natural disasters, and the loss of biodiversity are all inter-connected. In its geological history, the earth has seen much more violent episodes of these beyond our imagination. Mass-extinction happened five times in the past and we are in the midst of the 6th mass-extinction. The 6th is unique in our perspective because we are the cause, but to the earth, every one of them is a unique event. The tiger may go soon because it competes with humans for the need for large forests. But COVID-19 reminds us that we are not that special. The human may be one of 1 million species expected to be gone if we don’t learn to promote co-existence.
Q: What do you think is needed to save nature and thereby save ourselves?
Dr Kae: “The frequencies and scale of the mega global events getting closer and bigger indicate that there isn’t much time left to start making significant changes. I do know that change is happening, but not fast and big enough because world leaders are often sidetracked with other agendas that usually promote competition instead.”
Q: What lesson can you share about human dependence on nature and our treatment of nature?
Dr Kae: “The second important lesson may be about our essential needs. Knowing what it is that we can live without help simplifies our lives. The Japanese phrase taruoshiru means ‘to know one has enough’ or ‘to be content with what one has’. I learned about life’s essentials during my field research. In a very practical sense, this was because I could only carry 15kg on my back. That’s all I had in the forest for weeks. But beyond the daily maintenance needs, the fieldwork in the wilderness distilled my life needs to a very few essentials, and the wild nature was one of them. I’ve had countless moments of communion with her and still do. She does not teach anything. She just is.”
Save the Malayan Tiger – CAT Walks 2020
Due to Covid-19, all CAT Walks are currently on hold till further notice. To find out more about CAT Walks and to support MYCAT, please visit the this link: https://www.citizenactionfortigers.my/
Thank you, take care and stay safe, Cicada Tree Eco-Place