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Malayan pangolins a suspected host of COVID-19: scientists

stop the killing and consumption of pangolins in illegal wildlife trade

PHOTO: Nicholas Yeo

The impact of COVID-19 on the world at large is unprecedented. Thousands of lives have been lost and the virus has wreaked havoc on the economy and global trade.

As at 28 March 2020, there were over 30,419 deaths across the world, with more expected in places far removed from the virus source.

There were over 1,700 deaths in the United States. In Italy alone, the death toll has crossed 10,000, overwhelming morgues. Spain lost 832 lives in 24 hours, adding to a death toll of 5690 — Madrid had to turn an ice skating rink into a morgue.

the illegal trade threatens public health worldwide

Pangolins are a suspected host for COVID-19 (also known as SARS-CoV-2), write scientists Lam, et al. (2020) in a report published in the prestigious “Nature” journal.

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-related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China”.

Cicada Tree Eco-Place has been rallying to Save the Pangolin since 2010. Cicada Tree Eco-Place’s very first fundraiser was a bold initiative to raise funds for a dedicated researcher to work with TRAFFIC.

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“.

Although the findings were later disputed by Chinese scientists, the same Chinese team concluded that “Pangolin-CoV, was the second-closest relative of Sars-CoV-2 as the two viruses were 91.02 per cent identical”.

Whatever the origin of the virus, the World Bank writes that the illegal wildlife trade was likely the conduit through which COVID-19 carrying animals came into contact with humans.

How many more lives must be lost before we act?

Viruses and bacteria are spread because of human activities and we have seen this happen before.

In the case of COVID-19, human greed has exposed an otherwise elusive, nocturnal, burrowing, ant-eating animal into contact with humans — and other animals — with frightful consequences, say scientists. The New York Times reports:

We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.


World Water Day 2020

22 March is World Water Day, observed by the United Nations. It has been commemorated globally for two decades.

Water and climate change issues are inextricably interlinked. Even as sea levels rise, unpredictable weather patterns have caused water shortages close to home.

In 2019, Johor in neighbouring Malaysia rationed water when water supply levels fell to dangerous lows. At Linggiu Reservoir, which provides Singapore’s water supply, levels fell to below 50 percent last year. In 2015, they fell to a historic low of 20 percent.

Water has been a bilateral sticking point between the two countries for years and this fact is not lost on our country’s leaders, as evident in a post by Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.

The ongoing dry weather has caused Linggiu Reservoir to fall below half its capacity. This is the second time in less…

Posted by Masagos Zulkifli on Saturday, 28 September 2019

Singapore expects demand for water to double by 2060. As climate change results in unpredictable weather patterns, we must consciously manage water consumption.

Adapting to the new realities of climate change on water will protect health, the environment and save lives. Everyone must play their part to use water more efficiently.

Do you know the 5 W.A.T.E.R tips?

  • WASH clothes on full load
  • ALWAYS use half-flush when possible
  • TURN off shower when soaping
  • ENSURE tap is off when brushing teeth
  • RINSE vegetables in container

Sources: Make Every Drop Count, PUB | World Water Day, United Nations

Bats and Covid-19: Should we be afraid?

The novel coronavirus outbreak has been attributed to bats, which are host to a whole diversity of viruses. But bats are not at fault, and neither should we be afraid of these magnificent flying mammals.

In fact, scientists say that animal pathogens like viruses and bacteria are spread because of humans. The New York Times reports:

We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.

We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic, DaviD QUAMMEN, NEW YORK TIMES, 28 January 2020

Singapore’s bats in the news

Watch an interview on Channel 8 on Singapore’s resident bats and Covid-19, featuring Andrew Tay, Dr George Jacobs and Dr Leong Tzi Ming. Statements in English.

Read more and watch the interview:



徒步活动发起人乔治表示:“蝙蝠吃很多昆虫,蝙蝠也为植物传播花粉,所以我们需要蝙蝠。我们要公众了解和欣赏蝙蝠,我们想呈现的是, 冠状病毒会出现,不是蝙蝠的错。”




非营利环保组织负责人郑德利说:“我们保持距离,我们不要太接近,毕竟它们都是野生动物。我们只想要观察他们,研究它们,只要政府允许 ,我们会继续这样的户外徒步活动。”

(Cicada Tree Eco-Place conducts two to three bat walks each year and has been doing so for the last decade.) We keep our distance (as) we don’t want to be close (to bats). These are all wild animals. We just want to observe them, study them. As long as the government permits it, we will continue with the outdoor nature walks.

Andrew Tay, CO-FOUNDER at Cicada Tree Eco-Place


蝙蝠研究员梁智敏教授表示:“国人可能会有点过度小心,觉得如果看到蝙蝠,或者很靠近它, 甚至站在它下方,就会感染某种病毒,但事实不是这样。因为即使蝙蝠可能有很多病毒,但他们需要一个中介,才能传播病毒给人类 。”



The Green Rail Corridor – A Biodiversity and Ecological Overview

by Ho Hua Chew, Anuj Jain & Alan Owyong

(ISBN: 978-981-14-3051-0)

Recommended reading:

This timely conservation book records with photos from above of the last remaining precious forest patches along the longest green corridor (24km) in Singapore, once a historic main Railway line to Peninsular Malaysia and branch line to Jurong.

See the Maps and discover the ecological and biodiversity importance of this long and narrow lifeline for local wildlife and communities.

Green gems like the little known river, Sungei Pang Sua, and its adjacent charming Woodland is home to many species of birds. Rare flora such as formerly presumed nationally extinct plants and rare fauna, such as the endangered Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus) and Violet Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus) have been recorded at Clementi Forest.

Find out why these last wilderness pockets should be conserved. The authors advocate a robust plan for the conservation and enhancement of the ecological connectivity of the Rail Corridor which is a priceless natural and historical-cultural heritage.

Where to get a copy: Order online from Nature Society (Singapore) at price of $28 (inclusive of local postage charges for mail order in Singapore)

Cicada Tree Eco-Place is a supporting partner of the ‘Friends of the Rail Corridor’ group.

Mid-Autumn Bat Moon Walk 2018
National Day Walk 2019 @ Singapore Quarry
Community Nature Walk 2019 @ Bukit Timah Station

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