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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

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

Wildlife Watching Walks for November 2019

Forest village trek at Thomson Nature Park

Time: 9.00am to 11.30am
Cost: $13 per pax (adult or kid). Free for participants’ kids aged 6 years and below.
Location: Thomson Nature Park

Please note: This is an easy walk that goes on an uneven dirt path with sloping ground at certain spots, but do note that the return walking distance is between 4 to 5 km. If young kids are coming along, be prepared to carry them.

Walk Brief:

We explore the trails running through this newly opened nature park set in a former Hainanese village. The forest has taken over the remains of the village, but some of its ruins still exist, such as the spiral staircase of the house of the Fox family who were Eurasians who had lived there. Signage along the trails explain the nostalgic ‘kampong’ way of life. Fruit trees from past orchards persist, with rambutan, durian and jackfruit now enjoyed by the wildlife living there.

This park is a key conservation site for the critically endangered Banded Leaf Monkey, Singapore’s only other species of monkey. The Malayan Pangolin and Straw-headed Bulbul are two other globally endangered species who call this lush forest patch their home. And the forest streams here are crucial freshwater habitats for a diversity of damsel and dragonflies.

Hornbills and Hogs on Pulau Ubin

Time: 5.00pm to 7.30pm
Cost: $13 per pax (adult or kid). Free for participants’ kids aged 6 years and below.
Location: Pulau Ubin

Walk brief:

We return to the lovely island of Pulau Ubin, this time to look for its famous resident hornbills and wild pigs. The Oriental Pied Hornbill is the only hornbill species still existing in the wilds of Singapore. Its other larger cousins, the Rhinoceros and Helmeted hornbills have both long gone extinct, as Singapore developed and its human population grew and spread. Hornbills have an incredible lifestyle. The female will imprison herself in a tree-hole nest for several months to take care of her eggs and chicks, with the male bringing food to them. As there are not many tall old trees with suitable holes, some nest boxes have been set up for them on Ubin.

Oriental Pied Hornbills live in large, loud family groups, so we’ll hear them before we’ll see them. The Wild Pig is the other iconic wildlife of Ubin. In the past, ‘wild boar’ meat was served at the food stalls on Ubin. It is now against the law to capture, kill or eat them. On Ubin, they roam the forests in search of fallen durian and rambutans. Many Ubin regulars still have fond memories of Priscilla, the piggy mascot at Chek Jawa who was always there during low tide on the mud flats. Our late afternoon to evening walk is timed to the hornbills about to go to bed while the pigs are just waking up from their afternoon siesta.

Please note: This is an easy walk that goes on the main roads and on uneven dirt trails. The return walking distance is about 3km.

Please note:

·         Please register by emailing participants’ name/s, ages of kids, phone number of contact participant, and the chosen activity, to Andrew at:

·         More details and instructions will be given upon registration

·         Please do inform if after registering you cannot come for the walk, so that your seat can be passed on to another person on the wait list.

·         We will only proceed with each walk if there is a minimum group size of 10 persons.

·         Payment in cash or cheque will be collected in person at the activity. Cheque to be made payable to: ‘Cicada Tree Eco-Place’

·         All kids must be accompanied by at least 1 adult guardian.

·         Kids get info-sheets and native wildlife stickers at our walks.

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