Category Archives: bejc

Marcus Ng on Wong Siew Te’s Sun bear talk

Marcus Ng came away with a new understanding of the Sun bear’s biology and a grim understanding of the fate of the sun bear in Malaysia and South East Asia, after attending Wong Siew Te’s talk on “The ecology and conservation of the sun bear in Malaysia.”

“About halfway through his presentation, bear researcher Wong Siew Te showed a duotone slide. Pictured was a small sun bear cub, with a rather rotund body and bright, pleading eyes. It was trussed up like a chicken.

Right after the photograph was taken by a Japanese researcher in Borneo, the cub was taken to a kitchen and slaughtered as it screamed.”

“About the size of a large dog but with vastly greater bulk (males reach nearly 60 kg), the Malayan sun bear is the world’s smallest bear species and the least known. The only true tropical rainforest bear (a ghostly subspecies of the black bear lives in Canadian rainforests), the sun bear is a big-headed animal with sleek black fur and a yellowish mark of varying size and shape on the chest that serves to distinguish individuals. Feet bearing long curved claws help create suitable openings in tree holes for the animal to search out insects and honey using its very long tongue, as evident in the casualty on the right, which was shot simply because it was seen and its existence deemed intolerable.”

“According to Wong, the sun bear is now “almost gone” from Vietnam, found only in some national parks in Thailand (which incredibly cover barely a tenth of the country’s vast land area), and exists in fragmented populations in Sumatra. In Peninsular Malaysia, the bears are concentrated in forest complexes such as Taman Negara, the Titiwangsa range and the Southern Forest Complex (of which Endau-Rompin National Park is but a slice). Like many other sympatric megafauna, sun bears need undisturbed forests to thrive. So as the trees are felled and land cleared of its carbon-stripping units, the earth simmers and mourns the growing loss of creatures that have survived ice ages but not the fatal pincer of man’s insatiable hunger for land, lumber and lips-smacking mammalian delicacies.

As ecologist Richard Corlett noted recently, many long-studied forests in Southeast Asia have nothing left but deer and boar, and some not at all. And as the elephants, rhinos, orang-utans, gibbons, tapirs and bears vanish, they take with them the future generations of trees that once relied on these beasts to disperse their seeds and carve new clearings in the jungle where saplings might sprout.”

Read “An unbearable future,” by Marcus Ng. The annotated budak, 20 Jun 2007.

See also “Wong Siew Te on emaciated Sunbears.”


Wong Siew Te on emaciated Sunbears

There were grim moments at Wong Siew Te’s sunbear seminar last afternoon. In an email to FOYers, I said:

“Speaker Siew Te made an observation about the critical role figs trees play. In 1997/8, the region experienced the most severe El Nino event. This led to the local extinction of fig wasps (due to direct impact and the haze). In the absence of pollinators in 1999, fig trees aborted their fruits [he cited Rhett Harrison’s work], and there was a famine in Sabah and Kalimantan, at least (this is where there were sun bear researchers).

Orang utans managed to resort to other food sources like young shoots and plant sap, but animals like sun bears and bearded pigs starved. All his six radio-collared sun bears were emaciated and two died (see photo). I know this led to starving bearded pigs attempting to raid field centres as well. This is suspected to be a reason for the very low density of large animals in Bornean rainforests.”

You can read more from the links at his seminar page or wait for Marcus who will blog more about this later.

Mon 18 Jun 2007: 1pm – Wong Siew Te on Sun Bears of Malaysia

Meetings of the NUS DBS Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club

“The ecology and conservation of the sun bear in Malaysia”

Wong Siew Te
Wildlife Biology Program,
College of Forestry and Conservation,
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812 USA

Mon 18 Jun 2007: 1pm – 2pm

NUS Dept Biol. Scis. Conference Room
Blk S3, Level 5, Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Science Drive 4
Visitors may park at Carpark 10
See map.

Host – N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS

About the talk – In the first half of the talk, Wong Siew Te will talk about the ecology and behaviour of sun bear and his research works on sun bear in Sabah, Malaysia. The second part of the talk will focus on the threats and other conservation issues faced by the sun bear in Malaysia.

Articles by Tan Cheng Li in
The Star (08 Aug 2006):
“Fighting for survival.”
“Friend of bears.”

About the speaker – Wong Siew Te was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia. He earned a Diploma in Veterinary and Animal Science from the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, and both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana, USA. He is now a Ph. D candidate in Fish and Wildlife Biology, at the University of Montana, and conducting his doctorate field study on Malayan sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and bearded pigs (Sus barbatus) in Sabah, Malaysia. Wong studied the ecology of Malayan sun bears in a rainforest of Malaysian Borneo as his M.Sc. thesis project [online pdf of his thesis]. The study contributed to our knowledge of many ecological aspects of the sun bear and promoted various conservation issues related to the Bornean rainforest.

Besides bears and pigs, Wong’s interests also include the other medium and large mammals especially carnivores, the interactions between wildlife and tropical rainforest ecosystem, and mast fruiting in Southeast Asia. Wong was appointed as the first co-chair of the Sun Bear Expert Team for the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group from 2002-2005. He is now a member of IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group and Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos Specialist Group.


  • Bornean Sunbear and Bearded Pig Research and Conservation Project – borneanbearpigproject; see Raffles Museum News, 11 Mar 2006
  • “Fighting for survival,” by Tan Cheng Li. The Star, 08 Aug 2006.
  • “Friend of bears,” by Tan Cheng Li. The Star, 08 Aug 2006.
  • Wong, S. T., C. W. Servheena & L. Ambub, 2004. Home range, movement and activity patterns, and bedding sites of Malayan sun bears Helarctos malayanus in the Rainforest of Borneo. Biological Conservation, 119 (2): 169-181. [pdf].
  • The Ecology of the Malayan Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) in the lowland tropical rainforest of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. By Wong Siew Te. MSc thesis, The University of Montana, 2002. [pdf]
  • Personal site –
  • Land Empowerment Animals People webpage –

Did you know? – The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus (Raffles, 1821) was first described by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (type locality “Sumatra”) in:

Raffles, T. S. 1821. Descriptive catalogue of a zoological collection, made on account of the honourable East India Company, in the island of Sumatra and its vicinity, under the direction of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Fort Marlborough; with additional notices illustrative of the natural history of those countries. Transactions of the Linnaean Society of London, 13:239–274.

Seminars – Wed 20 Jun: “Modeling plant invasions”; Tue 26 Jun: “Aqua Palawan”

Two department talks in the horizon:

“Recent progress in modeling plant invasions”
Serban Proches
School of Life and Conservation Sciences
University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa

Wed, 20 Jun 2007: 4pm – 5pm
DBS Conference Room
Host: Navjot Sodhi

“The aquatic biodiversity research project on the Philippine island of Palawan (Aqua Palawan)”
Hendrik Freitag

International Research Institute of Entomology
Museum of Natural History Vienna

Tue, 26 Jun 2007: 11am – 12 pm
DBS Conference Room
Host: Darren Yeo

Details and Yong An Nee’s lovely posters can be found on the Department of Biological Sciences seminars webpage.

Revised parking charges in NUS, wef 02 Apr 2007

NUS OED has informed the campus of new parking charges which will take effect from Monday, 2nd April 2007. This is their first revision since 2001 – see their FAQ.

These charges apply to Car Park 10, where we ask visitors to park when visiting the museum for seminars or meetings. One of the free carparks in NUS, Car Park 10A (CRISP, Kent Ridge Road) is within walking distance; it’s up the long flight of steps behind NUH. But if you’re here for the entire day and no expense account, it might be worth it!

Pay Parking Operating Hours:
Vehicles will be charged within the operating hours only, although entrance and exit barriers will operate round the clock.
Mon – Fri: 8.30am to 7.30pm
Sat: 8.30am to 5pm
Free parking available after working hours:
This also applies to Car Parks 6-9 (Science Drive 2 and 3) and Car Park, 6A (Science Dr 4) in Faculty of Science.
Sun & Public Holidays
Mon-Fri: after 7.30pm
Sat: after 5pm
Rates: $0.02 per minute during operating hours,
with a maximum charge of $1.20 for vehicles entering between 6.00pm – 7.30pm on weekdays; or
maximum charge of $2.40 for vehicles entering during operating hours on Saturdays.
Grace Period
15 minutes for all vehicles.
30 minutes for taxis and goods vehicles.

Thu 29 Mar 2007: 11am – Norma Rashid on Malaysian Dragonflies

“Dragonflies (Order: Odonata) of Peninsular Malaysia”

Prof. Dr. Y. Norma-Rashid
Faculty of Science,
Institute of Biological Sciences,
University of Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Thu 29 Mar 2007: 11.00am
DBS Seminar Room 3

Blk S2, Level 2,
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Science Drive 4
Please park at Carpark 10; See map.

Abstract – Peninsular Malaysia is endowed with at least 230 species of odonates, among them the spectacular Tetracanthagyna, the largest of the species in this region. This faunal group is fast gaining popularity among the professional group or hobbyist due to its colourful body patterns and bizarre behavioural repertoires. This talk looks into the current status records, distribution pertaining to Malaysia and some behavioural ecology aspects of the dragonflies.

About the speaker – Norma-Rashid would describe the central theme of her research interest as behavioural ecology in various ecosystems (mangrove, freshwater and forest) in various animals (ants, dragonflies, spiders, mudskippers, squirrels, primates including humans). Currently, she has developed a passion for researching dragonflies involving aspects of biomonitoring, biocoenosis, ecomorphometrics, systematics, behaviour and ecology. Her involvement in dragonflies resulted in establishing working linkages with the London and Leiden Natural History Museums as well the National Institute of Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan. She contributed regularly to the International Odonatological Society, SIO, Netherlands and a member of the Asian Dragonfly Community group.

Mr Budak ruminates on biodiversity seminars

If ever our seminar speakers wondered about the impact their information and ideas expressed had on their seminar audience, they’d have to look no further than blogger and Toddycat (Raffles Museum volunteer) Marcus Ng.

Inspired by speakers at the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club (BEJC) seminars held in NUS, he has penned some rather “ducky” (read you’ll see why) post-seminar articles on his blog, The annotated budak. Some of these posts have appeared shortly after the talk while others, like his take on the talk by Naomi Pierce are apparently still fermenting on his harddisk. Well. we’ll look forward to it appearing in his Biodiversity & Conservation posts!

Isn’t it nice to the thoughts expressed in a darkened room in the university seeing the light of day in the blogosphere?

“My kingdom for a seahorse,” 14 Feb 2007, after a seminar by Keith Martin-Smith.”Corlett’s top ten (and quotes),” 11 Jan 2007 and “Corlett draws the crowd,” 11 Jan 2007, in response to seminars by Richard Corlett and Matz Berggren.”Slugging it out on nudibranches,” 18 Apr 2006, in response to a talk by Richard Willan.”A tale of two-pteras,” 11 Mar 2006, in response to Patrick Grootaert.”Shrimps in Sulawesi: A biogeographical survey,” 03 Nov 2005, after the seminar by Kristina Zitzler.

I met Marcus Ng through a web article he wrote about the Raffles Museum; originally posted to Aquatic Quotient in 2003, he republished it on his new blog the following year. Marcus has a finger or two in a variety of blogs and forums and helps circulate relevant biodiversity information there.

Tue, 13 Feb 2007: 11am – “Using seahorse science to advance marine conservation.”

NUS Department of Biological Sciences: Biodiversity and Ecology Journal Club
Seminar Announcement

“Using seahorse
science to advance marine conservation.”

Dr. Keith Martin-Smith
Senior Programme Manager, Project Seahorse,
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania

Tue 13 Feb 2006: 11am

DBS Conference Room
Blk S3, Level 5,
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Science Drive 4
Please park at Carpark 10; see map.

Host: Dr Tan Heok Hui

About the talk – Seahorses are powerful icons for marine conservation. They are affected by diverse anthropogenic pressures, particularly overexploitation, habitat destruction and incidental bycatch. Project Seahorse uses quantitative science on the response of seahorses to these pressures to develop innovative conservation solutions.

Our current research on population dynamics suggests that marine protected areas may not increase the abundance of seahorses but allow greater reproductive output per unit time. Seahorses also appear to have unusual growth and movement patterns when compared with most other fishes. I will demonstrate how these results can be used as leverage for marine conservation in general.

About the speaker – After an undergraduate degree in Botany at Cambridge University, Keith completed his PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia on the interactions between the large brown seaweed Sargassum and its associated epifaunal crustaceans. He then spent 3 years at Danum Valley Field Station in Sabah, conducting a postdoc on the effects of selective logging on freshwater fish (where he worked with a number of scientists from Peter Ng’s lab).

A second postdoc on the interactions between wild and farmed Atlantic salmon in Scotland led to his current position with Project Seahorse which began in 2000. He works on all aspects of syngnathid biology pertaining to conservation issues, particularly population dynamics, bycatch and marine protected areas

Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club: new coordinators for 2007/8

30 Jan 2007 – Laura-Marie Yap and Eunice Tan of the Spider Lab have taken over the coordination of the Meetings of the Biodiversity & Ecology Journal Club (BEJC) as of 1st February 2007. The reins of the club were handed over today by Jose Christopher Medoza and Jeff Kwik of the Systematics and & Ecology Lab (Jan 2006-Feb 2007) whose last task was to find successors! Thanks fellas, for all that great work in the past year! (See the list of past coordinators since 2001 in “About the BEJC”.)

So new coordinators Laura and Eunice will communicate with hosts or speakers to set up seminars (see “Guidelines for Hosts”. Besides acting on suggestions, coordinators may invite speakers themselves or suggest ideas to potential hosts.

Despite everyone’s research, field trip and teaching schedules, the journal club has been a reasonably efficient and flexible mechanism that has enabled us to hear from a wide variety of speakers; sometimes at just a day’s notice. We’ve been lucky to hear from many noteworthy speakers – prominent, young, passionate, even accidental but all brilliant!

Each year during the handing-over ceremony, I conduct the traditional briefing complete with workflow sketches on the glass-topped table of the Raffles Museum’s meeting room. An important part of this includes explaining why coordinators must extract relevant information from speakers – as this is used to publicise the talk to the wider community beyond the departmental emails:
Ecotax, an e-newsletter started in 1998, and the medium for first news and last-minute notifications,
the lovely departmental posters that we sometimes circulate to other agencies,
Raffles Museum News webpage (BEJC page closed in Nov 2005),
WildSingapore’s webpage and mailing lists,
Habitatnews, when it focused on Singapore and
all rss feeds are picked up by The Singapore Naturalist

The announcements have been well received by the community beyond NUS Biology as we meet friends, strangers or internet acquaintances at specific talks; sometimes we see some reflection of this in the blogosphere – see “An hour with Richard Corlett” and of course, Marcus Ng’s post-seminar posts! One of his articles has just reached a wider audience through!

So it’s important we circulate the information well, and it’s thanks to Yong An Nee, Reena Devi S. (up to 2006), Chan Yee Ngoh, Ria Tan and Airani. It’s hard work but sometimes we have fun doing it – so don’t miss the opportunity to learn and get inspired!