Wednesday, 31 July 2013

River Safari at Singapore Zoo.

Thanks to the company my husband works for we enjoyed a free outing to the River Safari at Singapores zoo last weekend for their Family Fun Day! This is somewhere we have been meaning to visit so it was great we got to experience it for free!!! - more importantly I was really excited to hopefully see the Giant Pandas, having not got a chance in the UK.

River safari is a part of Singapore Zoo and also includes Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park. The Bird Park was opened in 1971 and covers 50 hectares. The Night Safari as the name suggests is open during the night and showcases nocturnal animals, this was opened in 1994. Singapore Zoo itself was opened in 1973 and covers 28 hectares. There are a vast array of animals there including endangered White Tigers and the largest captive colony in the world of Orangutans. This will definitely be the next one on the list to visit.

lesser adjutant stork
The River Safari was opened 29 Nov 2012 although some parts are yet to be fully open so the entry fee at present is reduced. The Giant Panda forest was opened in November and I think in all honestly this is the main pull to visit the River safari - it certainly was for me!. The River theme runs through the rainforest park, travelling to 10 world river locations to see the "local" wildlife.

The Giant Pandas are Kai Kai (male) and Jia Jia (female) and are on a 10 year loan from China. Their names were chosen following a competition throughout Singapore in 2010.

Kai Kai - male Giant Panda
Sadly we didn't get to see Jia Jia as she was in her indoor enclosure, she appears to be the shier of the two. Kai Kai was out but fast asleep so the photos aren't as interesting as they could of been...but hey I saw a panda!!  We have since found out that not long after we left it was feeding time and both Pandas were out and energetic....typical!!!

Although we didn't get to see much from the Giant Pandas the Red Pandas more than made up for it. They are so cute and photogenic, one even looked like a gremlin. We spent a long time by their enclosure and took many many photos of them.

The spider monkeys were fun to watch I took tons of photos but very few were any good. They were so quick by the time the shutter took the photo they had moved. I had plenty of shots of tails or empty branches!

Endangered Indian Gharial - a fish eating crocodile

Crab eating Macaque

African Dwarf crocodile

Jaguarundi - Otter Cat. Why is it that all the animals sit with their backs to me!!!!
Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus) a truly ugly fish that suckers its mouth to the glass
baby Manatee - so sweet.
The manatees were so peaceful and relaxing (although I expect the music that was being played helped with the ambience) I could of stayed there for ages and chilled out.

Giant River Otter. Always amusing to watch, such happy animals

Inuka the Polar bear.
The mate of this one was called Sheba but died aged 35 on 15 Nov 2012
 Although the River Safari was good and we had a great day I think it will be improved when fully open and able to go on the boat trips. I do feel that the Giant Pandas are the main pull for visiting the River Safari.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Oriental Pied Hornbill

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of wildlife I spot on my mornings walk... and being in this part of the world this means new and exotic species to me.

This morning I heard this loud raucous noise that went on and on....almost like a laugh. I did at first think perhaps it was a kingfisher, which are prevalent along the cost and have a "laughing" or "argumentative" call. However as I neared a very large tree, at the very top I spotted a Hornbill. Which since looking up on the internet I now know is an Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris. Sadly my photos taken from mobile are very poor as it was so high up but please take my word for it, its a Hornbill.... honest....truthfully!! I have also included two photos from wikipedia of what they look like if I could of got closer!

The birds were thought to be extinct in Singapore and are still on the "critically Endangered" Red List of animals in Singapore - I am so excited to have spotted one :) In the late 1990s they appeared as "visitors from Malaysia" to Singapores Pulau Ubin island just to the North East, but then they started breeding there in artificial nest boxes, following a project to reestablish them.  The noise they make has been likened to a witches cackling and I can understand why. They are large birds around 70cm and are black and white. they have a large bill with a casque (knob) on top, hence its name. Hornbills nest in holes in tall trees and are usually in pairs where the breeding female is sealed up inside the hole with a narrow slit for the male to feed her. They feed off insects, fruits, crabs and lizards - this may explain why I saw this one down on the East Coast Park.

I feel truly honoured to have seen one of these endangered birds and will be on the look out for them again - although the loud cackle helped in this today.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Dragon Spotting!

Every day on my morning walk I feel like I am being watched....... spooky!!....not really I am....... by Dragons!!

Singapore is home to numerous agamid lizards which are in themselves members of the Draconinae family - Dragons!

These Lizards spend most of their time in trees and live on insects (arboreal insectivores) The reason I feel that I'm being watched is that on most occasions I walk along the East Coast Park in Singapore which is treelined and watching me from the trunks are these lizards. I have become very adept at spotting them from afar - they almost look like peeling bark or a fallen leaf on the tree trunks.

These lizards will grow to between 20-50 cms in length although most of this is in the tail. The tail of these lizards do not regrow if damaged unlike many other types. I have frequently seen the same lizard on my walk with a missing tail. I believe he must be quite old as not only is he one of the largest I have spotted he is also very slow and will allow me to walk up to within just a few inches of him to take a photo. Normally the smaller ones are off in a flash and I'm lucky to snap them.

The photos on this page are of one of the most common lizards found in Singapore that of the changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor) these are at home in open urban spaces and are spotted on trees and fences. One friend has even photographed one on her bike after she returned from a long cycle (I expect the rubber held the heat in) and also of one being found on their pillow!!! not sure how I would react to that! These changeable lizards are in fact themselves made up of several close species of lizard.

As the name "changeable" suggests they can change colour depending on enviroment and mood. However, they are not chameleons, which are a completely different family and not found in this part of the world.

During the mating season the head and necks of the changeable lizard males will turn bright red/orange and he will be more easily spotted allowing himself to be seen by females. I have yet to see this but am looking forward to the spectacle. Due to this change in colour they have been nicknamed the "bloodsucker"

These lizards are not native to Singapore but are believed to have arrived from Thailand and Malaysia in the 1980s but have been so successful they are now common throughout all of Singapore. In fact they are so successful they have forced the decline of the once equally common local lizard, the green crested lizard (Bronchocoela cristella) To date I have yet to spot one of these vibrant green creatures but I live in hope. They are still relatively common but now seen mainly in secondary rainforest.

There are other types of lizards but as yet I havent encountered any. I look forward to hopefully seeing the flying dragons.... but who knows

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Art Science Museum

Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb

Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition

Saturday saw us take a visit to the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands owned by Las Vegas Sands company. The building itself is a stunning piece of architecture set in the equally stunning Marina Bay. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie it represents a Lotus Flower. The ArtScience museum was opened on 17 Feb 2011 by PM Lee Hsein Loong.

Pool for collecting rain fall from roof

Rainwater is collected and runs down the centre of the building into a pool where it is recycled (however this didn't seem to be in operation on our visit)

The cost of visting was S$15 per person per exhibition but if you purchase a ticket for both then it was S$24 each, however, as we had our employment and dependants pass we got a concession and it cost us just S$40 for the 2 of us - bargain

I had initially wanted to visit the Mummy exhibition as I had missed out on the Tutankhamun exhibition in London but hubby once he saw Essential Eames was on was really excited. Ever since I have known him he has wanted an Eames chair and with his interest in design and his current role he knew there would be many iconic pieces on display. This exhibition will probably be the closest he will get to ever owning one!

Mummy:Secrets of the tomb runs from 27 April - 4 Nov 13 and is presented by the British Museum. You first watched a 3D film narrated by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek!). This shows the history of the mummy of the 3000 year old priest Nesperennub. It explains the hieroglyphics on the outer case, injuries on the body (although cause of death is unknown), gifts left on the body and reasoning behind them etc. After the film you are the able to view the highly decorated cases holding the mummies - 6 in total including a cat! plus other treasures.

Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition runs from 29 June 13 - 4 Jan 14
According to the leaflet - "
"The exhibition is based on the book An Eames Primer by Eames Demetrio, which captures the philosophy behind the work of the husband and wife team"   - need I say more....................

Well worth a visit!