Monday, September 29, 2008

MAD about butterflies & moths

Above: Kids with their origami butterflies and moths!

In August 2008, Cicada Tree Eco-Place kick-started MAD Lessons for Wildlife. Kindly sponsored by Intel, and held in conjunction with the Singapore Botanic Gardens, 4 lessons on butterflies and moths were run at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

MAD stands for Make A Difference, and it is hoped that all 63 children who attended this series of MAD lessons are carrying out the simple eco-actions they had pledged to do.

Some suggestions were:

1. Don't kill butterflies and moths, and ask others not to do so.
2. Free butterflies and moths after reared caterpillars have undergone metamorphosis, so they can make friends and have more caterpillar babies!
3. Do not trap butterflies and moths. Observe them in the wild.
4. Protect caterpillars. Do not harm them.

Above: Observing Observing pupae of the Lime butterfly.

Above: Learning about butterfly and moth ecology.

Kids learnt about the diversity of butterflies and moths in Singapore, the differences between the two, and their ecology: life cycle, where they live, what they eat, and what may eat them. There were museum specimens, as well as live caterpillars and pupae, to learn about.

Above: Colouring and decorating their butterflies/moths.

The children got to bring home an origami butterfly/moth they decorated themselves, a lovely wall-poster on butterflies, a button-badge, and a bookmark on which they could pledge to help butterflies and moths in their daily lives.

Above: Looking for butterflies and moths.

Hi kids! If you attended Uncle Andrew’s session on butterflies and moths, and would like to share with us a story, idea or something which you learnt, please email us here and we will post what you have to say on our blog! Read what Charles Windle has to say here.

Article and photographs by Vilma D'Rozario, edited by M.J. Tan.

M.A.D. for the Nightlife!

On 16 August, Cicada Tree Eco-Place invited experts Mr Fam Shun Deng and Mr Norman Lim to present a slide-show and talk on Singapore’s little-known nocturnal mammals – the slow loris, the pangolin, and the colugo.

Held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Botany Centre, the talk highlighted the animals’ characteristics, ecology, the threats they face, and how we can make a difference.

Above: A little girl with her colugo!

The talk was targeted at adults, but kids also had the opportunity to learn about slow lorises, pangolins and colugos. Photos, colugo and slow loris skulls, and even a stuffed pangolin specimen (confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade) helped the kids better understand the physiology and ecology of these animals.

At the end of the lesson, the kids got to make their own paper colugos and let them climb the wall! Here are some photos we took:

Above: Busy with colouring their colugos.

Above: My colugo will glide soon!

Above: The children with their finished colugos.

We would like to thank Nick Baker and Chan Kwok Wai for their wonderful animal photographs, and the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) for specimens. Thanks also to the Singapore Botanic Gardens for the venue.

Article and photos by Vilma D'Rozario, edited by M.J. Tan.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Roots & Shoots Day of Peace

On September 21, young people around the world joined Dr Jane Goodall in celebrating the Roots & Shoots Day of Peace by flying giant peace dove puppets in their communities to symbolise their commitment to peace.

“With the Peace Doves, we remind everyone of the truth they sometimes forget—that peace is possible. We celebrate all that is free and noble in the human spirit. And we celebrate all that so many people have done throughout the year—and will do next year—to create a better world,” said Dr. Goodall.

Above: Peaceful doves. Photo by K.C. Tsang.

A UN Messenger of Peace since 2002, Dr. Goodall established the global, annual Roots & Shoots Day of Peace in 2004 to encourage Roots & Shoots members and other interested individuals to promote peace in their communities and around the globe.

Above: Kids with their lanterns!

In Singapore, September marks the month of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Traditionally celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month in celebration of a bountiful Autumn harvest in China, Chinese families typically gather in the evening to drink tea, eat mooncakes, and carry lanterns.

To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, Roots & Shoots member, Cicada Tree Eco-Place, a non-profit environmental education organization, marked this evening of nature, culture, and peace on September 12 with 15 children and their parents and teachers, drinking orchid tea, eating vegetarian mooncakes and making lanterns.

At this event held at Orchidville, an orchid farm in Mandai, children learned about native peaceful doves which symbolize peace. We talked about how one could make peace by not fighting, and making friends. The kids learned about bats, which in Chinese culture symbolise blessing. Each kid then made his or her own lantern with Chinese papercut-style motifs of peaceful doves and bats.

Above: Kids learning about the various animals.

Above: Beautiful Chinese papercstencils by Andrew Tay.

Above: Busy stencilling...

... and paper-cutting!

When night fell, everyone went for a walk with their lanterns and watched insect-eating bats take to the night sky in search of food.
Apart from bats, other animals spotted included a nightjar as it flew into the nearby forest. With the aid of Vilma's bat detector, the kids were introduced to the concept of echolocation, in which insect-eating bats use sound waves to hunt for food.

A bat detector works by converting bats' echolocation ultrasound signals, which are normally too high-pitched for us to process, to frequencies audible to the human ear. Echolocation is primarily used by insect-eating microbats (as opposed to the larger fruit-eating macrobats) to hunt for flying insects.

Above: Kids lighting their lanterns.

Above: Bat-detecting at dusk.

It was our Singaporean way of celebrating the Roots & Shoots Day of Peace!

Article by Vilma D’Rozario, edited by M.J. Tan. Photos by Vilma D’Rozario and M.J. Tan, unless otherwise stated.

Click here to learn about the Roots & Shoots Day of Peace and how to make giant peace dove puppets.

If you’d like to know how to make peaceful dove lanterns, email Andrew Tay of Cicada Tree Eco-Place.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Events Calendar

Want to view upcoming CTEP lessons, talks and other events? Click here to have a look at our new events calendar!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gardening for Native Wildlife

Above: Black-veined Tiger Butterfly and Plain Tiger Butterfly feeding on nectar from the Indian Turnsole, a wildflower. Photo by Angie Ng.

Did you know that a pretty garden pond with a fountain tends not to be the ideal habitat for our native fish, frogs and toads? A naturally “messy” eco-pond overgrown with pond weeds is more what these animals consider their ideal home, and where they will likely build their nests and rear their young ones.

Above: Grow Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan) in your garden and Crimson sunbirds will visit to sip nectar from the ginger flowers. Photo by Y C Wee.

Many ornamental and hybridised plants are bred only for their showy flowers, not for their natural nectar-producing capabilities. Thus butterflies, moths, sunbirds and honeybees that survive on nectar depend on native wildflowers for their food.

Above: Common Palm Civets will visit Cherry Trees for their ripe berries. Photo by Chan Kwok Wai.

How can we make a difference for native wildlife?
• Grow native plant species in your garden, below your windowsill, along your corridor and in your balcony. Native wildlife will naturally recognise them as food sources and will visit.
• Be generous, allow a portion of your garden to grow wild. Wildflowers will naturally colonise this patch and wildlife will tend to stop by and stay.
• Create an eco-pond. Water is life for our native species of frogs, toads, dragonflies and damselflies and where they complete their life cycles. It’s also a source of clean drinking water for thirsty wildlife.
• Go organic! Do not use chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers in your garden. They kill wildlife and their toxins are harmful to you and your family. Do choose to use more natural, herb-based options available.
• Always go for a non-chemical option. For instance, instead of fogging with chemicals, have fish in your pond to eat up mosquito larvae. Many herb and spice plants such as Citronella Grass and Tea Tree repel pest insects.

Above: Common Fruit Bats love to roost under fan palms. Photo by Chan Kwok Wai.

How Cicada Tree Eco-Place can help you make a difference:

We provide eco-gardening services like
• Creating an eco-garden for your home, office or school
• Creating herb, spice, fruit and water gardens.
• Conducting native plant identification guided field trips.
• Conducting native plant propagation and gardening workshops.
• Conducting kids’ fun Flora Exploration sessions.

For enquiries and program registration, please email or call 9 856 2262.

Monday, September 1, 2008

‘Grow Things’ Program

Click here to view our events calendar!

One sure way to lessen our carbon footprint is to grow a plant.

Learn all about plants and how to grow them in this creative, hands-on fun flora lesson for kids!

Lesson structure:
* Introduction to plantlife and their importance
* Our native species (Photos & live specimens)
* Where they live, their habitats, how they adapt to their environment.
* Observing floral specimens, both live and preserved, e.g., ant plant, orchid, vegetable, cactus, wildflower, seeds, fruit, etc.
* Learning about plant & animal symbiotic relationships.
* Introduction to soil, pots and other planting materials. How to grow a plant.
* Demonstration on various ways to grow a plant e.g., in soil, in water and pebbles, growing epiphytes on bark.
* Demonstration on how to do propagation.
* Distribution of a cutting to take home to sprout in water first then pot up themselves later.
* Distribute planting materials (coco-pot, soil).
* Distribute eco-pledge bookmark & fun plant worksheet.
* Conclusion: Global warming, conservation of plant habitats, Make A Difference!

Class length: 2 hours
Suitable for: kids 5 to 12 years old
Venue: Your school or other suitable venue
Cost: S$15 per child participant, for a maximum group size of 20. No minimum group size. A minimum cost of $300 per session applies.

For registration and enquiries, please email .

Click here to view our events calendar!