Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Bivalves; Gastropods" by J. E. Poutiers (1998)

In: K. E. Carpenter. V. H. Niem (eds.). FAO species identification guide for fisheries purposes. The living marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific Volume 1. Seaweeds, corals, bivalves and gastropods. Pp. 123-686. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, ISBN 92-5-104051-6.

Some 187 species of bivalves from 35 families (pp. 123-362), and 263 gastropod species from 43 families (pp. 363-686) are described and superbly illustrated in this ambitious volume, which is a welcome addition to the acclaimed series of species identification guides published by the FAO. The geographic area covered in this work stretches from the Malacca Straits eastwards to Piteairn Island in the Pacific Ocean, including the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Northern Territories and Queensland in Australia, and the majority of tropical Pacific islands. The guide is well organized, with sections on general remarks, glossary of technical terms, and shell keys to bivalve and gastropod families which are arranged in a rough phylogenetic sequence. Each family is introduced by way of diagnostic characters, habitat, biology, and fisheries, with comments on similar families occurring in the area, as well as taxonomic references. A strictly conchologial key to species is also provided for each family. Every species treated is illustrated with line and ink. Species descriptions include the following heading: frequent synonyms and misidentifications, FAO names is English and French, diagnostic shell characters, size, habitat, biology, fisheries, and geographical distribution.

Adapted from FAO Corporate Document Repository. Accessed on 29th Jun 2007.

According to the editors (p.iv), the purpose of this guide "is to provide an accurate means to identify to the appropriate taxonomic level those organisms that are of potential use or likely to be captured by marine fisheries in the region", and in addition, it is stated (p.iv) that "this work is the first attempt to provide comprehensive identification and biological information for marine resources in the region". The coverage on the whole is fairly comprehensive, with the following twelve families having the highest number (in descending order each for bivalves and gastropods) of species described in the guide: bivalves-Veneridae (33 spp.). Arcidae (16 spp.) Cardiidae (12 spp.). Pectinidae (11 spp.). Mytilidae (10 spp.) and Tellinidae (9 spp.); gastropods-Cypraeidae (25 spp.). Strombidae (23 spp.) Muricidae (21 spp.). Conidae (13 spp.). Naticidae (12 spp.) and Neritidae (11 spp.). Although diagnostic shell characters are not provided for about half of the species included in the guide (markings meant to distinguish species provided with diagnostic characters from those without were unfortunately misprinted), the excellent drawings and keys are adequate for initial identification, at least to the family level. Two omissions, however, are significant in the light of the objectives spelled out by the editors. One is the complete exclusion of the indigenous common names. In my opinion, the exclusion of local name(s) seriously undermines the usefulness of this guide, since the users are likely to be more familiar with the common local name than with French or English names. Of course, if there is no local name referable to the shell, then the FAO name would be a useful suggestion. But to ignore an existing name is not good practice. the second concerns the lack of cited references concerning fisheries biology and aquaculture techniques for the various species presented in the guide. Nearly all references given in the guide are taxonomic in nature, and although the primary role of this guide is identification, it would have been helpful to provide some primary sources of information concerning fisheries and/or aquaculture.

Other details that might be considered for a second imprint of this guide is the addition of the neritid gastropod Nerita lineata (otherwise known as N. birmanica, N. articulata or N. balteata), this species being one of the commonest snails in Malayan mangroves, and consumed by the local coastal population. Nowhere in this guide is it mentioned. Neither is the bivalve Orbicularia orbiculata (Pharidae, formerly in Psammobiidae) for which is a significant fishery exists in Malaysia. The patellogastropod genus Cellana is now placed in the family Nacellidar, following current taxonomic opinion.

Poutier's contribution is a welcome addition to the increasing number of illustrated guides to the molluscan fauna of the Indo-Pacific. While reliable identification aids are available for molluscan fauna in Japan, the Philippines, Java, Australia and New Caledonia, the fauna characteristics of the Malayan archipelago has not been the subject of taxonomic guide books. Although this guide describes only a small fraction of bivalves and gastropods found in the Indo-Pacific, it includes a fair number of species that are treated in detail for the first time. This FAO guide will take its place amongst the useful "must-haves" in the libraries of professional biologists as well as shell enthusiasts.

K.S. Tan
Tropical Marine Science Institute
National University of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol 48(2): 340 on 31 Dec 2000.

"Tropical Island Herpetofauna: Origin, Current Diversity, and Conservation" by Ota. Hidetoshi (Editor) (1999).

Elsevier, Amsterdam, xiv + 353 pp. ISBN 0-444-50195-9.

A good number of tropical islands have enjoyed basking in the attention afforded them from herpetologists. Their potentially high biodiversity, variable land area above water, variable distance from mainland, variable topography are ideal ingredients for attempts at answering biogeographical, evolutionary and ecological question. In June 1998, the International Symposium, "Diversity of Reptiles, Amphibians, and other Terrestrial Animals on Tropical Islands: Origin, Current Status, and Conservation", was held at the University of the Ryukus, Okinawa, Japan. A total of 15 papers, organised into three parts, were compiled in the proceedings.

Adapted from Best Book Buys, accessed on 27th Jun 2007.

There are four papers in Part I, "Origin and Taxonomic Diversity", with contributions by Aaron Bauer - high endemism (86%) in terrestrial lizards of New Caledonia, Ilya Darevsky - lizards and snakes from nine Vietnamese islands, Indraneil Das amphibian and reptile biogeography of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, James Lazell - herpetofaunal evolution of South China continental shelf islands. Comprehensive species checklists are included in the first three, with endemic species marked with asterisks. In Part II. "Ecological Diversity, Dispersal, and Conservation", the papers are more specialised, but give an insight into some lesser known species. For example, Akira Mori et al. reveal the stealthy feeding behaviour of a Colubrid snake on sea turtle eggs and hatchlings. Using molecular biology techniques, Christopher Austin examined island colonization by a Scincid lizard in Melanesia. Also looking at colonization questions is Ivan Ineich, who studied ectodermal parasites of Pacific island geekos. In Part III, "Biogeography of the Ryuku Herpetofauna", the focus is on amphibia and reptilia from the Ryuku Archipelago. Taxa discussed in the papers include: Eumeces skinks, Trimeresurus pit vipers, geoemydine turtles, the cosmopolitan frog Rana limnocharis and the feral soft-shelled turtle Pelodiscus sinensis. At the end of the book (pp. 335-353), a comprehensive Taxonomic and Geographic Index is provided. This facilitates quick referrals to all the taxa and localities discussed among all the papers.

Without a doubt, this book deserves a place in the shelves of science/natural history libraries at established tertiary institutions/museums. Although other exciting herpetological topics, such as bioacoustics or amphibian larvae were not covered in the book, both practicing and potential herpetologists based in the tropics will find a stimulating variety of ideas and avenues for further research. In his abstract, James Lazell, contributor in Part I, noted, "there are more than a thousand small islands, most as yet unexplored by herpetologists. The opportunity to discover many more endemics and relicts is wonderfully great". That should be sufficient to whet our appetites for an island "getaway".

Tzi Ming Leong
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge 119260, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 48(2): 339 on 31 Dec 2000.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Forest (and) primates. Conservation and ecology of the endemic primates of Java and Borneo" by Nijman, V. (2001)

Kalimantan Series 5. Publisher: Tropenbos International, The Netherlands. 232pp. ISBN: 90-5113-052-X. Price: EUR 20 (S18 US). Order online at or write to Tropenbos International. PO Box 232. NL 6700. AE Wageningen. The Netherlands. E-mail:

The Sundaic region, identified as one of the biodiversity hotspots on earth, ranks highly in endemism of its flora and fauna in comparison to other regions. It also harbours a disproportionately large number of primate species and endemics, some 28 in all. Unlike the Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), an urban survivor, most primates are confined or linked to natural forests. Unfortunately, the Sundaic region also ranks highly for loss of primary forest cover. Thus most, if not all, Sundaic primate endemics are threatened with extinction.

Adapted from Tropenbos International on 28th Jun 2007.

The focal area of this study, Java and Borneo, comprise more than half of the land surface of the Sundaic region. Java has a history of human pressure dating several centuries; little forest remains now and the people are no longer largely dependent on the forest. Contrastingly, the largely forest-covered Borneo is undergoing rapid changes in land-use and human attitudes, which alter the pressures on wildlife populations.

It is surprising to read the claim that " there is a lack of base line knowledge concerning the ecology of most, if not all, endemic primates in Indonesia", considering that easily more than 200 papers have been published on Indonesian primates. Furthermore, amongst the endemics of Java and Borneo, only one is listed as "Data Deficient". Certainly primates have attracted much more attention than the secretive carnivore family groups!

However, Nijman suggests that most long-term primatological studies in Southeast Asia have been concentrated at a limited number of field stations. These are located mainly in relatively pristine habitats, in areas with limited or no hunting pressure, almost entirely in the lowlands and where populations of the study species are present in relatively high densities. Furthermore, while the effect of disturbances (e.g. selective logging, hunting and fire) on primate populations have been studied in isolation, in reality, they appear to be tightly linked.

It is thus now necessary to build on these foundation studies to provide for practical conservation measures. This thesis is an example of such a step. Between 1994 and 2001, various field studies were conducted in Java, Borneo and in museum. This thesis integrates the contents of papers published earlier in scientific journals with other authors. It presents the reader with several objectives: (i) to assess the geographical distribution of individual species on Java and Borneo; (ii) to develop, test and evaluate census methods by which primate populations can be assessed and monitored: (iii) to determine the type and magnitude of the threats facing the individual species and habitats on the islands: (iv) using data collected under (i), (ii) and (iii), to re-assess the conservation status of the endemic primates of Java and Borneo using the IUCN threat criteria; and subsequently (v) to identify key areas for conservation based on densities of particular primate species, the co-existence of a disproportional large subset of primate species and management feasibility.

The chapters in this book are:
1. Forest and primates, a general introduction to the conservation of endemic primates in the Sundaic region.

SECTION I. Background and Survey Methodology: 2. Density and biomass estimates of gibbons (Hylobates maelleri) in Bornean rainforest: a comparison of techniques (with Steph B. J. Menken). 3. Effects of behavioural changes due to habitat disturbance on density estimation of rain forest vertebrates, as illustrated by gibbons (Primates: Hylobatidae). 4. Calling behaviour of wild Javan gibbons Hylobates moloch in Java, Indonesia (with Thomas Geissmann). 5. Geographical variation in pelage characteristics in grizzled leaf monkey Presbytis comata (Desmarest, 1822) (Mammalia: Primates: Cercopithecidae).

SECTION II: Studies on Endemic Primates of Java: 6. Occurrence and distribution of grizzled leaf monkey Presbytis comata (Desmarest, 1822) (Mammalia: Primates: Cercopithecidae) on Java, Indonesia. 7. Geographical distribution of ebony leaf monkey Trachypithecus auratus (Geoffrey Saint Hilaire, 1812) (Mammalia: Primates: Cercopithecidae). 8. A faunal survey of the Dieng mountains, Central Java, Indonesia: status and distribution of endemic primate taxa (with S. (Bas) van Balen).

SECTION III: Studies on Endemic Primates of Borneo. 9. Distribution and conservation of the proboscis monkey Naasalis larvatus in Kalimantan, Indonesia (with Erik Meijoard). 10. The local extinction of the proboscis monkey Nasalis larvatus in Pulau Kaget Nature Reserve, Indonesia (with Erik Meijaard). 11. Patterns of primate diversity on Borneo and selection of priority areas for conservation (with Erik Meijoard).

SECTION IV: Synthesis: 12. Re-assessment of IUCN conservation status of the endemic primates of Java and Borneo. 13. General discussion.

Forests and primates face tough times. Indonesia's recent policy of decentralization had provided opportunities for illegal logging (Kearney, 2001; Richardson, 2001). However, in October 2001, Indonesia instituted an indefinite ban on the export of logs in line with a recommendation made by an International Timber Trade Organisation (ITTO) Mission in the country, which had found illegal logging to be rampant there (ITTO, 2001).

It is likely thought that Java's history of deforestation will repeat itself on the other Sundaic islands and possibly other parts of Southeast Asia with growing human populations, all of which are host to much higher numbers of primate species. The findings and conclusions of the present study are thus applicable to the conservation of Southeast Asian primates and should be read by workers in tropical forest conservation and management, primate rehabilitation, captive breeding and ecology.

This fifth book in the Tropenbos-Kalimantan series is also the first zoological title. The publisher, Tropenbos International, is a Dutch non-governmental organization, facilitating research and development programes in Asian and Africa. In Southeast Asia, it is also developing research in Vietnam.

Richardson. M. 2001. Indonesia's Forests: Gone in 10 Years?
International Herald Tribune,
24 April 2001.

Kearney. M. 2001. Illegal logging in national parks shocks minister.
The Straits Times, 24 April 2001.

ITTO. 2001. ITTO Mission recommended Indonesian Log Export
ITTO press release, 30 October 2001.

N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 383-384 on 31 Dec 2001.

"A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore" by Strange, M. (2000)

Periplus. Singapore. 398 pp. ISBN 962-593-963-6.

There are numerous field guides available n the market on the birds of Southeast Asia. The question arises in my mind: do we need another bird guide for Southeast Asia? The answer in my mind is yes but only if such a guide is illustrated with excellent photographs. Well this book fills the bill. The author who is famous for his breathtaking bird pictures writes this photographic guide.

Adapted from Princeton University Press on 27 Jun 2007.

The book provides succinct introduction to the bird watching techniques. The introduction also contains beside other aspects, brief notes on Southeast Asian bird fauna, its habitats, and conservation.

Over six hundred bird species are covered in this book. Each species account includes a photograph (sometimes two) of the species. Most photographs contain diagnostic features of the bird. Included in the species description is a brief write-up of the diagnostic morphological features of the species of all the species is indicated and so is the worldwide range. However, only the distribution within Southeast Asia is illustrated with a map.

With few exceptions, most of the photographs are of exceptional high quality. Somehow, the guide feels much better to use in the field and different than the previous other guides in the market. The glossy production of the book is of high quality.

I recommend this book to amateur and professional bird watchers alike. I know that I will be bringing it along for my future birding trips within Southeast Asia.

Navjot S. Sodhi
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S2. 14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 382 on 31 Dec 2001.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Indonesia" by Strange. M. (2001)

Periplus, Singapore, 416 pp. ISBN 962-593-402-2.

At last, the Indonesian birds can be compiled in one field guide gathering field guides on the Birds of Sumatra. Java, Bali and Kalimantan, Birds of Wallacea and Birds of New Guinea. This is another book dedicated to the geographical region. It may also be used as a complement to Birding Indonesia edited by Paul Jepson and Rosie Ounsted and produced by the same publisher in 1997. Despite its size and weight, it is suitable for being carried away to the field.

Morten Strange has had close association with Indonesia over 20 years. He travelled all over the country to obtain the photographs of many bird species that had never been photographed especially those distributed only in Nusa Tenggara and Irian Jaya/West Irian. He showed his master in photography by illustrating most of the species taken by him though he was assisted by other 35 photographers to complete the book. The author has written the Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore (1993) and the Photographic Guide to the Birds of South East Asia including Phillippines and Borneo (2000).

The book basically contains three main sections: introduction, how to use this book and systematic section. This introduction is very comprehensive and detailed. Terminology and names used in the book are clearly explained. However there is an inconsistency in the explanation of some terminology, e.g. the term of Sunda in the "How to use this Book" section is different from the Glossary. One spelling mistake of the scientific name of the Blue Nuthatch, should be Sitta azurea not Sitta azyea.

It provides some tips on birding techniques, photographing birds, documentation, information on habitats, birding time, interesting places for birding and conservation concerns. The section how to use this book explains the area covered, the nomenclature, taxonomy and sequence applied including some important references and guidance for the systematic section. The systematics section illustrates the species with coloured photograph, short description, information on voice and habitats as well as a map of distribution. For some dimorphic species, photographs of both sexes are shown.

There are 1534 bird species recorded in Indonesian region. This book presents 686 species or less 50% of total species. Each species is well described with brief information on voice and sufficient behaviour notes for field observation. Since the book is heavily relied on coloured photographs for species identification, we were a bit disappointed with their uneven quality. Some photographs (such as on pages 68, 70, 77, 145, 175, 176, 191, 283, 289, 296, 305, 322, 359 and 375) have poor quality and are less detailed, they could not be used properly for identification as the book intended to be.

Although it was mentioned that most photographs were taken on location in Indonesia or South East Asia, the photograph of Grey teal Anas gibberifrons was taken in Australian region because it is less accurate. The Indonesian (Sunda) grey teal has a prominent forehead which is distinctive from the Australian Grey Teal.

The book covers 87 out of 93 families and 130 out of 381 endemic species.

The inclusion of map of distribution is very useful. Because Indonesian region has the highest number of endemic species, the map really helps to find specific locations for interesting species. We were a bit surprised when seeing the map of the Brahminy Kite (Haliastar indus). The author eliminates the presence of the species on Java island. Actually, last year we found an active nest of this species with two chicks in the mangrove of North Coast of Banten.

After all, we recommend the book to be used by beginners or professional bird watchers for observing the Indonesian birds. The concise text provides vital information that will ensure identification of some species in one of the world's most diverse avifauna regions. We appreciate all efforts of the author to produce such comprehensive photographs of the birds such as the Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot (Micropsitta brnijnii), the Wallace's Hanging-parrot (Loriculus flosculus) and the Moluccan Hanging-parrot (L. amabilis).

Dewi M. Prawiradilaga and Darjono
Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense.
Research Centre for Biology-LIPI
Jalan Raya Bogor Km 46, Cibinong 16911, Indonesia

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 381-382 on 31 Dec 2001.

"Freshwater Fishes of the Timika Region New Guinea" by Allen. G. R., K. G. Hortle & S. J. Renyaan. (2000)

P. T. Freeport Indonesia and tropical Reef Research. viii +175 pp. ISBN 0-646-40480-6.

This is the first book in a series of field guides to the biodiversity of the Timika Region of southern Indonesian New Guinea. The Timika Region lies between the Otakwa and Mamoa river basins, and the Central Dividing Range in the interior. According to the authors, the fish fauna there was virtually unknown until Freeport Indonesia's Environmental Laboratory began its quarterly sampling program there in 1995.

The taxonomy is up-to-date as first author Dr. Gerald Allen is an internationally recognised authority on both freshwater and coral reed fishes of the Australian-New Guinea region. In this comprehensive guide, 93 native species and five feral species of freshwater fish are presented. Two of the native species are new to science. The formal descriptions of the apogonid Glossamia timika and eleotrid Oxyeleotris stagnicola, appended at the rear end of the book do not interfere wit the flow of the book's concise format.

Each species is illustrated with their English and scientific names, a diagnosis that highlights the more important characters including succinct descriptions of colour and markings. There are brief comments on the fish's habitat and abundance, followed by notes on their distribution in New Guinea. These notes are illustrated on a map of New Guinea on the top right hand corner of the page. A list of local names is also provided.

Good pictures and accurate illustrations of entire fish are arguable the quickest and most reliable tool to identify the various types of fishes, and this is adequately furnished for each and every species in this guide. Many species are illustrated in life with excellent photographs. Where good photographs are wanting, line drawings and paintings made by Australian artists Jill Ruse and Roger Swainston are effective substitutes.

Apart from the illustrations, the user can also refer to keys that highlight important morphological and meristic characters. There is a key that differentiates the 27 families of indigenous and five families of introduced feshwater fish in the area. If more than one species is present in a family, a key to the different species in that group is provided.

This book certainly lives up to its design as a quick identification guide to the freshwater fishes of the Timika region. It is a good reference for anyone who is generally interested in fishes, and/or the biodiversity of the Australia-New Guinea region.

Kelvin K. P. Lim
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 380-381 on 31 Dec 2001.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Freshwater Fishes of Northern Vietnam" by Kottelat. M. (2001)

Freshwater Fishes of Northern Vietnam. A preliminary check-list of the fishes known or expected to occur in northern Vietnam with comments on systematics and nomenclature. Kottelat. M., 2001.Environment and Social Development Unit. East Asia and Pacific region, The World Bank, 123 pp. 162 figs.

This book reports on two surveys conducted in 1998 and 1999, of which the latter was curtailed. This is the first systematics report published by the Environment and Social Development Unit of the World Bank. It is divided into two parts: the first part consists of a preliminary checklist of the fishes known or expected to occur in northern Vietnam; and the second part (in three annexes) deals with some important but poorly known Vietnamese freshwater fish literature. This report also highlights the critical situation of biological research in the Indochinese region and just after the Vietnam War.

Two hundred and sixty-eight native freshwater fish species are reported in the preliminary checklist. Re-evaluation of the systematics status and nomenclature of these species is carried out, albeit without actual examination of specimens in some cases. The nomenclatural actions and changes made, and a comparative list of fish names used in the current report and by Mai (1978) are summarised in two separate tables. This report also contributes significantly to comforting the nomenclature of the northern Vietnamese and southern Chinese fishes to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

In Annex 1, selected parts of a report by Mai (1978) are translated into English and presented with no alteration. This section is rather confusing due to the lack of consistency of legend used. In Annex 2, problems with the nomenclatural system for Vietnamese freshwater fishes proposed by Nguyen & Daon (1969), and the validity of that publication are raised, although no clear solution is suggested. The original paper by Nguyen & Daon (1969) is reproduced in Annex 3.

The last part of the report features well-taken photographs of the fishes (162 figures) encountered mainly from the 1999 trip. There are some minor errors in the figure captions - misspelling of names in Fig. 71 (Balitora kwangsiensis); and wrong genera names for Fig. 78 (Beaufortia daon) and Fig. 103 (Hemibagrus plariradiatus). Some of the material listed is available only from the figures provided, which is a pity. This minor point aside, this is a very important effort and an important piece of work for ichthyologists working on the freshwater fishes of so Southeast Asia.

Mai. D. Y., 1978 Nha xuat Ban Khoa Hoc Va Ky Thuat, Ha Noi [Identification of freshwater fishes of northern Viet Nam]. 339 pp. [In Vietnamese].

Nguyen V. H. & L. Doan. 1969. Mot so dan lieu ve Thanh, nguon goe va su phan bo cac loai trong ho ca chep o mien bac Vietnam [Some data on composition, origin, and distribution of cyprinid species in northern Vietnam]. Trinh bay tai hoi nghi hoc thuat nganh thuy san lan thu 1 [First Scientific Seminar of Fisheries Division]. 19 pp. [In Vietnamese].

Tan Heok Hui
Department of Biological Sciences,
The National University of Singapore.
Blk S2, 14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 380 on 31 Dec 2001.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"The Natural History Journal of Chulalongkorn University" (2001)

The Natural History Museum of Chulalongkorn University. Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. ISSN 1513-9700.

This new journal is the official publication of the Natural History Museum of Chulalongkorn University. Bangkok, Thailand. It boasts a strong editorial board consisting of members from Chulalongkorn and Mahidol Universities, and National Science Museum in Thailand, as well as overseas institutions such as Field Museum of Natural History, University of Michigan (both USA, National University of Singapore (Singapore), and University of the Rykyus (Japan), most of whom have been actively researching and publishing on various aspects of natural history in Thailand for many years. The Editor is Somasak Panha ( of the Chulalongkorn University.

The inaugural issue (August 2001, volume 1, Number 1) of this biannual publication features 11 papers divided among three sections: "Original Articles", "Reviews" and "Short Notes". "Original Articles" covers taxonomy and diversity (e.g. new species descriptions; new records; morphological, karyological and allozymic studies), and histological studies, while synopses and species checklists are published under "Reviews". Study subjects in this first issue include insects, molluscs, herptiles and fishes, mostly from Thailand.

For now, the journal appears to primarily focus on biodiversity-related studies in Thailand, which is very useful indeed, considering the significant amount of such research being conducted there. However, his scope can and probably will expand to include the rest of Indochina, thus addressing the need for wider dissemination of the results of biodiversity studies conducted in neighbouring Indochinese countries, and perhaps even from southern China. Coupled with the forthcoming addition of more scientists to its editorial board, and the setting up of its own website (S. Panha. pers. comm.), the journal will surely grow in importance and stature.

Annual cost of overseas membership and subscriptions are US$30 (individual), US$20 (student) or US$40 (institute). Requests for application forms or author instructions can be sent to: "The Natural History Journal of Chulalongkorn University. Bangkok 10330. THAILAND": Tel. +(662)218-5258-9; Fax. +(662)218-5386.

Darren C. J. Yeo
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity research
Department of Biological Sciences
The National University of Singapore
Blk S6, Science Drive 2
Singapore 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in the Raffles Museum Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 49(2): 379 on 31 Dec 2001.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"Chek Jawa. Discovering Singapore's Biodiversity" by Chua, E. K. (2002)

Simply Green. 116 pp. USD 20. ISBN 981 046814 8. Tien Wah Press (Pte) Ltd.

Pulau Ubin is a small island of about 10km by 2km off the northeast coast of Singapore's main island. It is a special place for Singaporeans and visitors alike, having escaped the bustling growth of the city-state, and provides an impression of a way of life, long lost on mainland Singapore. However, in 2001, the island awaited an impending fate of reclamation of its eastern and southern coastlines. Villagers living in the area had been gradually shifted out and few remains of the buildings they occupied could even be seen. The now ghostly coastline however, provided complete access to curious nature enthusiasts who had previously stayed away from the private property of the villagers.

They stumbled onto a goldmine. This small coastal area boasted of several ecosystems in one site -coastal forest, mangrove, rocky shore, sandy shore, seagrass lagoon, mud flats and coral rubble. To a population more familiar with sterile beaches, it was an explosion of marine life -tunicates, sponges, sea cucumbers, sea stars, a variety of molluscs, seagrass, the list seemingly just went on. The visual splendour of the site, its uniqueness and impending extinction inspired an explosion of activity on its behalf by nature lovers, educators, researchers, the media, public and the government. In a landmark decision, the reclamation of scheduled for Pulau Ubin was deferred, and Chek Jawa was saved for the interim at least.

Dr. Chua Be Kiam was amongst those inspired by the variety, space, stories and secrets of the area. Like many naturalists in Singapore, he was familiar with the pockets of terrestrial biodiversity on the mainland. He had in fact popularised such areas by authoring two photo-history titles, entitled "Nature in Singapore -Ours to Protect" (1993) and "Pulau Ubin - Ours to Treasure" (2001) (see http:// A dentist by profession, he is a passionate nature photographer and nature conservationist, and communicates this through his images in books and by guiding and giving talks. This passion is obvious through the photographs and emotive writing of the book.

The contents are arranged somewhat into chapters. "Discovering Chek Jawa" is a brief account of the events leading to the eventual deferment of reclamation. Little of the complex series of events has been shared with the public and this is a good introduction to an important event in Singapore's history. "Heaven on Earth" provides an overview of the habitats and brief contributions about most of the ecosystems, and marine life is explored through the main plant and animal groups in " Fascinating gems of Chek Jawa". The author's suggestions about education and tourism are raised in "What next?" and "Voices from within" is a sheet of quotations by various people. The various affiliations and more so the lack of affiliation of the various people who are quoted reflect the diverse interest that Chek Jawa summoned to her eventual relief. "The plight and fragility" and "The last horizon" are reflective pieces on issues facing the urbanised Singaporean, and the significance of Chek Jawa.

This book does not pretend to be an authoritative marine guide but is instead, a reflection of the author's exploration of coastal ecosystems through the gift of Chek Jawa. However, even scientists will find the photos surprising and interesting. In a very short time, he has provided a glimpse into a significant event and place. Yet again he provides a refreshing story celebrating discovery and protection of a natural habitat in Singapore.

Proceeds of this book will be donated to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research for ongoing research at Chek Jawa. The sale of the book at the museum is also helping to fund its workshop series to train new volunteer guides for Chek Jawa, at which the author volunteers as a principal field instructor.

N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge, 117600, Republic of Singapore

First published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 50(2): 514-515 on 31 Dec 2002.