Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line?

In January 2013, the Land Transport Authority announced the plan of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) which would begin from Changi, passing through Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast, and terminate at Jurong Industrial Estate targets to be completed by around 2030.

Cross Island Line 2

I did not pay attention to this news until last week when a friend shared a link regarding a petition to save Singapore’s Forest Reserves initiated by Teresa Teo Guttensohn. There was also an article on The Straits Times and TodayOnline dated 19 July 2013 where it mentioned that the Nature Society (Singapore) has opposed the future CRL and has proposed an alternative route that cuts southwards via Lornie Road around the reserve.

As a nature lover who enjoys photographing insects and bugs in forested areas, I am concerned after reading the impact of CRL on Singapore’s rich biodiversity as it would cut through the southern portion of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between Upper and Lower Peirce and MacRitchie Reservoirs. As an ordinary individual, one of the little things that we could do is help to highlight what would potentially be destroyed by the construction of CRL. In this regard, Ivan Kwan has done a superb job in his “The Lazy Lizard’s Tales Blog” where he pointed out that many of our threatened and endangered native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insects, etc., live in these forests and any form of large-scale disturbance is likely to have adverse impacts on them. I am glad he included the uncommon Forktail dragonfly taken by me although I would have preferred him to mention Triangled Small Percher instead as it is classified in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008 as a critically endangered species which lives only in Upper Peirce forest. Since no damselflies were mentioned, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize that there is possibility that Singapore’s most beautiful damselflies that happen to live in the affected areas could be extinct due to the construction of CRL.

CRL final

I am referring to the Libellago which is the most unique damselfly genus in Singapore with its wings distinctly longer than the body. They are rare, attractive and require pristine habitat. I have rated them as the most beautiful damselfly species in Singapore! We used to have 4 Libellago species in Singapore checklist but unfortunately, one of them known as Libellago stigamtizans (Orange-faced Gem), is already extinct here. The following image of a L. stigmatizans in flight was photographed in Malaysia.

(Libellago Stigamtizans taken at Panti Forest, Johor, Malaysia)

(Libellago Stigamtizans taken at Panti Forest, Johor, Malaysia)

The remaining 3 Libellago species can still be found locally. They are Libellago lineata (Golden Gem), Libellago aurantiaca (Fiery Gem) & Libellago Hyalina (Clearwing Gem) and we should protect these Gems to the best of our ability.

Libellago lineata has a relatively higher chance of survival as it can be found at two locations, one at a protected area in Mandai forest not accessible by the general public, and the other one at Lower Peirce Reservior.

(Libellago lineate, male & female)

(Libellago lineata, male & female)

The behaviour of the Libellago genus is fascinating too. One of my most satisfying damselfly works is a series of images showing the unique and complete behaviours (ie. territory fight, mating,
egg-laying process, male guarding the egg-laying female) of Libellago lineata all taken at the edge of Lower Peirce Reservior.

(Libellago lineata engaged in behaviours such as fighting, mating, egg-laying, etc.)

(Libellago lineata engaged in behaviours such as fighting, mating, egg-laying, etc.)

Libellago aurantiaca has been recorded in Upper Peirce forest and Lower Peirce Reservior but both areas would be affected by the CRL. They are usually found in swift clear streams, typically with a sandy bottom and perch just above water as shown in the image below. I particularly like the male which is striking beautiful dressed in vibrant colour of red and yellow.

(Libellago aurantiaca, Male)

(Libellago aurantiaca, Male)

All the females of Libellago genus are less attractive with duller colours and L. aurantiaca is no exception. When both are displayed side-by-side, it is not difficult to tell which gender is more eye-catching.

(Libellago aurantiaca, male vs female)

(Libellago aurantiaca, male vs female)

Mating of any damselflies is a joy to watch, not to mention this cute and gorgeous gem in a wheel or love shape formation.

(Libellago aurantiaca, mating)

(Libellago aurantiaca, mating)

The most vulnerable of them all has to be the Libellago hyalina simply because their only home is at Upper Peirce forest. This is a precious species as it shows a great deal of colour variations, both in the female & male. The females have 3 different colours form and I like the one with a “tiger-skin” abdomen the best.

(Libellago hyaline, female)

(Libellago hyaline, female)

The other two females have duller colours and therefore slightly less attractive.

(Libellago hyaline, females)

(Libellago hyaline, females)

The males have 3 colours form too with the bluish grey abdomen being the least good looking.

(Libellago hyaline, bluish grey male)

(Libellago hyaline, bluish grey male)

The metallic blue male is more handsome.

(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

But I like the glowing purple abdomen male the best.

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

(Libellago hyalina, glowing purple male)

With a total of 6 colours, surely it must be the most colours form damselfly species in Singapore! While doing a search of this species over the internet, I have found images of female L. hyalina from other countries that look similar to ours. However, the colours of the males are  different from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia & Cambodia.  In other words, the 3 colours form of the male Libellago hyalina above could be uniquely Singapore that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth!  This makes it all the more valuable and should be protected at all costs!  In the event that  the CRL has to proceed  to meet the infrastructure development needs of Singaporeans, LTA should find ways to guarantee zero disturbance to our nature reserves and ensure the survival of at least the critically endangered species.

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

(Libellago hyaline, glowing purple male)

Reference : A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore

Damselflies & Dragonflies @ Bekok Waterfall

Bekok is a town located at the eastern side of the district of Segamat, Johor, Malaysia. Bekok is well-known especially among nature lovers since Bekok is the western entrance to Endau Rompin National Park as well as having a refreshing waterfall known as Sungai Bantang Waterfall.

Bekok-Map

I had visited Bekok waterfall twice, one on a recce mission on 25 May 2013, and the recent one on 29 June 2013 where I joined Nature Photographic Society, Singapore (NPSS) on a marco photography outing.  The meeting point was at the first Esso Petrol kiosk after Tuas 2nd link Customs.   18 of us gathered at 6.35 am, drove to Machap for breakfast and arrived Bekok Waterfall at 9.45 am, approximately 200 km of driving.

IMG_5184

(Group photo at the entrance of Bekok Waterfall)

There is a stream near the entrance and it looks like a place full of damselflies, just like the stream at Gunung Belumut.

(A stream near the entrance)

(A stream near the entrance)

Unfortunately it was not the case, only a few species could be found. One of which was a Protoneuridae interrupta. In Singapore, it is classified as an uncommon forest species.

(Podasineura interrupta)

(Podasineura interrupta)

There were quite a no. of the male Euphaea ochracea, most of them perched just above the fast flowing water. This must be one of the most common forest species in Malaysia.

(Euphaea ochracea, Male)

(Euphaea ochracea, Male)

There were a few Aristocypha fenestrella. This is a sun-loving species and they prefer to perch on rocks under direct sunlight. Photographing them is a little challenging as it is difficult to avoid the harsh sunlight. They were also more sensitive to human than the other damselflies species in Bekok.

(Aristocypha fenestrella, male & female)

(Aristocypha fenestrella, male & female)

It has a very nice common name known as Peacock Jewel, most likely due to its beautiful metallic colouration on its wing!. One of the most interesting behaviours of A. frnestrella is when two males are involved in aerial territorial fight.  Getting both males sharp while they are fighting in mid-air are extremely difficult.  I did not manage to get any decent fighting shot of A. frnestrella but was happy to photograph a male Heliocypha perforate chasing another losing male during a fight!

(Heliocypha perforate - Territorial fight )

(Heliocypha perforate – Territorial fight )

There were some common dragonflies and damselflies such as Spine-tufted Skimmer, Yellow Featherlegs, Blue-sided Satinwing, Common Flashwing, etc which I did not capture them as they are quite easily found in Singapore. One common dragonfly however caught our attention and that was a male Tree-hugger. It is special because its left wing did not have the metallic bluish-black at the base of the hingwing.

IMG_7373

(Tree-hugger, male)

While I was disappointed not to find more damselfly species here, it was compensated with the sighting of a few lantern bugs (Laternaria ruhli) on a tree nearby.  Lantern bugs are very rare in Singapore, the last official sighting was in October 2009 (See “Records of Lantern Bug … ” by NUS).  As none of us have seen lantern bugs in Singapore, we would not want to miss this great opportunity to add this into our collection.

(Shooting lantern bugs overlooking the stream)

(Shooting lantern bugs overlooking the main stream)

I have seen images of lantern bugs taken by friends in Malaysia before but I didn’t expect it to be that big. I think it is about 20% bigger than the common cicada that we see in Singapore.

(Lantern bugs)

(Lantern bugs)

Another highlight of the trip was we found many butterflies, 6 species to be exact, feeding on sandy ground near the edge of the stream. I was not sure what were they feeding on but it must be very tasty as they kept coming back to the same spot.

(6 butterfly species feeding on sandy ground)

(6 butterfly species feeding on sandy ground)

Among all the butterfly shots, the image below is my favourite as it shows the size difference between the tiny Common Pierrot vs the much larger Common Jay (please correct me if I identified them incorrectly).

(Common Pierrot vs Common Jay)

(Common Pierrot vs Common Jay)

After lunch, we walked through the forested path and soon reached the upper stream where there is a nice refreshing waterfall. This should be the Bekok waterfall that people are taking about.

IMG_4599

(Bekok Waterfall)

If Gunung Belumut is a heaven for damselflies, Bekok should be a paradise for frogs and toads as we spotted so many of them both from the lower and upper streams.

(Toad & Frogs)

(Toad & Frogs)

Frogs in particular are photogenic subjects to shoot and it was no surprise to see my friends trying to get the best angles.

(Shooting the "prince charming"!)

(Shooting the “prince charming”!)

I personally find the Black-spotted Rock frogs most charming and therefore I had shot them with various angles.

(Black-spotted Rock frogs)

(Black-spotted Rock frogs)

When the black-spotted rock frogs were in abundant, it was not difficult to spot at least 2 of them together. Some of my friends saw 3 to 5 of them in a single spot, I could only shoot 2 in a frame.

(A pair of Black-spotted Rock frogs)

Thanks to my friend, Allan, who found a black-spotting rock frog having a male Euphaea ochracea damselfly as lunch near the waterfall. This is my first time seeing a frog eating and this has to be my catch of the day!

(Black-spotted rock frog having damselfly as lunch!)

(Black-spotted rock frog having damselfly as lunch!)

Happy with what I had already shot, I put aside my camera gear to join Yan Leong, Allan & Chiat Pin for a cool dip in the stream. OMG! It was cold in there!

(Photo credit : Hazel Han)

(Photo credit : Hazel Han)

After a tired but rewarding day, we deserved a good dinner at Cathay Restaurant in Kulai.

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

Reference : Wikipedia