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

Dragonfly (45) – Macromia cydippe

Family : Corduliidae
Common Name : Lesser Stream Cruiser
Status : Very rare
Location : Venus Drive

According to the book “A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore“, Macromia cydippe is a very rare species in Singapore.  It was first recorded at Nee Soon Swamp forest on 3 January 2010 by Mr Cheong Loong Fah.

While going through my old photos recently, I found 2 low quality images of a dragonfly very similar to Macromia cydippe. Both images were taken on 28 January 2009 when I was still new in learning macro photography.

(Venus Drive – 28 Jan 2009)

A check with Mr Tang Hung Bun, one of the authors of the above book, confirmed that it was indeed a Lesser Stream Crusier, the common name of this species. It was found at a small stream at Venus Drive perching on a hanging branch at eye level. As I recall, it is a large dragonfly about the size of Macromia cincta. It has a metallic greenish blue body with a distinct yellow band at the base of the 7th segment.

I wanted to take a dorsal view shot but the stream is very narrow and, even with my Canon 100mm macro lens, it was too close to include the whole dragonfly in the frame.

(Venus Drive – 28 Jan 2009)

The difficulty of positioning my tripod in the stream and my clumsiness scared away the dragonfly as it disappeared into the forest. I have not seen this species again since then. I am lucky to be one of the only 2 persons in Singapore to have seen this dragonfly.

Damselfly (28) – Agriocnemis Nana

Family : Coenagrionidae
Common Name : Dwarf Wisp
Status : Very rare
Location : Lornie Trail

This is the smallest damselfly in Singapore, a very rare species.  It is about 2 cm, slightly smaller than Agriocnemis Femina.  The thorax and abdomen of the male are blue in colour with black markings.  It looks like a smaller version of the male Pseudagrion Microcephalum.  The female has a greenish yellow with black marking thorax.

(Lornie Trail, 15 Sep 2010)

I spotted this tiny damselfly species at Lornie Trail this morning.  After I took a single shot, a female dragonfly (Acisoma Panorpoides) suddenly came and preyed on it!  The dragonfly ate so fast that within a few minutes, my precious damselfly species was gone.  My friend found a female nearby but before we could capture it, it flew away.  As this species was very small in size, it was extremely difficult to re-locate it.  A real pity that I did not photograph this species well 😦

(Eaten by a dragonfly – 15 Sep 2010)

Afternote : I revisited Lornie Trail on 20 Oct 2010 and I sighted one male around the same area.  I was happy to capture some improvement shots this time round.

(Male – Lornie Trail, 20 Oct 2010)

As of 2012, I have never seen this species anywhere else in Singapore except at Lornie Trail.  In Malaysia, it can be found at a wetland near Endau Rompin State Park.

(Male – Endau Rompin State Park, 28 Jul 2012)

(Possibly a teneral female – Endau Rompin State Park, 28 Jul 2012)

Dragonfly (17) – Risiophlebia Dohrni

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Triangled Small Percher
Status : Critically Endangered

Of Singapore’s 124 recorded species of odonata, Risiophlebia Dohrni is one of the rarest. It is classified in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008 as a critically endangered species. This species can only be found in Upper Peirce. It is a relatively small size dragonfly with a unique unstraightened obdomen. Quite a cooperative species allowing me to take various shots.

(Upper Peirce – 21 Dec 2009)

(Upper Peirce – 21 Dec 2009)

Dragonfly (8) – Trithemis Aurora (紫紅蜻蜓)

Family : Libellulidae
Common Name : Crimson Dropwing
Status : Very Common
Location : Singapore Botanical Gardens, Segar Road, Dairy Farm Nature Park, Holland Woods, etc.

(Female – Holland Wood, 27 Dec 2007)

This Dawn Dropwing species is one of the most common dragonflies than can be found near ponds, open streams and lakes. They are very attractive looking and easily noticeable. The female has bright orange colour while the male is deep pink in colour. They are very quite easy to approach and usually not a problem to get some close-up shots.

(Male – Singapore Botanical Gardens, 6 Aug 2008)

(Male close-up – Venus Drive, 19 Feb 2008)

(Female close-up – Singapore Botanical Gardens, 27 Dec 2007)