As Tiger year roars in, a look at the region's wild cats and freshwater fish

With the Year of the Tiger roaring in on Tuesday (Feb 1), The Straits Times zooms in on the wild cats still roaming the region, including Singapore’s own mini-predator, the leopard cat. Also apt for this festive occasion are the fish - the Chinese character sounds similar to the one for prosperity. Find out more about the bounty hiding in freshwater bodies in the region.

Hope for saving S'pore's last wild cat

Three sightings of leopard cats last year on Pulau Ubin herald hope that there are more of the nationally critically endangered species than initially believed.

Published on Saturday, the record joins just two published reports of Singapore's last wild cat on the island - in 2014 and 1997.

Mammal scientist Marcus Chua of Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum said the recent sightings of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) on Pulau Ubin are "good news" as they show that the island has a resident population and its habitat can support the species.


The hunt for Beijing's wild cats

Professor Luo Shu-Jin and her students from Peking University are rooting about in the bush in Yanqing district on the outskirts of Beijing, looking for signs of animal droppings.

In the distance looms the alpine skiing slopes of the Winter Olympics, white and gleaming in the sun - ready for the Games that will be held next month under some of the most stringent Covid-19 control measures.

But unlike the athletes, the creature Prof Luo is looking for would be able to slink in and out of Olympic venues as it pleases.


Helping Singapore's remaining 'tiger' bloom again

While tigers have died out in Singapore, a flower named after the feline has successfully been reintroduced here by the National Parks Board (NParks).

With a mature tiger orchid plant (Grammatophyllum speciosum) potentially weighing over a tonne, it is the tallest and largest orchid species in the world.

Its common name is derived from brown markings on the orchid's vivid yellow petals resembling the coat of a tiger.


New freshwater fish species emerges from case of mistaken identity

A new freshwater fish species has been identified in Singapore, in a discovery that was almost 30 years in the making.

The saddle barb (Barbodes sellifer) is an inhabitant of Singapore's freshwater streams.

These are rare habitats in urban Singapore, and are confined largely to the country's remaining forest pockets, such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.


To survive, some freshwater fish breathe air, 'walk' over land

Freshwater fishes give new meaning to the phrase "survival of the fittest", with some developing the ability to breathe air and others, to move across land in search of new freshwater bodies.

They might look duller compared with their flashy cousins from the marine realm, but even that is a survival trait - they often take on the colours of their surroundings as it helps them to avoid being eaten by predators above water.

The unique environments they are in have made freshwater fishes develop traits less commonly found in marine fish.


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