askST: What is this creature found at Sembawang Park?

ST reader Clarence Ching emailed askST with these photographs of an animal he spotted at Sembawang Park and asked for an identification. Environment writer Audrey Tan checked with an expert and found the answer.

Photograph courtesy of Clarence Ching.

This is a many-lined sun skink, or the Eutropis multifasciata, in the process of re-growing a tail.

The reptile could have lost its tail to a predator, said Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, the co-founder of nature group Herpetological Society of Singapore. Unfortunately, he added, the animal also looks dead from the photographs.

"Within vertebrates, the ability to lose the tail and regrow it is quite special.

"But it is important not to disturb lizards too much. When they shed their tails, they actually lose energy reserves that can be quite valuable," said Mr Sankar.

Photograph courtesy of Clarence Ching.

Food is not always readily available for wild animals. Therefore, energy is valuable to them, he added.

Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians.

Mr Sankar said his interest in these animals, less charismatic than iconic creatures such as lions or tigers, started as he felt they are misunderstood animals often thought of as being scary.

Photograph courtesy of Clarence Ching.

"I felt that I wanted to understand them more on a personal level. Many of my friends were also interested in this, so we sort of learned together and from one another too. I think generally herps are misunderstood in the way that many people may think that reptiles and amphibians are motivated to hurt them. This isn't the case. In general, wild animals only want to be left alone.

"The HerpSoc wanted to spread this love and to get rid of misunderstandings and misconceptions as far as possible," he told askST.

One way the society is doing this is through free guided 'herp walks' to places such as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, to point out their importance to natural ecosystems.

For more information, visit the Herpetological Society of Singapore's Facebook page.

More askST stories here.