The real wildlife of Pulau Ubin

The island is a sanctuary for a wide variety of species. Zhaki Abdullah reports on some of them.

ORIENTAL SMALL-CLAWED OTTER

Measuring at between 70cm and 100cm, it is the smallest otter species in the world.

These otters feed on crab and molluscs, as well as mudskippers, insects and small fishes.

Unlike most otters, the species spends most of its time on land. In some areas, the otters have been trained by fishermen to drive fish into their nets.

Oriental small-clawed otters are nocturnal, unlike their cousins, the more familiar smooth-coated otters, which are found on the mainland. Thus, they are harder to spot.

BLUE-THROATED BEE-EATER

It is recognisable by its bright blue throat and brilliant blue lower back, rump and tail.

It feeds on insects such as bees, ants and dragonflies, removing the stings of dangerous bugs by rubbing them on a perch before eating them.

The bird was featured on $100 notes here as part of the bird-series currency notes issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 1976 and 1984.

RED-WATTLED LAPWING

It is named for the fleshy, wrinkled skin in front of its eyes, known as wattles. It typically makes its nest on the ground, on surfaces with rocks and short grass. Its dull-coloured eggs are camouflaged against these surfaces, protecting them from aerial predators.

In some areas, urbanisation has forced the lapwing to nest on rooftops instead. It feeds on insects, snails and other invertebrates.

BAYA WEAVER

It gets its name from its intricately woven nest, made from strips of leaves and grass, sometimes strengthened with mud or clay.

Typically built in colonies on trees, the nest is recognisable by its distinctive funnel shape and is made by male weavers to attract mates.

When selecting a mate, females judge the nests based on structure and location, preferring those built on branches high above the ground, out of the reach of predators.

ASHY ROUNDLEAF AND LESSER FALSE VAMPIRE BATS

Out of more than a thousand bat species found worldwide, 20 are found in Singapore.

The ashy roundleaf bat is found on Pulau Ubin, while the lesser false vampire bat is found on Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Unlike vampire bats, found in Central and South America, false vampire bats do not feed on blood. They are, however, carnivorous, feeding primarily on insects, such as grasshoppers and moths, as well as frogs, mice and even smaller bats.

The ashy roundleaf bat also feeds on insects, which it detects using echolocation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline 'The real wildlife of Pulau Ubin'. Subscribe