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

It has been about 3 years since Land Transport Authority (LTA) first announced its plan to construct the Cross Island Line.   On 3 July 2014, it appointed Environmental Resources Management (S) Pte Ltd to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the section of the line around and though the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, targeted to complete this year.  Before LTA makes the announcement on the study of the EIA, I hope they would read this article that I wrote sometime ago on my dragonfly blog which I am reproducing here:

“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 Time 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.

IMG_7347

(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.

Lineata male and 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 behaviour

(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.

L aurantiaca

(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

(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.

IMG_5340 III

(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.

f1

(Libellago hyaline, female)

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

hyalina females

(Libellago hyaline, females)

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

a3

The metallic blue male is more handsome.

a2

(Libellago hyaline, metallic blue male)

But I like the glowing purple abdomen male the best.

a1

(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.”

Hyalina front view

(Hyalina, front view)

References:
1. A photographic guide to the Dragonflies of Singapore
2. Two New Rail Lines and Three New Extensions to Expand Rail Network By 2013 (Land Transport Authority – January 17, 2013)
3. Environmental Resources Management to Assess Environmental Impact of Cross Island Line (Land Transport Authority – July 4, 2014)

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

  1. It’s a good write-up, Anthony. Unfortunately, often government and business only think of progress in terms of money so construction is looked at from a materialistic standpoint only. The attitude of “How many species of different damsel flies and dragonflies do we need anyway?” is what they think. We have it over here on the west coast of Canada too with construction of a oil pipeline being fought over.

    For Singapore, I can’t see why rerouting the line around the reserve couldn’t be done. It’s not like they’d have to go very far out of the way. Best luck for the animals in the reserves and you and others who appreciate them.

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