Zombie fungus ants and other wildlife sightings in Singapore

·Lifestyle Editor
·3 min read
Photo credits: Malayan whip snake (Bennett Tan); Cordyceps-infested ant (Elmer Gono); Crocodile (Andrew Hunt)
Photo credits: Malayan whip snake (Bennett Tan); Cordyceps-infested ant (Elmer Gono); Crocodile (Andrew Hunt)

Singapore's urban and green environment is home to a rich abundance of beautiful wildlife that we don't often see. In our Wildlife Around Singapore series, we share interesting flora and fauna that have been sighted around the island.

The crocodiles of Sungei Buloh

Visitors to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve have shared pictures of the crocodile residents of the mangrove swamp in recent days. Maybe the heavy rains brought them out?

Here's one enjoying a fish:

Crocodile eating a fish at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore. (Photo: Andrew Hunt)
Photo: Andrew Hunt

Here's one enjoying a horseshoe crab, which is rarely seen at Sungei Buloh:

Crocodile eating a horseshoe crab at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore. (Photo: Lanceflare Photoblog)
Photo: Lanceflare Photoblog

Here's one enjoying the rain:

Crocodile in the rain at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore. (Photo: Lanceflare Photoblog)
Photo: Lanceflare Photoblog

Hawksbill turtles hatch on Sentosa

Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) said 85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on 31 October. The hatchlings of the critically endangered species were safely released into the sea on 1 November after a check on their health by SDC's Environmental Management team.

The hawksbill turtle eggs at Siloso Beach hatched 58 days after their nest was discovered on 3 September 2021. SDC built a temporary structure to protect the nest during the incubation period and conducted periodic checks to ensure that the nest was safe.

Look at the cute little critters making their way into the sea!

85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on Sentosa in Singapore on 31 October 2021 and were released into the sea by staff from Sentosa Development Corporation’s Environmental Management team on 1 November 2021. (Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation)
Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation
85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on Sentosa in Singapore on 31 October 2021 and were released into the sea by staff from Sentosa Development Corporation’s Environmental Management team on 1 November 2021. (Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation)
Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation
85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on Sentosa in Singapore on 31 October 2021 and were released into the sea by staff from Sentosa Development Corporation’s Environmental Management team on 1 November 2021. (Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation)
Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation
85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on Sentosa in Singapore on 31 October 2021 and were released into the sea by staff from Sentosa Development Corporation’s Environmental Management team on 1 November 2021. (Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation)
Photo: Jimmy Wong
85 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on Siloso Beach on Sentosa in Singapore on 31 October 2021 and were released into the sea by staff from Sentosa Development Corporation’s Environmental Management team on 1 November 2021. (Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation)
Photo: Sentosa Development Corporation

This hatching marks the sixth time since 1996 that eggs of the hawksbill turtle have hatched at Sentosa, with similar conservation efforts being taken to protect the eggs in other recent nests.

Another hawksbill turtle nest on Sentosa, which was discovered at Palawan Beach, is expected to hatch in the coming weeks.

Dance of the rare Malayan whip snake

A rare sighting of another critically endangered reptile was made by Bennett Tan, who came across a Malayan whip snake in MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

The Malayan whip snake is easily mistaken for the common oriental whip snake, which is also found in Singapore, but the rarer species has distinctly larger eyes and a more slender body.

Bennett took these spectacular photos of the snake, which seemed to be dancing for the camera!

A Malayan green whip snake seen on Petai Trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore. (Photo: Bennett Tan)
Photo: Bennett Tan
A Malayan green whip snake seen on Petai Trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore. (Photo: Bennett Tan)
Photo: Bennett Tan
A Malayan green whip snake seen on Petai Trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore. (Photo: Bennett Tan)
Photo: Bennett Tan
A Malayan green whip snake seen on Petai Trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore. (Photo: Bennett Tan)
Photo: Bennett Tan

Below is a comparison of the Malayan whip snake (bottom) and oriental whip snake (top). Notice the Malayan whip snake's bigger eyes. For this reason, it's also called the bigeye green whip snake.

Comparison shots of a Malayan whip snake (bottom) and oriental whip snake (top). Photo of Malayan green whip snake by Bennet Tan, seen on Petai Trail in MacRitchie Reservoir Park in Singapore.
The oriental whip snake (top) and Malayan whip snake (bottom). (Photos: Bennet Tan)

Fungus-infested ants

The cordyceps fungi, which turn insects into "zombies", have been featured on BBC and National Geographic. Did you know that the parasitic fungus lives in Singapore too?

Elmer Gono shared photos in the Nature Society Facebook group of fungus-infested ants that he spotted along the Rail Corridor.

The fungus penetrates an ant's body through its spores, then take over the ant's behaviour and movements, causing it to attach itself to a leaf or plant stem to wait for death. The fruiting body of the fungus eventually grows and emerges from the ant's body.

There are thousands of species of cordyceps fungi, each one targeting a different insect. The cordyceps used in traditional Chinese medicine is found in certain caterpillars.

According to Elmer, this ant was still alive and moving when he took this photo:

Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)

Here are more of the zombie ants. Think about these next time you consume cordyceps tonic...

Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Photo: Elmer Gono
Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Photo: Elmer Gono
Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Photo: Elmer Gono
Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Photo: Elmer Gono
Ants infected by the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus along the Rail Corridor in Singapore. (Photo: Elmer Gono)
Photo: Elmer Gono

Flower or monkey?

Last but not least, a netizen shared a photo of an odd-looking species of orchid in the Nature Society Facebook group – the Dracula simia, also called the monkey orchid because, well, its flowers look like monkey faces! The monkey orchid is an epiphytic orchid that can be found in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Dracula simia, also called the monkey orchid, seen in Singapore. (Photo: Facebook/San YC Wang)
Dracula simia, also called the monkey orchid, seen in Singapore. (Photo: Facebook/San YC Wang)

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