Nee Soon Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng asked the Ministry of National Development (MND) whether more species of marine invertebrates can be included as protected wildlife species, under the Wildlife Act.
Ng's parliamentary question on July 5 was filed after many visitors were sighted catching wildlife indiscriminately during low tides last month, raising concerns over the environment and ecological impacts at the intertidal zones.
MND: NParks regularly reviews and updates the list of protected wildlife species
In response to Ng's question, MND said in a Written Answer that additional protections are given to more vulnerable species by designating them as protected wildlife species under the Wildlife Act.
MND replied that in determining what species should be accorded with additional protection, the National Parks Board (NParks) considers if a species is locally and globally threatened.
It refers to sources such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices and the Singapore Red Data Book.
NParks regularly reviews, and will update the list, in consultation with academic experts and the nature community, MND added.
Horseshoe crabs not included in the list currently
Invertebrates refer to a broad range of cold-blooded animals without backbones, including cockroaches, centipedes, and sea anemones. Invertebrates were included for the first time after the enactment of the Wildlife Act in March 2020.
Previously, the Wild Animals and Birds Act only protected birds and other animals.
Currently, only eight types of invertebrates and three types of fish are designated as protected wildlife species. Among these include the giant clams and stony corals.
However, it does not include horseshoe crabs which are highly sought after for its blood and threatened by habitat loss.
Lack of data to determine global conservation status but populations declining
Globally, there are four species of horseshoe crabs, and two of these species can be found in Singapore — the mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) and the coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas).
According to the Singapore Red Data Book, the mangrove horseshoe crab is listed as "Vulnerable" while the coastal horseshoe crab is listed as "Endangered".
There is a lack of data to evaluate the global status of the two species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Horseshoe Crab Specialist Group.
However, the horseshoe crab experts said in its 2019 report that while data is required to formally review the status assigned to these two species, the global populations of these two types of horseshoe crabs are on a decline.
Most research studies indicate a "moderate to severe" threat to local populations and a "lack of genetic connectivity" among populations. Genetic connectivity is important to maintain genetic diversity which can determine the fitness of a species.
This suggests that the two horseshoe crab species deserve greater conservation measures.
While horseshoe crabs are not protected under the Wildlife Act, catching of horseshoe crabs or any wildlife is illegal in nature reserves and national parks under the Parks and Trees Act.
Top image via CNA Parliament video and Mothership's reader