Rare Animals In Singapore


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-7.-Dugong.jpgSource Gracie was rescued from a mangrove and now lives in Underwater World

You don’t have to go to the zoo or the bird park to be one with nature – our fabulous, uniquely Singaporean fauna is all around you. Visit a nearby island, wander through a park or overturn a stone and you might just find yourself up close and personal with a never-before-seen animal.

Whether you’re a cuddly-animal lover, a horror-movie enthusiast or an avid hidden-object finder, there’s an animal for everyone! Here are 25 of the most unusual animals you never thought you’ll be able to find in Singapore


– Animals That You Wanna Cuddle –


1. Dolphins


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-1.-Bottlenose.jpgSource Hi *waves*

You don’t have to visit Dolphin Lagoon to see pink dolphins; they’re actually the most common species of dolphins found in the Singapore Strait. If pink isn’t your colour, bottlenose dolphins are common and equally adorable!

If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse while visiting Sisters’ Islands

Species: Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin (Sousa chinensis), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).
Where to find them: Between Singapore and Batam.


2. Otters


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-2.-Otter.jpg Source

Otter sightings are dime a dozen nowadays – from a family in the Marina Bay area to a lonely otter in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park that has found a mate, these otters are definitely making a splash. As cute and cuddly as they appear, they’re still wild animals and should be treated as such – don’t feed them or disturb them!

Species: Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata).
Where to find them: Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Serangoon, Punggol, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.


3. Porcupines


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-3.-Porcupine.jpg Source

The hedgehog receives more love, but the porcupine is equally cute, if not as cuddly. Once thought to be extinct in Singapore, one porcupine was found in Ubin in 2012. 

Species: Malayan porcupine (Hystrix brachyura).
Where to find them: Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong.


4. Mousedeer



This species of lesser mouse-deer is unique to Singapore, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see it. In Malay folklore, the mousedeer is witty enough to outsmart larger, more dangerous animals:

“One day, the mousedeer wanted to cross a river. He told some hungry crocodiles, “If you want to eat me, you’ll have to queue up in one line across the river.” The foolish crocodiles did as they were told, but the clever mousedeer quickly hopped from one crocodile to the other until he crossed the river.”

Species: Lesser mouse deer (Tragulus kanchil).
Where to find them: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve.


5. Green crested lizards


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-5.-Lizard.jpgSource So-Singaporean: this lizard’s dark circles

Most lizards aren’t cute or cuddly, but this lizard is a really pretty shade of green. If the typical Singaporean student was an animal, this would be it. Not only does it sport intense dark circles, it turns brown when stressed.

Species: Green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella).
Where to find them: Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Pulau Tekong, Singapore Botanic Gardens.


6. Flying Lemurs



Disclaimer: Not a lemur. If you see something gliding around at night, it might be a flying lemur . Other than climbing trees and snuggling its young, it can glide distances of more than a hundred metres. 

Species: Malayan colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus), Philippines colugo (Cynocephalus volans).
Where to find them: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve.


7. Dugongs


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-7.-Dugong.jpgSource Gracie was rescued from a mangrove and now lives in Underwater World

Dugongs are the gentle giants of the sea, munching happily on seagrass and minding their own business. They’re also known as sea cows because they eat sea grass, or mermaids because they look pretty when sailors are drunk.

Dewgongs from Pokemon are also named after them! 

Species: Dugong (Dugong dugon).
Where to find them: Northeast of mainland Singapore, Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong. 


8. Owls


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cute-8.-Owl.jpgSource I’m fabulous!

Beauty advice from an owl: extreme winged eyeliner can help to accentuate your eyes and make them pop! This owl also bears an uncanny resemblance to a Furby.

Species: Barred eagle owl (Bubo sumatranus).
Where to find them: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin.


– Animals that will make you poop your pants –


9. Crocodiles



Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin may not have wrestled with Singapore’s crocodiles, but they lurk in the swamplands of Sungei Buloh. We recommend staying far away from any suspicious moving logs.

There’s a crocodile viewing spot at Sungei Buloh, where a few of us who went on the Sungei Buloh nstawalk in January managed to see one. 

Species: Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Where to find them: Sungei Buloh, Kranji Reservoir.


10. Cobras


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-2.-Cobra.jpgSource Black? Has a hood? Probably dangerous.

The good news: we only have one species of cobra in Singapore. The bad news: it spits venom. As far as snakes go, they’re fairly common creatures, turning up in parks, gardens and the occasional house or two. It prefers rodents and frogs to humans, but you might want to stay away…just in case.

Species: Equatorial spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana).
Where to find them: Forests… and even urban areas.


11. “Naked bulldog” bats


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-3.-Bat.jpgSource, Source Left: will haunt your dreams, Right: soft and cuddly

The naked bulldog bat looks nothing like a “naked” bulldog, but it’s still one of the cuddlier animals on this list – it eats insects and has a cute yawn. Still, we wouldn’t want to come across one of these in the middle of the night.

Species: Naked bulldog bat (Cheiromeles torquatus).
Where to find them: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.


12. Scorpions


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-4.-Scorpion4.jpgSource Even scarier under ultraviolet light

Pretty much everyone is afraid of scorpions, and for good reason – these critters are just as scary as they look. Pincers in the front, sting in the back, just don’t touch it and you’ll be okay. 

Species: Spotted scorpion (Lychas scutilus), many species of black scorpion (Heterometrus sp.), dwarf wood scorpion (Liocheles sp.), bush scorpion (Chaerilus sp.)
Where to find them: Everywhere, but mostly in forests and leaf litter.


13. White-bellied blind snakes


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-5.-Snake.JPGSource Don’t look at me

Although this creepy-crawly is harmless, I would still run far far away. Its front and back ends look terrifyingly similar, and once you find out where the front end is, you realise it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a toenail. 

Species: White-bellied blind snake (Typhlops muelleri).
Where to find them: Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin.


14. Ant-snatching assassin bugs


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-6.-Assassin.jpgSource Bringing ‘trophy hunting’ to a new level

This assassin bug is very relatable to most Singaporeans – it doesn’t waste leftovers. Why leave the remains of your enemies for scavengers when the carcasses can be ‘up-cycled’ as camouflage? The ant-snatching assassin bug attaches its last meals on its body so that it can sneak into ant nests undetected. Stylish, yet functional. 

Species: Ant-snatching assassin bug (Acanthaspis petax).
Where to find them: Central Catchment Nature Reserve.


15. Bull sharks


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-7.-Shark.jpgSource This poor shark got trapped in the shipyard D:

Bull sharks are normally sighted around the Southern Islands, but this specimen was found far away in Sembawang Shipyard. While most sharks in Singapore are shy and retiring, bull sharks are aggressive. Our advice: don’t swim with the sharks.

Species: Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).
Where to find them: Southern Islands.


16. Finless sleeper rays


b2ap3_thumbnail_Scary-8.-Ray.jpgSource Electric-type Pokemon IRL

Compared to other rays, this one looks positively harmless. “Why does it not have a sting?” “Why is it so small?” “Aww so cute, it’s finless and sleepy!” Go ahead, touch it, but be prepared for a moderate electric shock. By the way, it’s also known as Hardwicke’s Electric Ray.

Species: Finless sleeper ray (Temera hardwickii).
Where to find them: Ocean floors around Singapore.


17. Basket stars



A video of this “alien sea creature” went viral when a fisherman caught it off Pulau Ubin late last year. Science says it’s a basket star, a relative of sea stars and sea urchins. We say “alien sea creature” describes it better. Anything with that many arms cannot be friendly.

Species: Basket star.
Where to find them: Do you really want to find them?


– For the avid hidden-object finder –


18. Singapore whiskered bats



This bat is so rare that it might not even exist. Only one specimen of the Singapore whiskered bat has been found and it is unclear whether it is a unique species. Its more common cousin, the whiskered myotis, enjoys curling up in banana leaves.

Species: Singapore whiskered bat (Myotis oreias).
Where to find them: ?


19. Singapore freshwater crabs



If you can find one of these, you must be very lucky indeed. This crab is exceedingly picky in its choice of habitat and can only be found in “clean and clear, fast-flowing and oxygen-rich waters of a specific pH”. Locating its habitat is only the first step: it’s tiny (30mm) and nocturnal, making it virtually impossible to find. 

Species: Singapore freshwater crab (Johora singaporensis).
Where to find them: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Bukit Batok.


20. Toucans



Toucans are native to the tropical Americas, so what it’s doing in Singapore is a mystery. There haven’t been any sightings of toucans since 2009 – I wonder what happened to it? Anyone with information, feel free to contact us!

Species: Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco).
Where to find them: Central Catchment Area, Seletar.


21. Hawksbill turtles



The hawksbill turtle pays the price for being so pretty – poachers hunt these critically endangered animals for their shells and to sell as illegal pets. Fortunately for us, you can still see them swimming around shallow coral reefs and even coming ashore to lay eggs at East Coast Park! 

Species: Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Where to find them: Singapore Strait, East Coast Park.


22. Stink bugs


b2ap3_thumbnail_Rare-5.-Beetle.jpgSource Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes

Amateur photographer Winston Jansen came across the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll during a trek through the forest. Critics are undecided if it looks more like Elvis and his famous quiff or Bert from Sesame Street.

Species: Stink bugs (belonging to the pentatomidae family).
Where to find them: Forests, mangroves.


23. Banded leaf monkeys



You’re tired of monkeys trying to steal your food in forests and parks, but these monkeys are downright elusive. There are an estimated 30 individuals left so if you happen to come across one of them, it’s your lucky day.

Species: Banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis).
Where to find them: Central Catchment Nature Reserve.


24. Leopard cats



So cute, but so rare. It’s hardly ever spotted in Singapore and last discovered in 2007 as road-kill. It’s believed to be extinct on the main island, but we hope they’re still running wild on our offshore islands!

Species: Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).
Where to find them: Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin.


25. Twig-like feather-legged spiders


b2ap3_thumbnail_Rare-8.-Spider_20150223-055210_1.jpgSource Real life hidden-object game

How to Camouflage Yourself 101: evolve until you look exactly like a twig, then stay still. This spider is relatively common in Singapore, but it takes someone with sharp eyes to spot it. 

Species: Twig-like feather-legged spider (Miagrammopes sp.).
Where to find them: Bushes near jungle fringes.


Final thoughts


Whether cuddly, unusual or downright terrifying, Singapore’s wilderness is home to many exciting animals. Many of these animals are vulnerable or endangered because of habitat destruction or pollution, but humans and animals can live in harmony, as long as we do not harm our environment.

You don’t need to be an intrepid explorer to appreciate the fauna all around you. All you have to do is observe your home and your neighbourhood more carefully. You can even sign up for guided tours with Wild Singapore and Nature Society or join NParks‘ free walking tours. Who knows, you might even find an equatorial spitting cobra waiting for you…

Thank you #SG50 for making this post possible. Stay tuned as we bring you more facts that you never knew about Singapore!

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