May 23, 2007

Of 'fishscales', euphillid wonder and a sad sad future

Its been forever and a day since i went on a wildfilms trip and as always the shores never fail to amaze me.

This time it was commando-style getting into the beach overlooking the Underwater World at Sentosa. Yup, the underwater world, purported to showcase the marine world to the tourists, has all of 2 or 3 coral exhibits. And right outside their doorstep is a whole wonderland of corals!

Hard and soft corals abound, not to mention sponges as well -

from super messy ones

to colonies that look like a crystal palace from some old barsoomian tale.

The star of the show was however this huge colony of Euphilid corals barely exposed by the low tide, and protected by a treacherous slab of soft mud. Silly buggers who lack any sense of self preservation will want to sink/wade across to the colony, and be amazed by their beauty.

Euphillids are hard corals with huge polyps, and the tentacles look like so many pompoms dancing in the water. Out of water they just look limp and well, drippy.
They are just soooo pretty!

Then came the jackass moment that will live in infamy - walking along the seagrass bed i saw something flat and round - was it a fishscale? It looked huge, so i decided to take it back for a look. Maybe its fossilized Megalodon scales! Excitedly i brought my find to Ria and got laughed at. These were actually bivalves who are usually found in sandy/muddy areas, they are known as 'windowpane shells', and can be usually seen in touristy shops selling chandeliers made of these shells. These guys are on the conservation red-list, due to overcollection.

Later i managed to get a shot of the mantle. How pretty!

Other critters included fishes like seahorses,

Chromodorid seaslugs and sand dollars

and even a young scallop with all its tentacles out!

So much wonderful stuff at the beach - why pay so much to pet a few starfish and sea cucumbers when you can get up close to all these critters for free?

As it got light, i noticed that alot of the corals were getting smothered - most probably due to construction work nearby.

More sad stuff: Trapped critters:

This horseshoe crab was horribly entangled, and it took me 15 minutes to extricate it while avoiding its snappy snappies. Apparently this wasnt the only one. Ria and gang found another pair trapped further down the shore, and had to cut them free as well.

And the saddest thing about this is that this section of the beach is doomed for reconstruction - carparks and whatnots. All these pretty critters will dissapear and be replaced with clean, spartan concrete. And maybe a few cultured plants here and there. Later in our trip a few 'professionals' came to join us.

These guys apparently conducted a Environmental Impact Assessment and deemed it OK to raze it to the bedrock. How ok is it to raze all the life that is already growing here? A friend, who was joining us for a wildfilms trip for the first time quietly pulled me aside and asked "uhm, if they are supposed to be professionals why do they seem so clueless about the fauna here?"

Beats me. I'm clueless too. I'm not even going to ask about how the EIA was conducted.


Such will be the fate most of our other shores (and alot already are gone).
Its a shame that our natural heritage is being taken for granted so much, and will have to make way for 'prettier things' that come in vogue, like a little integrated resort here, or another pipeline there.

I only hope that its not too late before we realise what precious little we have and are destroying them. Our natural biodiversity comes as the closest thing we have to a common heritage for all of us Singaporeans. Lets not chuck it away.


JC said...

Any idea who are those "professionals" that were conducting the EIA? From NEA? Sentosa? NUS?

ria said...

JC, all the details are in Jen Lee's article Sentosa's Treasure Island of Coral
New Paper, 25 May 07

Let's hope for the best :-)