Feb 26, 2008

Marine works at Pulau Ular and Punggol

Latest Port Marine Notices from the MPA website

PORT MARINE NOTICE NO. 48 of 2008 26 February 2008

With effect from 29 Feb 08 to 30 Jun 08, Construction of unloading quay and ro-ro ramp will be carried out at the southern shoreline of the newly reclaimed area of Pulau Ular, Pulau Bukom Kechil and Pulau Busing.

Further enquiries relating to the project can be directed to Mr Francis Malone, project coordinator, at Tel No: 9631 4887, email: francis.malone@nl.abb.com

Wildfilms note: more about the reclamation of Pulau Ular on the habitatnews blog:

PORT MARINE NOTICE NO. 44 of 2008 21 February 2008

With effect from 06 Mar 2008 to 05 Sep 2008, The causeway and bridge construction works would involve soil investigation, piling work, sheet pile cofferdam, pile cap construction, column construction, cross-head beam construction and launching of pre-cast U-girders.

A temporary causeway will first be constructed to link the mainland and Pulau Punggol Barat. Upon completion of the bridge, the temporary causeway will be removed and the seabed re-instated.Further general enquiries relating to the project can be directed to the project manager, Mr Woo at Tel No: 9382 6983, email: wooyy@koon.com.sg

Feb 25, 2008

"Once Upon a Tree" episode 2 on 26 Feb (Tue)

From the arts central website, here's the write up on episode 2.

"The Following is a Note From the Director: Episode II is a historical piece. History is not difficult to tell. The information is there, all 600 years of it, beginning circa 1400, I believe. All I needed was someone with a deep voice to voice it. Somewhere along the way, I discovered history of a different kind, history that has no documentation. My advice? Take as many photos as you can of this island. Assign all you can to memory. Not everything remains. Shawn? Of course! Our host was ever the professional..ever since the first season.."

But I believe episode 2 will feature Chek Jawa!

As well as Zaki Jalil, one of the first to volunteer as a Chek Jawa guide after deferment of reclamation. Here's a very old write up on Zaki on wildsingapore.

Together with his irrepressible wife Faridah, Zaki introduced many visitors to Chek Jawa before he got swallowed up by work.

He's now teaching at Cedar Primary and has a wonderful site about all the nature work that he's doing with the kids. It even includes an online magazine for his kids called P5 Times. WOW!

Can't wait to hear about the next episode!

Time: 9.30pm Arts Central
Website: http://artscentral.mediacorptv.sg/

For those who missed it, there's a superbly detailed review of the episode, almost instantly uploaded on the ashira blog. Thanks Jun!

Also a mention of the episode and more about the noble volute on the creatures big and small blog

Feb 22, 2008

Slow on Sentosa

For many people this is their idea of a seashore...
White artificial sand and rocks, waters free of irksome creatures, a nice civilised picnic.

Ivan and I, however, headed out for the Real Thing. It was a slow if not very low tide, and we just wanted a leisurely shore trip.
Although fronted by industrial installations of Jurong, and right next to major coastal works, this natural stretch of Sentosa is full of life!

It has a scattering of hard corals, including this lovely large and luscious Mussid coral (Family Mussidae) aka brain coral.
And this pretty Disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) which was edged in pink.Among the corals was this little white fan worm that looks like it had a perm.We also came across a little Mosaic crab (Lophozozymus pictor) which is very poisonous but so pretty.On the way back, as the tide was coming in, we explored the higher shore. Ivan and I realise there are probably TWO different kinds of Turban snails (Family Turbinidae)!
They have a different texture on the smooth rounded 'door' (called operculum) that seals the shell opening.

The one we always see and know as the Dwarf turban snail (Turbo bruneus), has a smooth operculum.The other one has a different texture on the operculum.Could this be Turbo intercostalis instead? Hmm ...

The upperside of the two snails are also slightly different.T. bruneus has finer cords, while the other one has rougher cords on the shell.

I also saw this strange Nerite snail. I'm still not sure what it is.The operculum on the underside is not pimply like the usual nerites that we see.I wonder what kind of nerite this is?!

As the tide came in and night fell, the mudskippers were also out and about. Like this little Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos).It's much easier to photograph these creatures at night.

Ivan really wanted to see an octopus. And when we got to the rubbly parts, indeed, he spotted one! Bravo!And just as we decided to go home, Ivan spotted several Land hermit crabs (Coenobita cavipes)! I've never seen these crabs yet on this shore. While the smaller ones on the sand refused to come out of their shells, we discovered one right on the rocks, busy checking out the crevices for titbits for dinner.

Wow, it's amazing what we can learn and see from a shore, no matter how many times we visit it.

Alas, today, we noticed a greyish layer on some parts of the shore.The greyish stuff penetrates quite deep into the sand.But it didn't smell like something artificial or bad. It looks like fine silt and wasn't sticky or gooey (No, I didn't taste it to find out what it was). The ground was also rather soft and silty for Sentosa, which is usually very sandy with very clear waters.

Could this be something to do with the dredging and work on Labrador which is just opposite this Sentosa shore?

We'll just have to keep visiting the shores to check up on them on a regular basis.

Feb 21, 2008

Last Chek Jawa project trip

This afternoon, was out with Yikang and friends for the last of Kok Sheng's Chek Jawa project trips. I missed yesterday's Chek Jawa project trip as I was at Semakau with TeamSeagrass.

It was the first time I was doing the transect part of the Chek Jawa project. I didn't have to shoot anemones! Yay!! We had two transects to do today, which is a good thing as there were only 7 of us. The transects are VERY long! We had to put down the 100m tape three times!

The guys were great!
Very garang and gung ho despite soft mud and long trudges to get the line really straight in the gusting winds.

As I was in the middle of the soft mud where I almost never was before, I decided to take a closer photo of the wonderful Sonneratia mangrove tree there. I think it's such a magnificent tree. Someone remarked that it looked like the scary tree in the Harry Porter movie...hmmm...now that it's mentioned, it does. So it's probably a good thing no one comes near it.

While we were at work, Jen Lee and her team were down on the shore!Jen Lee was heavily involved in Chek Jawa before deferment, and now she's sub editor at the New Paper. Here's more about Jen Lee. Wow, it's nice to meet her again and we're looking forward to her story about Chek Jawa in the New Paper.

After the work was done, we had a little look around. Among the special finds was this pipefish that one of the guys spotted.It looks like a pregnant papa with a big belly. Good thing we put it back in the water as it was found high and dry among the seagrasses.

There was also a Gong gong (Strombus canius) next to a pile of string-like egg mass.
Could it just have laid the egg mass? Hmmm.

As I was going back along the sand bar, among the selection of animals that must have been found for Jen Lee, there was this pretty snail that I've never seen before!I wonder what it is?

Amazing! I've been going to Chek Jawa for years and years and I still see something new every time I go. Our shores are just magnificent.

Alas, on the way back, on the rocky shore, we discovered several of the large oysters had been pried open.It's such a shame! These oysters are large, about 10cm long. And must have taken a long time to grow to that size.

I have often had visitors ask me if there are pearls in the oysters. I usually explain that precious pearls are generally NOT found in nature. Those that we use in necklaces and cost a lot of money are cultured and produced on farms. A plastic bead is inserted under stringent conditions, into special bivalves and removed when a thin layer of mother-of-pearl is secreted by the animal. Natural pearls tend to be mishappen and worthless and only occur when a bit of dirt accidentally enters the oyster, which doesn't happen often. So our oysters do NOT have pearls. Please don't needlessly kill them out of curiosity.

Well, here's a last look at the valiant team, before we headed back.I shall miss the project trips because it was such fun working with the many enthusiastic and garang volunteers who came along. We learnt so much from our trips, and we're looking forward to Kok Sheng's analysis of the data. I'm sure it will provide much valuable information about this precious shore of ours -- Chek Jawa!!

Feb 20, 2008

Silt barricade installation off Labrador Nature Reserve

PORT MARINE NOTICE NO. 41 of 2008 18 February 2008 PDF file

A floating silt barricade will be installed. Installation works will entail underwater diving operations and placement of concrete blocks and silt barricade by crane barge.

Further general enquiries relating to the project can be directed to Mr Y Abe, the project co-ordinator, at Tel: 9664 8810, email: y.abe@mypenta.net

Feb 18, 2008

wildfilms contributes to Arts Central's "Once Upon a Tree Part 2"

"After a successful first series exploring our natural heritage and learning the importance of forest trees and their intrinsic values, Once Upon a Tree returns to the screen again, this time turning its attention to our waters.

The Sea is a proverbial window to the rest of the world. It was also what brought commerce, stories, culture and life to our island. Its this theme of "together-ness" that will be our main focal point in the first episode.

What similarities does a research doctor have in common with a retiree? Host Dr. Shawn Lum finds out. Shawn also explores the abundant marine life found along our financial hub and speaks to an engineer behind the Marina Barrage. A construction that will affect both humans and the inhabitants of the water.

Co-host Sue-Lyn is off to investigate the inter-tidal habitats of Kusu Island with guest expert Yu-Chen. What will they find in the muddy waters? Find out in Once Upon a Tree - Tides & Coastlines."

Time: 9.30pm Arts Central
Website: http://artscentral.mediacorptv.sg/

Wildfilms crew are contributing to the above series! And some wildfilms footage will be used too.

And our very own YC is featured in the first episode!
Here he is on Chek Jawa as we celebrated Christmas 2007 with Kok Sheng's team of volunteers doing the Chek Jawa project.

This is quite fitting as YC is the one responsible for getting me started on exploring other shores. We can thus squarely blame him for wildfilms' existence. More about this here.

With this contribution, wildfilms can take a little break. What was supposed to be a little two-year project stretched for more than twice as long!

It's been an exciting experience, I must say. It was an unparalleled opportunity to work with an extraordinary bunch of people. Together, we've explored amazing places and shared wonderful sights. Thanks for the fishes (and slugs) and let's enjoy the upcoming series!

What did people think of it?
See Jun's super instantly-posted review on her Ashira blog

Feb 16, 2008

Chek Jawa boardwalk with Crabs

Early Saturday morning and a bunch of Naked Hermit Crabs were out at Chek Jawa to workshop ideas to prep up for the resumption of boardwalk tours next Sunday.We brainstormed lots of ideas on how to make the walk more fun and interesting. And here we are at the crux of things. As so vividly explained by Marcus: betwix mangrove and coastal forest, and coastal loop and mangrove loop.

All kinds of stuff can be fascinating. Even a pile of poo...Here's a nice pile on a boulder. It was probably left behind by a civet cat. We share stories about how the most exclusive and expensive coffee is 'pre-processed' by the civet cat and gathered from...you guessed it...its droppings! The civet cat is very discerning and collects only the best coffee beans you see. Of course the dropping on Chek Jawa are probably not of coffee beans. Here's an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Post about this coffee and the beast that makes it.

Among the more common Sea Hibiscus bushes, someone highlights the Portia Tree (Thespesia populnea).
It looks almost like the Sea Hibiscus! Although it belongs to the same Family Malvaceae, it is quite different. Most easily distinguished by the lack of slits under the leaves. The fruits are also different. Here's more about the plant.

There was an insect eating the pollen of the flower. At first I thought it was a bee.But it might have been a beetle instead.

As we rounded into the mangroves, we spotted strange crabs!
Besides the little red-eyed fiddler crabs that we've been seeing, we also saw a tiny red one with black eyes! We still don't really know what these crabs are.

And of course, we saw lots of little mudskippers!
So come for the Naked Hermit Crab's Chek Jawa boardwalk tour on 24 Feb (Sun). It's free! See you there!

Feb 15, 2008

Aquarium "swim with whale sharks": carnival or conservation?

As the Atlanta Georgia Aquarium announces a programme to allow the public to swim with its captive whale sharks, there's been some discussion on the issue.

Resorts World Sentosa earlier also announced plans to have captive whale sharks in its aquarium.

Here are some excerpts, full articles on wildsingapore news

Whale sharks turned into carnival ride
Georgia Aquarium endangering its animals with new program
Lori Marino, Randy Malamud and Ron Broglio, Atlanta Journal-Constitution 14 Feb 08;

"We are disturbed that, after the deaths last year of two whale sharks in its charge, Ralph and Norton, the Georgia Aquarium has so little concern for the welfare of the remaining animals.

A careful professional stance would have been for the Georgia Aquarium to minimize all possible negative impacts on the remaining sharks in order to maximize their chances of survival, which, we already know from Asian aquariums, are not good in captivity.

Instead, the Georgia Aquarium chose to promote a highly commercial circus atmosphere and make the animals into an amusement park ride.

The aquarium markets this contest as a way to educate the public and preserve whale sharks. The sincerity of this claim is belied by the blatant exploitation of these animals at a price of $190 to $290 a swim or dive for nonmembers.

The aquarium has produced no credible evidence supporting the claim that visits to their whale shark exhibit (or any other exhibit, for that matter) translate into better understanding of whale sharks (or any other species). Also, there is no evidence that swimming with captive animals (such as fish and mammals) increases understanding and appreciation for them. Even if there were such evidence, would it be a risk worth taking?"

Lori Marino is a senior lecturer at Emory University's Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology program. Randy Malamud is professor and associate chair of Modern Literature, Ecocriticism and Cultural Studies at Georgia State University. Ron Broglio is an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia Tech.

Dives with the sharks will inspire
Dave Santucci, Atlanta Journal-Constitution 15 Feb 08;

"When I was 5 years old, my parents brought me to the New England Aquarium. I was wowed by the amazing animals, and there was one experience on that trip I will never forget. One of the volunteers picked up a horseshoe crab and handed it to me to hold. Seeing these animals on TV is one thing, meeting them face to face through glass is inspiring, but an engaging experience with an animal can change someone's life.

More than 25 years later, I still look back at that experience as having a major influence on the educational and environmental path my life has taken. At Emory University, I majored in environmental studies. After graduating, I worked for CNN as a producer covering environmental stories, and now I work as the communications director for the Georgia Aquarium.

Thursday's opinion article "Whale sharks turned into carnival ride" (@issue) claimed there was no value to the Georgia Aquarium's new program to allow people to swim or dive with the whale sharks. I take personal issue with that because, aside from my story, I work alongside hundreds of people with similar stories and see thousands of people come to the aquarium every day who walk away with a greater appreciation for aquatic animals.

There is an elitist view that these animals should only be observed in the oceans, but very few of us could afford the thousands of dollars and weeks of time it would take to get a glimpse of the elusive whale shark. However, many of us can afford the $171 price for aquarium members to swim with whale sharks.

And if just holding a horseshoe crab shaped my life into caring deeply about the environment and the aquatic world, imagine what this experience will do for thousands of people in the years ahead."

Other comments on the issue


Plans for whale sharks at Sentosa

Sea Shepherds on the Whale Sharks at Sentosa IR
Letter from Grant W. Pereira
Asian Education Advisor Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
unpublished letter to the media

Not critical need to keep whales prisoners
Letter from Dudley Au Straits Times Forum 28 Oct 06

Activists against having a whale of a time
by Krist Boo Straits Times 26 Oct 06

Review the plans for marine park in Sentosa's integrated resort
Letter from Suganya Naidu Straits Times Forum 26 Oct 06

Marine animals in captivity don't contribute to conservation efforts
Letter from Goh Si Guim Straits Times Online 26 Oct 06

Sentosa IR: Just show us the money
Jasmine Yin Today Online 24 Oct 06

Nature groups against oceanarium at Sentosa

Letter from SPCA, NSS and Acres, Straits Times Forum 21 Oct 06

Rethink idea of having whale sharks in Sentosa lagoon
Letter from Thomas Paulraj Thamboo
Straits Times Forum 19 Oct 06

Aquarium showdown: It's a battle of gallons
The Straits Times 18 Oct 06

Georgia Aquarium

Georgia aquarium probes second whale shark death
By Daniel Yee, Associated Press Yahoo News 14 Jun 07

Georgia aquarium gets 2 new whale sharks
By Doug Gross, Associated Press Writer Yahoo News 1 Jun 07

Whale shark death sparks renewed debate on captivity
By Jim Tharpe The Atlanta Journal Constitution 12 Jan 07

Feb 10, 2008

High and not so dry on Kusu Island

The last low tide for the new moon and lunar new year period and we make yet another escape to the shore, this time to Kusu Island.
Just minutes from the city centre is a living shore full of marine life!

Alas, today the tides were not quite low enough to see the reefs in their full glory. Though we got a glimpse of some corals in the rather murky water.

Including this large Giant anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) wedged in the sea wall.
Unfortunately, no clown anemonefish or anemone shrimps in this one.

It was an opportunity, nevertheless to explore other parts which often get neglected as we focus on the more glamorous reefs.

Here are some of simple but still fascinating creatures of the higher shores.

Marcus found this pretty snapping shrimp, probably Alpheus brevicristatus.
These shrimps have one enlarged pincer than can produce a very loud snap to stun prey and ward off disturbers.

Another crustacean with one enlarged pincer is the fiddler crab. And there were lots of these Porcelain fiddler crabs (Uca annulipes) on the soft mud of the higher shores.
Only the male fiddler crab has one enlarged pincer. The pincer is so large that he can't use it to feed himself. He has one smaller pincer to feed with (you can see the small pincer in the photo on the left). The male waves his pincer about to attract females. Who apparently are quite impressed by this large but useless appendage. Hmm...

Another crab that's often found in silty places is the Sentinel crab (Macrophthalmus sp.), with eyes on VERY long stalks.
The others also found Ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma) which obligingly posed for them.

Reminiscent of Chek Jawa, there were also peacock anemones.
The soft silty shore of Kusu is one of the few places where we can still see a lot of the Black-lipped conch (Strombus urceus). This snail is quite endearing with its large eyes on stalks.
Conch snails can 'hop' by digging the knife-like tip of their muscular foot and pushing forward.

Another conch is the Gong-gong (Strombus canarium). And here were two up to something, not sure what.Unfortunately, these two kinds of snails are on the list of threatened animals of Singapore due to habitat loss and overcollection.

Another interesting snail is the Olive whelk (Nassarius oliveaceus), a large scavenging whelk that uses its long siphon to 'sniff' out the recently demised.
This one had a tiny anemone hitch-hiker on its shell!

Although we saw lots of healthy Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni), none of them had anemone shrimps. This is very odd. Hopefully nothing has happened to them.

But I did see tiny shrimps on a few of these anemones.
Are these juveniles of the anemones shrimps that we usually see?
Here's a closer look at one of them.

The silty shore is also full of gobies. Including this pretty one.
Very nervous creatures, these fan worms are hard to sneak up to.
These pretty animals are actually segmented worms that live in tubes. They have a swirl of feathery tentacles at the top of their heads to gather edible bits.

We had an enthusiastic team of many first timers today. Fortunately, they were not disappointed about the non-performing tide and were quite happy with our finds on the high shore.

We popped by briefly at the shore near the temple. The area is covered with tiny colonial anemones, also known as Zoanthids.
These tiny animals come in a variety of colours and patterns.Alas, while we were there, we came across two large fish traps.One only contained two dead crabs, both the highly poisonous Red egg crab (Atergatis interrigerimus). Another had a large butterflyfish in it that was still alive but the water level was very low in the trap. As we were releasing the fish, someone from the temple came out to try to stop us. We persuaded her to let us release the fish as it was not edible and it would die as the tide moved out.

I always thought temple people were kind to animals. It's quite disturbing to know that they purposely leave out fish traps that needless kill marine life.

More critters seen on these blogs
Sijie shares octopus and strange anemone/peacock anemone on the nature scouter blog
Sam shares corals, mating sea stars, strange fishes, obliging ghost crabs on the ramblings of a peculiar nature blog