Oct 29, 2007

Large debris on Labrador explained?

For more than a year, we've been seeing these large objects on Labrador.
Comprising large plastic tubing and what looks like tough sheeting very roughly put together with cable ties.Each structure covered an area of about 2mx2m. And there were several of them.

Later, we were given to understand that the objects were part of some sort of experiment conducted on Labrador. So we left them alone.

Labrador is our last mainland reef, and among the last patches of good seagrasses accessible to the public. It is also rather narrow. It was thus really heart-breaking to see the shore being affected by such large structures.
The photos above were taken in May 06.

We continued to see the objects as time went by. And it appeared that the structures were abandoned. Because they started to disintegrate and were not anchored down or repaired.

The photos below were taken in Dec 06.
The large structures were covered with seaweed and starting to break apart.
The broken pieces move to and fro in the waves all across the rich Labrador shore.
Crushing seagrasses and corals.The parts looked very strange. The pipes were heavy as some appeared to contain concrete.
The photos below were taken in Mar 07. The pieces were STILL there. Fragmenting but still moving back and forth, affecting marine life on the shore.
You can see how large the poles are compared to the people in the background.

In Aug 07, the pieces were STILL there, floating up and down with the tide.
See the triangular piece in the bottom lower corner?

Today, there was an article "Undersea garden takes root" Straits Times 29 Oct 07, about a Singapore Poly team's effort to create a "marine site off Labrador for corals to regrow", "led by Captain Frederick Francis, a lecturer from its Singapore Maritime Academy. His team of 68 staff, students, volunteers and divers began its work in August last year with $145,000."

diagrams of the equipment used in this project looks very familiar ...

The construction details described in the article are very similar to abandoned debris we have been seeing on Labrador for more than a year.

Does this explain the large debris we have been seeing for more than a year?

Post script
Chay Hoon found this link on the FINS forum of a similar project done in 2005 in Pulau Tenggol with links to photos of similar debris. Here's one of the photos, taken from Charlie Lee's Public Gallery.

Jeff's comments on the entry "The debris you show in your pictures look like it is the result of a poorly thought out project that has failed to take maintenace into account. PVC piping is a poor substitute to concrete, or even aluminium rods and should not have been used in the first place, despite it being light and easy to handle underwater (compared to the other two materials)."

A lively discussion started on the issue on the sgscuba forum (registration required) and clubsnap forum

Discuss this also on the nature-singapore list and FINS forum

Hai-ren submitted the post to tomorrow.sg

This issue also featured on these blogs
The Ashira blog
Project Powerplant blog
Deadpoet's Cave blog
The Singapore Daily: 31 Oct 07

Oct 28, 2007

Raining Cats at Chek Jawa!

Today I was out on Chek Jawa with TeamSeagrass to do the regular seagrass monitoring. The day started out fine but it started raining as soon as we arrived on Ubin. It lightened up to a drizzle and we decided to proceed with monitoring.

As soon as we started work, the heavens opened up and it really poured! We all got totally wet. Alas, of course no photos as a result since the camera had to be packed away. Not even of the required monitoring shots.

Sijie posted more about TeamSeagrass' work on his nature scouters blog

As dusk fell, soggy, grumpy and, as Marcus put it, slowly starting to mould, we were waiting around at the Information Kiosk for everyone to get ready to go home.

Suddenly, in the dim undergrowth, we noticed a large animal moving quickly up a tree. It was a civet cat!Whipping out our cameras, we managed to get some quick shots of this very shy animal.Isn't it just the cutest?!

The Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is also called the Toddycat for its apparent fondness for the fermented fruits of palm trees, the same fruits used to make the alcoholic drink called 'toddy'.

The Toddycat and Palm leaf is part of the logo of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) at the National University of Singapore.
From the write up about the Toddycat and Palm leaf in the logo...

"Commonly residing in roofs of houses, gardens and parks, they travel between houses via telephone wires, poles and trees. Often mistaken for cats or rats in the roof, Toddy eats flesh and fruit with equal gusto.

Seven of the eight species of world's palm civets are found in Southeast Asia. They are secretive and elegant animals residing in the threatened forests of Asia, and even now, we know very little about them!"

Indeed, the Toddycat is regularly spotted on Pulau Ubin. And once, it was also spotted on the Chek Jawa boardwalk! We were really lucky though to be able to get a photo of this shy animal.

The Toddycats is also the name of the volunteers at RMBR! Here is the really delightful mascot of the volunteers...
Wow, what a great ending to a really wet day!

Kevin also got a shot of the Toddycat, see his nature spies blog

Checking out Chek Jawa

I joined Kok Sheng and his team of enthusiastic volunteers on Chek Jawa as part of his project to monitor the recovery of marine life there following the mass deaths earlier this year.
It was another scorching day out on the shore.

YC and I were paired up to document the carpet anemones. Seems a simple enough job.

First, to find the poles we placed during our earlier trip...hmmm where are they? Ah, there's a little white stick!Although it was horribly tedious and sometimes hard, YC and I managed to get it done in good time. All thanks to YC's great knees. Great because his knees work very well. So he did all the fiddly bits over the anemones at ground level, while I took photos. Yay! For a change, my back didn't break.

We documented big anemones ...And small ones.As we were doing it, we also explained to visitors on the boardwalk, and later those we met on the intertidal walk, about the project. It was a great opportunity to share about Chek Jawa's vulnerabilities.

Along the way, as we hunted and documented the anemones, we saw lots of interesting things. Like enormous jellyfish!This one was really large!Also well camouflaged crabs. The little Velcro crab (Camposcia retusa) with the yellow sponges on its body and legs was actually next to one of the anemones we were measuring!And YC found a very ambitious tiny porter crab hauling a huge leaf (relative to the crab's size).

And the sponges were recovering! With large specimens in the coral rubble area...And several varieties too!On the legs of the boardwalk were several large flowery soft corals.It was also very nice to see the Warty seacucumber (Cercodemas anceps). In fact, I saw three of them! I rarely saw these seacucumbers even before the flood. This is my first photo in the seven years that I've been photographing the shores, of this sea cucumber with its beautiful feeding tentacles extended!And another heartening sight, several large and active Noble volutes (Cymbiola nobilis)! These handsome snails were among those observed dead in large numbers following the flood.But most exciting yet, was the FIRST sighting of a Knobbly sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) since the flood! Wow! The hunter-seekers for the intertidal walk found it. It was large and seemed healthy and happy. Chay Hoon speaks for the star on her colourful clouds blogI'm so glad the visitors today got to see these special animals. Hopefully Chek Jawa's recovery will continue. And also, hopefully, that this year's December monsoon will not lead to another massive flood...

Alas, as usual, there were lots of abandoned traps and nets on the shore. Dr Chua Ee Kiam and Lioe did the needful by carrying them all out so these deadly rubbish would stop killing our marine life.As the sun set, as we headed back, I had a look at the coastal forest. Wow, the Delek Air (Memecylon edule) was fruiting! This tree is considered rare and threatened in Singapore.

I feel Chek Jawa seems to be doing better. Chek Jawa and the rest of our shores depend on us to ensure that they remain alive and well.

Oct 21, 2007

Mudskipper Morning

This morning, November and I decided to visit Chek Jawa with some special friends. It was such a relaxing leisure trip. The first in a long long while where we could just stroll and not stress out documenting.

Although it was high tide, the shores were very much alive! With mudskippers of all manner.

Some were well mannered.
Like this peaceful group of a Gold-spotted mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) (lower left corner) and several unknown mudskippers.

Others were rather bad-mannered. As this pair of quarreling mudskippers.
I'm not really sure what kind of mudskippers these are. Both were flushed, eyes bulging and flashing their dorsal fins! Ooo...

Further in the back mangroves, there were small Giant mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri). There were several of them skulking in the cool mud. I almost missed them as they were so small and still.

Also among the mud were some strange red-eyed crabs.
I'm still trying to figure out what they are.
This one was particularly handsome!

And finally! I spotted the Blue-spotted mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)!
It wasn't really large, and was quietly grazing by moving its head from side to side.

Here's another look at it from another angle.It's such a pretty mudskipper! I saw it once while I was guiding and thus couldn't take a photo. And when we did go out to photograph it on another visit, we couldn't find it again. How nice to finally see it and get a shot. Unfortunately, it was rather far away from the boardwalk so I couldn't get a really nice photo of it.

Mudskippers are such endearing and amazing creatures!

Besides the marvellous mudskippers, the other highlight for the day was breakfast of fabulous Only-on-Sunday and Only-on-Ubin Lontong served at Pak Ali's shop at Ubin Jetty. I still can't believe that November had never tried it before.

Oct 15, 2007

15 Fabulous Facts about Singapore's Shores

In support of Blog Action Day on 15 Oct, here's 15 facts about Singapore's fabulous shores!

1. Accessible

Singapore's shores are easy to get to! We forget we live on a tiny little island, with shores all around. And we have lots of off shore islands. Here's the view of the city centre from the reefs of Kusu Island, just 15 minutes away from the mainland by fast boat.
Uniquely Singapore! Where else in the world can you go from a first world business district to a great reef or shore. In under half an hour? More thoughts about our city reefs.

2. Alive!

Many people think Singapore's shores are dead. Not!

Even our reclaimed shores are very much alive. On Tanah Merah and the East Coast, you can still see sea fans, button shells and sand dollars!
On Changi, you will commonly encounter cuttlefishes, sea horses and sea stars!
More blog entries about Changi shores.

3. Reefs galore!

And our Southern Islands have fabulous shores packed with corals and other reef life.

The Blue Water Volunteers saw this underwater garden when they conducted the reef survey at Kusu Island on Jun 07! Minsheng took the photo.

No need to swim, no need to dive! At low tide, the fabulous reefs are easily explored by all. Here's the reef at Pulau Semakau, located right next to our landfill, where every single piece of rubbish you throw ends up.
The landfill is well constructed and operated. So much so that various marine habitats nearby are thriving. AND open for public visits! Here's some visitors on the Raffles Museum intertidal walk of Pulau Semakau exploring the reefs there.
This shows that if we try and make the effort, we can retain our special wild places AND enjoy urbanisation and development. More about Pulau Semakau and other nature activities there.

4. Wild dolphins!

Wild dolphins are regularly sighted in our waters! This photo by Tan Ching Kian taken in May 07 is "the closest photo of a wild dolphin that we know of".
More about this sighting and other sightings over the past few years on the habitatnews blog

AND there were other sightings reported this year on the ashira blog and urban forest blog

5. Sea turtles!

In May 06, baby sea turtles were spotted hatching on the East Coast! Baby turtles naturally head for the sea when they first hatch. In nature, moonlight over the water tells them were the sea is. Unfortunately, in urban Singapore, our lights distracted them. Volunteers turned up rapidly to help rescue the lost baby turtles and send them back where they belonged.
More about the Hawksbill turtle hatchling rescue at East Coast Park on the habitatnews blog

This year, we learnt that sea turtles which nest in Malaysia spend their time in our Southern Islands!
More about the Hawksbill turtle tagged with satellite transmitter seen near Sentosa on the News from International Coastal Cleanup blog and the WWF Malaysia Satellite Tracking of Hawksbill Turtles page

More about sea turtles in Singapore on the habitatnews blog

6. Underwater Meadows

Seagrass meadows are less well known than reefs, but they are vital habitats for marine life. And Singapore has huge seagrass meadows!
The best known is the one at Chek Jawa. But we also have meadows kilometres long at Pulau Semakau (above).

And an amazing stretch of seagrass meadows at Cyrene Reef (below) which lies in the midst of our industrial installations, container port and major shipping lanes.
On the mainland, there are also good growths at Changi and Labrador.

Seagrasses are eaten by .... the sea cow! The shy dugong or sea cow is rarely seen but we regularly see signs of them on Chek Jawa.
This photo above was a feeding trail made by a dugong on Chek Jawa! More about this sighting on the teamseagrass blog.

Even more amazing than our marine wildlife are the wild volunteers who work tirelessly for them. Many are committed to gathering data to better understand our shores. While many more work as volunteer guides to share these shores with ordinary people.

7. TeamSeagrass

The volunteers of teamseagrass collect vital data about our many seagrass meadows. This data helps us better understand our seagrasses as well as global seagrass health (data is submitted to NParks and to International Seagrass-Watch).
Watching seagrasses is fun and meaningful! More on the teamseagrass blog. A group of young seagrassers are also part of this effort and they are looking after the seagrasses at labrador park.

8. International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

It's NOT just about picking up litter! Volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup collect data about marine debris which is not only unsightly but also kills marine life. Plastic floats forever in our oceans, breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually get eaten and enter our seafood! Part of a long-term global effort, the Singapore data helps us better understand and hopefully resolve the ever growing issue of marine debris. More on the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore blog.

9. Chek Jawa volunteer guides

Volunteers have been involved on Chek Jawa since before reclamation was deferred in 2001 for 10 years. Since then, the volunteers continue to provide guided walks to the public to share this marvelous shore that was saved from reclamation.
Here are some of the many volunteers involved in Chek Jawa, toasting the launch of the boardwalk this year.

Deferment of reclamation 'expires' in a few more years. Come see Chek Jawa while you can. Better yet, join the volunteer programme so that there are more guides to bring more people to see Chek Jawa. More about Chek Jawa before deferment, today, and on the Ubin Volunteer Blog. As well as more blog entries about Chek Jawa.

Among the most recent volunteers for Chek Jawa are those working with Loh Kok Seng. Following the massive floods earlier this year, there were mass deaths of some animals on Chek Jawa. Kok Seng has started a painstaking study of the recovery of Chek Jawa and is supported by a small group of volunteers in this effort.
More on the Chek Jawa Mortality and Recruitment project blog.

10. Blue Water Volunteers

Volunteer guides from the Blue Water Volunteers introduce the amazing reefs of Kusu Island to families and kids. No need to swim, no need to dive, and just half an hour from the city centre!
The Blue Water Volunteers also conduct underwater reef surveys and guided dives of our very own wild reefs. More about them on the Blue Water Volunteer website. Here more blog entries about Kusu Island.

11. Hantu Bloggers

Led by Debby Ng, the hantu bloggers conduct regular dives of the marvelous reefs of Pulau Hantu! Check out their blog for all the adventures and sightings that you can enjoy on our own reefs. They're planning a dive on 18 Nov (Sun)! Join their mailing list to get updates of trips.Non-divers can also visit and enjoy Pulau Hantu. More about Pulau Hantu and other blog entries about Pulau Hantu.

12. Semakau volunteers
Volunteers with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research bring visitors on intertidal walks at Pulau Semakau. Here, you can explore one of the largest seagrass meadows in Singapore, as well as living reefs, mangroves, sandy shores and more!

More about the Semakau intertidal walks, and blog entries about Pulau Semakau.

13. Naked Hermit Crabs

A group of volunteer shore guides have come together to provide guided walks at other shores that are at risk but are not covered by existing groups. The Naked Hermit Crabs provide a fun introduction for families and kids to our natural shores!
Join their upcoming walk at Sentosa on 27 Oct (Sat)! They also conduct guided walks on the Chek Jawa boardwalk. More on the Naked Hermit Crab blog.

14. Singapore Splendours: Life on the Edge

This magnificent book by Dr Chua Ee Kiam is packed with stunning photos of our shores, and graced by Dr Chua's stories of his explorations. Get a copy today!
More about the book on the simply green website

15. YOU can make a difference for our shores!

It's simple!
Just Explore, Express and Act!

Explore your shores! Just join any of the many guided activities on our shores, from walks to dives. Come for shore talks and other events. These are updated daily on the wildsingapore happenings blog. Get weekly updates by subscribing to the blog.

Express about your shores! Blog about your trip. Share your photos. Send me the links and I will post it up on wildsingapore for everyone to share.

Speak up about our shores. Enjoyed your trip? Tell the organisers, agencies managing the shore. You don't need to write only to complain. Written support of existing habitats will strengthen the case for preserving them. Don't wait until they are at risk!

Act for your shores! Join any of the many volunteer opportunities, more about these on on-going opportunities. Get updates emailed to you by subscribing to feeds from the wildsingapore daily news blog which features news, blog updates and volunteer opportunities.

MORE links
This has been a brief introduction to our shores. Here's links to more!
About our wild places how to get there, what to see and do, what to prepare.
Blog entries about our wildshores

Other wild blog entries for Blog Action Day