Jan 23, 2008

Changi: a shore for the whole family!

Despite the gloomy day, there was a whole bunch of excited kids on Changi!
November and I were on Changi today with her colleague Luke. We were there to join Joseph Lai who had brought a bunch of really precocious kids from the Homeschool Families group. Christopher and the intrepid film crew from Channel 8 who were with us at Chek Jawa yesterday, were back to film Joe as part of a TV series on environmentalists. Eugene from the Little Red Dot was also there to do a story on the event. July from the NIE Green Club was also helping out with the trip.
The kids were really curious and attentive. Asking questions and even taking notes! Wow! The kids were really well informed and could tell us stories such as why plastic is bad for sea turtles.
Uncle Joe shares all kinds of interesting sea shore stories to laughter and joy.

There's something on the shore for everyone, even the littlest child.
It was really heart-warming to see the whole family learning and exploring together.Even though the tide was coming in, the families were still enthusiastically exploring!
After that, looking at some of the marvellous finds of the day. I didn't get a chance to take any creature photos and am relying on July to post something on this :-) Among the stuff we saw were sand dollars, sea stars, sea urchin skeletons, pink sea cucumbers, sea hares and their eggs, a sponge crab, dead horseshoe crabs, lots of crabs and hermit crabs. And of course, lots of seagrasses.
As the sun set, we take a happy group photo of everyone.
What a lively bunch of kids! And as we were taking photos of them, one of them was taking a photo of us!!

It's such a joy to see families and kids enjoying our shores.

After this field trip by Joseph Lai, the kids will be going for November's workshop on blogging for nature, specially conducted together with July and the NIE Green Club.

The event is part of the International Year of the Reef celebrations.

Other blog entries about the trip
July's entry on the NIE Green club blog
Joseph Lai's entry on the Flying Fish Friends blog

Jan 22, 2008

Chek Jawa first check up for 2008

It was another blue blue HOT day at Chek Jawa.Kok Sheng and his garang team were back on the shores of Chek Jawa to monitor the various key species as part of his project to track the recovery of Chek Jawa.

Today, we got a "Research in Progress" sign to explain to visitors why we were out on the flats. July brings it out onto the boardwalk while the rest of us make our way quickly to our stations.
Today was a special day also because Kok Sheng is being filmed for a Channel 8 series on people working for the environment!The film crew are really fun guys. With Png on sound, William at camera and Christopher talking to Kok Sheng as Kok Sheng bravely explains everything, in Mandarin!! Bravo!

Meanwhile, as usual, I was in the anemone team. We had a difficult time today because of the high water and very windy conditions.Oh dear. Poor Kok Sheng will have a hard time counting the tentacles in some of the photos.

But Chek Jawa is recovering quite nicely. The garang team found 10 common sea stars! More about the sea stars and photos of them on the discovery blog

The carpet anemones were doing well. Although they were still not found yet on the southern sand bar. The sand bar was instead covered with lots and LOTS of tubeworms.But the peacock anemones were still plentiful (these animals have an outer ring of longer tentacles, and inner ring of shorter tentacles).We only saw a few other kinds of anemones, such as this transparent one on the photo on the right.

There were of course lots of the Hairy sea hares (Bursatella leachii) still out on the shores.And we came across a bunch that had released a purple dye.They do this when they're stressed. Not sure why this bunch did it though. None of us stepped on them :-)

It was also very encouraging to see lots of the usual sea cucumbers.Sam gathered these: from the right the Sandfish sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra), the Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.) and the smooth sea cucumber.

Later on I found a really tiny Warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps).We saw some special things such as a clump of soft corals at the base of the pilings on the boardwalk. We looked but couldn't find any of the usual cowries in this bunch of soft corals.And a string of eggs by either a squid or cuttlefish.
Looks like the babies have hatched already. Because if the babies are still inside, the capsules would be black.

We saw one small nudibranch (Armina babai).Sam later saw a Dendrodoris denisoni! I hope he starts his blog soon so we can see all his lovely photos.

Well, here's a last look at Kok Sheng and the film crew.Bravo to Kok Sheng and the garang team for sharing about Chek Jawa!

Other blog entries about the trip
July's info-packed discovery blog
Sam's wacky, brand new blog ramblings of a peculiar nature

Jan 6, 2008

Chek Jawa Cleanup

A small but enthusiatic team of volunteers were at Chek Jawa this afternoon after we heard that nets had accumulated on the shores there.

We had a quick look at the shore from the jetty at House No. 1 to see if we could spot the nets.
The tide was too high to see the shore. But there were thousands of little fishes milling about under the jetty.These poor little fishes are the ones at risk of being entangled in abandoned drift nets that accumulate under jetties and among mangrove tree roots.

While cleanups have been held in Chek Jawa in the past, these were focused on mangroves near the boardwalk. However, the massive net accumulation had been building up in the mangroves to the other side of House No. 1. In these mangroves...
We headed down to the shores and all too soon, found nets wound around the roots of the mangrove trees. These nets can be lethal to crabs, prawns, small fishes and other animals that naturally shelter among such roots at high tide.
The volunteers cheerfully got down to dealing with these.

Meanwhile, just across at Pulau Sekudu, canoeists and sailing boats were landing. Some of the others in the team took photos and here's some photos on the reddot blog.
Shortly after, a jetski zoomed up and down the channel, while a boat full of fishermen were busy off the shore.

It started to rain so I stopped taking photos. But Jun's waterproof camera continued to document the effort in stills and video. While Robin and I checked out the shores near the jetty (the tide was too high for us to find any), the rest checked out the shores further away.

Alas, here were the massive nets that we heard about.We began the all too familiar routine of chopping, digging, dragging heavy nets out.

The guys made many trips carrying piles of nets bigger than themselves.It was hard going as the ground was soft.While the manly ones went about hauling, I quickly went to document what we just didn't have the hands or tide to bring out today. It was a heartbreaking sight.

This massive mess of nets overlook Pulau Sekudu, with Chay Hoon in the distance, struggling with the bunch of nets near the waterline.
The net seemed to have entangled and killed this large eel-tail catfish.It was stone dead, and recently dead as it wasn't scavanged upon yet. It must have struggled a bit, judging from the hole around it.

So long as the abandoned nets remain there, they will continue to kill. See "Ghost Traps are Killing Machines" a link on the reddot blog

Alas, we just didn't have enough hands today to take out more than a tiny proportion of the nets. Andy thinks we took out less than 10%.

A little further along the coastline, another accumulation of nets on the mid-shore. The tide was rather high so we didn't get to see the lower shores. We shudder to think what might be there.There large piles of nets on the high shores as well, all along the coast.
We're not even talking about the other kinds of debris there. The most notable of which were two and a half abandoned boats!

This small half-a-boat, or perhaps one half buried boat/canoe?
Another deeper among the undergrowth, in the process of decaying.
And a huge one jammed up on the shore, complete with propeller.
We focused on nets for today. But there are many other kinds of debris on the shore. These are not good for marine life either.

After extracting and dragging the nets to the shore, the team still had to bring the nets all the way up to where they could be disposed of properly.The small bits were put into big bags so they wouldn't fall off during the transfer.And everything dragged all the way to House No. 1.Robert shows the comforter that was found wrapped around a mangrove tree!And finally, we got the huge pile near an access point for disposal.Most of the team were too tired to make a happy picture. Robert ended up with crunchy bits in his teeth, and Marcus had crabs, clams and cramps up his pants.

Thanks to the valiant team (from left to right): Robert H, Marcus, Andy, Chay Hoon, Robin, Jun.

We need to go back and get the other 90% that we saw (and possibly there's even more that we didn't see on this trip). If you'd like to join in this effort, do drop Ria an email at hello@wildsingapore.com. Please put "Shore cleanup" in the subject line.

There's a lot to do and more hands are always welcomed!

More about the trip
Chek Jawa's Great Fishnet Graveyard more about the poachers, canoeists, fishermen and some grave words for them on the reddot blog

Other links
Before the trip began, there was a little adventure with a lizard swallowing snake that Marcus was protecting. More about the legless and the luckless on his budak blog.