04 February 2012

Mangrove celebrations at Sungei Buloh

It's mangrove mania this weekend to celebrate World Wetlands Day at Sungei Buloh! The highlight of the celebrations is pisang goreng or banana fritters!
This time, I made sure I didn't miss this specialty, which is made possible by mangroves! How so, you ask? Well ...

Rogayah shares with us the secret mangrove ingredient in the batter for super crunchy pisang goreng!
It's 'Kapur', Malay for chalk, which is made from the shells of mangrove clams and snails!
And here's more yummy stuff from the mangroves. From belachan to chinchalok, attap chee and more!
There are many other stations to explore too. Here, Desmond is sharing with some students about the many fascinating plants that can be found in our mangroves. These include long propagules, curious seeds in pods and odd leaves and other strange plants!
Supardi arranged this great tank set up to allow us a closer look at mudskippers and other mangrove animals!
The Nerite snails were busy crawling everywhere. Through the glass, we can see the huge foot of the snail, and the red mouth!
The tank allows us a closer look at fishes such as the halfbeak which feeds on the surface. It has a very short upper 'lip' and a much longer lower jaw.
Ooi Yee gives her usual entrancing account of the amazing animals of the mangroves, using some specimens from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.
I had a great time giving a short mangrove talk to a very patient and enthusiastic crowd! It's my first time talking just about mangroves, so I'm glad to have a nice audience and the support of Mendis of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
In my talk, I briefly shared what I've seen in the surprisingly numerous mangroves that we still have in Singapore!
 My favourite is of course, Mandai mangroves!
Dr Yong and friends at NParks, and other researchers are keeping an eye on our mangroves and we have quite a lot of mangrove species despite Singapore being so tiny. Thanks to Dr Yong for sharing this poster with me for this talk.
Mangrove are of course a part of a spectrum of different marine ecosystems and each aspect depends on the others. Marine conservation needs to take into account all these different aspects. (Thanks to Siti for this awesome diagram!)
One of the most amazing mangroves that I've recently encountered is the little forest of Vulnerable  Bakau pasir (Rhizophora stylosa) growing at the Sentosa Serapong golf course. As Dr Yong highlighted, these mangroves are possibly why there is such a rich reef growing outside the artificial seawalls nearby!
In fact, it is my dream that our artificial seawalls become designed to allow natural recruitment of corals, mangroves and other marine life. Wouldn't that be awesome?!
After the talk, I went on a lovely little walk with a small group of visitors. There's so much wildlife that can be easily seen at the Reserve. There is a sunbird nest right at the Visitor Centre entrance! Also lazing on the floating platforms nearby, water monitor lizards and turtles.
Here's a closer look at the nest! See how the birds have made a little roof over the entrance?
Wow, a pair of hornbills stop right by the window allowing an easy shot of them!
How nice to see the lovely Barat-barat (Cassine viburnifolia) is fruiting! So far, I've not seen this tree anywhere else except Sungei Buloh.
Fortunately we bumped into Samson who pointed out to us the little tailorbird that was building a nest by 'sewing' leaves together with spider silk. He shot photos of the bird collecting the spider silk and working on the nest! You can find out more about Samson's field trips on his blog.
Samson's friend shares some great photos he took of wondrous birds including the Mangrove Pitta.
I forgot to take photos of the many other trees and mudskippers, crabs and other stuff we saw on the mangrove boardwalk. As usual, the visitors did most of the spotting! At the Main Hide, we saw lots of migratory birds and egrets, and also this monitor lizard forgaing in the mud pools.
From the Main Bridge, I notice that work has already started on shoring up the extensive erosion affecting the trees nearby. Hurray! More about efforts by the Reserve to deal with erosion.
Yesterday I attended an interesting talk by Dr Benjamin Brown, Director of Mangrove Action Project Indonesia about mangrove restoration, hosted by Dan Friess of the Department of Geography, NUS. In their approach, the Mangrove Action Project use zero human planted mangroves to restore degraded mangroves. Instead, they restore water flows and ground elevation to allow mangroves to naturally regenerate. The effort involves the local community so it is rather holistic. The issues remain complex but it's heartening to hear of their successes.
At the talk, it was a delight to bump into many other 'mangrovers' as Siva calls us: Dr Jean Yong, Huiping and Shufen, among many others!
There so much more to learn about our mangroves, and it's good to know there are many who care about and work so hard to protect them!

You CAN make a difference for our mangroves!
Explore them through the many weekly mangroves events.
Express and share about them! Share your sighting reports and your photos and stories on the web.
ACT for them by volunteering for the many ongoing marine efforts.

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