20 October 2013

Special sightings since 2010: dugong, dolphin, sea turtles and more!

NParks would like to know our special finds since 2010 for a status report on Singapore’s current efforts in biodiversity conservation. What a great opportunity to look back at some special moments over the last 3 years.
Live dugong at Chek Jawa! Photo by Ian Siah, Oct 2013
I think the photo of a live dugong at Chek Jawa is the best ever sea shore sighting! Photos were taken by Wong Ley Kun and Ian Siah during the monthly free guided tour of the Chek Jawa boardwalk by the Naked Hermit Crabs in Oct 2013!

Although the animal itself is seldom seen, fresh signs of dugong presence are often encountered on our seagrass meadows. Dugongs eat only seagrasses and leave a typical feeding trail in the meadows. We have seen fresh trails on and even mainland shores likeChangi. As well as meadows in the south likePulau Semakau and Cyrene Reef and other submerged reefs
Fresh dugong feeding trails at Changi, Jan 2013.
Singapore has sea turtles too! David Tan shared his experience with a huge mama Hawksbill sea turtle who had come ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs in Jul 2013! While Rick Leong shared his sighting of a Hawksbill sea turtle while diving at Kusu Island in Sep 2013.
Photo by David Tan
Wild Smooth-coated otters are another delightful encounter on Singapore's shores. Recently, there have been more regular sightings in a wide variety of locations on our Northern shores, from wild shores at Pulau Ubin to even park-like areas like Lorong Halus. Researchers suspect that this may be due to development and land reclamation in nearby Johor, forcing the otters across the Johor Strait to Singapore. Thanks to Subaraj Rajathurai, I spotted my first otter in the South at Pulau Semakau in Aug 2011.
Singapore has wild dolphins too! Mei Lin and friends had a magical close encounter with wild dolphins in Singapore waters in Mar 2013!
Photo by Neo Mei Lin.
Mei Lin shared her sighting of Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins while she and her friends were doing a survey of our shores. Her friends in the water were "graced by the dolphin's presence around them. It kept a good distance of ~20-25m from the boys - playful and curious yet cautious about them." She shared this amazing video clip of the encounter.

Just because we don't see dolphins, sea turtles, otters and dugongs doesn't mean they're not there! And the best way to see cool marine critters is to go out and explore our shores!

A small team of about 30 volunteers check out about 40 intertidal locations every low spring tide, or about 100 days a year. There are many submerged reefs that we have only visited once. Some of those we visited since 2010 include Terumbu Hantu (Apr 2011) and an unnamed submerged reef next to Terumbu Pempang Kecil (Jun 2013) and Terumbu Selegie (Jun 2011).
Terumbu Selegie, just off the city on the mainland.
NParks also asked for updates of information since 2010, when the 4th National Report was submitted. In particular, they would like to know of new species that have been discovered in Singapore since 2010? New records for Singapore? Rediscoveries of species no longer thought to exist here? Species that we have lost, e.g. last known population/individual has died off?

Well, as ordinary people, it's hard to give firm answers to these questions, but certainly one of our exciting finds recently is the cone snail (Conus consors) found by Russel Low at Cyrene Reef on 8 Aug 2013. This is believed to be the first sighting of this snail for a very long time.
Some of the new finds and newly sorted out identifications are highlighted in posts about updates to the wildsingapore fact sheets. Like this post about some new fact sheets about molluscs on our shores.
My personal weirdest encounter was with this tiny creature stuck to a rock, which turned out to be some kind of 'armoured' sea cucumber. Possibly a new record for Singapore? This requires study by the experts to determine. So far, I've only seen it on one part of Changi. We shall wait patiently for this and some of the strange finds we've made to be sorted out by the scientists. Taxonomic work takes time so we must be patient.
One recent surprise for me was finding patches of what seems to be Hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens) on the intertidal in the North. This seagrass was first recorded in 2008 diving deeper waters at Pulau Semakau. But this year, I've noticed them at several places since 2010 including Pasir Ris which were fruiting! (Aug 2013), Punggol Jetty (Aug 2013), Changi (Apr 2013), Loyang (Aug 2012).
Fruits of Hairy spoon seagrass (Halophila decipiens), Pasir Ris Aug 2013
Another special seagrass discovery was the first sign of Serrated ribbon seagrass (Cymodocea serrulata) in the north at Pulau Sekudu in Oct 2011; it was still there on our most recent trip to the island in Aug 2013.
Our artificial shores can host amazing marine life! In Jun 2013, we've seen at Tanah Merah and nearby East Coast Park - rich reefs that have settled naturally at an artificial seawall at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, lush seagrass meadows on artificial sandy lagoons, and colourful marine life on jetty legs. This is despite the massive oil spill of 2010 that hit these shores. Two years since the oil spill, I have visited the Tanah Merah shores every month and found that life eventually returned to these shores.
Lush seagrass meadows at East Coast Park
with huge sea stars and rare snails.
Sadly, there remains many threats to our shores. The most alarming is very long driftnets laid at Chek Jawa. All the way across the entire Chek Jawa lagoon (Feb 2013) and near the area where the dugong was sighted (Jul 2103). We often encounter driftnets on other shores too, these are compiled on the Project Driftnet blog.
Fisherman laying a very long driftnet in the middle of Chek Jawa lagoon.
Hopefully, these inputs will be useful to NParks, who as focal point to the Convention on Biological Diversity, will be preparing and submitting the 5th National Report (5NR) for Singapore in the first quarter of 2014. The 5NR is a status report on Singapore’s current efforts in Biodiversity Conservation– in particular on the implementation of our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets ().

YOU can make a difference for our shores!

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 and share it on social media. Share your photos.

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.

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