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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Sat 03 Dec 2011

If you go for ONE talk this year, this is it: Ria Tan's "Secret Shores of Singapore" talk is unparalleled and she speaks from the heart.

Category : talks

National Geographic Singapore Store2014Exhibits

Ria Tan of Wild Singapore and Wild Shores of Singapore speaks TODAY (Sat 03 Dec 2011: 2.30pm) at The National Geographic Store at VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk, #01-19 [website]

She says,

"No need to swim, no need to dive! Ordinary people can experience much of Singapore’s amazing marine life on the intertidal shores. Otters, wild dolphins, sea turtles, sea snakes, living corals and more!

I’ll be sharing lots of photos from our regular trips to about 40 local seashore locations. Lots of stories of recent adventures, and how we can make a difference for our wild shores. Bring your friends and family for a comfy intro to our amazing shores!"

A two-time recipient of the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium Award (2003, 2007) presented to exceptional volunteers who have contributed selflessly to biodiversity in Singapore, she has been indefatigable since I worked with her in 2000.

Her mission to spread awareness about Singapore's biodiversity began over a decade ago. In 2001, she played a critical role in the conservation of Chek Jawa. That fueled her to do more and she began to investigate our shores, generating voluminous tagged and labelled photos on Flickr which have become an international resource. A walking encyclopedia, she probably knows if any marine species has ever appeard on our shores! No wonder she is a valuable ally to scientists investigating marine life in Singapore.

She also supports and promotes others through Wild Singapore, a one stop resource for Singapore which sets an example for private and government efforts in resource generation. She learns, uses and adapts simple tools and it is backed by her marine life expeditions, participation in the community and engagement with people on the ground.

Her powerful delivery during her slide talk is the result of a LOT of preparation to integrate all that information bursting inside of her. When she compressed this into a 10-minute presentation at the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium III, she inadvertently created compulsory course material for the LSM1103 Biodiversity class in the National University of Singapore as well as for Organisers and Volunteers of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

If you go for ONE talk this year, this is it. Ria Tan's "Secret Shores of Singapore" is unparalleled and she speaks from the heart. Don't wish you could be there, just go!

Posted at 5:41AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 21 May 2010

Sat 22 May 2010 @ Science Centre Singapore - Otterman tells stories about Singapore's biodiversity on the International Day/Year of Biodiversity

Category : talks

In conjunction with the Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival 2010
and in celebration of the International Day of Biodiversity
and the International Year of Biodiversity 2010,

the Science Centre Singapore presents a public talk

“In Celebration of Singapore’s Biodiversity:
News, Views and Surprises!”

By N. Sivasothi

Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences
Coordinator Raffles Museum Toddycats
Coordinator International Coastal Cleanup Singapore
National University of Singapore

Saturday 22 May 2010: 2.00pm - 3.00pm
Maxwell Auditorium, Science Centre Singapore
See map of location


Registration - Please register by clicking this link
Upon registration, entry to Science Centre Singapore is free for the attendees. Each attendee will receive SSYSF2010 premiums, as well as access to the newly opened Copyright Nature and Wildlife of Gondwana Exhibitions.

About the talk - Amidst the urbanised city state of Singapore and her surrounding islands remain precious patches of tropical ecosystems which are still revealing new species to science. Lovely surprises still await the casual visitor including the ever popular otters, dugongs, sea stars, octopus, dolphins, sea snakes, turtles and crocodiles.

Photo by Marcus Ng

Surprisingly though, the ecology of even some of our well-known denizens remain elusive. In recent years, we have learnt more about the ecology of a variety of creatures including civets, freshwater crabs, mudskippers, mousedeer, pangolins and wild boar. This talk will share highlights of Singapore's biodiversity through stories about people, encounters, events and issues.

Despite these exciting developments, our ecosystem fragments face many challenges to their survival. Have we addressed or neglected these issues? Has public interest increased since the 1980's? What can be done about it now?

The natural history community has grown and is actively engaged in discovery, research, management, public education and feedback through a growing number of channels and engagement with government. Find out about the opportunities to tap into and contribute to this active natural history community in Singapore.

About the speaker - N. Sivasothi, a.k.a. 'Otterman' is most comfortable when immersed in the mangroves which formed the backdrop to most of his research, education and conservation activities at the National University of Singapore since the late 80's.

Currently focused on undergraduate teaching and research, his students have explored studies with freshwater and mangrove crabs, horseshoe crabs, mudskippers, civets, mousedeer, wild boar, otters and even stray cats!

During his years with the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, he and a team of “The Body-Snatchers” would race to recover skeletons from fresh or rotting carcasses of dugongs, pangolins, dolphins and long-tailed macaques off the streets and beaches of Singapore. Many of these stories were shared with the public through exhibitions and talks.

In 2001, he led efforts to explore, share and appeal the fate of the newly-revealed jewel of an inter-tidal shore called Chek Jawa. Threatened with reclamation then, the "last chance to see" public education walks led surprisingly to the largest nature outing by the public in Singapore's history.

In 1999, he spent many nights at the Science Centre Singapore editing the "Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore". For over a decade now, he has been both the coordinator of the Raffles Museum Toddycats! and the national coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore.

Since 1998, he initiated Habitatnews and numerous other blogs and mailing lists. The Otterman is also a bicycling, macintosh, web2.0 and history enthusiast and a great story-teller!

Photos also by Xu Weiting (civet)and Jani Thuaibah (dugong carcass).

Posted at 4:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 23 Oct 2007

NUS Green Carnival at the Central Form, 22-24 Oct 2007

Category : events

Toddycats! setup their biodiversity awareness both for the third year running at NUS Central Forum with specimens from the Raffles Museum. The age-old baby dugong worked its usual magic and guides led them in discovery from dugongs to dolphins to turtles to marine and terrestrial life. A handy mounted Singapore map helped that conversation along. There were more terrestrial specimens this year so the forest was not overlooked!



This year had nearby schools drop in for a visit so they were introduced to our denizen of specimens. Already in a conversation with Peck Thian Guan (NUS Campus Sustainability Committee) we figured we could construct a syllabus that will provide targetted exhibits within a variety of booths for the students, complete with worksheet. In which case we should feature more research, past and present. That will mean guides will have to prepare a little more - we conducted a tutorial this year and next year we figured we should do it next to a mock up of the booth - would be more helpful.

NUS Green Carnival Training Seminar

Well, we always make grand plans but tell ourselves in the end that we were lucky just to have a booth stocked with enthusiastic guides every hour! In fact the guiding didn't stop through for the speeches during the opening ceremony as its an open venue, but I listened with great interest to the Amy Khor (Mayor, SECDC) and the Danish ambassador's determined and practical speeches about the helping the environment.

Read more on the Toddycats new blog at toddycats.wordpress.com which also has news about the long awaited, inaugural Toddycats t-shirt!

Toddycats T-Shirt

Posted at 3:01PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 21 May 2007

Ria says, "Best photo ever," of a dolphin in Singapore waters!

Category : marine/20070521-dolphin_sisters[cktan].txt

One email that caught my eye on a very busy day last week had a subject line declaring "BEST PHOTO EVER!" Yup, it was Ria and she was squealing in the best tradition of the sorely-missed Jani Thuabah,

"WOW! WOW! That's SOOO COOOL!! Fabulous! I'm so jealous!"

Okay you can't ignore an email like that. And I felt the same way when I saw the photo. Oddly enough, I had just listed dolphin sightings in Singapore contributed by the community since 2004. The best photo so far have been the well-used photos taken by Chim Chee Kong off St. John's Island in 2004.

Tan Ching Kian can now lay claim to the closest photo of a wild dolphin that we know of. He is member of TeamSeagrass and an avid photographer. He spotted the dolphins on 13 May 2007 "at around 9.00am off Big Sister Island" (Pulau Subar Laut). He also has two video clips that he will pass to me during the Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium II tomorrow, so look out for those soon!

Like all the others who encoutered these lovely creatures, the images been released for non-commercial use and those of us in education can liven up our classes even more!

Where are the Sister's Islands? South of Sentosa and West of St. John's.

Photos from Google Earth.

Posted at 11:58AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 08 May 2007

Videos of dolphin's sighted off St. John's Islands, 7th Apr 2007

Category : marine

Tan Sijie has posted two videos up at YouTube that he took of dolphin's off St. John's Island on 7th April 2007. It's not high grade footage so you have to squint, but its still much better than Tse Lynn's handphone video though, that was probably the toughest to view.

But we are enthralled by dolphins and relisheach and every record, so do send them in - you can email me at .

Sijie says,

"The dolphins were spotted on ... Saturday (7 April) around 8.36am. I believe they were seen off Lazarus in the background, if I'm not wrong.

I was walking the shores in the morning when a friend who took the 8.30am ferry back to mainland Singapore saw the dolphins and called us. So we climbed the breakwater to see the dolphins. They were swimming into the channel, I guess, and were really far away."

In the first clip, I can see them in the top right near the end of the footage. The second clip is blur but you can make out more activity.

Dolphins at St John's Island, Singapore 1 (07 Apr 2007)

Dolphins at St John's Island, Singapore 2 (07 Apr 2007)

Thanks Ria, for the referral and reminder!

Previous reports of dolphin sightings recorded in Habitatnews:

  1. "Fri 06 Jan 2006 - Dolphins spotted off Raffles Lighthouse." 11 Jan 2006. Reasonably clear video footage of a pod, the closest view so far.
  2. "Dolphins sighted off St. John's Island." 02 Sep 2005. Photos from handphone.
  3. "Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin carcass on Labrador Beach." 15 Jun 2005.
  4. "Dolphin's off St. John's island." 01 Feb 2005.
  5. "Dolphins off Pulau Senang." 04 Jan 2005.
  6. "Dolphins sighting at Sisters islands." 22 Jun 2004.
  7. "Dolphins sighted off St John's Islands." 12 Mar 2004. Still the best set of photos, albeit of the dorsal fin!

Posted at 2:26PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Sat 02 Dec 2006

Southern Islands development in the news again

Category : marine

Read WildSingapore's open letter, City Reefs!

"Targeting nature lovers and the well-heeled." The Strait Times, 01 Dec 2006. Industry experts say there must be a relaxation of rules to make area an exclusive spot.

NOT long ago, Kias was a mere shoal, a tiny strip of land in the ocean that disappeared at high tide. Now, after six years of reclamation works, the sandbank has literally grown into an island, one of the cluster of seven that make up the Southern Islands.

On it is the electricity generator that will provide power to the entire cluster of islands, a fact that Mr Ho Chai Teck, who worked on the reclamation plans for Kias when it was just a shoal, finds astounding. 'This was actually all under water,' said the assistant vice-president of reclamation and infrastructure division Surbana, looking at the sandy ground under his feet. 'People couldn't come here.'

Since then, the islands of Pulau Seringat and Lazarus have also been linked with a sand bank which forms a lagoon that has an unobstructed seaview. The islands currently attract about 100,000 visitors a year, mainly pilgrims, campers, day-trippers and canoeists.

But once developed into an exclusive destination, Southern Islands Development managing director Pamelia Lee expects two types of tourists: the well-heeled who can afford the luxury lifestyle and those who want to explore the rustic surroundings for its flora and fauna, including 300 species of native wildlife.

However, she remains realistic about prospects. Comparing the islands to similar waterfront playgrounds in Australia, Phuket and Malaysia, here, there are no spectacular beaches. No whales to watch. In fact, getting there might even prove daunting for the average convenience-seeking Singaporean.

'Some investors have told us to our face that this is too complex for their customers,' she said. Those who are interested are attracted for a different reason, she said. They see the islands as being 'on the doorstep of a vibrant area that's really taking off - Sentosa is booming, the HarbourFront is booming.

'So many developers, they said it was unspoiled. Sometimes they go into a site, they have to undo before they do it up. This one is fresh, green and it is ready. So a lot of developers find this exciting.'

Even so, say industry experts, developing such a niche property will not be easy, even for likely developers in the league of Dubai's Jumeirah or Singapore-based Amanresorts and Banyan Tree. The well-heeled are notoriously hard to attract and entertain.

For the breed that populates such exclusive millionaires' playgrounds as Monte Carlo and Nice, 'there must be relaxation of rules', said Mr Charles Tee, CEO of hospitality solutions group Gustodian. Even if the islands offer top-notch resort facilities and services, he pointed out, the rich and famous still look for 'very flexible rules'.

For instance, he said: 'For the well-heeled, they want to have privacy, even sail in and out on their own. 'But here, they will have to contend with authorities, who require boat owners to have piloting licences or have their boats piloted by qualified boat captains.'

Mrs Lee said nothing is firmed up for the islands. 'We are exploring what works best,' she said. 'We're asking developers what they want to see. A lot of it is like matchmaking.'

Mr Gordon Lam, who lived on St John's Island until he was eight, sees the planned development as part of modernisation, but he's reluctant to see the islands' rural past fade. The 50-year-old landscape contractor and resident of Bukit Panjang, recalls having to ride a sampan to primary school from St John's, where his father was stationed as a medical officer. 'We had chickens and ducks in the house and I ran around naked on the beach,' he recalls.

He also remembers a time when Lazarus Island was still two islets - Pulau Renget and Pulau Sakijang Pelepah. 'If you told the local boatmen, you tell them 'Lazarus Island', the fellow won't even know,' he says. 'Now, only school children go there for holiday camping,' he says. 'I don't know much about commercialism, but if you really want to retain that flavour, you have to go back to bare necessities.'

Copyright 2006 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

bluebabe has written an open letter to REACH: "An open letter to REACH, on proposed developments in the Southern Islands." By bluebabe. Musings of a barefoot traveller, 01 Dec 2006.

"I read with interest the news articles recently on developing the Southern Islands off Sentosa into a playground of the rich and famous. Although I'm glad these lovely islands are in the limelight and receiving attention to promote them as attractions, I view the proposed plans with some trepidation.

As a nature guide with the Blue Water Volunteers' ReefWalk programme, I have brought numerous visitors to explore the marine life on the reefs of Kusu Island on several occasions. Over the months, we have spotted myriad creatures including dolphins, stingrays, anemone shrimps, clownfishes, seastars, and a hodgepodge of brilliantly patterned flatworms and sea slugs, as well as entertained and educated over a thousand enthusiastic visitors.

Many of the articles mention some form of development- luxury homes, hotels, spas, or even a second Palm Island. Ms Pamelia Lee was even quoted on Channelnews Asia as saying that plans to use coral stone as construction material would be considered! Remarks like these make nature lovers wonder if the existing, natural marine life holds any importance in the minds of the planners. Corals are living things, the very foundation of the coral reef ecosystem, and are so slow-growing they only extend by a couple of centimetres a year! Furthermore, it is doubtful that any medium to large scale works will have little impact on the surrounding reefs, which have already endured so much stress from decades from reclamation and dredging works.

Why am I making so much noise about these supposed 'murky water' reefs?

Simply put, I love Singapore's reefs. I've dived at Sipadan, Manado, Lembeh, Okinawa, the Andaman Sea and Florida, and in all honesty, I still rank Singapore among my best dives ever. I pursued the elusive soft coral cowrie on two trips to macro-heaven Lembeh Straits, only to find out that a volunteer [Pulau] Hantu Blog dive guide recently photographed 3 (!) at Pulau Hantu. When the waters clear (through some fluke of currents or a reduction in coastal development intensity), the colours and sights to be seen are truly dazzling. Researchers in Singapore still find new records of marine life, if only the reefs and shores remain for them to explore. These reefs, although small, are products of millenia of existence and evolution, creating a world full of wonder and complexities, something that man could never hope to replicate.

I hope Singapore's reefs could find a place in the hearts and minds of the people planning the latest slew of Southern Island developments."

Islands Plenty." By Neil Humphreys. Today, 02 Dec 2006. Kusu and St John's are priceless jewels for all Singaporeans. Down Under with Neil Humphreys; news@newstoday.com.sg

I LOVE the public toilets on Kusu Island. In the last two years, I must have used their services more often than I used an ATM.

I had popped over to the sacred island in a desperate attempt to calm my nerves and save my internal organs from being sucked out via bodily waste.

It was this newspaper's anniversary, and our fledgling band, of which I was a member, had been booked to entertain half of MediaCorp.

My role was pivotal. I played the tambourine.

I was so nervous I spent the entire morning imprinting the toilet seat onto my bottom.

Out of desperation, I decided to visit Kusu Island because it was the ninth Lunar month and I thought the sea air might stop me emitting more noise than the brass section of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

It didn't work. The choppy waves had me sounding like a human trumpet, but I did fall in love with the island.

It is impossible not to like Kusu Island. Just 5.6km from Singapore, it's accessible, but remote: A decent size for a brisk, coastal walk, but intimate.

The island has daft, but entertaining, legends about giant tortoises and shipwrecked sailors, an attractive Chinese temple, three keramats (shrines) at the top of a leafy hillock, undisturbed beaches, some snorkelling, a little indigenous wildlife and well-maintained, fully-functioning public facilities.

I can testify to the last part. And so can my bottom.

Kusu is a tiny green jewel in Singapore's treasure chest and managed to take my mind off my rock music debut. It paid off. I never played the wrong note once on the tambourine.

Earlier this year, I returned to Kusu to research a travel book on Singapore. Out of season, the island was largely deserted except for half a dozen Germans with appalling taste in swimwear.

I eventually wrote in the book: "Rock stars are always bitching about travelling to the far ends of the Earth to find an exclusive beach. Nonsense. Come to Kusu Island. Privacy is guaranteed. No one will ever find you."

One or two civil servants might have taken those words rather literally.

For the book, I also ventured over to St John's Island for the first time.

I went partly because I'd never been there, but largely because I'd read it had once been a cholera colony and I'm a macabre bugger.

It wasn't just any cholera colony. This is Singapore, remember. It was one of the world's best. Around the 1930s, St John's was considered to be the largest quarantine centre. I'm not sure why someone would want to compile such statistics, but there you go.

It's certainly another one for the encyclopaedia: No 1 airport, No 1 public transport system, No 1 smiling campaign and No 1 centre for cholera victims.

If that fun fact is not worthy of a National Heritage Board plaque, then frankly, I don't know what is.

I was hoping to stumble across the odd spooky cemetery or jump into a scene from The Blair Witch Project. Instead, I walked onto the set of Escape from Alcatraz.

Whatever wildlife and rich biodiversity there was (and there was plenty), it was overshadowed by the barbed wire and the watchtowers around the former detention centre.

Unimpressed, I wrote in the book that whatever redevelopment plans the Gahmen had for St John's Island, they should be executed quickly. But I never expected this.

Like some Singaporeans, I was utterly bewildered by the announcement this week of plans to turn six of the southern islands into a playground for the super-rich.

Apparently, Sentosa Cove is not enough for the yachting class so the city-state's tiny size must accommodate another private resort.

Competing with premier city destinations like Dubai, Singapore may well need to woo the high-end tourist dollar, but it must also reserve enough space for Singaporeans, young and old, to roam around a bit.

As someone who has long recognised the commendable efforts made to preserve, and enhance, the greenery of this unique garden city, it comes as a shock that the predictable Dubai route is now being advocated.

Considering they are part of a country that will always be limited by its geography, the southern islands offer so much potential. They could really be developed into something special for all Singaporeans to share.

Neil Humphreys is the author of the Singapore best-seller Final Notes from A Great Island. Being a Singapore travel book, it includes the southern islands.

Posted at 2:05AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Fri 14 Jul 2006

Sat 15 Jul 2006: 3pm - "Dolphins, Turtles and Otters"

Category : marine

Woodlands Regional Library, 3.00pm, Sat 15 Jul 2006. "Dolphins, Turtles, Otters and Other Secrets of Singapore!"

"Trekking in the mangroves, I spied a Smooth otter swimming silently through a river channel. Resting on sand ledge, a crocodile took in the warm rays of the sun. Dolphins burst through the waves,sea cows grazed the sea grass offshore and turtle hatchlings struggled over sand to reach the waves and safety of the sea."

Join zoologist N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman, Research Officer, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research as he reveals these unbelievable scenes and more secrets of Singapore's marine life.

Free admission and no registration is required. Organised by Eco@Woodlands, National Library Board. Contact: National Library at 6332 3255

Posted at 11:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 11 Jan 2006

Fri 06 Jan 2006 - Dolphins spotted off Raffles Lighthouse

Category : marine

The crew of the NUS Department of Biological Sciences boat, The Mudskipper, alerted Huang Danwei as he surfaced from a research dive on Friday, 6th January 2006, off Raffles Lighthouse at about 1pm. They had spotted a pod of dolphins, probably Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins (Sousa chinensis), and there were between 5-7 of them swimming in the sea.

The other NUS divers Karenne, Michelle, Jani and Wai were still underwater, while Danwei grabbed some video footage. It's all shaky as he was balancing himself on the boat battling strong waves. The overcast skies leave grayish tinge to the video as well. The island that appears in the foreground of the final seconds of the video is Pulau Sudong.

Danwei added - "The dolphins emerged from the southern end of the island, moving north against strong surface currents, coming up to about 40-50m from the boat. Yay!"

Raffles Lighthouse (erected in May, 1854) is also Pulau Satumu, an island located far south of Singapore.

Download the 30 second movie (AVI) file here (~17 MB) - it's a little shaky and overcast, but you can see the dolphins.

Earlier reports of Dolphin sightings:

  • "Dolphins sighted off St. John's Island." 02 Sep 2005. Photos from handphone.
  • "Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin carcass on Labrador Beach." 15 Jun 2005.
  • "Dolphin's off St. John's island." 01 Feb 2005.
  • "Dolphins off Pulau Senang." 4th January 2005.
  • "Dolphins sighting at Sisters islands." 22 Jun 2004.
  • "Dolphins sighted off St John's Islands." 12 Mar 2004. Best set of photos.
  • Posted at 4:44AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

    Fri 02 Sep 2005

    Dolphins sighted off St. John's Island

    Category : marine

    02 Sep 2005 - Once again Jani Thuaibah of The Blue Tempeh spots dolphins in our waters! She starts sending me SMS' at 12.50pm (I can almost hear her screaming, and the first two messages were in all block caps.):

    "Argh! I am looking at dolphins breaching the water, jumping, playing, so near the shore, sometimes 5 to 10 metres away but I have no camera! How frustrating is that? Argh!"

    [Where are you?] "St. John's Island Jetty! Argh! Argh! Argh! They're so beautiful! Argh! Argh!"

    [How many?] "About five, one pink baby, one pink and grey, the rest all grey.

    TL [Loh Tse-Lynn] might have a video. Quite blur though. Breaching"

    "For a day with maximum one metre visibility, the dolphins were playing for over an hour!"

    From handphone-video footage (x2 zoom) by Loh Tse-Lynn.
    Click image to play 16s QuickTime video or ctrl/right-click to download.

    Loh Tse-Lynn managed to capture some footage on an overcast day without a camera or video (you can hear her say, "eh, bring your camera leh!") - so its blur and dark but still it gives some impression of what they saw and how happy they must have felt! Jani later said,

    "Here's a short video of the dolphins jumping. It's BLUR... and it's DARK....and it's SMALL.. but it's THERE... and they were JUMPING. WARGGHHH!!!

    SO EXCITING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was laughing and screaming and tearing at the jetty ALL ALONE while TL and my buddies were still diving... ARGHHHHHHHHH


    It's best you download the footage and enlarge the playback; then you see the dolphins leap and splash back into the water twice!

    This is the third reported sighting in 2005 of dolphins in our southern waters. The first report caught video footage. The best photos are by far Chim Chee Kong's relatively close shots in March 2004! Thank goodness for those - we show both during "Marine Life in Singapore" school talks in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, to the shouts of disbelieving students who go "Photoshop! Photoshop!" Viddeo then usually silences them, but for a second or two only!

    Posted at 1:30PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

    Sun 03 Jul 2005

    "Two groups fear new Shell plant will endanger marine life."

    Category : marine

    "Two groups fear new Shell plant will endanger marine life." By Radha Basu. The Straits Times, 04 Jul 2005. - Pulau Hantu one of Singapore's last marine beauty spots.

    "Two local marine conservation groups have written to oil giant Shell to raise concerns over its plans to build a petrochemical plant on reclaimed land near Pulau Hantu, one of Singapore's last remaining sites teeming with marine life.

    The Blue Water Volunteers and Hantu Bloggers fear the colourful sea creatures and age-old coral in the area will die if the reclamation proceeds without proper environmental safeguards.

    Both groups, one of divers and the other of nature enthusiasts, were formed last year to make Singaporeans aware of their diverse but fast-disappearing marine wealth.

    In a letter to Shell Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang, the groups pointed out that Singapore has already lost more than 65 per cent of its live coral cover.

    Coral reefs, which are known as the rainforests of the ocean, are fertile spawning grounds for a variety of sea creatures.

    Continuous reclamation work around the Southern Islands in past years, the groups said, has increased sediment in the water, reducing visibility from more than 10m in the 1960s to no more than 2m today.

    'In light of this, we are dismayed to learn that yet another reef, which existed from even before Singapore was founded, is going to be destroyed,' said the letter, signed by Blue Water Volunteers coordinator Loh Tse-Lynn and Hantu Bloggers founder Debby Ng.

    Members of the two groups have dived in the area, sometimes as often as once a week.

    When contacted, a Shell spokesman told The Straits Times the company is in discussions with the Economic Development Board to set up a petrochemical cracker - part of a refinery - on reclaimed land on Pulau Ular, near Hantu.

    The land will be reclaimed by JTC Corp, as part of a government plan to create more land for the chemicals industry.

    The spokesmen added that environmental care and responsibility are part of Shell's commitment to sustainable development.

    'We'd like to assure the public that we'll act responsibly in conducting our business activities.'

    Acting responsibly, said eminent National University of Singapore marine expert Chou Loke Ming, means using silt screens - which block sediment from reaching the coral - as well as relocating rare species of coral elsewhere.

    JTC said it is likely to do that, if the project, which is still in the planning stage, gets the final go-ahead. Reclamation is yet to start.

    A spokesman said JTC will consider closing the water channels around the reclamation area by building 'bunds' or embankments to prevent the silt from spreading towards Hantu, besides studying whether any coral needs to be relocated.

    This is heartening, said the conservationists, adding that they would like to be briefed on more details of the reclamation activities.

    'We want to know the extent of reclamation planned and the possible impact involved,' said Ms Loh.

    Blankets of silt churned up by reclamation activities could block access to both sunlight and food, smothering the coral reefs to death, she said.

    Divers in the area have spotted rare sea creatures such as the gorgonian shrimp and bob-tailed squid. Dolphins, black-tipped reef sharks and different types of clownfish have also been seen.

    'Despite the silt, sometimes you see some incredibly rare and beautiful creatures in Singapore's waters,' said Ms Ng. 'We simply don't want to let them die.'"

    Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

    See "Shell is looking at land reclamation around Pulau Ular." Habitatnews, 03 Jun 2005 and the Hantu blog's June archives.

    Posted at 11:52PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

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