Natural history news for the busy Singaporean
- highlighting talks, books, events and issues, in nature, biology and the environment.

Home - NUS - RMBR

Subscribe for the 'day after' email summary!

Mammal Records
Click to submit

Fauna & Flora Records
Click to submit

International Year of Biodiversity 2010

Click to find out more


The Biodiversity Crew
biodiversity research
@ the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS

Raffles Museum Toddycats

* News
* Parliament
* Terrestrial & Freshwater
* Marine
* Coastal Cleanup
* Environment
* Heritage
* Animal welfare
* Wildlife trade

* Events & Activities
* Talks & Seminars
* TV & Radio
* Books

* Articles - Photos
* Internet - Software
* Archives (2000-2003)
* Archives (2004-)
* About - Errata

Subscribe to the
monthly newsletter

Events in Singapore

What's On

* Raffles Museum News
* NUS Biodiversity
* WildSingapore News
* EcoNews (regional)

* Habitatnews
* Ecotax

Mailing Lists
* Nature Singapore
* Singapore Heritage

By Habitatnews

* Pulau Ubin Stories
* Labrador Park
* The Biology Refugia
* Otterman speaks
* Cycling in Singapore

By others
* Wild Shores of Singapore*WS*
* Pulau Hantu Blog
* Bird Ecology*NSS*
* Wild Lives(NDP2004)*WS*
* More...


* Marine Life here?
* Pulau Hantu Blog
* Southern Shores*WS*
* Mandai Mangroves * Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin

* Changi Heritage
* Kent Ridge Heritage
* Sembawang Heritage
* Pulau Ubin stories

* Mangroves of Singapore
* Coral Reefs of Singapore

Strategies and Plans
* Sustainable Development Blueprint
* IYOR Blue Plan


For general feedback about policies: go to REACH

Sembawang Tides:
Today, 2009 (iCal available)
Weather (NEA)

Local Groups/Sites


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

Made on a Mac with
Claris Home Page 3.0.
Blog engine: Samizdat,
based on PHPosxom,
based on Blosxom.

What is a weblog?
Start your own.

Get Firefox!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Archives - Nature Links - Submit Mammal Records - Blog RSS Feed - Comments RSS - Email me

Fri 25 Nov 2011

Diving with wild turtles in Singapore waters! Debby Ng of Hantu Bloggers speaks at the Nat Geo Store this Sat 26 Nov 2011: 2.30pm

Category : talks

"Can you dive with wild turtles and sharks in Singapore? Yes! Pulau Hantu is one of Singapore's most renowned Southern Islands for its myriad of micro and mega fauna."

"Although it's been visited for decades, divers continue to discover new species records in the small but rich coral reefs of Singapore. How do these wild marvels cope with a relentlessly changing coastline, and how do they adapt to development?"

"Join us for this marine talk given by Debby Ng, a photojournalist with a passion for the environment, who will bring clarity to the usually murky waters of Pulau Hantu with her underwater photos and videos."

Debby's work with the Hantu Blog began in 2004 and has moved from strength to strength ever since. Join her this Saturday 26th November 2011: 2.30pm at the National Geographic Store at Vivocity.

Debby's talk is the second in a series of three talk on marine life in Singapore, held in conjunction with a marine life exhibition of posters by WildSingapore at the National Geographic Store at Vivocity this November and December.

Posted at 8:07AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Wed 30 Jul 2008

National Day launch of International Year of the Reef in Singapore

Category : marine

Reef Celebrations! Launch of International Year of the Reef in Singapore

Saturday 9th August 2008
Time: 10am-5pm
Venue: Function Hall, Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens
(above Taman Serasi foodcourt). How to get there.

Schedule of talks and activities

  • 10.30am: "Life and Death at Chek Jawa" sharing experiences of a study of mass deaths on Chek Jawa following flooding in 2007, a talk by Loh Kok Sheng.
  • 11.30am: “Wishing upon a Star” about our Knobbly sea stars, a recent emergence of baby Knobblies and discovery of a large population at Cyrene Reef, a talk by Tan Sijie, Star Trackers.
  • 12.30-1pm: MAD for turtles (make a difference for turtles) : Games for kids about threats to turtles and how kids can help, by Cicada Tree Eco-Place and the Raffles Institution with four stations. Suitable for kids aged 4-8 years.
  • 2pm: “Are there reefs left in Singapore?” lifting the veil to reveal the hidden biodiversity of this almost forgotten realm, a talk by Jeffrey Low, NParks Biodiversity Reference Centre.
  • 3pm: “Southern Haunt” about diving at Pulau Hantu, bringing clarity to the usually murky waters with underwater photos and videos, a talk by Debby Ng, Hantu Bloggers.
  • 4pm: "Green, Mean, Photosynthesizing Machines!" a talk by Yang Shufen, TeamSeagrass and NParks Biodiversity Reference Centre.

Find out more at the IYOR webpage.

Posted at 12:33PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 08 May 2007

Environmental report available for viewing for 4 weeks from 02 May 2007

Category : marine

Retrieved from Government Gazette: Current Notices:

Notice - Environmental report for disposal of dredged material at designated containment site east of Pulau Semakau. 02 May 2007.

The Public Utilities Board plans to dredge sediment material from Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon. The dredged material will be placed in the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's designated containment site east of Pulau Semakau. Studies have been carried out to determine the environmental impact of this activity.

The environmental report is available, for public viewing by appointment, at the Environment Building, 40 Scotts Road, Singapore 228231 for 4 weeks with effect from 2nd May 2007.

To view the said report, please contact Mr Sim Hock Lai at 67313820 or via email at .

Anyone who wishes to inspect the said report after 29th May 2007 can contact Mr Sim Hock Lai to make arrangements to view it.

"First published in the Government Gazette, Electronic Edition, on 2nd May 2007 at 5.00 pm."

So where is that designated site east of Semakau exactly? You'll have to read the report to see. But for the geographically-challenged Singaporean, rest assured its not ON the coral reefs west of Semakau. Or on Pulau Hantu.

Just thought I'd mention that :-)

Posted at 9:30AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Mon 19 Mar 2007

Pulau Hantu Blog - Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Category : marine

Debby Ng and The Pulau Hantu bloggers will savour their 3rd anniversary dive on 25 Mar 2007 (all full-up already!)

Alright, let's call it required reading for the occasion - the first post, "How I felt last Sunday." By Debby Ng. Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life, 15 Mar 2004.

Listen to Debby speak about the Pulau Hantu blog and marine conservation on NewsRadio 93.8FM in Jan 2005.

And see also Habitatnews' post on the 2nd anniversary (2006) and the 1st anniversary (2005).

Posted at 3:59PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 11 Jan 2007

New blogs added to The Singapore Naturalist

Category : internet

Three more feeds have been added to The Singapore Naturalist:

Urban forest: a blog by Science undergraduate Siyang, he provides a nice variety of posts about his explorations of nature in Singapore. He is posting quite regularly now and is a welcome addition to the nature blogging scene.

TeamSeagrass: this programme has been recently launched and the blog will focus on the team's trips and activities as well as news about seagrasses. There are two to three trips a month, so expect regular postings and lovely photos as well.

Art in Wetlands is blog featuring the works of Tham Pui San, a prolific artist and volunteer at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. It is maintained by staff Linda Goh and will also feature art workshops and works of art by volunteers and students.

The Singapore Naturalist was introduced to keep track of the growing number of nature-dedicated blogs in Singapore [see "The Singapore Naturalist - tracking nature blogs in Singapore." By N. Sivasothi. Habitanews, 29 Nov 2005.] It now lists 21 blogs and 5 newsletters and whenever a new posts appears, be it once a week or once in 6 months, it is reflected on this webpage almost immediately.

Blogs (21)

  • Art in Wetlands
  • Bird Ecology Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore)
  • Cycling in Singapore
  • For the Future of Our Forest
  • Habitatnews
  • KLOG
  • Labrador Park
  • Nature Spies
  • Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life
  • Pulau Ubin Stories
  • Raffles Museum News
  • RMBR Toddycats!
  • SLOG
  • Team Sea Grass
  • The Big Trees
  • The Biology Refugia
  • The Blue Tempeh
  • The Exotic Species of Singapore
  • Ubin Volunteers
  • Urban Forest
  • WildFilms

Mailing Lists (5)

  • Ecotax Mailing List (Singapore)
  • focusubin
  • Habitatnews - nature news for Singapore.
  • wildsingapore
  • wildsingapore-weekly

Thanks to Ria for the alert about Team Seagrass and Urban Forest, and to Linda Goh about Art in Wetlands!

Posted at 4:11AM 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 |

Thu 25 May 2006

Project NOAH no more

Category : marine

Thu 25 May 2006: 7pm - A dialogue session on the NOAH project was held at the Hilton Hotel, Level 3, Vista 2 & 3 "to engage all concerned groups and steer the project forward in a constructive manner."

This was in response to concerns and information raised at the last session (See Habitatnews, WildSingapore).

The initial misgivings appear to have been addressed. It is heartening to see that various parties were able to evaluate and respond to the information and concerns raised by the marine community.

Debby Ng reports - "UPDATE: Project NOAH sunk." By Debby Ng. Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life, 26 May 2006.

"25 May, 2006 - The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) together with the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) hosted a seminar this evening to brief concerned parties about the new status of Project NOAH, which was launched in April this year."

"When questioned by the floor, it was asserted that "Project NOAH" is no longer in existence. It's initial plans detailed in the April press conference are presently "suspended". Dr. Geh Min said there is "no need to call it NOAH anymore. She also explained that the principle of Phase II was to implement a method to "cope with increasing sedimentation" on our reefs."


Posted at 11:39PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 18 Apr 2006

12 Apr 2006 - Project NOAH discussed at an open session at the Nature Society (Singapore)

Category : marine

When is news of a conservation project not greeted with open arms by the biodiversity community? Project NOAH certainly seems to becoming a case study: a lack of consultation with stake-holders actively engaged in conservation and public education, dreams passed off (or misconstrued) as projects, unclear agendas and $100,000. It seems an old lesson has been repeated, albeit at a smaller scale - a lack of transparency.

When Project NOAH was announced on 30 Mar 2006 (See the media reports), an active discussion started the same evening in the natural history community. Unusual for such a project announcement, no one stepped up to congratulate a seemingly good idea.

Jeffrey Low responded to a request I made in the Nature Singapore mailing list with a long list of issues and struggled to be diplomatic but other young 'uns, however, were scathing in the remarks:

Was there any reason to doubt? The press briefing and its apparently inadequate Q & A session, raised many critical questions. Wild Singapore rounded up some of the questions into a summary page: "Plans to 'build a reef' at Hantu: some issues" causing Mr Budak to ponder, "Lagoon Blues: A Reef in Double Jeopardy." The annotated budak, 12 April 2006.

The discussion continued offline in the marine community. However, the press, or rather just one alert reporter, tried and failed to get any remarks from anyone. It appeared most wanted to first find out more or at least talk to the project leaders. No webpage exists for Project NOAH and only the inadequate media reports were available.

So Vilma D'Rozario and Ho Hua Chew of the Nature Society Singapore invited stake-holders to a briefing and discussion at the regular NSS Conservation Group Chat Session at the NSS office on 12th April 2006 at 7.30pm. In attendance were some of the relevant individuals.

The discussion seems to have raised many more questions and a flurry of blog reports are emerging:

Project NOAH presented and discussed at Nature Society (Singapore),
12 April 2006

By November Tan, 13 April 2006
On special assignment for Habitatnews

In response to the concerns raised over statements at the the recent press conference by the Singapore Environment Council and the Singapore Underwater Federation on Project NOAH (Nurture our Aquatic Heritage), the Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) Conservation Group held a "Chat on the Southern Islands" on Wednesday 12 April, 7pm at NSS' headquarters, The Sunflower. Thanks to NSS Committee Members Vilma D'Rozario and Ho Hua Chew for hosting the dialogue.

The venue was quickly filled with at least 50 people. Besides NSS members, in attendance were groups already actively working to promote and conserve the southern islands' coral reefs. Ria Tan of WildSingapore distributed informative flyers, ran a powerpoint slideshow and WildFilms played video clips of marine life and reef walk activities from the Southern Islands. Also in attendance were Debby Ng of Pulau Hantu Blog and most of the executive members of Blue Water Volunteers, including The Blue Tempeh.

The meeting, chaired by Ho Hua Chew of NSS saw three presentations - the first one was made by the Marine Conservation Group on the reclamation to join Pulau Bukom and Pulau Ular and about the relocation of corals by the project consultants, DHI Water and Environment, from Terembu Bayan. The second presentation was made by Howard Shaw, the Executive Director of SEC, who gave the history and progress of NOAH. Third to speak was SUF member Sydney Chew who conceived the project; he repeated the presentation from the press conference of 30th March 2006.

Also in attendance was Stephen Beng (SUF under-secretary) who was absent at the press conference. Notable absentees from the dialogue at NSS included William Ong (SUF's consultative scientific officer), and Spencer Lewis (Aquos Pte Ltd). Geh Min of NSS was unable to attend the meeting.

The Q&A saw a rapid fire of questions from the floor, which went mostly unanswered. Key issues include:


Howard Shaw of SEC maintained that throughout the whole press conference, there was never any mention of an artificial reef. The press had been mistaken in their reports. Howard Shaw further declared they had no intention of coral relocation.

"As for dredging of the lagoon and coral transplantation, SEC has no intention of carrying those out, and wishes to understand what's out there instead." - from minutes of meeting at BWV webpage.

However, Debby Ng who was present at the press conference of 30th March 2006 pointed out that coral relocation had been stated as one of their key objectives in their press briefing.

There was no clear idea about the filter for clear water conditions at Pulau Hantu.

Note that a copy of the press release will soon be made available online.


The following groups were said to have been consulted about the project: Blue Water Volunteers (BWV), Raffles Museum of Biodversity Research at the National University of Singapore (RMBR, NUS), National Parks Board (NParks), Topical Marine Science Institute, NUS (TMSI), Department of Civil Engineering, NUS (DCE), SUF, SEC and NSS.

After the meeting, members of some of these organisations were approached and denied having been consulted. [Ed's note - NUS' Raffles Museum was not consulted.]

More than one group were asked to attend closed-door presentations and asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. They had put forward queries and did not receive any response. In their opinion, this could not be passed off as consultation.


Why was a press conference held without a well thought-out plan?

Howard Shaw suggested there was "time pressure" which drove them. Queried, they responded that it was because of the closure of the north reef of Pulau Hantu to divers. However their press conference was held on 30th March 2006, some two months after the closure.

Unable to provide a clear program objective, they then surprised the audience by asking all present to suggest ideas! The disbelieving audience offered that this should have been done prior to the press conference.


Sydney Chew claimed that local divers only have access to two dive sites in Singapore - Pulau Jong and Pulau Hantu. Thus Pulau Hantu was picked as the ideal place for a marine sanctuary. Sisters Islands, he claimed, was closed.

The audience responded with an outcry - Sisters Islands are open to divers. Other islands are also open to diving - Lazarus Island, St John's Island, Kusu Island and Pulau Salu. In fact, reef walks are even conducted at Kusu Island, and are overbooked for months.

Some objected to the suggestion of St. John's Island as a dive site due to the presence of strong currents there. However divers in the room dismissed this argument - tide tables provide predictive information about tidal streams. This is a basic tool used to avoid diving during strong currents.

It was further countered that Pulau Jong, a reef Sydney suggested as a dive site, is in fact host to the strongest currents in our waters.


A refrain during the meeting was for the audience to join NOAH as volunteers. However, individuals had learnt through the papers that they would have to join SUF as members. This was not a partnership.

Sydney Chew did not appear to know members of this very small community, all of whom know each other. He provided the room with much amusement when he mistook Anand Sundaram Balan for N. Sivasothi of NUS' Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research! Sydney Chew also was unable to recognise Ria Tan and Joseph Lai. This ignorance of key community players was surprising in light of his claims to have initiated a community project.

Sydney Chew also mentioned the need for a site where "we can engage the public" as this has not been done. It was pointed out that there are active programmes in existence including Chek Jawa, Semakau and Reef Walk programme, conducted for both adults and children. These were initiated between 2002-2005. Reefwalk for example has been active for 18 months, exposing close to 1,000 members of the public of all ages to the intertidal habitat at Kusu Island.


There have been on-going census by NUS Marine Biology Lab since 1986, and this data accessible for free online, e.g. see data for Pulau Hantu. This existing data has not reviewed by Project NOAH.

Howard Shaw did emphasise that they were aware of existing census efforts. However, they were unable to provide an objective for their proposed census, and thus the method they intended to employ for the census. This was compounded by the fact that it had been reported that $100,000 was now needed to cover the same ground. Oddly enough, the previous census had ben conducted without the need for such large funds.

There was some suggestion that the new census would encompass all marine life on the reef unlike the precious projects which focused only on corals, fish and selected invertebrates. However scientists limit their scope as observation and identification are extremely time-consuming and near impossible for many groups of invertebrates. Hence a limited, targeted approach is commonly used.

If however NOAH intends to survey all organisms on Hantu reefs, the six month projection may be optimistic.


In a surprising turn of events, it was revealed that the project was neither SUF's nor SEC's! SUF clarified that they were signed on to provide/facilitate volunteer manpower. SEC meanwhile, claims they are only acting as the facilitator and coordinating body.

So who does NOAH belong to? Who is responsible for it?

It appears that Sydney Chew is the main driving force behind the venture.

Ho Hua Chew called the meeting to a premature end at 9 pm amidst much protests. None of the questions had yet been answered. While everybody agrees that the dream of a marine reserve in Singapore is something we agree about, this episode highlights the need for proper plans and transparency.

18 Apr 2006: Hua Chew dropped me a note about the meeting closure and explained that - "Howard & Sydney were consulted as to whether they would like to continue. They said they have to go. If they were agreeable, I would certainly let the meeting go on beyond 9.00pm. As a matter of courtesy to our NSS guests I have to accede to their wishes."

I know Hua Chew has the stamina for a longer meeting, and you can't fault him for being a good host; this sort of session has to be handled as fairly as possible.

The guests may not have realised they would have to entertain so many questions from a community of active naturalists. Still, enough had emerged by then to suggest that more time would not have helped revealed any more information.

It is healthy to see such thoughts finally emerge for scrutiny. All of these posts are by young people. And Joseph Lai would later remark of a young lad sitting next to him, "So young and so interested in the welfare of Nature". It certainly is an antidote to fears of apathy amongst our youth! The question then begs, why was the mainstream media so easily taken in? It did not take really tough questions to highlight ambiguity.

At the end of the meeting, one positive thing emerged - the reassurance by Howard Shaw of Singapore Environment Council that any plan would be non-destructive. He is also keen for a constructive reassessment and to see that the reef survey is conducted, and that it builds on existing information. A second meeting will be called with stake-holders.

Conservation depends on the contributions of individuals, organisations, agencies, corporations and the government, i.e. stakeholders. This is a group with varied needs and outlook. For any progress to be made in such an arena, trust and credibility are very important commodities. Very little of either appear to have been achieved last night.

18 Apr 2006 - Update: I'm called a ugly, dirty Frito and I feel good. Wonder why? Read Joseph Lai's amusing account, "The Farside of Fritos." Eart-h.com, 14 Apr 2006.

Posted at 3:59AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Thu 30 Mar 2006

"Singapore Underwater Federation to build coral reef at Pulau Hantu"

Category : marine

"Singapore Underwater Federation to build coral reef at Pulau Hantu." By Sharon See. Channel NewsAsia, 30 Mar 2006.

SINGAPORE : Divers may have every reason to rejoice.

The Singapore Underwater Federation is looking into developing a coral reef on the southern island of Pulau Hantu.

Contrary to common belief, Singapore has natural reefs on its offshore islands.

And the Singapore Underwater Federation is planning an ambitious project, called NOAH for Nurturing Our Aquatic Heritage, which aims to build a coral reef in the lagoon enclosed by Pulau Hantu.

They are also planning to move corals from other reefs to the island.

Mr Sydney Chew, Member of Singapore Underwater Federation, says: "Everybody that's involved in this project, from the engineers to the scientists, as well as conservationists have said it's doable, so I believe it is very possible that we can get this project on the road."

For the next few months, they will first conduct studies on the reefs around Pulau Hantu with a budget of $100,000.

Dr Geh Min, President of the Nature Society, says much can be done in marine conservation, and the young should be roped in to learn this lesson.

She says: "What I hope is that as the project proceeds, young Singaporeans will not be just spectators, they can actually participate. I think this is very important. If you want to use nature as a teacher, taking a specimen into a classroom is very different from taking the student going out into a nature area. "

Project NOAH is expected to be completed by 2008. - CNA/de

Thanks to Kevin Lam for the alert.

To learn more about Pulau Hantu, see the Pulau Hantu - a celebration of marine life.

Posted at 9:49PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email |

Tue 14 Mar 2006

Join the Pulau Hantu Bloggers on their 2nd Anniversary Celebratory Dive!

Category : marine

It started as a blogpost on an iBook connected to the internet via a wireless network in Holland Village - "How I felt last Sunday". Then Debby Ng said,

"You see, Hantu is alive! New corals were sprouting out all over the place. This reef is anything but dead. But some divers believe it is as good as dead. Just mention "diving at Pulau Hantu" to most divers, and it's likely they'll cringe.

Some divers won't even give Hantu a chance. They've heard so many bad reviews, they don't even think it's worth a try. No matter how much you coax them, they don't think it's worth their time and buck to dive in Hantu (and I speak from experience)."

She found other like minded souls and two years later and the Hantu bloggers have been diving and photographing, opened the eyes of many local divers to the beauty that lies beneath, blogged about these experiences, talked on radio, monitoring development on the islands, training others, collaborating, giving seminars and even conducted a mangrove cleanup!

They celebrate this month with an celebratory anniversary dive programme and if the first anniversary dive is anything to go by, if you have not yet peeked into the waters at Pulau Hantu, this is an excellent opportunity and group to do it with!

"The Hantu Blog celebrates its second birthday! To commemorate two years of great diving,
we'll be doing 4 dives, including a night dive.

All are welcome but you must have an Advanced Open Water Certification (or its equivalent).

Let's see what's waiting for us
out there this time!

Warm regards,
The Hantu Blog"

The Pulau Hantu Bloggers Celebratory 2nd Anniversary Dive, 25 Mar (Sat) and/or 26 Mar (Sun), 2006.

Reservations and enquiries
Please email hantublog@gmail.com.
Please RSVP by Friday, March 17, 2006 with the following:

  1. Your name,
  2. IC/Passport number,
  3. Your email address,
  4. Your handphone number, and
  5. Equipment required incl weights.
  6. Date of trip interested in - 25 or 26 Mar or both?

Join the The Hantu Bloggers Yahoo Group to read the trip itinerary, and to be informed of future dives.

Dive Details

  • Cost: S$95.00/trip (excl gear rental)
  • Please bring your own lunch, dinner, water and torches for the trip.
  • Venue: Keppel Marina, Bt. Chermin Rd
  • Time (Departure): 0900 hrs
  • [Dive 1]
  • 1st Surface Interval + Lunch
  • [Dive 2]
  • 2nd Surface Interval
  • [Dive 3]
  • 3rd Surface Interval + Dinner
  • [Night Dive]
  • Departure
  • ETA: 2100 hrs

Gear Rental Rates

  • Regulator $5.00
  • BCD $5.00
  • Mask $5.00
  • Fins $5.00
  • Weight belt (incl 4 weights) $3.00
  • Wetsuit $6.00
  • Additional weights @ $0.50

All rental equipment is arranged by Diver Airman.

About the The Hantu Blog
The Hantu Blog is a non-profit environmental awareness initiative. All funds generated by the Blog dives go towards the development of educational material, to further raise the awareness of Pulau Hantu and other local marine areas. To learn more about the origins of the blog, and the marine issues that concern the Hantu Bloggers, listen to this NewsRadio interview.

The Hantu Blog website is generously hosted by Habitatnews, the natural history news and information portal maintained by the National University of Singapore's Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

The Hantu Blog is a partner of the Blue Water Volunteers and Gill Divers, Reef Friends Xplore! Programme that trains passionate individuals to become inspiring educators and ambassadors. For more information visit Reef Friends

Photos of marine life at Pulau Hantu by Paul Tan, Paul Cheng & Debby Ng

Posted at 8:39AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Read more ...

Raffles Museum news