Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last Look: Terumbu Bayan

Graphic Courtesy of WildSingapore

Over 3 days in March, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity carried out salvage operations on Terumbu Bayan reef - the site designated for reclamation that will bridge Bukom and Busing islands, just meters away from Hantu. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to assist them on one of their trips, stealing a glimpse for the last time, a magnificent reef with corals hundreds of years old, decimated in mere seconds. The above is an image of a cowrie with its batch of eggs. As the entire site is scheduled to be reclaimed in 2 weeks, it is unlikely this brood will live to explore our local reefs.

Some believe that fish can escape reefs due for destruction, but it is unlikely that animals such as these cardinal fish will migrate to another reef. The quantity of sedimentation dumped instantaneously is of a phenomenal amount and speed. Further, it is understood that fish go into reefs for protection from uncertain circumstance, increasing the odds that they will be buried alive.

Other cool but inconspicuous creatures such as this topshell have algae grown all over its back, making it difficult to spot if you aren't quite looking for it. These gorgeous gastropods have long been exploited for their beautiful shells that are used primarily in button making. Go through your wardrobe, and its not unlikely that you might just have a shirt with topshell buttons. Efforts are underway in countries such as Indonesia, to farm these animals so as to lighten the burden on wild populations. However, a burden as large as land reclamation would require other means to counter.

A tiny Oreo-cookie nudibranch, tightly constricted, perches in the crevice of a coral for safety from 3-4 knot currents.

Another beautiful gastropod. What remarkable designs they have!

A little sea slug races through the currents!

Jani also managed to salvage a Tigertail seahorse from the reef flat. If there's one, there's likely to be more! Being the slowest fish in the sea (officially!) seahorses are probably at great risk of perishing due to environmental changes that may be eluded by migration.

A tiny whip shrimp still holding on tightly to its gorgogian.

One of my favourite animals on any reef, here's a juvenile winged-pipefish, also spotted by the keen eyed Jani! What a beautiful creature this is! We've also spotted winged-pipefish on Hantu's reef.

A beautiful sea slug clings on precariously to its stem of a hydriod as it is swept by challenging currents. It may be a small animal, but its got a strong will to survive!

There were TONS of large coral colonies as large if not bigger than I was! It was awesome being in their presence. You truly feel as if you're in another realm of infinate powers, where you are the visitor and but a minion amidst these ancient and beautiful giants...

From giants to the tiniest, this reef had it all. It seemed as if it was a really good site for setting up a nesting area as here's a brood of False clown anemonefish...

Look at the tiny fish with their eyes already formed! Aren't they beautiful! It was so exciting looking at them, but at the same time it was disheartening as it was with knowledge that the brood together with the reef was going to be buried.

How did I know they were Flase clown anemonefish? Well, here's mom and dad! Mom is the one that is closer to my camera. There were only 2 fish in this anemone. Sometimes a single anemone can house up to tens of fishes. Mom was fiercely defending her brood and I got away with several bites and attacks! I felt a little sorry for her because it would take more than her charged offenses to save herself and her brood from the challenges that are due.

Here's a pretty little flatworm...

And a beautiful, chocolate-coloured nudibranch!

Having had the chance to explore this reef before it disappears was truly a lifetime privilege for me. Being able to take these photographs and being able to share them on this blog means at least that the knowledge of their existence was not lost. That we knew of what existed and therefore, what was lost. We also now know more about what we have and how precious and vulnerable they are, and are reminded of how fast we have to continuously work to keep up with events that change the scape and history of underwater Singapore. Even if it's just a tale for you and me to tell, at least these animals, the reef, and a piece of Singaporean heritage, can live on.