Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The World Bank at a Crossroads

The Stratfor 21 Sep 06


"Wolfensohn created departments that were staffed by career activists to work closely with NGOs on questions about the social and environmental implications of the Bank's lending. Activists were invited to participate in hearings, and their concerns began to be taken into consideration.

Once Wolfensohn's reforms took effect, government ministers seeking loans from the Bank were surprised by the details they were asked to provide about environmental and social implications of the project at issue.

These ministers learned the game: They had to work with credible NGOs on the ground and to win their support in order for the project to go forward quickly and easily. Without the consent of local, credible NGOs, the project would be subject to numerous reviews at the World Bank.

And though such reviews did not necessarily mean withdrawal of the Bank's funding, they could be expensive, time- consuming and, often, require changes to the project to address the same concerns NGOs would have raised."

Read the extracts and full article about the influence of activists
on the World Bank and how the World Bank responded.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Environment and progress can coexist

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop International Herald Tribune 19 Sep 06
full article

Development is not always a one-way process of environmental destruction. The island of Semakau, south of Singapore, is a garbage dump with a difference: an eco- friendly haven in a city state that for decades sacrificed natural habitat to economic growth and urbanization.

Singapore created Semakau as an offshore landfill in 1999, enclosing two smaller islands inside a 7- kilometer, or 4-mile, artificial reef lined with an impermeable membrane and a layer of marine clay. The lagoon so formed is divided into several small ponds where tons of incinerated rubbish are dumped each day.

When it was first created, ecologists protested the destruction of mangroves and coral reefs that fringed the original islands. But the corals and mangroves came back, together with seagrass, fish and bird life, including great- billed herons and Pacific reef egrets.

"The fact is that most animals and plants are surprisingly resilient, especially the fishes. We notice it in Semakau. The reef is coming back. Nature is reclaiming itself," said Peter Ng, a professor of biology at the National University of Singapore.

Paying homage to Semakau's reincarnation as a sanctuary of biodiversity, the government gave its backing last year for the island to become a center for recreational nature studies and biodiversity research.

In another sign of ecological awareness, the government has deferred at least until 2012 a plan to transform Chek Jawa, a richly biodiverse intertidal foreshore area on another island, Pulau Ubin, into a golf course.

"Things have really changed compared with 20 years ago," Ng said. "Back then WWF would have been perceived as a subversive group. The government is trying."

Monday, September 18, 2006

BWV ReefTalk

Date: 30th Sept 2006 (Sat)
Time: 3 to 4pm
Venue: The Programme Zone, library@Orchard

Title: Shooting his Passion
Speakers: Dr Chua Ee Kiam
Dr Chua is a Senior Consultant with the National Dental Centre and Clinical Associate Professor with NUH. His work consumes him but he still finds time to excel in his favourite past-time – nature photography where he finds meaning in sharing with others what he sees. He has always been concerned about the constant degradation and devastation of the rainforests and coral reefs in the region. He would like to share his vision of a better tomorrow by highlighting the beauty of the natural heritage.

ReefExhibits will be there with their info booth & poster display of our amazing local marine life so come by early to check it out! Free seating and standing space available. Enquiries are welcomed, drop an email at reeftalk@bluewatervolunteers.org.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Most corals unable to adapt to warming oceans

Roxanne Khamsi New Scientist 13 Sep 06
full article

Three-quarters of the world's coral reefs may lack the ability to cope with climate change, despite previous optimistic predictions, according to a new review of coral research.

Earlier studies had demonstrated that some corals are able adapt to warmer water temperatures by forming new, additional symbiotic relationships with algae.

But a new analysis of more than 400 coral species suggests that only one-quarter of them would be able to adapt in this way.

These latest findings add to already bleak predictions for the world's coral reefs, which are also threatened by coastal pollution and acidifying oceans. Stressors such as these cause coral to lose the algae that keep it alive by supplying it with nutrients.

Even a 1 degree rise in temperature can cause the death of this fragile animal. Some experts have predicted that Australia's Great Barrier Reef will lose 95% of its living coral by 2050.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jeffrey goes Leisure again!

Jeff's images from the Sept 10th dive are up! Swing into his flicker account to see images of Singapore's largest goby, and its smaller counterparts!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blog Log Sept 10, 2006

The weather wasn't totally compliant today, but we managed to beat it with a little bit of patience, hope and sheer determination! Rains crept into our cabin at noon time during our surface interval, loaded with blots of lighting and windswept rain. We decided to set a deadline for ourselves and if the rain hadn't stopped by then, we'd head for shore. Our deadline came, and the rain didn't stop, but we decided we'd go in anyway. The storm had however, reduced to a drizzle. Regardless, the rains, winds, and overcast sky meant that the visibility was significantly reduced, from 4m during the 1st dive to about 2m in the afternoon. With well-seasoned and experienced guides however, we managed to make 2 fun-filled and educational dives for ourselves and our guests! Here's a look:

Slugs. Plenty of them, and worms as well. From top: Flabellina, Phyllidia sp., another Phyllidia species, and Pseudoceros sp., a species of flatworm.

Corals. Fortunately we still have many beautiful species of coral in Hantu. Some of them form very large colonies! Sometimes though, it's nice to look at the tiny recruits that are taking growth on the reef!Fungia sp.
A little recruit
A Pectinia sp. recruit. It's common name is Carnation Coral.
An Acropora coral shelters a tiny Trapezia crab. Can you spot it?
An interesting form develops on the plate of the Pachyseris coral, or Serpent Coral.

What was possibly a Porities coral turns white as it loses its Zooxanthellae, a process called bleaching.

And Fish. Of course, lots of fish!This is a relatively large cardinalfish known commonly as the Split-banded cardinalfish Apogon sp.
This is it's smaller counterpart, the Five-lined cardinalfish Cheliodipterus sp. Cardinalfishes usually appear stoic as they hover over corals or within coral crevices.
The nortoriously territorial Honeyhead Damsel!
The only way I managed this shot was because this damselfish was in fact charging at me! Doesn't it look pretty though?
The fat tail of a Blue-spotted ray. Unfortunately most images of Blue spotted rays are of their tails or of their noses. That's because these rays are ever-so shy. Often disappering deeper into a crevice where they usually hide in the day, or sprinting off to another hiding place when its been discovered.

Finally, Jeffrey Low, who'd also joined us on today's dive managed to observe the newly recorded Janssi's pipefish aka Jani's pipefish, which was last photographed at Pulau Jong. He didn't manage to get any pictures though, so here's a picture Jani shot in Jong of the rare pipefish!Have you seen this pipefish at Hantu before? We'd like to know! Pls email us!

For an other than static perspective, here are some fishy videos. This is a small school of 4 Eight-lined butterflyfish. Does that equal to 32-lined butterflyfish?

Other creatures we saw included a swimmer crab and a pair of feather duster worms.

To wrap things up (no pun intended) during our swim back from the reef to the boat, we were passed by a variety of debris floating in the sea. We decided to collect them for a show of how varied "rubbish" can be and how abundant it is! In less 10 min, we had a toy hovercraft, 2 plastic lids, a noodle cup, a foil packet, a plastic packet, several bits of plastic, a plastic base of a SCUBA tank, a styrafoam bit, a slipper and a gunny-sack float us by! Incidentally, the day before was the International Coastal Cleanup at our mangroves! It doesn't matter how many times you clean the coast, each tide brings in new litter, from across several borders, and from our own land. There will be another cleanup on Sept 16. Visit the ICCS web for details.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blog Log Aug 27, 2006

Here at last is the much awaited Blog Log from Aug 27! Let this be an add on to Ivy's last post with great pictures and commentary. My pictures aren't as well crafted, but I hope it gives you a view of what our reefs are like!

For starters, we have the iconic Icon Seastar of Pulau Hantu. An echinoderm that can be found throughout the region, this little animal is a relatively common encounter in Hantu's reefs. Due to its unusual and attractive patterns and colours, this animal is known to be collected as a curio, possibly one of the reasons that has led to be listed as a 'Threatened Species'.

It's always good to see the possibilities of animals successfully reproducing. We can't be sure if the populations of animals in our local reefs are sustainable, but we sure hope so, or at least hope to learn more about how they are coping in a challenging environment of relentless development and human traffic. Here's a ribbon of nudibranch eggs.

Apart from the damage caused by divers and boaters, irresponsible fishermen can also impact our reefs. A shallow reef abound with corals isn't a good place to cast a fishing line. This is one of 2 fishing lines observed during today's dive; is obvious the line was overweighted. If you're unfamilar with your fishing environment, it's best you ask someone or try to do some research first.

This is another fishing line that was caught up in the reef. This one still had its hook attached. An unattended or stray fishing line can cause alot of damage to both corals and animals, if they get accidentally snagged with no one at the end of the line to assist the situation.

Moving away from the reality check.. Isn't this gorgeous! It's always thrilling to come across huge and healthy coral colonies, such as this colony of Echinopora.

The largest coral on the reef: While most corals comprise of colonies, the Mushroom Coral is one, single polyp! That makes it the largest coral on our reef! The last time we had someone do a count, Hantu's reef has at least 13 species of Mushroom Coral.. I didn't even know there were that many!

A young Turbinaria coral. I may be wrong but it seems to be showing signs of bleaching.

A tiger-stripped Crinoid flitters carelessly in the current, sifting out plankton with its feathery tentacles.

This is interesting: A Magnificent Anemone has kept all its tentacles, leaving only its "lips" exposed. That funnel-like appendage is actually this animals' mouth. You can often find crabs and anemone fish residing within this anemone.

After the dive, I bought cookies for everyone and marvelled at Chay Hoons (front) enthusiasim at logging her dive... That's Reef Xplore! Guide Hui Bin giving us the victory-sign at the back there.

Look at her AMAZING log book! Such adorable and beautiful sketches of our local sea animals!

Here's a closer look! I wish I had such talent!

We also managed to shoot a video of these frisky Brownback travellies. They actually are common around our reefs but tend to play around the surface of the water or along the reef flat and crest. Divers tend to miss them because they are more focussed on discovering macro life on the reef slope! Sometimes it pays to look up at the surface. These curious fish hung around the divers for about 20 mins, and the encounter only ended because we had to surface! Sorry the video isn't fantastic! It's difficult to get a good shot of them when they come charging at you and execute such acute manoeuvres!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pulau Hantu 27 Aug 06

Last week I did my first trip with Hantublog as a volunteer. The skies were grey and drizzling in the morning but started to clear up on our way to the island.

On our first dive, the visibility was quite good, about 2-3m vis at 12m depth, and maybe around 4-5m vis at 5m depth.. cool right> ;p We didnt see that much of nudibranches except for two cuuuttee litte fellas

We did come across a little pipefish but it was too far into the corals to take any pics.. nevertheless we are still glad to see one :)

The coral growth seems to be quite good and Chay Hoon and I took great care as we manouveur near the reefs.

We came across fishing lines entangled among the corals and cut off one before we realised it really is someone still fishing ;p but oh well, the line is already entangled and the owner probaby only end up breaking some coral edges and still lose the line so might as well not end up breaking any coral ^_^

On the second dive, we decided to dive at the cigar reef and paid a visit to the resident huge anemone shrimp.

As we move on, we came across another pipefish again, and this time we got it on picture ;)

All in all, it was a good trip especially seeing that we have some corals growinbg well and strong. And that makes my day ;)

Friday, September 01, 2006


1 Sep (Fri) "The Surprises of Marine Life in Singapore and the threat of Marine Trash" a talk by N. Sivasothi

A lunch time talk conducted in conjunction with NUS' participation at the 15th International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) on Saturday 9th September 2006. By N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman Coordinator, International Coastal Cleanup Singapore; Research Officer/Instructor, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS

The Singapore coastline is still survived by interesting patches of coastal and marine ecosystems, which are home to otters, dugongs, sea stars, octopus, dolphins, hundreds of species of fish, sea snakes, turtles and even crocodiles! Creatures new to science are still being discovered today.

Marine life faces several challenges - development, marine trash, poaching and environmehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifntal accidents. In this focus on marine trash, plastic is a particular curse and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "Marine trash, mainly plastic, is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year".

How can we change this picture? Find out during the talk.

More about the talk on the RMBR news blog

Time: 12pm - 1pm
Venue: LT31, Science Drive 1, Faculty of Science, National
University of Singapore
1 Sep (Fri): "How do we measure success in conservation and how do
we follow migratory dragonflies?" Two unrelated by intriguing issues
in conservation biology

David S. Wilcove Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and
Public Affairs , Woodrow Wilson School Princeton University.

The first half of my talk focuses on the importance of developing
biologically sound measures to assess the effectiveness of
conservation actions. I present a new way to measure the
effectiveness of land acquisition in protecting endangered species,
and I apply it to a globally significant ecosystem in central
Florida. In the second half, I discuss a new study of migrating
dragonflies in southern New Jersey, USA. Although billions of
dragonflies migrate along the East Coast of the USA every fall,
virtually nothing is known about their migratory behavior. We
attached tiny transmitters to migrating dragonflies and followed the
insects over several days to learn more about this phenomenon.

More details on the seminar poster

Time: 4 pm
Venue: LT 20, Dept of Biological Sciences, National University of