coast of Pulau Ubin harbours a unique ecosystem no longer found
elsewhere in Singapore. Tanjong Chek Jawa used to be home to a Malay
kampong until the inhabitants vacated it earlier this year. This
is a rich, fertile area, the result of synergy between many coexisting
Along the coast of Chek Jawa lies an expanse of mud and sand flats
with a mangrove forest on the landward side. These sand and mud
flats are home to a variety of fauna and flora, providing for a
high biodiversity habitat.
This area has at least five species of seagrasses, including two
Enhalus species, the type of grass that the Sea Cow or Dugong
(Dugong dugong) feeds on. All seagrasses are listed as "Rare"
or "Endangered" in the Singapore Red Data Book. Extensive seagrass
beds are an extremely rare sight in Singapore and in other areas.
The sandflats at Chek Jawa are possibly the last of their kind anywhere
in Singapore, which speaks volumes for their conservation value.
Due to the nature of the substrate, burrowing animals abound such
as tube worms and nemerteans (a burrowing worm). Horseshoe crabs
(F. Merostomata), an ancient form of animal that can rightly be
called a living fossil, creep along the bottom. Mantis shrimps can
be found stalking prey. Other marine organisms include tunicates
or sea squirts, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, nudibranchs and anemones.
The mangroves at Chek Jawa feature a magnificent stand of bakau
(Rhizophora species), a patch of nipah or attap palms (Nipah
fruticans), and a back mangrove that includes a number of majestic
dungun trees (Heritiera littoralis). Mangrove species such
as api-api puteh (Avicennia alba) will no doubt re-colonise
the future reclaimed land, but mature mangroves such as those found
at Chek Jawa will neither regenerate rapidly nor lend themselves
to simple restoration.
Highlights of this wonderful flora include the seashore nutmeg (Knema
globularia) so rare that it was once thought to have gone extinct
locally; a coastal relative of the mangosteen (Garcinia hombroniana),
listed as locally 'Endangered" in the Singapore Red Data Book; the
sea olive (Olea brachiata), listed as "Vulnerable"; the coastal
shrub Memecylon edule ("Rare"), and a good number of other
Chek Jawa is slated for reclamation at the end of this year. Another
part of Singapore's natural heritage will disappear forever as will
any research potential to benefit our emerging biomedical and life
sciences industry. Horseshoe crabs have been the subject of medical
research that has been conducted for more than 10 years. Sponges,
one of the familiar marine organisms at Chek Jawa, have the potential
to provide derivatives that would offer medical benefits.
Gone too will be the chance for Singaporeans to experience a recreational
nature area that they might not be able to see elsewhere. Sand and
mud flats of this type are no longer found in other parts of Singapore.
The loss of this valuable ecosystem outweighs the gains from expensive
land reclamation. Like Labrador Park, Chek Jawa can also be considered
an extended classroom offering a different experience for students
as well as a chance to observe a part of Singapore rarely glimpsed.
It is an unusual species of
sea urchin with a starfish marking on its upper side.
It has a large amount of tiny spines and tube feet.
They are found mainly in the more sandy parts of mudflats.
Belonging to the bean family, this plant is known in Malay
as Ipil. It is a rare, native tree found by coasts and riverbanks.
Its flowers have one white
petal which turns pink
and then to purple.
The males have blue marking
on their shells and pincers.
They are also known as swimming crabs as their last
pair of legs are like paddles.
When the tide comes in, anemones on beds of seagrass unfurl to trap
It is not exactly a crab, but something more ancient.
It used to be very common on the beaches of Singapore.
They are found in abundance along Chek Jawa's sandy shoreline. The
male has an enlarged claw which he uses
to attract the female or
to fend off rival males.
This is just one of the many kinds of sea slug, which
include the sea hare,
to be found at Chek Jawa.