Archive for July, 2010

Line of Death at Pulau Semakau (17/7/10)

Today, i have many photos of fishies, but unfortunately all in the same backdrop and predicament – struggling for their lives in a long driftnet that cut across all 3 of the site 2 transects.

When we approached the site, we noticed unnaturally frequent splashes of water (like when fish slap the water’s surface) and later as we were laying out the transect lines, we realised that the splashing sounds were from fish struggling in the drift net. After finishing up our monitoring, we got down to work to try and release as many fish as possible.

At first glance the evil tangling lines of the drift net are not immediately obvious, its no suprise that many marine creatures would accidentally stumble into one.

A trapped rabbitfish that along our transect

Jason cutting free the rabbitfish. This was one of the lucky ones.

When fishes struggle to get free, they tend to get even more caught up in the lines. This fish had gotten the lines wrapped tightly many times around the gills and even after we cut it loose it didnt move very much.

Fish that get entangled nearer to shore during high tides die from lack of oxygen when the tide goes out and they are left stranded aground.

Apart from fish, many crabs were also entangled in the net.

This individual seemed convinced that we were the trappers and was very defensive. Fortunately he was cut loose (with great caution).

Some were so badly entangled that we were unable to cut them loose for lack of time (the tides were coming in)

Mr Lim Cheng Puay freeing a Leatherjacket

A leatherjacket that made it..

.. and another fish that didn’t.

This parrotfish had its sharp teeth caught in the net, and as soon as it got loose it tried to snap at us. Fishes that get stuck in drift nets attract predators as they are unable to escape, and the predators themselves in turn get stuck in the net as well. The fishes that get eaten are the luckier ones, those that survive but are still stuck die slow deaths. Drifnets also uproot seagrasses, sponges and sometimes corals, damaging both the ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Jason cutting free a long fish..

..And a crab. He managed to save about more than ten lives with his trusty nail clipper.

Mr Lim and the team working to haul out the net. Because we had cut the net in half, it was likely that the fishermen who had cast the net would abandon it, so we had to ensure that as much of the net was removed as possible, or it could risk becoming a ghost net and continue being a permanent killer on the shore or out at sea. This meant that since the tide was coming in, we had to haul the net out as fast as possible, so we had to halt the rescues and remove the net, even if there were still living creatures stuck in it. Necessary sacrifices to prevent the net from killing further.

The nets we hauled out on the transect squares (how useful) and some of the unfortunate creatures that had to be sacrificed. The NEA staff were kind enought to assure us that they would take care (carefully dispose) of the net.

Other victims included a blue-spotted ray, a solefish, a spotted scat, tripodfish and many other crabs and fishes that i was unable to photograph (cutting them out and removing the net was of higher priority). It is unfortunate that the first time i get to see so many different kinds of fish (since they’re usually darting about really fast in the water) has to be because of a drift net.

I really don’t see why driftnetting is still legal. Ms Ria mentioned throwing up a research project to students on surveying the life caught in driftnets, which is a pretty good idea as we get to record fishes that are usually too hard to record cos they swim so fast, as well as collect comprehensive data on the species affected by drifnetting, and this may be able to contribute towards an appeal for the ban on drifnetting.

Horrors like these aren’t only seen in documentaries.

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Venus Drive (COLUGO!) 9/7/10

Wow havent posted in a really long while, wasn’t intending to after my As actually, but today i had an encounter that warrants a post! So this week was bio week, and Abel, Bern and I figured we’d end bioweek with a nice stroll in nature. Decided to go further than Macritchie this time, so we took a bus to Thompson and headed to Venus Drive, a first time for the two of em. whats an adventure without some uncertainty! So we entered the trail and sighted the Venus Drive stream, which iirc is the last natural stream left in Singapore and then we spend a good 20 minutes around the entrance, cos there were so many bugs and spiders A green jumping spider im honestly too lazy to ID 😛 Beady eyes! Some sort of strange fly Horrible photo of a stalk-eyed fly. Now these guys are interesting, the males after maturing, inhale a bubble of air which they pump through their head into their eyes, inflating their eyestalks. during mating season they compete with other males for mating success by comparing the distances between their eyes. The larger the stalks, the more impressive the male. In the case of a draw, they engage in a friendly fighting match where the winner gets to mate Further inside we reached the bridge where I would usually turn right towards Macritchie or the HSBC treetop walk, but today i decided to do something different  and go somewhere I hadn’t gone before (adventure!) and turning left into the Venus Loop. Abel in a natural green tunnel This stump was full of pink mushrooms. Super cute! What i believe is the Variable Sentinel (Orchithemis pulcherrima) A hunter among the leaf litter The most beautiful fly i have ever seen (thus far), its cryptic black and white markings remind me of a zebra, and its eyes are an awesome red and purple! (bio CTs anyone) A grasshopper and a cricket on the same leaf. Can you tell the difference? It was around here when Abel and Bern saw a huge bird that was, according to Abel, “black, and larger than a white-bellied sea eagle”, how mysterious indeed. A chequered lancer i believe Strange fungus, which was quickly ignored when.. Suddenly Abel let out a cry, and we looked at where he was pointing, but we didn’t see anything “No no look right here! its just in front of us!” And then i looked at the tree right in front of us and WHOA COLUGO! And it just sat there. so we spent a good 20 minutes staring at it in awe. Was much bigger than expected, about the length of my arm. The awe that one feels in the presence of a rare and i could say, characteristic megafauna is just undescribable, i can attempt to capture the moment with a camera but its nothing like seeing the real thing yourself up close and personal. It was right next to the path, but it was rather high up so i couldnt get a good shot of its face ): Or its back. Got it from the other side though!

Colugos are commonly known as Flying Lemurs. However, they glide instead of fly, and are not true lemurs.

Like this.

Or this.

And though this is probably what first comes to mind for most people when they hear “flying lemur”, no, not this guy either.

Colugos have membranes of skin that extend between their limbs and give them the ability to glide long distances between trees. They are very much adapted to arboreal life (life in the trees) and have difficulty surviving once stranded on the ground, so they should not in any circumstance be removed from their perches! Colugos are shy, nocturnal, and restricted to the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. They’re rather rare in Singapore, and are usually only encountered in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and BTNR!

Then we walked another less than a hundred meters and found ourselves in the backyard of the landed houses nearby. It was like “HEY DOODS THERES A COLUGO IN YOUR BACKYARD” but we didnt actually say it cos we have a few drops of sanity and sensibility left. Wow. what an eventful way to end bioweek. not gonna forget this for sometime. In some ways, I think this has changed me. a little. Yeah. It just made me love nature even more (is that possible!?) Seriously not gonna post anymore after this till after As, lots of stuff happened between the last time I posted and this post that I have yet to show, but if you have me on facebook its all in my albums! Till the after the As, or at least after maybe I encounter something as cool as a COLUGO.