Urban Tropical Ecology in Singapore

A day and a night in the mangroves of Singapore
by -- February 26th, 2016

Sungei Buloh: a mangrove wetland on the north side of the country looking across the Straights of Johor to Johor, Malaysia. There is a nice visitor center with a paved nature walk through the mangroves. We saw a large number of monitor lizards (including some large monitor lizards), red-eared slider turtles, geckos, tilapia, cichlids, apple snails, snakehead fish, storks, egrets, kingfishers, red jungle foul, and a crocodile! Don’t worry, all 15 Duke students returned with all 10 fingers and toes…..wait a minute, didn’t we have 16 students? Just kidding! There was an interesting contrast walking through a lush mangrove and emerging to see a major city (Johor) across the straight in Malaysia. I was fortunate to capture a shot of a crocodile feeding on fish in the river before it disappeared upstream.

Bolywood Veggies: We then took our charter bus to have lunch at Bolywood Veggies, a beautiful vegetable and flower farm with a wonderful restaurant. “Poison” Ivy Singh (owner) graciously gave us a personal tour of the property and was an entertaining and eclectic hostess. We had a fantastic lunch consisting largely of fresh vegetables grown on the property and were told that everything on the plate was edible, including the hibiscus flower which I actually enjoyed. I’ve been enjoying the noodle and rice dishes in the food courts so much that a lunch with fresh veggies was a welcome addition. After lunch, we walked around the corner to a newly renovated wetland area (Krangi Marshes), unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to hike it’s trails.

Qain Hu Fish Farm: The students (and me!) were all interested in visiting a fish farm on this (north) side of the island so we caught a small shuttle which we over-filled with our group. We were unaware the shuttle made multiple stops including a 10 minute stop at a frog farm! We walked among pens with literally hundreds of huge American bullfrogs selling for $8-12 apiece. We then headed for the fish farm. The farm breeds and raises aquaria fish (not food fish) and had a huge selection. We wanted to see the fish bred with Chinese characters on their sides, we wanted to know how they bred fish with such specific markings. We learned that they are no longer selling these fish and that the fish were not actually bred but tattooed. This fish farm specializes in Arowana fish which can sell for over $25,000 per fish! We saw several specimens priced at over $1,000, including one for $4,800, in their aquaria. We then headed back to the hotel for a quick break, a quick bite to eat before going snake hunting at Pasir Ris.

Pasir Ris: this mangrove forest is located on the east side of the island, we went from one side of the country to the other today! We arrived around 9pm and used dive lights to walk the mangroves in search of snakes. We searched for approximately and had no luck seeing snakes, only a few tadpoles, one toad, and a furry form of snake food! When we were about the give up, they decided to come out! Before the night was over, we saw 8 snakes from 5 different species, including a spectacular find by Scott of a mangrove viper curled up in mangrove leaves. Dan had only seen this species once before. The students were quite excited (fueled be Dan of course) about finding a ‘snorgy,’ a group of mating African land snails consisting of 3 different species….kinky! It was interesting biology that a mating group consisting of a single species attracted 2 additional species that we didn’t observe outside the ‘snorgy,’ indicating there may be a cross-species pheromone involved. This was a long day (over 15 hrs) and we were ready to head back to the hotel for a well-deserved nights sleep, for some of the students, the nights sleep began on the MRT.

Class at Sungei Buloh

Class at Sungei Buloh.

 

Dan and Emily find something interesting (probably a bug).

Dan and Emily find something interesting (probably a bug).

 

Madison gets excited (and a little too close) about a monitor lizard, watch that that tail!

Madison gets excited  about (and a little too close to)  a monitor lizard, watch that that tail!

 

Aurora and Victoria pose with Johor Malaysia in the background.

Aurora and Victoria pose with Johor Malaysia in the background.

 

Cat and Alex are having a nice stroll through Sungei Buloh.

Cat and Alex are having a nice stroll through Sungei Buloh.

 

Crocodile eats a fish in the river at Sungei Buloh.

Crocodile eats a fish in the river at Sungei Buloh.

 

Angie finds a friend at Sungei Buloh.

Angie finds a friend at Sungei Buloh.

 

Mangrove viper at Pasir Ris.

Mangrove viper at Pasir Ris.

3 Comments

  1. Suzanne
    Feb 26, 2016

    Great to see that the class is so enjoyable! Do note that stepping off the trail/boardwalk (ie. the picture of Madison) is very poor trail etiquette especially in nature reserves and you shouldn’t be harassing wildlife without a permit.

    • Tom Schultz
      Feb 27, 2016

      We’ve had a talk with the students about trail etiquette and will work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  2. Katie
    Feb 26, 2016

    I would like to request pictures of birds, please!

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