Snake on a plane? Also Water Management

The day’s agenda for the intrepid Duke Urban Ecology class was separated into 2 parts: a morning briefing on water management in Singapore and an evening snake hunt (hunt as in “search for”, not “kill”, of course).

For the morning’s activity, our scrappy little class journeyed to Singapore’s WaterHub, the headquarters of the Public Utilities Board (Singapore’s National Water Agency). There we were greeted by two extremely nice women who gave us the rundown on water management, runoff capture solutions, and various restoration/conservation projects in Singapore.

The coolest thing about the talk? The Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park project. I’ve included a before-and-after pic below– basically the PUB and several other organizations collaborated to transform a large, straight cement canal into a beautiful, winding river full of lush greenery in the middle of the city. The project took 27 months from start to finish, and cost roughly $76 million; a small price to pay for the most impressive restoration project I’ve ever seen in person (not that I’m a restoration expert, but hey).

Photo Source:

We were also told some fascinating stuff about the innovation and water-cleansing techniques employed not only by the Bishan park but also by several other parks and restored wetlands around Singapore. For example, the cleansing biotope idea consists of specific types of plants in a certain soil medium (often different for different environments) filtering water naturally by removing nutrients and maintaining high water quality without the use of pesky chemicals. The plants in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park were actually selected extremely carefully to be able to work well as biofilters for the area, and to withstand and even mitigate the relatively frequent flooding.

Also, the Bishan project even recycled the cement pieces from the old canal into bedrock and streambed materials for the new river– reuse and recycle, y’all.

As for the evening’s activities, which admittedly were why I chose today to be the BlogMaster, we went SNAKE (aka SNEK) hunting! As the resident snake nerd of the class, it was my duty to get everyone hype about this trip.

Snakes having somewhat of an image problem, this was not an easy task.

We travelled to Pasir Ris park in the northeastern section of the country to start our hunt, and we were not disappointed! Although according to Dr. Dan his past classes have seen as many as 28 individual snakes on this hunt before (whatever), we managed to see almost 10 individuals, the most notable of which was a 6-7 foot reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus).

Beautiful!! Photo by Tom Schultz.

Picture included below for your enjoyment (Photo cred: Tom Schultz aka Mom). This big girl (or guy) was straight up chillin’ in the streambed and practically posed for us!

The other snakes were mostly Dog-Faced Water Snakes aka Schneider’s Bockadam (Cerberus schneiderii), but one was an unidentified individual that was most likely a Gerard’s Water Snake (Gerarda prevostiana) or other similar water snake species. Pictures of these snakes (stock photos taken from the internet this time– it was hard to get good photos of smaller snakes in the dark) are below!

Dog-Faced Water Snake Photo Source:
Gerard’s Water Snake Photo Source:

Some other species we saw included giant mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri), Rodong snails (Teliscopium teliscopium), lots of crabs that I think were either Mud Crab spp. or Tree-Climbing Crabs (Episesarma singaporense), Golden Orb Weaver spiders (Nephila antipodiana), and bats (species unknown)! We also saw and heard frogs and toads throughout the night, and our very own lovely Eudora got a great picture of one below!

Lovely frog just left of center (next to some unfortunate trash, a sadly common sight in Singapore). Photo cred: Eudora Miao

Dr. Dan also revealed himself to be a gecko-whisperer, as one jumped casually onto this shirt and rode around for a while– it also spent some time on his face, although alas we didn’t manage to snap a picture of that in time.

Gecko chillin’ on Dan’s shirt (Photo cred: Eudora Miao)

All in all, it was a great day again here in the city of the MerLion, although objectively the snakes were the best part.

As the saying goes, “If a snake steals from you… at least it’s not armed robbery.” (Bad Joke Credit: Trevyn Toone, 2017. Reproduced with permission). T-minus one week until we’re back state-side! Until then 🙂