Saturday, February 17, 2007

Back to Chek Jawa

It’s been about a month since we had the massive dying at Chek Jawa, and I had been thinking about going back to see if things have improved. So when I checked the CJ calendar last week and learnt that we were having a walk yesterday, I immediately applied for leave and drop Adelle an email to let her know that I was available to guide.

When I reached Ubin, saw Ah Hock near the visitor centre, and he greeted me, shouting something like we have a lot of guides today. And indeed, when I reached the volunteers’ hub, there were 6 of us today! And there was only one group of visitor!!!

This means that most of us could do hunting and seeking! I was quite excited about being able to walk around on our own to check if things have improved. Was really worried if some of the animals could go extinct after this catastrophe.

Chay Hoon immediately challenged me that I won’t be able to resist the urge to guide, which I confidently told her that this time round, I would be able to resist it… Or… can I?

When we reached CJ, it appeared that much of the new board walk was already completed, thus blocking our usual route. We had to do a bit of bending and squeezing to get to the sandflats.

Some how, it seemed like the arthropods weren’t much affected by the fresh water.

The fiddler crabs were still running around everywhere around the mangrove trees.

We saw a number of swimming crabs, many unidentified little crabs and a quite few hermit crabs.

But the sea grass lagoon gave us a shock.

Looking at the picture above, one may ask, “What sea grass lagoon? That’s obviously a sandflat!”

But those of us who had visited CJ before will know that this used to be a sea grass lagoon, with lots of carpet anemones and swimming crabs. Previously, we will never associate the below statement with a carpet anemone.

Carpet anemone

They were like landmines in the sea grass lagoon, here there everywhere! But yesterday, we actually had to mark it with a stick. But still, while it looked a bit off colour, it seemed like it was coping alright with the situation now. Walking around the sea grass lagoon and the coral rubble, we found several other carpet anemones. Seems like things were certainly improving, and I hope they would recover soon, and maybe in a few months time, I would have to tread carefully to avoid the “landmines” in the sea grass lagoon again.

We did not manage to find any common sea stars and sea cucumbers, but it seemed their fellow echinoderm cousin, the sand dollars, were coping very well with the situation, and I found a number of them.

Sand dollars

We also saw lots of little longish translucent jelly-like tthings which looked like some egg capsules.

Perhaps this is another sign of recovery at CJ?

We also managed to find several fishes, including a number of juvenile catfish, a diamond wrasse and a pipefish.

Was hoping to find a knobbly seastar actually, but couldn’t find one even though I went quite far out. I saw a dead one last month, and was really hoping to find a live one – at least I’ll know that they were not wiped out. Marine biologist had not been seeing juvenile knobbly seastars in our waters these days, which may mean that there was little success in reproduction among the local population. Thus, I was really worried that the fresh water might have killed most of the knobbly seastars around our northen islands, and with the low reproduction rate, the population may eventually be extinct. Really really hope that I’m really just worrying too much here, and there is still a healthy population of knobbly seastars in our northen waters.

Adelle commented that we would be lucky enough if we could even find a rock star. I decided to start look under the rocks, and surprisingly, on the second rock I turned over, there it was!

Rock star, Asterina coronata

What a stroke of luck! It would be such a shame if the visitors were to leave without seeing a seastar!

And apparently, Chay Hoon was right after when she said I won’t be able to resist the urge to guide :P

After finding the rock star, I guess I just got so excited that I forgot what I’ve told the others earlier, and started sharing what I know about the rock star with some of the visitors (where some other visitors were running around as half of them are small kids and both parents and guides had some trouble trying to control them).

In any case, we could see some signs of recovery at CJ. It will probably take years for most of the things to come back. In the meantime, I hope that we will not experience another record-breaking monsoon in the next few years.

Read also: Chay Hoon's account of the walk at her colourful clouds blog!

1 comment:

snailrider said...

Hey pretty cool. I wouldn't even need a fishtank if I had a seagrass lagoon close by.

I was just searching for what carpet anemones look like, pretty cool seing them in the wild too.