Monday, January 22, 2007

After the Chek Jawa Massacre

Published a blog entry in the wildfilms blog earlier on our visit to Chek Jawa yesterday.

Some how, everything just felt so unreal. Last month, I just brought a group of visitors there. We saw a few dead things here and there, but most of the wildlife still looked ok.

But yesterday, the place looked like it was hit by some apocalyptic event.

And to think that the day before yesterday, I just had one of the best Semakau trip so far.

According to the Ubin villagers, they had experienced something similar before, and Chek Jawa managed to recover.

But how long will it take for nature to recover this time round, I wonder.

I can't help but feel worried. The board walk is about to be ready, and so is the visitor information centre. What if some stooopid visitor come and say, "Hey, there's nothing here at Chek Jawa! Why are we spending so much money on it?" And the same stooopid visitor will write to the papers and feedback unit, asking them to reclaim the area to build some high class rustic bungalows for the ultra rich.

Will Chek Jawa recover in time to deal with all these?

Really, we have very little natural heritage left.

Chek Jawa is one of the few places left in Singapore which is accessible by the public and yet so rich in terms of biodiversity.

Sometimes, I really envy the Japanese and Westerners, where nature appreciation is worked into their education curriculum. And they were smart to do that too, as a person who cares about nature will normally be a socially responsible person too. And a person who loves the nature places in his country will probably stay to protect these places, and thus also contribute to the economy with his full-time job.

Frankly speaking, job opportunities, shopping districts, food, security etc are things that you can duplicate in other countries. Not to forget that you will be called a "foreign talent" when you are there, whether you are really a talent or not.

Nature, on the other hand, can't really be duplicated. Every place has it's own ecosystem, it's own climate etc. Even in Singapore, the things you see in the northen islands are different from what you will see on the southern shores.

Doesn't that make nature appreciation very useful for national education, when nature lovers will love Singapore's nature places, and hence strengthen their love for the country?

Really, I appreciate the authorities' effort to preserve Chek Jawa, and I'm thankful that Labrador has been made a nature reserve. But I really do hope that all the relevant authorities can see that nature conservation has a far wider positive influence on our people than many would have thought.

Here's what I posted on the blog earlier...


I could smell it in the air…

After reading Adelle’s blog entry, I had already prepared myself for the worst. But stepping into Chek Jawa itself and seeing everything with my own eyes, I realised that no nature-lover would every be adequately prepare to witness this.

How many of you reading this have been to Chek Jawa? How many of you can remember the graceful carpet anemones dancing among the seagrasses? The cute little ball sea cucumbers that burrow into the sand? The common seastars that move around with their little tube feet? The colourful sponges that decorate the coral rubble? The salty smell of the sea as you stepped onto the sand bar?

But yesterday, I could only smell death.

The bits and pieces of white-coloured stuff you see above were not tissue paper left by some irresponsible visitors. Yes indeed, they were tissues, but animal tissues. I felt like I was stepping into a graveyard, except that the dead were not buried…

Chay Hoon said it reminded her of the tsunami, where hundreds and thousands of corpses were left to rot.

Indeed, death was in the air, in every breath we took. For the remaining photos below, you may click on each of them to see how the animals may have looked like when they were alive and healthy.

We used to have to dig out these burrowing ball sea cucumbers. But yesterday, they were every where, but lifeless. Frankly, I would rather that they were alive and burrowing. I wouldn’t mind taking time digging them out. Really, I wouldn’t mind…

There used to be thousands of carpet anemones among the seagrasses. Occasionally, you would see swimming crabs darting among the seagrasses, flashing their claws every now and then, and sometimes, a few unlucky ones got to close to the carpet anemones and became the latter’s meal.

Yesterday, I didn’t see any swimming crabs. I did see many carpet anemones, or rather, what’s left of the anemones. There were several lucky ones that looked like they were really unhealthy. The rest were dead, rotting, and torn into pieces, somewhat like the one below.

Previously, it was difficult to find even one sandfish sea cucumber as they burrow. But yesterday, we were spoilt for choice - except that they were all dead and colourless.

These sea cucumbers were supposed to be edible if properly prepared. During the Chinese New Year period, which is now, the prices can be obscenely high. I was never too fond of sea cucumbers. Or rather, I mean I love sea cucumbers when they are alive and in their natural habitat, but not as part of my diet, though I do understand there are others who love sea cucumbers in other ways. The decaying smell of the rotting sea cucumbers was still lingering in my nose as I was typing this. I don’t think I’ll be having any sea cucumber this Chinese New Year.

Has anybody seen SpongeBob SquarePants? This could probably be how he would look like when he is dead.

And SpongeBob’s friend, Patrick, the seastar did not fare any better.

That was a dead knobbly seastar.

The coral rubble area used to be full of colourful sponges, and every now and then, you will be able to find a few red, orange or beige knobbly seastars. But yesterday, everything was black.

When I touched one of the dead sponges with my metal chopsticks, it disintegrated into black powder. It was like watching some horror movie, where the victims or monsters were reduced to dust.

By the way, have you eaten abalone before? In the market, they sometimes sell a cheaper alternative – volutes.

The above is a noble volute served in its shell, soup included. I saw another dead noble volute with a clam stuck to its foot. From what we understand, noble volutes feed on clams. It was depressing to see so many dead volutes, but at least I think this one didn’t die with an empty stomach. Or perhaps both the volute and the clam died before the former finished its meal? I guess that would remain a mystery that we can never solve.

Looking at all these carcasses every where, saying that I'm depressed is certainly an understatement. Those who have visited Chek Jawa, especially the guides, will probably understand how I feel now. If you have not visited Chek Jawa before, please visit Ria's Online Guide to Chek Jawa.

What causes this massive killing? It is the rain?

We do know that most marine creatures can’t survive in fresh water, and the drastic rainfall over the past few weeks had certainly flooded Chek Jawa with lots of freshwater. And the Johor River was made an unwilling accomplice by bringing more flood waters into the Johor Straits.

But like what they asked in the movie “One Last Dance”, who is the real murderer? The one who fired the shots, or the one who wrote down the names?

Or perhaps the rain is the bullet, but there must be someone who pulled the trigger.

And I think we all know who is, or rather, who are behind all these crazy weather patterns.

What comes around, goes around.

Perhaps it is really time to think about how we have been mistreating mother earth, and how we can salvage the situation, before it’s really pay back time…

1 comment:

juanicths said...

oh dear.... do hope that CJ can recover soon enough.. though this can be yet another message/story to tell visitors on the walks.