Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pacific Reef Egret Snared in Fishing Line

I went for a walk at Changi Point with my family this morning, and while walking along the boardwalk, we came across a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) sitting on a rock below the boardwalk. This egret can come in black or white morphs, and the one we saw was in the black morph having a charcoal-grey plumage.

Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)
We were on the boardwalk like about 2 metres away from it, but it did not even move a bit. I was rather surprised, as most wild birds would stay away from humans. Was something wrong with it? I suspected that its legs were probably caught in fishing lines or something, but there's nothing we could do to verify that without scaring the bird. We decided to leave it as it was and walked on.

Malay Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator)
Along the way, I saw a few Malay Water Monitors (Varanus salvator). These monitor lizards are rather common in Singapore, and are known to scavenge for dead animals, or hunt for fish and other smaller animals. This got me a little worried for the egret.

Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)
When we were heading back, we walked passed the egret again. This time, it was up and hunting around the rocky area! I saw it caught a few Sea Slaters (Ligia sp.). Previously, I have only seen Pacific Reef Egrets hunting for fish! It was just moving over the rocks, and would suddenly extend its neck in a split second and pick up the prey with its long beak.

Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)
And while it was moving around, I could see the legs and my worries were confirmed - its legs were indeed entangled in a fishing line! It appeared that one of its claws were already broken by the fishing line. Both legs were entangled together, and hence the egret had difficulty walking - it was sort of half hopping and flying around. I guess that's probably why it was just resting on the rock earlier.

Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)
I wonder how much longer this poor creature could survive... It appeared that it's still able to find food rather effectively, since it caught quite a few Sea Slaters in just a few seconds. But will it be able to escape from predators like monitor lizards or even stray cats?

Every time I see incidents like this, I couldn't help but feel both sad and angry. How I hope that the anglers will be more responsible and look where they throw their lines, and retrieve lines that were caught in the vegetation or rocks. A discarded fishing line may appear simple and harmless to human, but it is a potential killing machine to birds, crabs and many other wild animals.

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