Saturday, April 19, 2008

Removing Snaring Nets and Mind Traps

Pulau Hantu, 19 April 2008

Evening descended upon us fast, and as the ferry cast off from its berth, the sky painted the hues of a finished day behind Pulau Hantu.

I was quite 'finished' too for the day; exhausted by the weight of the abandoned net I have come to remove at the central lagoon. But my son's presence make up for any hardship I might have felt. I felt really happy he was by my side and learning by my own example what it would take to care for our natural world. He rewarded me with this magnificent shot above. I must say he has an edge - 'the eye' - to capture it the way he did. A spirit-catcher he would be, I thought, smiling to myself when he showed it off to me. Can a father not be happier? : )

Thanks to my newfound friends - Faizal, Faizul, Yanti, Sarah, Diyana, Nas, Famy, Shahidah and Izean - I got the job done.

I must have had the look of a contented sailor relishing thoughts of a hotmeal and a nice cosy bed waiting for me to dive into dreamland...

and leave all my weariness behind in Hantu?

Well, no; not by any good measure. I woke up from a deep slumber at 6am the next day profoundly haunted by an incoming email concerning the Straits Times report (by Tania Tan) about IYOR 08 and realized just how much more hard work lay ahead of me and it cannot wait. A report with serious omission of facts must be challenged. People cannot be left mis-informed.

And so I wrote... till day break. The result: a rebuttal (below). It immediately became apparent, as I finally put pen to rest, that there are worse snaring nets to be cleared than those from the sea, and that is - the mind traps. This is systematically more damaging to any conscientious efforts for nature conservation in effect. There is so much more to be done, isn't it, my friends? Sigh : (


This report has serious errors by omission.

Firstly, Mr Lee may be reported as 'overseeing' Singapore's participation in the IYOR 2008 campaign, but really, he should not be interpreted as having an authority over the activities being organized to celebrate the reefs this year. These activities are being created and sustained independently by self-motivated individuals. I am one of them. Mr Lee does not figure at all in my plans for IYOR.

Secondly, the report has unfairly put all IYOR participants under the same umbrella as a people supporting the idea of 'coral relocation'. I, for one, do not support coral relocation at all. In the same vein, I would rather words be used to the effect of 'maintaining Singapore as a coral paradise' than 'turning Singapore into a coral paradise.' The word 'turning' is dangerously manipulative here.

Save corals reefs we must but not the way it has been suggested. Readers should not be led to think this is the true nature of conservation, neither should they believe that the voice of conservation belongs to only a selected few. The true picture is - in Singapore today - hundreds of ordinary Singaporeans are rallying nature conservation on their own right. The nerve of conservation, in effect, has been de-centralized. The report appears to me as having pirated that folk ownership somewhat.

So, read reports in our main media if you may but be wary of selective truths - even when someone seemingly knowing (a scientist or a bureaucrat) speaks, be mindful that something may be missing in translation. The best bet is for you to get involved and and get to know the hundreds of humble people working the ground in Singapore. You can be one of them too.
April 20, 2008 8:40 AM

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chek Jawa: May Day Outreach Unveils 2008 Logo

We are proud to present our 2008 logo for the first May Day Outreach at Chek Jawa by homeschool kids. Yeh!

Its creator is none other than professional artist-cum-nature-guide Andrew Tay! Every participant will get to wear a button badge printed with this logo. [Please note: The above is a raw template from which the circular logo will be cut.] The button badges will be manufactured by Grace Tan.

Come this May Day, 32 homeschool kids (and their families) will be:

1) painting a Mural at House No. 1 of Chek Jawa
The mural will be depicting our fabulous sea creatures.
2) reaching out to visitors as Dugong Ambassadors
Turned educators, the kids will be sharing facts about dugongs.
3) removing rubbish from the shores
Kids learn about waste and pollution through beach cleanup.

May Day Outreach has been made possible by the following collaborators.

1) Sponsor Intel Singapore
Not only is Intel financing the whole event, up to 40 Intel staff (and their families) will be joining and helping the kids with their various activities on May Day. Special thanks must go to Peggy Khoo for inspiring her esteemed colleagues toward a common effort for the environment.
2) Master Artist Tham Pui San and fellow artists - Deborah Tay, Evelyn Mah, Joyce Lim, Evonne Tay, Hermie Van Laar, Adelene Yuen and Amy Sammy
They will be teaching the kids how to paint mural and will be guiding the kids on the actual painting of the wall.
3) Naturalists & Volunteers Ria Tan of WildSingapore, Angie Ng, Andrew Tay, Dr. Chua Ee Kiam, November Tan, Andy Dinesh, Ivan Kwan, Marcus Ng, the Naked Hermit Crabs and Siti Maryam and the Team Seagrass will be helping as co-facilitators on May Day.
4) Marina Country Club & MCC Resort for the gracious loan of their three beautiful fibreglass dugong-models to be exhibited at the lawn of House no. 1 (Chek Jawa) on May Day.
5) Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for providing its facility for our art-training 26 April.
6) Last but not least, our May Day Outreach would not have been possible without the endorsement and help from the Pulau Ubin Management team (Nparks) headed by Mr Robert Teo.

Words of Appreciation:

Truly, I find no words adequate in expressing my deepest appreciation to all you wonderful people listed above for volunteering your time and energy and money to make May Day Outreach a reality.

I would also like to thank all the parents of the homeschool kids for believing in the cause to which we all strive for - that in the International Year of the Reefs 2008, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our kids in speaking up for Nature (sealife) through art and action. As Intel Singapore puts it sweetly- May Day Outreach will be a Labour of Love for the Earth!

Powerful and Extraordinary Words from the Heart of Intel Singapore:

Intel has indeed a grand goal: One Million volunteer hours worldwide! And Intel Singapore is showing the way for corporate responsibility to the local community and the environment. Recent words of empowerment for her staff about the mural painting show just how well she understood her role in community and environment work. This is what she said:

"What is a mural? A mural is a painting done directly on the wall. It comes from the Latin word murus, which means wall. Murals often show the concerns, hopes, values and memories of the community where the murals are painted. Murals are not like other paintings. They have a different purpose, a different kind of effect on the lives of those who see them. They are public art in the best sense, because they are actually created in public, with the community looking on. Good public art says something about the community. It says: this is who we are - this is what we think - this is where we came from - this is what we want. And it says these things in a way that everybody can understand and enjoy." [Source: Taken from a presentation by Peggy Khoo. The event is co-organised by CPLG, Finance and IT, represented by Kristin Lim, Cai Ding Zheng & Satish Kumar.]

Well said, Intel Singapore! Truly well said!! : )

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Singing in the Rain

Western Shore, Ubin, 11 April 2008

I have come a long way and I don't mean the boat ride. There was a time I cried in the rain - a young someone somewhere in time past - and I realized then firsthand that in the rain no one knows you are crying. But today... this - me - today... I am singing in the rain. I am singing! Yes, sink however low I may in the mud today, my spirit shall soar forevermore! I have friends... friends left and right - Ria and Ee Kiam, and newfound friend Vivian; I have them in the best place we can ever be - Nature. I have found freedom... freedom in her purest sense, you see. I can feel 'us'; I can feel 'we'; I can feel the wind, the sea, the lightning, the sky, the clouds and the rain; I can feel it All as One! I am no more me, you see; I am Free!

Yes, today, I can't be happier! Even if I should lose all knowledge, my heart will overflow with shouts of joy and I will shout them atop all the boulders I can find today! Yes, even if I shall not know or forget all the plants by their names, I will still celebrate with them in their uniqueness and wonderness of the unknownst. In this pure state, I and we are all free!!!... my inner self and my outer me! : )

But if you must know... here are some old plantpals I met today... : )

[Above: Gymnanthera oblonga, a rare scrambling shrub]

[Above: close-up of G. oblonga]

[Above: close-up of G. oblonga]

[G. oblonga exhibits 2 leaf forms: oblong and lanceolate (above) ]

[Above: Fagraea auriculata, a rare epiphytic shrub growing on granite boulder (Vivian below the magnificent clump)]

[Above: Ficus deltoidea, a rare epiphytic shrub growing on granite boulder]

Don't forget to live, will you? Every day beckons for your re-invention...

[Above: Cyrene Reef, 10 April 2008]

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Urgent Appeal: Bear Truth

My heart sank so low I wanted to cry but anger kept me from doing so!

I must share this with you. It is a truth you must know: that there are many bears hurting in captivity now. Please, please, share this truth with everyone you know - your family and friends.

This act of cruelty cannot be condoned! It simply cannot be condoned!! It's so inhumane!!!

ACRES is working closely with Animals Asia Foundation to tackle the situation.

Please visit Animals Asia Foundation's blog and read about the fate of this poor bear cub (above). It is so important to support the rescue work of this foundation. See a video of a rescue operation.

PLEASE HELP! This is an urgent appeal!

I urge you to subscribe to ACRES's e-newsletter to get updates on their work too.

Joe Lai : (

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Ethical Fisherman - where are you?

Pulau Huntu, 6 April 2008
Whatever happened to the Ethical Fisherman? Extinct?

Time and again, we find driftnets lost or abandoned at sea and lodged in the seabed as permanent death traps for animals. Why? Why??

I would believe this to be true: the Ethical Fisherman would keep an unfailing and unbroken watch over his net as soon as it has been cast. Never would he leave it in the sea unsupervised for any length of time. He would retrieve it as soon as he leaves the fishing area. This is the unwritten code of honour of the Ethical Fisherman. But where is he today?

If I have any before, I would have certainly lost all faith in finding him in our local driftnet-user-community now, seeing what I saw at Hantu last Sunday: another driftnet, another rescue, and another anguishing period to wait before mastering enough manpower to unearth it on another day. In the meantime, I know for sure that many more unwary animals will get entangled and drown or starve to death as each day passes. If I cannot find help soon, 19th April will be the nearest date I can reconcile myself for a return to remove the net personally. That is almost two weeks from now. Sigh...

[photo above: one of two mosaic crabs rescued]

One day, someone - a human - will be drowned by an abandoned driftnet. Mark my words.

Do we have to wait for such a tragedy to happen before taking a more serious approach to licensing driftnets as control items or banning it altogether in Singapore? After all, we banned chewing-gum, didn't we?

Or can the local fishing community in Singapore take it in its own stride to self-regulate?

Is there an Ethical Fisherman somewhere in our midst who can stand up and stand tall to institutionalize a Fishermen's Chapter in Singapore and make us all proud of having a local fishing community which is both professional and responsible?

Please... please stand up and be counted, if you can. It is not impossible for nature lovers and fishermen to work together to clean up this mess. At the very least, this is my hope.

[photo above: curvy black line indicates location of abandoned driftnet in central lagoon]