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Times 25 Mar 07
No more Chek Jawa tours - for now
TOURS to Chek Jawa, a popular nature enclave in Pulau Ubin, have been suspended because the stretch of wetlands needs to recover after being affected badly by heavy rains.
Tomorrow's guided tour by the National Parks Board (NParks) will be its last, until further notice.
Mr Robert Teo, the assistant director who heads the Pulau Ubin department of NParks' conservation division, said that this was the first time visits to Chek Jawa have been suspended since NParks took over its management in October 2001.
Record heavy rains in December last year and January this year had led to an influx of freshwater into the Johor River in Malaysia. The freshwater flowing into the Johor Straits, where Pulau Ubin is located, significantly altered the salinity of the water around Chek Jawa.
There was 'widespread death' of marine flora and fauna that were not able to adjust quickly to the changes, according to the NParks website. Mr Teo said that sea anemones, starfish and sponges were particularly hard hit as they were sensitive to the water's salinity level. Comparatively, fish could simply swim away and marine worms could burrow deep into the sand.
Suspending the tours will let nature take its healing course. Visiting tourists could further damage the still-recovering area by inadvertently stepping on the marine creatures.
Ms May Teo, 49, who has been a volunteer guide at Chek Jawa for three years, had a rude shock when she led a group of nature enthusiasts there on Feb 1. Instead of a 'beautiful and colourful' Chek Jawa which the first-time visitors she led were expecting to see, they were greeted instead by the stench of death. 'All the carpet anemones were gone and the sea star (starfish) were all melted or in pieces. I was so sad because it was my first experience seeing the creatures in that state,' she said.
But even amid the doom and gloom, life persevered, and some of the wetlands' denizens, including peacock anemones, managed to survive.
Mr Teo said that NParks is closely monitoring the situation and will review it in July. If Chek Jawa is in better shape by then, tours can resume. Public access to Chek Jawa is restricted to the free, guided tours organised by NParks.
Mr Chua Sek Chuan, 45, a marine biologist and a former chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s marine conservation group, said that although the immediate impact of the rains was 'quite noticeable', in the long run, the place would recover by itself.
Another volunteer guide, Ms Ria Tan, 46, said that other nearby shores, such as those on Pulau Sekudu, could serve as a seeding ground to repopulate Chek Jawa. This is because the animals that are found at Chek Jawa are also found in these areas.
Hence, 'it is important to conserve all our shores and not just one or two', she added.
Chek Jawa was originally slated for land reclamation but nature groups and individuals lobbied to save it. In January 2002, the Ministry of National Development announced that Pulau Ubin would be left intact as long as the island is not required for development to allow Chek Jawa to be retained in its natural state.
Since its reprieve, about 20,000 people have visited the unique ecosystem in the 200 to 250 tours conducted each year, said NParks.
In order to enable more people to experience the rich biodiversity of Chek Jawa, the $7-million Pulau Ubin conservation and management plans were launched in April 2005. Work on the visitor centre, viewing tower and boardwalk is expected to be completed next month.
However, the amenities will not be open to the public until tours are resumed.
Meanwhile, one Chek Jawa lover posted this wish on the blog of TeamSeagrass, a group of volunteers who monitor the seagrasses on Singapore's shores: 'We wish our favourite shore a speedy recovery.'
Study of mass deaths on Chek Jawa
Chek Jawa Mortality and Recruitment Project a blog on a study of the recovery of Chek Jawa
Recce for the Chek Jawa transect, 18 May 07 on the wonderful creations blog
Recce for the Chek Jawa transect with strong signs of recovery on Chek Jawa, 24 May 07 on the wonderful creations blog
Chek Jawa transect, 25 May 07 on the wonderful creations blog
Photos of mass deaths on Chek Jawa on flickr
Mass death collection photos uploaded for the study of mass deaths on Chek Jawa, including photos of previous ocassions when carpet anemones were distressed
Posts about the mass deaths at Chek Jawa
Mass Death at Chek Jawa, 18 Jan 07 on the ubin volunteers blog
First TeamSeagrass Field Orientation at Chek Jawa, 20 Jan 07 on the teamseagrass blog
Death note from Chek Jawa, 22 Jan 07 on the wildfilms blog
After the Chek Jawa Massacre, 22 Jan 07 on the tidechaser blog
CJ with the Seagrasses, 22 Jan 07 on the urban forest blog
Posts about shores near Chek Jawa or facing similar flood situations
Northern shores health check on Changi, 23 Jan 07 on the wildfilms blog
Tuas, 1 Feb 07 on the teamseagrass blog
Tuas Transect, 4 Feb 07 on the blue heaven blog
Pulau Sekudu, 18 Feb 07 on the wildfilms blog
Changi Beach, 5 Mar 07 on the urban forest blog
Pulau Sekudu, 23 Mar 07 on the urban forest blog
Posts about Chek Jawa after mass deaths
Back to Chek Jawa, 17 Feb 07 on the tidechaser blog
How's Chek Jawa, 19 Feb 07 on the colourful clouds blog
Chek Jawa and friends, 24 Feb 07 on the wildfilms blog
Will Chek Jawa Rebound?, 24 Feb 07 on the Dr Dan in Singapore blog
Hit and Run at Chek Jawa, 24 Feb 07 on the tidechaser blog
Getting high on CJ, 24 Feb 07 on the blue heaven blog
Leaves of seagrass, 25 Feb 07 on the annotated budak blog
Chek Jawa update, 1 Mar 07 on the ubin volunteers blog
Ubin Volunteers outing to Chek Jawa, 24 Mar 07 on the colourful clouds blog
Chek Jawa, 22 Apr 07 on the teamseagrass blog
Remembering Chek Jawa, 23 Apr 07 on the blue heaven blog
See-through sea cucumber, 23 Apr 07 on the annotated budak blog
Related articles on Singapore: wild shores
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