In 1986, a group of avid birdwatchers from the then Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) stumbled upon this ecological jewel, and subsequently wrote a proposal to the government for its conservation. The 87 ha wetland site was consequently designated as a nature park in 1989.
A baby monitor lizard…
Growing up to 2 metres, the Monitor Lizard is the largest lizard found in Singapore. This creature can often be seen sun-bathing on the walking routes! Fear not, as when disturbed, it will clumsily escape into the undergrowth or water. It is an excellent swimmer, living near water where it scavenges.
Two monitor lizards fighting over territory.
The then Parks & Recreation Department, a precursor to the National Parks Board, undertook the development of Sungei Buloh, in consultation with experts in the field, notably, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust from the United Kingdom and Worldwide Fund for Nature. On 6 Dec 1993, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong officially opened the Nature Park.
These agile Plantain Squirrels are a beautiful greyish brown, with a chestnut belly and a black-and-white line between the two. In fact, their genus name Callosciurus means Beautiful Squirrels and the genus includes some of the most colourful mammals.
Over the years, the unique place that is Sungei Buloh charmed people from all strata of society to support its cause. It welcomed its 100,000th visitor in 1994. In 1997, the Park found its corporate sponsor in HSBC, which set up the Sungei Buloh Education Fund in support of its nature outreach programmes. On 10 November, 2001, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan announced that Sungei Buloh would be one of two parks to be gazetted as Nature Reserves. On 1 Jan 2002, 130-ha of Sungei Buloh was officially gazetted as a nature reserve and renamed as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to better reflect its status.
Estuarine crocodiles are known to inhabit the waters of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Crocodile warning signs have been posted at various parts of the Reserve where they are most often spotted. We heard some baby crocs crying while passing by this freshwater pond and could not spot any.
We did however see some Diamondback terrapins swmming just below the surface of the water. The species live on a diet of mollusks, fiddler crabs, and occasionally small fish and is named for the diamond pattern on top of its shell, but the overall pattern and coloration varies greatly by species. Their shell coloring can vary from browns to greys, and their body color can be grey, brown, yellow, or white.
Broad-Nose Halfbeaks belong to the Family Hemiramphidae. These stick-like fishes are commonly encountered on many of our shores. They swim at the water surface, often quite actively at night. Small ones may be mistaken for floating twigs or other bits of flotsam.
Mangroves exist in the transient world of land and sea having to endure the relentless rhythm of the tides. Life at land’s end is harsh, yet many have triumphed over the adverse environment with each inhabitant playing a role in making the ecosystem a viable and dynamic one. Seedlings fall on unstable mud and soon, there is a forest of mangroves. A walk along the boardwalk leads you through this “sea of trees” and into a whole new world.
The Rhizophora sp. has roots that branch from trunks like stilts. This helps to prop up the tree in the soft mud so that it will not topple with the ebbing and rising tide.
The pencil-like roots of the Avicennia sp or pneumatophores branched upwards from the main horizontal roots that grow below the soil. These roots allow the absorption of atmospheric oxygen through specialized root cells known as lenticels. This adaptation is important, as the mud that the mangrove trees grow is extremely low in oxygen.
The Common Nerita is a commonly seen throughout the mangroves in the reserve. It is herbivorous, grazing on algae. During high tide it can be seen on tree trunks and various structures.
The Mudskipper is an amazing fish of the swamp. Unlike most fishes, its protruding eyes stick out of the water and enable it to observe it’s surrounding. It has modified fins that help propel it out of water and across the mudflats.
We spotted this fish but have no idea what kind of fish it is. Any ideas?
During high tide, these crabs climb out of the water to escape predation. They form an important component of the ecosystem by feeding on fallen mangrove leaves that do not decompose easily. This helps in the breakdown of the mangrove leaves into nutrients for the mangrove plants.
Mangrove mud is often honeycombed with a network of interconnecting passages, occupied by a population of mud crabs. The burrows of the tunnelling mud crabs are the primary sites for both the export of ammonium and the removal of nitrogen from the mangrove ecosystem. Because the bacteria in the burrow wall rapidly consume the oxygen entering from the burrow water, the oxic mud layer around the burrow is usually much thinner than the oxic layer at the visible mud surface.
Observation hides in the reserve are scattered all over the reserve and are for the human visitors to rest and observe the surrounding flora and fauna away from the sight of the reserve’s resident and migratory animals and birds.
Waders or shorebirds are so-called because they wade in the shallow water in search of food. Plovers and sandpipers are common waders found in the reserve. With their different bill length and feeding habits, they are able to tap on different food sources found in the mudflats. This enables them to co-exist in the same habitat.
Egrets at the reserve are white and more slender than herons in appearance. They are frequent visitors during the migratory season. The Little Egret is often seen dashing about, chasing after its prey in the shallows.
Aerie or eyrie means a nest of a bird of prey built high up above ground.The 18-m tall tower hide is so called as it offers panoramic view of the wetland reserve. We only managed to cover route 1 today, but will definately be back to check out routes 2 and 3 next time we visit.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was recognized as a site of international importance for migratory birds with Wetlands International presenting the reserve a certificate to mark its formal entry into the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Site Network, which include Australia’s Kakadu National Park, China’s Mai Po and Japan’s Yatsu Tidal Flats. Sungei Buloh became Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003. More information about Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve at www.sbwr.org.sg.