“The Rochor Canal drains into the Kallang Basin and is practically surrounded by a high density of buildings (above), and is situated in an area with a relatively high volume of human and vehicular traffic. Despite the extensive urbanisation, I am pleased that either, or both sides of the canal are well flanked by vegetation and rows of trees. A glance at the water will reveal that although it is a little green, it is mostly clean, with freshwater fish thriving within.
“In July 2012, I found myself inexplicably drawn to explore this canal on multiple occasions, especially after an initial encounter with a Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) fishing along a narrow stretch. For all my visits to this site, this tern constantly teased me with its unpredictable timing of arrival. However, all those hours of watching and waiting were rewarded with fleeting moments that allowed me to observe its soaring, cruising, hovering and diving displays. I am heartened to know that this tern was not bothered by the close proximity of high-rise buildings beside its fishing grounds (above).
“Its aerial strikes had a consistently high success rate and within minutes, the tern would have achieved its objective of catching one to two fish per visit, then fly away with fish in its belly and/or beak (above).
“Apart from the charming Little Tern feeding from the air, there were also Striated Herons (Butorides striatus) feeding along the concrete banks (above).
“I was also pleasantly surprised to find a huge (2 metre) Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) basking along its banks and soaking up the sun (above). A juvenile was also sighted along this stretch and may provide indications that a healthy breeding population exists here.
“While admiring these native avifauna and reptilian fauna, it occurred to me that these species are in fact exemplary icons of ‘urban biodiversity’ – a fairly recent concept which Singapore has begun to embrace. Nevertheless, an awareness of their presence is a good first step. The next step is to understand their survival needs, such as the importance of clean, well oxygenated water. Maintaining optimal water quality that is not only aesthetically pleasing but ecologically viable is certainly a daunting task, but I am encouraged that the authorities are doing their best. Everyday, there is a boat patrol to scoop up flotsam and dead leaves. Along the railings where human traffic is heaviest, additional litter grills have been installed at the base to prevent stray rubbish from entering the canal (above).
“Such measures deserve to be applauded and it is my hope that similar grills can be installed along other urban and suburban canals in order to minimise stray litter. However, public education is also another vital approach. Educational signages (in our national languages) to highlight the biodiversity along these waterways could be an effective option. Hopefully, we can maintain a high quality of life not just for ourselves, but also for the wildlife living amongst us.”
Dr Leong Tzi Ming
31st July 2012