on 7th August 2012

“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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 responses

  1. You used to see this exact same kind of wildlife at the Geylang canal, before they closed it off for repair work. I’ve seen several monitor lizards in that canal (the stretch next to the Dakota HDB blocks). There were also many egrets, many of which nested in the massive angsana trees grown on the Guillemard Camp side of the canal, but these trees were later chopped down (sometime in 2009 if I remember correctly). I don’t know how much wildlife exists there now, especially since water has been dammed off.

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