Mangrove education at the Festival of Biodiversity 2013
It is been a while since the Squad blogged about mangroves. We have been pretty much busy with our (mangrove and non-mangrove related) work but we are back with a bang in the second half of this year. The blog will be updated more frequently this year. We will start off with our first blog of the year (yes, you read it right!) with news on the participation of the Mangrove Action Squad in this year’s Festival of Biodiversity held in Vivocity
Last year (2012), the Squad was delighted to be part of the Festival of Biodiversity which was held in Botanic Gardens. We were pleased to be manning a mangrove station as part of the Marine exhibition section and it was great fun talking to the public about mangroves, from the mangrove species identification to mangrove conservation. The team was even more ecstatic when we were able to meet Singapore President Dr. Tony Tan in person and gave him a little briefing about the mangrove specimens that were put on display.
This year around, we were part of the Festival again and it was held in Vivocity shopping mall last weekend. The event attracted thousands of people who were interested to learn more about Singapore’s natural heritage, mangroves included.
With a more interactive display feature of our mangrove specimens, the Squad was all fired up to educate the public on our lovely muddy habitat. We had placed interesting fact sheets and figures on display for the public and also displayed fresh mangrove leave specimens and propagules. Of course, we can’t leave our mangrove animals hence Ria(Wild Singapore) and Ley Kun (from NHC) was kind enough to loan us dead horseshoe crabs for display.
Ayesha, a Masters student from King’s College London who is currently conducting her mangrove fieldwork in Pasir Ris Park also shared her expertise in educating the public about mangroves in Singapore (Picture courtesy of Ria Tan)
‘Ice-kacang’ lovers were pleasantly surprised to know that the ‘attap-chee’ from their favourite dessert actually, were actually immature seeds of the mangrove palm tree, Nipah palm!
These seeds are harvested only from the fruits of the mangrove palm and boiled with sugar syrup, giving it sweet but yet hard-jelly texture which we love to eat in our local dessert. Now that’s another reason to conserve mangrove forest in Singapore.
A frond of the Nipah palm (below), the Nipah fruit containing immature seeds (left) and a seedling of the Nipah were on display fascinated the Vivocity shoppers
As the more people came to visit the mangrove station, a lot of them were intrigued by the long Rhizophora propagules. Some visitors thought they were mangrove roots, while other had guessed them to be drums and swords! The Squad loves the imagination of these visitors but we have to reveal the functions of the odd-looking propagules of the mangroves. Here’s a Youtube link on the how mangroves propagate to learn more about mangrove reproduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EXSWc9d1WY
Propagules of different shapes and sizes (Picture courtesy of Ria Tan)
Another interesting observation that the Squad has learned is that horseshoe crabs are oftenly mistaken by the public as sting rays. Most of the public thought that the crabs were the rays, because they had similar silhouettes but we were there to correct them. Sting rays do not have hard caraspace unlike crabs. Moreover, the tails of the horseshoe crabs do NOT have barbed stings unlike the crabs. More facts about of the horseshoe crabs in this link: http://www.ceoe.udel.edu/horseshoecrab/funfacts.html
Nevertheless, children and adults alike were enthralled by the physical characteristic of this living fossil!
There were also other interesting activities held by other marine groups and the Toddycats from Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. It was fun working hand-in-hand with some many biodiversity lovers and event volunteers, knowing that we have played a part in educating the public about the amazing natural heritage of Singapore.
In all, the Squad had a great time educating the public about mangroves in this year’s Festival. We hope to be part of the event again in years to come!