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Mangrove Action Squad on Ubin Day 2015

Ubin Day 2015

What are you doing on this coming weekend? Come and join us at Ubin Day 2015!!

Mangrove Action Squad will be talking about mangroves!

We will be showing pictures of mangroves in Singapore. We will talk about the plants and the ecosystem services mangroves provide. You will be surprise on products related to mangroves you are using in your everyday lives. Come and talk to us to know more!


Date       : 13th and 14th June 2015

Time      : 9am – 5pm

Venue    : Assembly Area opposite the HSBC Volunteer Hub, map.

No charge, the activity is free!
No pre-registration required. Just walk-in to the exhibition area.

See you on this weekend!


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.


BPB2Bj_CEAASvYrMelanie, one of the Squad’s volunteers had great time explaining to a family about the Nipah fruit (Picture courtesy of Ria Tan)

DSCF3236Ayesha, 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)

DSCF3307Old timer Squad, Wei Kit educates a visitor about the seeds of a Nipah fruit

‘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:

Propagules of different shapes and sizes (Picture courtesy of Ria Tan)

1000739_537339919659044_489012873_nThe Squad’s Rick explaining what is a propagule and how mangroves reproduce to some individuals of the public

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:

petting-pool-with-stingrays-and-horseshoe-crabs-las-vegas-united-states+1152_13622885814-tpfil02aw-22979Note the differences between a sting ray (center of picture)  compared to  horseshoe crabs (top & bottom of picture)

Nevertheless, children and adults  alike were enthralled by the physical characteristic of this living fossil!

DSCF3263Joanna, one of new Squad members had fun educating some individuals on horseshoe crabs

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.

DSCF3282The interactive  panels, one of being a mangrove panel , were used as a interactive gameplay with children. Children had to paste  pictures of animals that matched their natural habitats!

DSCF3300The Toddycats volunteers kept themselves busy with a continuous crowd of people looking curiously at their wet and dry specimens from the Raffles Museum

DSCF3280Ria, the Queen  of Intertidal captivates young children on the animals and plants on our shores!

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!


Mangrove Boardwalk Tour at Pasir Ris, 23rd June 2012 a great success!

Pleasant late afternoon weather drew a keen crowd for the most recent guided walk through the beautiful mangroves at Pasir Ris. A friendly group of guides and assistant guides were on hand to host walkers.

Germaine, Gladys, Oi Yee, Veron, Rick, Melanie and Max

The first group went with Australian mangrove guide Melanie, assistant guide Veron and photographer Max. The excellent signage along the Mangrove paths and boardwalks showed the way.

Melanie points out where the walk will go. (Photo by Max Anderson)

Another group went with experienced and vivacious local guide Oi Yee and assistant Germaine.

photo courtesy of Ivan Kwan

Both groups enjoyed spotting an interesting variety of local animals:

This Rooster (a Red Jungle Fowl) was a bit shy and headed for the bushes!
(Photo courtesy of Ivan Kwan)

Meanwhile, members of Melanie’s group (especially the children ) were enjoying observing some of the smaller mangrove residents:

Can you see the ant?! (Photo by Max Anderson)

We saw lots of spider’s webs. (Photo by Max Anderson)

Larger invertebrates spotted included the always interesting crabs and snails:

Tree crab in its burrow. (Photo by Ivan Kwan)

The Rodong snail – well camouflagued! (Photo by Ivan Kwan)

Of course everyone loves watching the strange mudskippers as they scoot about between the little pools of water and shallow creeks.

Giant mudskipper – keeps its skin, mouth and gills moist so it can breathe when out of water. (Photo by Ivan Kwan)

Whilst plenty of birds were spotted once we all reached the river front, the star attraction was a casually swimming water monitor:

Malayan Water Monitor – not afraid of our group, and going about its business. (Photo by Max Anderson)

Of course none of these animals would be able to live at Pasir Ris without the fabulous mangrove forest itself. This precious patch of mangrove habitat contains a variety of beautiful and fascinating plants:

Different species of mangrove tree use different types of roots to support the tree in its soft muddy environment. Aerial roots absorb oxygen from the air as there is not enough oxygen in the waterlogged soil. (Photo by Max Anderson)

Bukua kurup tree (Rhizophora sp) with hanging propagules. These are seeds that have already germinated whilst still on the tree. When they drop, they are dispersed by water / tides to a new patch of mud where they take root. (Photo by Ivan Kwan)Attractive sea holly plants (photo by Max Anderson)

This beautiful Finlayson’s cymbidium orchid was flowering at the entrance to the walk. (Photo by Ivan Kwan)

When you slow down and look closely, you can see other living things such as these pretty bracket fungi. (Photo by Max Anderson)

As always, the people who came along were enthusiastic about learning more about Singapore’s mangrove habitats. Many enjoyed the photography opportunities, or just relaxing in nature.

So much to see on the forest floor. (Photo by Ivan Kwan)

Lots to see in the canopy too. (Photo by Max Anderson)

participants even got to sample a dessert (attap Chee), made from the seeds of the Nipah Palm. (Photo by Max Anderson)

There are few mangrove forests left in Singapore. Beautiful, interesting and important – worth protecting!

Pasir Ris mangrove forest. An oasis in suburban Singapore. (Photo by Max Anderson)

FREE Pasir Ris Mangrove Boardwalk Tour on 23rd June 2012 (Saturday)

Join the Squad on 23rd June 2012 (Saturday) as we share our knowledge on the amazing critters and plants of Pasir Ris mangrove! Children and adults equally welcomed to join our walk.

If we are lucky, we may encounter hornbills in the park as we did during our last guided walk.

Besides the tour, children visitors will  also have a chance to express their creativity and thoughts on the amazing plants and animals  of Pasir Ris mangrove with a coloring session. Colour pencils and papers will be provided.

A child’s interpretation of the biodiversity of Pasir Ris mangroves (Picture courtesy of Naked Hermit Crabs)

We are also introducing a brief and interactive dialogue session featuring Gladys Chua, a  Mang-rover in our Squad.

The session is titled “Kids & Conservation in the 21st Century”

Gladys currently works as  a Community Outreach Officer at Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) and she’s very passionate about everything conservation biology!

Both children and adults can join this session and raise questions and discuss topics pertaining to the title of the dialogue. 

FAQs for the walk

Q: Who and how many can sign up for the walks?

A: ALL are welcomed including families, small groups or  individuals! The more, the merrier!

Q: Date & time

A: Date: 23rd June  2012 (Saturday)
      Time: 5.00pm-7.00pm
                    5.00-6.15pm (Guided walk)
                    6.15-7.00pm (Colouring & Dialogue Session)

Meeting point: Pasir Ris Park, Carpark C, meet near the first toilets nearest the entrance to the carpark. The meeting point is a short stroll from the Pasir Ris MRT station. Pasir Ris is a very long park with many carparks from A to E. Do look at the map to be sure you are heading for the correct carpark, Carpark C!

Kindly sign-up for the 23th June walk  HERE.

Other FAQs (adapted from FAQ of Naked Hermit Crabs)

Q: Suitable attire?
A: Comfortable outdoors clothes, cap/hat (on a sunny day) and normal walking shoes. There may be mosquitoes in the mangroves, so you might want to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or bring your own mosquito repellent.

Q: What should I bring?
A: Rain gear, sunglasses (on a sunny day), camera, binoculars (if available) lots of water (at least 500ml) and snacks (especially for those prone to low blood sugar). If you want to continue to explore the mangroves on your own after our walk, you might want to bring a small torch (for evening walks only).

Q: What if I am late?
A: Just catch up with us on the boardwalk! We will start from the entrance closest to Carpark C (with red star on the image below) and take the first right turn towards the Mangrove Jetty on Sungei Tampines. We will end the walk near the pond.

See map

Q: What if it is bad weather (rain and/or thunderstorms) ?
A: This is a rain-or-shine event. Mangrove Action Squad members will be there at regardless of the weather. Unless it is a heavy rain with thunderstorms, usually we are able to resume the walk once the rain stops. Please come prepared with raingear  (raincoat, poncho). You make your own decision whether to come or not in the event of bad weather.

Looking forward to your sign-ups and your presence during our walks on the 23rd June! See you!!

Pasir Ris mangrove guided walk @9th June 2012

Last Saturday,  the Squad conducted our  inaugural guided walk  for the public at Pasir Ris mangrove boardwalk. Our guides were Melanie, Germaine, Rick and Sankar while our photographer was Max (Melanie’s son). Although there was a slight drizzle in the morning prior to the walk, the weather did not dampen the spirit of some our visitors who have signed-up for the walk on 9th June 2012.

During the guided walk, Melanie and Germaine pointed out some the usual animals found the mangroves and talked a little about the biology of these animals.

Melanie telling visitors about the physical environment of a typical mangrove

A mangrove crab coming out from its burrow

The children enjoyed looking at the mangroves crabs and their burrows. Of course, they wanted to have a closer look of the crabs from the boardwalk.

Visitors on the lookout for mangrove animals from the boardwalk

One of the child visitors spotted a creature swimming in a creek that looks like a frog and a fish. As he took a closer look at the animal….

A child used a pair of binoculars  to view an animal from the boardwalk

which turned out to be none other than a mudskipper! A Giant mudskipper to be exact…

A swimming Giant mudskipper

Of course the plants along Pasir Ris mangrove boardwalk were not also not forgotten!

Melanie talked to the children visitors about the Pong-pong (Cerbera odollam) fruit

Leaf insectivory was also explained during the walk

Before the guides could talk more about mangrove plants, Sankar alerted the other guides about the presence of two Oriental Pied hornbills in the mangrove! For first time visitors to the park, this is a rare sighting and of course, our visitors were extremely excited with their presence during our walk.

These birds, most probably a breeding pair, were sighted collecting materials such as natural debris, which is  most probably used to build their nest

As the visitors arrived the mangrove observation jetty at the end of walk, more animals were observed…..

A malayan water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) was observed swimming along Sungei Tampines (Tampines River)

The bird fauna was also seen (but not captured by our lens). They include the usual and charismatic grey herons, little herons. Sankar also managed to point out a raptor-like bird perching on a tree branch opposite of the jetty.

Pasir Ris mangrove is indeed rich in biodiversity with the different animals and plants observed during the walk!

After the walk, visitors, especially children expressed their love and concern for Pasir Ris mangrove in their drawings!

One of the children visitors, I-Shiuo drew a mangrove crab on his drawing sheet!

Tiara, 6, drawing what looks like to be Earth and its connection to mangroves!

Our children visitors are extremely creative. Have a look at a  drawing depecting the biodiversity of Pasir Ris mangrove.  Tell us what do you think of them?

Check out also the other drawings from the kids: mangroveactionsquad’s photostream

For those who want to join our  FREE Pasir Ris  mangrove boardwalk tour , we are conducting another session on the 23rd June 2012 (Saturday)

Time: 5pm-6.30pm  (Evening walk)

Meeting point: Pasir Ris Park, Carpark C, meet near the first toilets nearest the entrance to the carpark.

ALL are welcomed including families, small groups or  individuals! The more, the merrier!

Kindly sign-up for the 23th June walk  HERE.

For more information, kindly visit

Mangrove as Carbon Sinks

An article was published in Strait Times on 1st Dec 2011 about  mangrove’s ecological service as a carbon sink.

What is carbon sink?  Carbon sink can be summarized with the following cartoon picture

Forests and oceans absorb carbon dioxide gas released from natural respiration and anthropogenic processes. Picture courtesy of Climate Change

Highlights of the article

  • Mangrove plants and their muddy terrains  can store fives times more carbon compared to their terrestrial counterparts i.e. tropical forests
  • IUCN has mentioned that mangrove forests should be included in REDD+

Kindly read rest of the article from: mangrove_carbon_straits_dec11

Halloween Crabs!

Happy Halloween  to all Mangrove Action Squad readers! Spooky old mangrove trees says Hi to you!

And nope, we are not celebrating Halloween with a cheap B-movie thriller titled ‘Mangrove Slasher 2’ (below)!

Mangroves are definitely not the ideal place to  go ‘trick-or-treat’ but obvious reasons (being muddy and dangerous) unless you have ‘friends’ staying within the mangroves.

Nevertheless, there are some mangrove dwellers that are some hardcore Halloween followers that put on their  ‘costumes’ for their entire life-span. One of them would be that of  Halloween Crab (Gecarcinus quadratus).

I think you can appreciate why this species of crab is named as such. Its striking but yet fearsome colours could function as an aposematic function i.e warning colouration  its predators.  Other names include red land crab,whitespot crab moon crab, mouthless crab and harlequin land crab. This terrestial land crab can found in mangroves, lowland tropical forest and sand  dunes in the New World (the Americas) except Northern America. Too bad it is not found in Singapore.

Another interesting characteristic, would be its reproduction life history. It lives in the forest at least some of its adult life, but needs to return to the ocean to breed. This situation is similiar to  reproductive life history of a catadromous fish  i.e. a  fish that spend most of their lives in fresh water and migrate to the sea to breed. For example, most eels are catadromous.

Well, so the Halloween crab is a cool creature. Perhaps this maybe a good idea to wear a crab costume for Halloween? How about a cool Craboween costume for your dog?

Happy Halloween! =)

Down Memory Lane: Remnants of Kampongs in Mandai Mangrove

Mandai mangrove is located between two rivers Sungei Mandai Besar (Big Mandai River) and Sungei Mandai Kechil (Small Mandai River) hence the mangrove was autonomously named Mandai. This 10-ha mangrove area once housed several Malay villages or better known as kampong-s (or kampung-s). One kampong that was  documented fairly well was Kampong Lorong Fatimah (Village of Fatimah’s Alley).

“A main characteristic of a typical kampung house is its on stilts or piles. This was to avoid wild animals and floods, to deter thieves, and for added ventilation”

Excerpt taken from Wikipedia

A typical kampong house would look like this.

Kampong Lorong Fatimah

” This Malay kampong was situated off Woodlands Road, near the causeway, past the immigration checkpoint. It was in existence even in the late eighties. Some of the houses were constructed on stilts. Only a small channel separated this kampong from Johor. In the past, this kampong was filled with sampans or koleks ferrying people between Johor and Singapore. With the sea on one side and a jungle on the other (before Woodlands was fully developed), this kampong seemed very cut-off from the rest of urban Singapore. Entertainment in the past included ronggeng (a Malay ethnic dance) with the nomadic boat people who came here with their gongs, drums, tambourines and violas. Shopping was done from Indian men who came on bicycles carrying bundles containing clothes, towels and sarongs. Most of the villagers here were fishermen and boatmen. When industries were set up around Woodlands, many of them found jobs in the factories, while the younger ones found work in hotels and banks in Orchard Road. Kampong Lorong Fatimah was pulled down to make way for the construction of the Customs Department extension to the Woodlands Checkpoint. The kampong’s residents were relocated, mainly to the Marsiling and Woodlands HDB estates. ”

Excerpt taken from Malay Villages in the North, National Library Board (NLB)

Fast forwarding from  the 1970s to the present day, the kampongs of Mandai  no longer exist . What’s left of these kampongs are merely remnants of concrete pavements, base floors of kampong houses

Panoramic view from a disposed two-seater sofa set

Old street lamp near Mandai Kechil River

Guan Yu (still worshipped today among the Chinese people) statue was delibrately left on this remmant, perhaps to 'protect' souls that have laid to rest in the mangrove



Stairs made of bricks of a typical old kampong house leading from the porch to the main doorOld stilts of a kampong house still standing even after more than 20 years or so

Green algae patch covering old concrete blocks

Introducing Dr. V. Balaji & Iona Soulsby

This month, Mangrove Action Squad (MAS) was very lucky to host to two visiting NGO mangrove enthusiasts  in Singapore from the Asian region; Dr. V. Balaji, the founder and director of OMCAR (Organization For Marine Conversation Awareness and Research) in Tamil Nadu and Ms. Iona Soulsby, team leader for MAP (Mangrove Action Project) Sulawesi, Indonesia. Both individuals have done great work for their respective NGOs and we were thrilled to have them in Singapore.

Iona Soubly measuring the diameter at breast height (DBH) in Mandai Mangroves

Iona is equally happy in and outside of the mangroves

Ms. Iona Soulsby works in South Sulawesi province, Indonesia for almost a year as a team leader for mangrove rehabilitation project for Mangrove Action Project (MAP). Her place of work concentrates on a several small islands of Makasar (capital of Sulawesi) that were made into shrimp ponds (or better known as ‘tambak’ in Indonesian Language). Her work consists of leading a team of working on various fieldwork projects some of  which include monitoring vegetation in these once-natural habitats. Hailing from the land of the Kiwis and having earned a degree in Environmental Science and Development Studies  from Victoria University of Wellington, Iona is a true environmentalist and working in the  mangroves came instinctively to her. Having lived in Bali for a couple of years, this ‘bule’ (Indonesian language for a Westerner) speaks fluent Indonesian and has been nick-named the Mangrove Princess of Indonesia (look at the golden bracelet and the ring in the photo above!) Her visit to Singapore was mainly to learn few mangrove monitoring techniques from Dr. Daniel Friess a.k.a. Mangrove Man to assist her in developing better and cost effective methodologies to monitor the mangroves in Sulawesi! During her stay in Singapore, she has also assisted Rick in his project to map the vegetation of Mandai Mangroves. MAS believes she had a great time in the Mandai and Singapore and we would love to have her back in Singapore in the near future.

Dr. Balaji chilling out at during dinner at Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer Market)

Dr. Balaji at full focus while handling the total station in Mandai mangroves

Dr. Balaji (or prefers  just to be called Balaji) is an awesome individual in short.  MAS’ introduction of Balaji is best written from his own foundation’s webpage

” Dr. V. Balaji, founder and Managing Trustee of OMCAR Foundation was born in 13th January 1980 in Pattukkottai, Tamil Nadu.  He has completed his B.Sc., in Zoology (2000), M.Sc., in Marine Biology (2002), M.Phil., in mangrove ecology (2004) and Ph.D in Seagrass Ecology (2009).  His interest in marine conservation was started since his school days that lead to perform his self motivated commitment in insitu conservation practices with local community in northern Palk Bay.  His part time volunteering in local non governmental organizations helped to understand the concepts and to get the field experience since 2000.   At the age of 22, he decided to work independently as a full time social worker and conservation biologist in local coastal areas.  He conducted 1100km of solo bike expedition along the 540 coastal villages for a research and coastal environmental awareness programme in 2002 and sea turtle conservation campaign with WWF in 2003.  He has paddled 600km in a sea kayak from Rameshwaram to Chennai to create awareness on conservation of coastal ecosystems of Tamil Nadu.  He found OMCAR Foundation as a platform to perform his marine conservation, awareness and ecological research  activities through a participatory approach of fisherfolk community”

Excerpt taken from OMCAR

Balaji’s work  in the mangroves of Tamil Nadu , include ecological mangrove restoration, children environmental education programmes, fisher woman empowerment programmes, research and coastal ecology fieldtrips, coastal cleaning programmes and many more activities. Besides mangroves, Balaji is also interested conservation of other coastal habitats such as sea grasses and their fauna and flora found within them. Although he was only in Singapore for three short days, Dr. Balaji was still happy to give help out in Rick’s project in Mandai and also gave short talk on his foundation in NUS. Needless to say, Balaji is truly  a remarkable individual and we enjoyed his short presentation on his foundation’s work at the end of his visit in Singapore.

Balaji (right) being introduced to attendees of his talk by Mangrove Man (left)

Balaji talked about rehabilitation of mangrove trees on edges of a canal

We hope both Iona and Balaji will come back to Singapore and share more stories with MAS and the public. Thank you, Iona and Balaji!


Introducing Mangrove Mafias of Singapore

Mangrove Action Squad (MAS) has been initiated by  Mangrove Mafias of Singapore, namely ‘Mangrove Surveyor'(right), ‘Mangrove Man'(middle) and ‘Mangrove Warrior'(left). Let’s have a brief introduction of these mafias…..

‘Mangrove Man’ is THE MAN and the brains behind MAS! A Leader and mastermind behind mangrove research projects in Singapore, he ‘rules’ the mangroves with his ultimate weapon being his Iphone 4 with 3G and his laptop.When he’s in field, his preferred choice of weapon would be that of a drill; setting up SET (Surface elevation table) plots in the mangroves! He is also an Indiana Jones wannabe however lacks the bullwhip and deep knowledge of ancient civilizations!

‘Mangrove Surveyor’ is the mafia apprentice.  Total station is his ultimate weapon  to rule mangroves, particularly Mandai mangroves. He is currently mapping the vegetation and surface elevation of Mandai to investigate spatial patterning of tree species in relation to surface elevation.

‘Mangrove Warrior’ is the mafia who is exceptionally good in fieldwork. Having experienced fieldwork in terrestrial forests,  he roams the mangroves without fear (especially during low tides) and carries out various experiments both in lab and on field. Although he has various weapons to defend his body of work, a pair of binoculars is the best tool to represent his weaponry as he is a keen observer of the mangroves.