It was a sunny morning when our Roots & Shoots community met for a friendly gathering at the Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve. This outing was not an ordinary one, for we were observing and celebrating Jane Goodall’s 85th birthday. Jane Goodall has been an inspiration to us and her vision drives all that we do at JGIS. Thus, it was befitting that we marked her birthday with a cake-cutting session and an informal nature walk in the reserve.
Even before we kicked off the event, nature came to us. We saw several water monitor lizards (Varanus salvator) near the meeting room where we were. The sighting of several ant-house plants (Dischidia sp.) growing on trees at the visitor centre sparked off an impromptu lesson on adaptations, symbiosis and plant-animal interactions.
Our long-time volunteer, Steve, happily explained the importance of the day’s occasion and the impact Jane Goodall has made on the world. We marked Jane Goodall’s birthday with a cake cutting ceremony. While it was only a simple chocolate cake, the sincerity in all our well wishes for Jane Goodall was written all over it.
We then proceeded to explore our local mangroves in a nature appreciation walk in the boardwalk. The forests were full of mangrove trees, with their characteristic pneumatophores (air-breathing roots) sticking out from them mud. There was a a whiff of rotten eggs in the air, due to the bacteria in the oxygen deficient mud which was using sulphur containing compounds. We saw the fish tail palms (Caryota sp.) living on the drier parts of the reserve. Sea hollies (Acanthus sp.) grew on the understorey of the forest, showing their tooth edged leaves.
In our walk, we were able to highlight to the students the mangrove inhabitants. We saw the golden orb spider (Nephila pilipes) with their webs, ready to catch any poor insect that comes along and were unfortunate enough to get caught in the sticky strands of silk. We also sighted the vinegar crabs (Episesarma sp.) trying to crawl on the mud and climb up any tree trunks within sight, in a bid to avoid any predator lurking in the water.
We saw the vertebrate stars of Sungei Buloh for we saw a family of smooth otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) playing and frolicking in a sandy bank. Tailess, the esturine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) who has lost her tail, swam calmly in the waterway beneath our feet. We also caught sight of archerfish, half beaks and mudskippers swimming in the water and mud underneath us.
During our trip, we had a fruitful time of birdwatching as well for we saw many birds in the reserve. We saw the adaptable blacknaped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) flying in the back mangroves. A rookery of egrets could be seen on the shore of the main channel. The ashy tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps) could be seen darting around in the undergrowth and trees, in search of nest building materials. We could also see from the plumage of a large group of whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) looking for tasty worms with the aid of their long beaks.
We were lucky to catch the sight of a shore pit viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) which was coiled motionless on one of the branches of a Brugueira gymnorrhiza tree. This beautiful black reptile was well camouflaged in the dark coloured branches it lived in. We admired it from a safe distance as shore pit vipers are known to be highly venomous and aggressive if disturbed.
All our participants enjoyed the mini crash course on mangrove ecosystems, even during a hot and sweaty morning. In the words of our students:
“Everything about this outing was enjoyable. We learnt a lot about the mangroves and the interesting animals that live in it such as birds, snakes and otters.”
“It was meaningful for us to celebrate Jane Goodall’s birthday with a nature walk as she was a famous naturalist herself studying chimps. Going on a nature appreciation walk befits such an occasion.”
Want to get in on the action? If you are a teacher or a student, you can find out more about our Roots and Shoots programme and how you can get involved by emailing us. You can also find out more about volunteering for us by emailing too! We are looking forward to hearing from you.
(All picture credits belong to Sia Sin Wei)