Friday, June 25, 2010

Save Our Seahorses

Now that im feeling better, hello actively again blogsphere! Today let's take a step back to nature and see how we can help conserve something that belongs to part of our Mother Nature.

Geylang Patah is a small town located some 45 minutes away from Johor Bahru. Some may have heard of it because of it's famous otak-otak, some may be due to the seafood while i think in recent years, more popularly known because of it's location next to the Malaysia-Singapore Secondlink.

But what most people might not know is that within this small predictable town lies a big mission. It might be a big mission, but we can all easily play a part and our little effort all helps in a big way.

The mission im talking about is a mission to save our seahorses and the Pulai River Estuary in Malaysia. And the particular seahorse species im highlighting here is the Hippocampus kuda (spotted seahorse) which is a threatened species that is found primarily in estuaries, especially the Pulai River Estuary. (you can read more about the spotted seahorses and Pulai River Estuary and the dangers they are facing here and here)

So enough of the introduction, i dont wna bored you all further with facts (just click the links or google to find out more. It's all over the internet). Last Wed, me and bro decided to volunteer ourselves for this mission which is actually called 'Save Our Seahorses'. I still need to work, but the beauty of working in the Emergency Dept was that, i could chose to either worked the am or pm shift so i can use the morning and worked pm later.

#1 - Pendas Jetty where we set off

We were required to meet at the SOS research centre (about 5 mins away from Pendas Jetty) at 6.20am and it takes about an hour 15 minutes from my house to the centre, so you can imagined what time i was awake in order to reach punctually.

Drivers tip : Actually the centre does provide overnight accommodation but if you are driving from Johor Bahru, you can follow the Secondlink highway and the signboard that exit at Geylang Patah. On the website, you'll be able to see that they say just follow the Pendas signboard thereafter for another 23 km until one passes through a tunnel right? But in pitch dark and especially if one is not familiar with the place, locating the tunnel is not easy at all. Trust me, there are many fake tunnels along the way before you actually pass the real one. Hence, i say -

Keep driving along the mainroad like the website said and you'll pass by village after village with fake tunnels after fake tunnels and only after you see the sign that tells you you are passing through 'KG LADANG', the tunnel after that is the REAL tunnel. And only after you pass the real tunnel, go slow until you can see the street lamp and probably you'll see some small seahorses signboard on your right indicating the research centre.

Anyway, after a short briefing, we were off. The boat ride was about 15 minutes and soon we were out in the open sea, in the middle of nowhere between Malaysia and Singapore. The seagrasses where these seahorses are commonly found are in the middle of the sea! Actually, where places that have seagrasses, it is supposedly shallow. During low tide, the water is perhaps only ankle deep but it can go as high as 3m too. So it's quite cool to know that you be in fact able to stand in the middle of the sea looking for the seahorses etc.

#2 - This is perhaps the size of a SD card. It can be tied to the poles etc and leave overnight. It is very useful to detect the changes in the seawater temperature and light. So canggih right. The coordinator, Mr. Choo just bought this in from the USA.

#3- The seagrasses floating while the tide is still high

#4 - A closer look at the seagrasses. The seagrasses is also what the dugongs feed on so yes, if you are lucky, you might spot dugongs too.

#5- The seagrass fruit. It looks like rambutan from the exterior but it tasted kinda dry (in Hokkien we say 'siap siap'.. maybe someone can translate this? :) ) Another coordinator, Mr. Ng said the fruits are usually sweet, this is prolly an unripe one.

#6 - This is one of the species of the sea cucumber. Dont think this is the edible type though. Very elastic and soft and commonly found in here.

We got off the boat and the water was at our mid calf level that morning. Excited, we started searching for the seahorses cz our main purpose is to look for as many as we can and to tag them. However, one thing about this whole programme is that, it is very subjective to weather and also the seawater condition one. It's like last Wed just wasn't our day. The clouds started rolling in thicker and thicker over us and the wind got stronger and stronger. The seawater was really murky too so it was really hard for us to visualize the root of the seagrasses where our dear seahorses usually curls themselves comfortably.

#7 - And we barely cut through half the area when our coordinators decided we had to call it off a day!! Cuz saw those dark clouds? It means that an impending heavy downpour was coming our way and the last thing one want is to be caught under the rain cz it'll be really really cold and more dangerous still if there is accompanying lighting.

All of us volunteers were really disappointed. Unfortunately, the weather and circumstances were really unfavorable. We tried waiting but it was just not our lucky day. And the day b4, Mr Choo said they even saw sea hare (sea rabbit, so cute right) and starfish. None the less safety first! So sad we all did not get to see the seahorses this time. :(

#8- We managed to beat the rain by one step ahead and arrived back at the jetty b4 it really started pouring mercilessly on us. Some fishermen catch. So huge the fishes. So tempting.

We then went back to the research centre to dry up and to hide from the ferocious rain.

#9 - Since we cannot see the real thing, we substitute with the specimens ok? These specimens are exhibited at the research centre.

#10 - The Hippocampus kuda, spotted seahorse species

#11 - These are the remains of Pak Pok, the dugong found dead at the Sg Pok Besar jetty here in Geylang Patah last year. (news here) Half of Pak Pok's head and body was severed off prolly by the blades of the ship which was the caused of it's death. So pitiful, no?

#12 - Finally a group pic with the other volunteers and our 2 friendly coordinators.

#13 - The humble SOS research centre

I think i'll try to go back to volunteer again because i want to see the seahorses with my own eyes! hmph! Nah, they seriously do need as much help as they can around so anyone interested to know more, participate or contribute, do check out Save Our Seahorses (SOS) here k. Thx :)

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3 fondue dips :

The seagrass fruit got poison or not???

humans are keep on hunting the seahorse for making traditional medicine....
but to be honest, i think these people should just bread the seahorse themself, if they need to use seahorse to make medicine....

And i respect that the seahorse daddy's coz they r the 1 who carry the babies

dolly : no poison don wori :)

Garfield : They shdn't be doing that.. seahorses are not breed for consumption. Yup seahorses daddy's are the one getting pregnant :)