17 December 2005

Labrador Cleanup

Met Otterman and a bunch of helpful people yesterday afternoon for a quick cleanup of Labrador beach. Even bumped into some unexpected help in the form of a member of the public (a JC biology teacher), originally there to recce the place and take photographs, who kindly offered to chip in. Our main objective was to clear the beach of the glass fragments which littered the shore, but it was pretty amazing what kind of stuff (and the amount) we ended up hauling out. Otterman was a 1-man big-ass hauling machine. He claims that he was just about to enter into long haul mode when suddenly there was nothing left to haul though, and in retrospection I think it was somewhat easier than I was first fearing. In terms of pieces retrieved, glass takes the cake. Which is unusual because normally in clean-ups the main type of trash is plastic. NParks kindly offered logistical support with gloves (albeit the wrong kind) and canvas bags that was able to withstand glass, and even had some staff members meet me at the gate before the cleanup to pass me the equipment.

We cleared an estimated (didn't actually count) 200kg of trash from the beach in 1.5h, of which Otterman estimates about 75% (in terms of total pieces) was glass - with 20% plastic and 5% metal. Had to leave behind some really heavy tires which we'll feedback to the park staff about and have them get their clean-up team to retrieve. Most of the glass was concentrated at the part of the beach where the sand starts, and there was a lot of it especially at the bit after the fence demarcating the end of the beach. Many of the fragments had worn down sides and seemed to have been around for quite awhile.

Some thoughts about the cleanup. When people offer to provide gloves, must ask for the thick construction gloves, otherwise will have to arrange to bring our own. Arrange for some big burly guys to come later to exclusively provide muscle for hauling out the trash. Everything turned out rather well, all things considering. We weren't even sure if the 0.4m tide was going to be low enough, and it was relatively simple (too simple?) to send out a few emails to coordinate everything. Otterman thinks we didn't do enough publicity, which I disagreed since I didn't really plan for having clueless members of the public along, who need to be briefed and reminded and babysat. Perhaps next time we will advertise on Habitatnews as well.

As we were about to leave at sunset, Chee mentioned that there were 2 octopuses hanging out under the jetty. And sure enough, they were there just lounging around in the open. Amazing. Don't think I've ever seen 1 much less 2 octopuses at Labrador. They must be getting ready to hunt for some poor unsuspecting crabs coming out to feed at dusk. We also saw the Little Heron coming out to hunt as we were leaving while the sun set. There were also loads of fireworms. We spotted one that had just stunned itself a snapping shrimp and was about to polish it off when it was disturbed by us lifting the piece of fibreglass that was lying on top of it. Poor thing. I hope it managed to get back to its dinner after we left.

To follow-up: Will email volunteers to thank them again for coming. And email the NParks staff to let them know about the outcome and let them know about the bulky items which they can help transport out.

12 December 2005

Title: Pedal Ubin 11 December 2005

The Pedal Ubin Guides (Jungle Fowls) were all bubbly and cheerful as they gathered at Changi Jetty. We were conducting registration there for the first time instead of the basketball court as an experiment. Groups of visitors and their guides set off smoothly in bumboats to Pulau Ubin, in groups of 12.

When the ride began, there were no-shows. So participants enjoyed the luxury of a 1 guide: 4 participants ratio due to the no-shows. The first group headed west, led by Gurmit, November and Leong Wai while Vannessa, Tammy, Shiping, Kai Scene and Ivan took the second group to the coconut plantation near the village. The groups later visited various plantations and ecosystems, the Shrine of the German Girl, Jelutong Bridge, the Thai Temple, “Y U so like that” stall and Ubin Quarry. It was a beautiful day to be cycling about, with lovely cloud cover and cool breezes blowing throughout the morning so the pace was enjoyable and comfortable.

Apparently, some participants had been given the impression by friends that Pulau Ubin had very little to see! By the end of the trip, we were pleased that these participants were convinced their friends were wrong! Mind you, Pedal Ubin’s exploration of the island with the help of the Jungle Fowls, provide but a mere peek at the nature and heritage that Pulau Ubin has to offer.

The guides rode back enjoying the camaraderie and laughter, sharing the day's stories and engaged in a photo frenzy! The debrief was peppered with lots of questions, ideas, views and suggestions as we discussed some of the new ideas proposed for 2006. An issue that stood out were late comers who held back the the programme today by at least 30 minutes. They lost the second group the opportunity of a long and cool ride.

The no-shows were an even worse problem! The volunteer guides now realise the rationale behind the suggestion to introduce pre-trip charging. Most trips saw a proportion of participants not turning up without prior notice. They were not only wasting the time and effort of the volunteer guides and taking the free trips for granted, they were eliminating the opportunity of others who were told that registration was full. Although the no-shows go into Siva’s black list, he intends to do more than just ban them from Raffles Museum trips.

After a good morning's ride, the delicious spread of food that awaited us at Changi Village was a well-deserved reward for the cheery guides of Pedal Ubin!

02 December 2005

Thoughts on Raffles Museum exhibitions at fairs

Toddycats are setting up just posters at the Giving Tree @ North East 2005 this time, and guides, critical to any exhibit,will be there. No specimens no large photo blowups but we are lucky even to be there; it was pretty much a last minute decision with some heroics and Eco-Challenge had been holding the fort for us as liason.

One of the reasons I decided to get on board with this is it will serve as a first step in reviving outreach at fairs. It's been a long time since Raffles Museum Toddycats have participated in an exhibition to reach out to the public. Thankfully, in the past couple of years, Wild Singapore and Blue Water Volunteers have been very active in this arena over marine issues and have very nice and informative exhibits that they have setup in numerous places tirelessly. I've called on them myself and they setup their colourful booth during Terry Hughes coral reef public talk on 15th June 2005.

For the Humanimal Fair at The Substation's Sept Fest 2004, we were too busy with the coastal cleanup but thankfully, Wildlife Singapore got things coordinated and a joint booth was setup in the courtyard with BWV and WildSIngapore. That fair had a very charming feel!

The first and best Toddycats experience so far was at Museum Fest in 2002. We prepared exhibits in our usual Public Gallery style - print and mount photos and text and Ria loaned me her expensive screens complete with lights. We also brought out specimens from the museum and videos of local documentaries that we have collaborated on - these caught people's attention immediately and proved to be a magnet! With the interesting exhibit, voluble guides, the large crowds at Suntec City and the combined draw of many museums in one place, we ended up taking to an estimated 2,000 people in three days!

The dugong specimen in particular was a hit - the tragic orphan had died in our waters decades ago and was well preserved in a glass jar. That raised so many questions that led into a discussion to not only dugongs, but also about sea grass, marine ecosystems and the fate of these areas and marine life in Singapore and the world.

It helped that we had lots of manpower - we had a mixture of new and old guides - museum staff, senior guides, some Secondary two Chinese High students and two Singapore Polytechnic students on attachment, and a whole bunch of brand new Toddycats!

Museum Fest also served as an interview session for some new Toddycats and these novices were tasked to interact with the public after some rather basic background reading! That was quite exhausting but a lot of information as conveyed. I remember Oi Yee taking up post to explain ad elaborate on the exciting scenes on the television we brought down to screen the mangrove episode of Secret Worlds, a documentary by Charith Pelpola that we had collaborated on in 2001.

It was particularly delightful talking to the children. They were fascinated by the animal photos and specimens and when we talked about their biology and where they could be found in SIngapore, their eyes widened! I met my JC classmate who brought her daughters to finally get their questions answered!

It's a pity Museum Fest was discontinued. That was a wonderful platform and we were then prepared to repeat it year after year. And it led to raising awareness of the Raffles Museum's profile to thee Minster of Information and the Arts, with the help of National Heritage Board's CEO, Mr Lim Siam Kim.

In November 2003, we set up an ICCS exhibit at East Coast Park for the launch of NParks/NEA's "Litter Free Parks" campaign. Toddycats exhibits team worked on mounting ICCS information, and I got photos of marine life mainly from Chek Jawa from Alan Yeo and "Singapore Waters" posters from NSS' Marine Group. I remember dragging the heavy exhibit frames out from Sungei Buloh and later struggling with Patick Neo and Anand to set it up. The icing on the cake was the colourful and insightful RGS' reflections posters that their teacher and ICCS coordinator, Mariette Ong brought down for me.

RGS students came down to act as exhibit guides and amongst the visitrors was the CEO of NEA who found the information fascinating. I had earlier visited the Public Education Branch and gave them all our information as we are all working towards the cleanup of our shorelines.

I recycled the exhibit the same day when I bundled it into a taxi and set it up that evening at the Singapore International Foundation. We were giving a forum about Chek Jawa so it was perfect for the occasion!

Later that December (2003), the exhibit was set up at Sungei Buloh's 10th anniversary and Mr Mah Bow Tan visited the exhibit and I was abler to explain about the sources of the pollution. A surprisingly large proportion was originating from land!

Most of the RGS students who served as exhibit guides were later trained in the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk programme that year which was the 10th anniversary; and some are still involved this year!

Sungei Buloh and Labrador were designated Nature Reserves in November 2001. This was the first time in Singapore's post-colonial history that nature areas had been given such protection. Unprecedented, surprising, and a cause for celebration after decades of loss.

When we interviewed 115 people at Suntec City during Museum Fest 2002, only 9% had visited either site. All were surprised by the animal life depicted in specimens, videos and photos at eh exhibit. This the museum exhibit on Wildlife in Singapore at well frequented locations on high-profile public events are an effective way to share information about Singapore's biodiversity with our urban population.

I guess this is a less than subtle hint to the Toddycats about reviving the exhibits team!

Toddycats at the Giving Tree @ Northeast

After last minute week-long rush, Toddycats had a riotous time setting up booths on Thursday evening!

Hmm..Wai is contentedly sleeping after her exams it seems! Actually she was starving and exhausted from the high energy action courtesy of Nov, Anand and Oi Yee!