Sunday, January 31, 2010

Smoke Above Kilim

Dry season here means open burning!?

Hey Langkawians! Did anyone of you spot this?

I did. With my guests. We were on the coast by boat at 3pm yesterday and I spotted this smoke coming from Kilim area.
Burning of land to clear for development? or for agriculture? Someone chucked a cigarette butt over dried vegetation?
Whatever the reasons, this sighting is disturbing not only to me and also to my guests aka tourists...

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

West Coast Mangroves Is Now Half a Desert!!

From my last blog about our mangroves planting on 31st May 2009 at Langkawi's west coast, we were a bit disappointed with the results. On that day, we watched the waves and swells coming into the mudflat area. I  imagined the hundreds of seeds planted previously were washed away by the strong currents.
This is our planting site, which is located along Jalan Kuala Muda next to the fishermen's kampung cafe Warung Pais.

Map zoomed in

On 13th September 2009, I took Chiew from FRIM to inspect the site. She suggested that the best family to be planted as front liners would be the Avicennia spp. This was the condition of the young vegetation on that day:

As advised by some friends, planting on that site requires right timing and so we stopped the planting for awhile until the season of Western wind is over. Like now. Western wind brings rough sea with big swells and it is not advisable to sail along the west coast starting from the month of May till early October.
Eastern wind is now back in this dry season and the sea condition in our planting site is much calmer. We returned for the next planting and we were shocked to see the condition of the planting site on 13th December 2009.

It is now a desert!
Aida and I went ahead and planted 10 young Rhizophora Apiculata into the desert-like plot just to test them out.

Aida planting a pole in as a marker

Sunset at Kuala Melaka

I returned on 18th January 2010 to check if there is any improvement. The highest tide on this day was 2.0m.

Our marker pole is still standing
I found some young Avicennia spp. struggling on dried mud cakes.

Salt crystal on a leaf of Avicennia spp 

Notice the highest tide. The line of rubbish will tell...

Our young Rhizophora Apiculata planted on 13th Dec 2009 are drying out
With such a desert-like condition, it is impossible to plant anything right now until the period returns with a higher tide level. Compare the current condition with the picture below when we had the planting in May 2009.

Meanwhile, my seedlings will continue to sit in the plastic bottles.
Read more on our previous planting stories: Langkawi West Mangroves Planting

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ugly Side of Langkawi Mangrove Tours Part II - How to Make Monkeys Swim

I mentioned in the first part of this topic, mangrove excursions here are so popular that operators would do anything to earn more even to the extend of exploiting the wildlife.
Long-Tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are common predators in our mangroves. They are sociable mammals, comical and at times can be quite aggressive. These monkeys move in groups as they forage in the mangroves for young seedlings, mangroves vegetation, crabs and snails. In the mangroves, hunting time for such animals very often depends on the tide condition. Macaques are mostly active searching for food during low tides where they are able to reach further to the mudflats and hunt for their favourite crustaceans.

Most people love monkeys particularly the tourists. It is very common that they would ask to see these cute primates prior to hopping onto such nature excursions.

Macaques usually move about in the mangroves in search of food. There are days when they are around and there are days that they are not.  Therefore, to please these tourists, the unethical operators/guides have resorted to unhealthy practice of feeding the macaques to ensure that they are always around in the same area.

Here is the exciting part. MACAQUES CAN SWIM! “What? Are you sure? How?” a tourist asked in disbelief.
The unethical operators/guides would demonstrate how you can make macaques swim. Chuck the food in the water and see what they will do. 
In addition, here is their "bullying" way to see the macaques swim for a distance. Invite one or two on your boat by luring them with food.
Then the boat will move away from the shore for a distance. Then you can force it to jump into the water like a pirate pushing the victim off the ship. 
Man Overboard! or "Macaque Overboard"!
You can be one of the merciless spectators enjoying the act of the macaque dog paddling to the shore. And while you are at it, you might as well video the whole scene too!
What a cunning way to earn more tips from the tourists! The monkeys get a dunking to get some food, the tourists are happy and the unethical operators or guides are surely happy and spurred to keep up this ruthless practice to pocket extra ringgits.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

News from Singapore on Dolphin Project in Awana Porto Malai

This dolphin project news was highlighted to Ria of Wild Shores of Singapore blog and indeed this news is not new at all. 
In December 2008, Eleven Solomon dolphins were reported to be sent to Resorts World Sentosa Island of Singapore and more are coming. Prior to arriving to Singapore, these dolphins were sent to Philippines to undergo trainings. Wonderfully, there are activist groups who are strongly against this dolphin trade and the battle is still on. 
Read more on Ria's reports on dolphins in Resort World at this link.

I must admit that the source I received with regards to this project came from a worker at site. When he mentioned the dolphins are coming from America, I was doubtful. After reading some of the reports, this has led me to wonder:
1) If those dolphins were really from America or Solomon Islands, why bother bringing these dolphins all the way up north to Langkawi?? It is a huge distance!
2) Resorts World Sentosa and Awana Porto Malai are both under the same umbrella ie. Genting Groups of Malaysia. Now you see the link! Probably the waters in Langkawi is more conducive than the waters near Sentosa Island to perform the acclimatisation program?
3) Will some of these dolphins go to Langkawi's Underwater World too?? I hope not!

This is an old debate about of having wild dolphins in captivity for educational purpose and seeing them in the wild. Education is important and this is why homo sapiens set up zoos. Where do we draw the line? What I really despise most is when dolphins are exploited for entertainment purpose! Just like our long-tailed macaques in our mangroves!

It is best to see them in the wild like this: Langkawi's Indo-Pacific dolphins Caught in video

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Dolphin-Project at Awana Porto Malai

After a tip-off from Aida, Kim and I headed out to Awana Porto Malai, Langkawi to check out the cage that it is now being built.

We asked around and found out that this cage is meant for dolphins!

Our first thought was dolphin watch for tourists! Later, we were then told out that the cage is for dolphins apparently will be coming from America. These dolphins will be caged in the waters off Awana Porto Malai as their acclimatisation program. 
How long these dolphins will be here for? Unsure. 
Are these dolphins really from America and not caught from the waters of Langkawi?
Once these dolphins had acclimatised, they will be transferred  to Singapore!

A White-Bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster hovering above us in the hot and sunny afternoon yesterday.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

An Ambush Predator In the Mangroves of Langkawi

This aggressive mangrove crab is a fierce predator that would snap its claws at anything it thinks it can eat including your feet! (White, 1847)

Forceps Crab (Epixanthus dentatus) picture taken from 

According to Dahdouh-Guebas et al., 1999; this Forceps Crab Epixanthus dentatus (White 1847) is an omnivorous crab but preys mostly on crabs and as well as climbing on mangroves roots (Cannicci et al., 1998). 
A forceps crab can grow only up to the carapace size width of 8cm. It can be identified with scattered orange granules on its carapace that normally hides under driftwood, rocks or debris. Like a male fiddler crab, this forceps crab E.dentatus has an abnormal claw. Unlike the male fiddler crab, the forceps crab E.dentatus has one thin claw and the other is a thick crushing claw. See above picture.
The stout right claw has a special tooth used for opening gastropods or crustaceans. While the other thin claw is like a forceps tool (or like tiny chopsticks) extracting the flesh of its prey. Wow! No wonder E.dentatus is called Forceps Crab.

I can't recall having to encounter a live E.dentatus yet but I was fortunate to find its exoskeleton or carapace. This carapace was found on the mudflat at low tide while I was kayaking in the narrow tributaries of Tanjung Rhu mangroves. From the shape of the carapace,  I believe that this E.dentatus must have gone through the molting process. Aha, it had became a soft-shell crab. I hope to see a live one with its claws ready to strike.

Classification: Biota > Animalia (Kingdom) > Arthropoda (Phylum) > Crustacea (Subphylum) > Malacostraca (Class) > Eumalacostraca (Subclass) > Eucarida (Superorder) > Decapoda (Order) > Pleocyemata (Suborder) > Brachyura (Infraorder) > Eubrachyura (Section) > Heterotremata (Subsection) > Eriphioidea (Superfamily) > Oziidae (Family) > Epixanthus (Genus)

This latest classification was taken from : World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) 

2.  A Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore II; published by Singapore Science Center.

1. Thank you to A Field Guide to Kenyan Mangroves website for the picture (hope you don't mind)

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Friday, January 1, 2010

For My New Year 2010

Garden plants do not usually excite me until the more I have to learn about them, the more I slowly grew to appreciate them.

I saw the broken variegated Schefflera Arboricola stubs that were used for the new year's party decoration and I asked if I can have them. Then the kind landscape lady handed me two different plants in the poly bags. My new year gift in the morning at work!
Schefflera Arboricola or its common name, Dwarf Umbrella Tree is a flowering plant in the family Araliaceae and it is believed that this plant is native to Taiwan and Hainan.

It is great to know that this common houseplant is tolerant of neglect and poor growing condition. This is the plant that is most suitable for a "gardener" like me then. The most interesting fact about this plant is that it will produce aerial roots under the right condition. When the aerial roots reach the ground, they will become fully functional roots. Wow, like the mangroves Rhizophora family. 

The second plant from the lady is a Dracaena family. I'm guessing that this variety could be the "Indonesian Pinwheel" based on the darker green stripe in the center of the leaves and lighter green stripe at the sides. In Greek, Dracaena means "female dragon" and I am clueless why it is named as such.
To me, Schefflera Arboricola represents resilience and the Dracaena represents strength. In the hope that from this new year 2010 onwards, Langkawi will be blessed with ecosystem resilience and strength to ward off any further developments.
2009 is the year I started blogging out of encouragement from Dr Paul Saffo. Thank you, Dr Saffo. I wish to take this opportunity to thank these people for helping me  identify the species and generously sharing their wealth of knowledge:
Mandy of Not Just Ordonata blog for being my spelling and grammar checker
Dr Wee Yeow Chin of Bird Ecology Study Group, for helping me with garden plants
Chiew and Dr Ruth Kiew of FRIM, for helping me with forest plants
Ria of Wildshores of Singapore, for sharing the common interest of our shores
Ku Ismadi, for his pictures and identifying local plants
Azimi, for his turtles expertise
Nina and Seng (MNS Bird Group), for birds id
Aida of LangkawiNatureKakis blog for being a gig too
Also to my blog followers! If I had missed out any other names, please give me a shout
And of course, Wikipedia! I have done my tiny weeny part to prolong Wikipedia's life.

I look forward to your continuous support and checking in. Happy New Year to all Nature Lovers!

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