December 7th, 2006

krazy koati

All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon

Pictures! Some pictures, anyway. I've got many more. Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve is at the north-west corner of Singapore, barely off the mainland, so you can see the Malaysian traffic. (This is the narrowest parts of the Straits of Johor, and it was in this vicinity that Japanese troops invaded Singapore in 1942; the Kranji War Memorial is a touch east of the reserve.) Crocodiles are supposed to live in this waterway. While we didn't see any we were adequately warned, and we were attacked by ants while looking at a memorial tree. You can't fault ants for attacking people trying to step on them even accidentally, but this is why I wear long socks when going places I expect to step off of sidewalks whether or not I look silly.

Most of the Wetlands Reserve used to be prawn farms, which were merged into larger farms and then turned into the reserve. I'd never imagined prawn farming, but it's done by flooding water into ponds at high tide. The prawns grow over the course of a couple of weeks. At low tide they hang nets from roll bars at the sluice gates and open the gates so the prawns and anything unlucky enough to live in the ponds is pulled into the nets. Now the sluice gates are used to control the levels of water and mud to improve the nutritional quality of the grounds and get birds to stop over. The non-prawn farm parts are an actual mangrove swamp, if a small one, with the dramatic views that implies. My guide explained the different parts of mangroves, as we walked into a new region every fifty paces or so.

At the visitor's centre are exhibits of the major types of animals, so even if one doesn't see a smooth otter (as I didn't) one has an idea what they looked like. I mentioned spotting something that looked like it might be an otter, but probably it was wood. Animals I did see included many tree-climbing crabs. They climb to avoid fish which would eat them at high tide. You know this is a Singaporean species of crabs as they're queued up except for those who have reserved a spot using their claw phones. There were also quite a few mudskippers. At high tide they climb on tree roots; at low tide, they get back in the mud. Monitor lizards are pretty popular as well, and you can pass them off as crocodiles as long as nobody else is looking closely. Squirrels are all over the place. There's one viewing shelter with a fast-moving squirrel highway to its side. I walked up to another group along the way which had stopped to photograph another squirrel, and we traded squirrel locations, which probably sounds as silly to you as it does to me. By the freshwater pond I spotted a couple Plantain squirrels quite lost in one another's grooming. And I suspect that Kong's hidden behind here. Along that path, though, was the only time I encountered reserve staff riding a cart around, and from the curve of the road I only saw them a few seconds before they reached my location. Happily I stick near the sides of the road anyway, so I wasn't in actual danger.

Trivia: On 7 December 1794 France declared the new franc to be equal to one of the old livres, and set the franc equal to 100 centimes. Source: The Measure of All Things, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System, Mark Littmann.