Saltwater crocs find permanent home at Sungei Buloh

Chng Kheng Leng and Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Saltwater crocodiles appear to be finding a permanent home at the Sungei Buloh wetlands.

The National Parks Board is monitoring their numbers at the reserve, and urges visitors to be careful.

There are no official figures, but rangers and regular visitors estimate there are four to six saltwater crocodiles at Sungei Buloh.

They are usually in the water, and have also been spotted on the mudflats.

But some visitors have encountered a crocodile across a footpath at least once.

The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all living reptiles.

Experts said space constraints could limit the growth and sizes of those in Singapore.

Subaraj Rajathurai, founder of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said: "Because fishing is not allowed and poaching is not allowed, the area is teeming with life. So the rivers are stocked with lots of available food for the crocodiles -- there is no reason to seek for food elsewhere. Humans are not part of their normal diet, and certainly not the ones (crocodiles) in Singapore because they're too small."

The crocodiles could have swum over from Malaysian waters, prompted by construction across the Causeway, said Director of the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre Anbarasai Boopal.

Members of the public are advised to stay calm and back away slowly if they encounter crocodiles.

Vilma D'Rozario, who heads environmental NGO Cicada Tree Eco-Place, said people should not use flash photography during a crocodile encounter, and should hold on to their children at all times when on the Sungei Buloh reserve boardwalks.

- CNA/gn

Not one, but three crocs sighted
Ethan Lou My Paper 6 Dec 13;

OUT of the murky waters rose two beady eyes. Then four, then six.

As the sun descended and the tide receded, three saltwater crocodiles had come out to feed.

We were at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Wednesday where, on Nov 20, schoolchildren on a field trip saw one right on the footpath. That crocodile was barely 20m away, with nothing separating it from the children.

The crocodiles that we saw were safely in the water. But a visit to the spot where the children chanced upon the crocodile can be mildly unnerving. The footpath is barely 5m from the water at high tide and one wonders what is stopping crocodiles from slithering onto land more often.

Sungei Buloh is home to an estimated eight crocodiles, though they rarely rear their snouts.

Dr Benoit Goossens, who studies saltwater crocodiles in Sabah, Malaysia, said the one sighted on Nov 20 was basking, a process in which the reptile lies in the sun to regulate its body temperature.

It is a common thing, though crocodiles usually do it closer to water, Dr Goossens said.

He added that a basking crocodile is not dangerous, and the first thing it does when provoked is usually to "jump in the water for safety".

Even if not basking, only females protecting their eggs or crocodiles larger than 4m are dangerous to humans, Dr Goossens said.

And according to Mr Ben Lee, a nature advocate who studies crocodiles, none of the Sungei Buloh crocodiles are that big,

Before our trek began, Mr Lee showed us pictures of the "grandmaster", the largest he had seen, which measured only about 3.7m.

He said the crocodiles are no cause for concern.

In a statement issued by the National Parks Board (NParks), its covering director, Ms Sharon Chan, said that NParks has increased patrols in the area.

"If we spot any crocodiles on public footpaths, we will advise the public to stay away from those areas," she said.

However, not all will listen. We met two wildlife photographers who had spent an entire Sunday camped out on the path where the crocodile first appeared, hoping to catch a glimpse.

One of them, Mr Tan Yong Guan, said: "Don't let the authorities remove the crocodiles. This is the last such place in Singapore."

He added, pointing to one in the water: "Crocodiles are shy creatures. If I talk too loudly, it would run away."

Croc spotted on Sungei Buloh reserve's path
David Lee Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 13;


The saltwater crocodile lying across the main footpath in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 20 November 2013. It had been about 20 metres ahead of some schoolchildren from the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) who were on a school field trip. Photographer Richard Seah estimated that the crocodile was 3 metres long.

SINGAPORE- In what the National Parks Board (NParks) has called "a rare occurrence", several visitors to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve came across a saltwater crocodile lying across the main footpath.

On Nov 20, a teacher and a small group of seven-year-old schoolchildren from the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) encountered the crocodile while on a field trip.

It entered the water after the teacher and another visitor approached it tentatively.

The group returned to the reserve's entrance immediately after that.

The saltwater crocodile, notorious for attacks on people in parts of Australia and East Malaysia, is the world's largest living reptile and one of the most vicious predators known to man. It had been common here 40 years ago before being hunted close to extinction.

The crocodile had been about 20m ahead of the schoolchildren, who were asked to stop and wait quietly, said a UWCSEA spokesman.

"No one was alarmed or worried," she added.

Photographer Richard Seah, 58, the other visitor, estimated that the crocodile, which stretched across the entire width of the path, was 3m long.

"It was pretty still, so I wasn't afraid. But thinking back, if it decided to attack me I probably could not have outrun it," said the regular visitor to the reserve.

Up to 10 saltwater crocodiles are estimated to live in Singapore waters around the north-western coastline, up from two in 2008.

There have been regular sightings in recent years in Sungei Buloh and around Kranji Reservoir.

Experts say some may have been forced out of Johor waters by development there, and that their presence here is a sign that protected habitats such as Sungei Buloh are flourishing.

NParks director for conservation Wong Tuan Wah said that the crocodiles in Sungei Buloh are usually found in the water or at mudflats away from visitor routes.

Visitors should heed the warning signs in the reserve, he said, sticking to paths and staying calm and backing away slowly if they encounter a crocodile.

He added that NParks will be monitoring the situation to ensure public safety. More than 100,000 people visit Sungei Buloh each year, including many school groups.

Dr Benoit Goossens, a wildlife conservationist who studies saltwater crocodiles at the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysia, reiterated experts' views that there is "realistically very little" danger to the public as long as people heed safety notices and behave responsibly.

Reptile expert and National Geographic Channel host Brady Barr especially cautioned people against feeding them.

"The real danger starts when crocodiles start associating people with food," he said. He too stressed that there was no need to panic as the risk was "very minimal".

But he called for the authorities here to study and track the local crocodile population so they can monitor them better.

"That way you know what you're dealing with," Dr Barr told The Straits Times.

Dos and don'ts

Dos

Stick to designated footpaths

Pay attention to warning signs and safety advisories

If you encounter a crocodile, stay calm and back away slowly

Don'ts

Do not linger at the water's edge or enter the water, especially at night or while fishing

Do not approach their nests, as protective female crocodiles may turn aggressive

If you encounter a crocodile, do not approach it

Do not feed them. This makes them associate people with food, encouraging them to approach

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