While I spent my entire Honours year in the laboratory with the micropipettes, centrifuge machines and water baths, my sis who majors in Biology is spending hers, well at least the initial phase, outdoor at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. She’s doing an Honours project on a particular species of fish which is abundant in the waters of the mangroves and spends her time observing the fish in their natural habitat.

It’s fun in the sense that she’s out in the nature, feeling the warm sun on her skin, smelling the fresh air, looking at the flora and fauna. There are birds like the kingfishers and the storks, there are numerous mudskippers there and she has even spotted a gigantic monitor lizard, easily two metres long. It’s not so fun in the sense that it gets extremely boring after spending 30 minutes looking at the fish which essentially do nothing much except swimming around in schools. She’s supposed to observe how a particular feature on the body of the fish aids in their foraging (these fish eat insects), but to her dismay, she hasn’t exactly seen them feed yet. It is not possible that they don’t feed in the daytime so it must have been really discreet haha. She has actually seen an archer fish, also found in the mangrove waters but not her study fish, sprout a powerful stream of water through the surface to hit some innocent insect lounging on an overhanging branch, which is probably a rarer sight, so she may just be really unlucky.  

She has to stay on the bridge to observe the fish swimming below for the entire day, even when it gets really boring. Fortunately for her, the other organisms around keep her occupied and sometimes amused. Not the mosquitoes though. They are draining her blood alive and the last time I checked with her, she was not exactly smiling. She gets visitors from time to time too, I mean, the reserve gets groups of visitors from schools and other organisations occasionally, and often these people keep her entertained with their comments and conversations. On the other hand, they may just think that she’s weird because she does nothing but just sits on the edge of the wooden bridge and uses a videocamera to film the fish who are doing nothing but zooming around in the water.

Swimming is of course prohibited in the reserve as with all other reserves or reservoirs. Unless of course you happen to be a fish, otter, monitor lizard, mudskipper or crocodile. However, I think any person with sufficient common sense will not jump into the waters of Sungei Buloh. It’s not really clean (it’s mangroves for goodness sake) and I’m not sure if it’s deep enough to drown in it as well. As usual, there is a sign that warns people of crocodiles in the waters. There was a day when a teacher brought a group of primary school students to the reserve and my sister was super amused at how the kids were amazed by the particular sign. They couldn’t seem to believe that there are crocodiles in the wild, in the very waters of Sungei Buloh where they now stood, and were chattering excitedly nonstop about the crocodiles. My sis couldn’t bear to break it to them that there might not be crocodiles afterall.

Anyway she almost burst into laughter when a student made a plea to his teacher, “Teacher, can you jump into the water please? We want to see the crocodiles.”

Gawd. Kids of these days are really smart. To use their teacher as a bait, firstly, they can get to see the fascinating crocodiles and secondly, no more homework for them. Man, why didn’t I think of that when I was still in primary school?!    

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