Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Walk With Us In The Seagrass Meadows

Saturday, 15 November 2008 - Sunday, 16th November 2008: 3rd Seahorse Monitoring and Data Collection Expedition

Mum and I crossing the suspension bridge at the Kukup Island National Park.

A motto at the Kukup Island National Park that Dad and I really liked.

A thorny sea cucumber: Another one of those things that both fascinate and repulse Mum.

A huge-ass sea cucumber that Mum spotted and I picked up.

Mum and Dad at the Kukup Jetty

(For more photos of our trip, please go to: my MNS activities photo album)

My first two trips to the seagrass beds at the Pulai River Estuary had been deeply gratifying and wondrous ones, and I thought it fair to afford my parents the opportunity to visit the seagrass beds with me on my next trip to see the marine fauna there.

And so I renewed the parents' Malaysian Nature Society membership and registered them for the November trip as a wedding anniversary gift to them. It was an occasion of great excitement for them even though I had reminded them that they may have to rough it out a little.

After a long drive down South with numerous breaks in between, we finally arrived in Nusa Bestari and checked in to our rooms at Euro Hotel before meeting up with the others in the lobby and driving in convoy to the SOS (Save Our Seahorses) Research Station in Pendas. We offered a lift to a particular Mr. Soh, the only other senior citizen in the group, who coincidentally turned out to be a retired schoolteacher as well, and he and Covert Dad bonded quickly and became firm friends throughout the trip.

While the tenderfoots were being briefed on their duties at the Research Station, Serina pulled me aside to inform me of a hostile presence at the seagrass beds, and we discussed whether or not to confront this person head -on or to go to the press to correct any misinformation later. There has been much commercial interest in the seagrass meadows and the profiteers discovered that the most compelling way of persuading the State Government that the site should make way for development was to tell the authorities and media that there was nothing of value living at the site. Our job as conservationists was to present evidence to the contrary and state our case categorically.

We took the boats to the seagrass meadow around 1745h and helped the volunteers off the boats. Covert Dad and Covert Mum were thrilled to find themselves standing on solid ground in what seemed like the middle of the sea. Covert Mum's sharp eyes detected movements almost immediately and picked out horseshoe crabs, thorny sea cucumbers, large tiger-striped sea cucumbers, pincushion sea stars and sea squirts. It filled me with warmth inside to see them marvelling at the unique marine fauna and express amazement at the experience of being at such an ecologically sensitive and little-known marine habitat.

Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains in the afternoon, the sky grew dark rather early and visibility soon became a problem. As such, the team was not able to spot and tag any seahorses or alligator pipefish on Saturday. I was disappointed, but the parents were really good sports and were able to appreciate that Nature doesn't stay put just to oblige humans.

We adjourned to dinner at Saujana, a Malay seafood restaurant. The food was terrible and overpriced. We reached Euro Hotel after 2300h for some much needed sleep. Woke up on Sunday to tidy up, shower and proceed to Old Town Cafe for a sumptuous breakfast. We then checked out of the hotel and drove in convoy to the Kukup Island National Park.

After the preliminary briefing, we took a boat to Kukup Island, 50% of which was submerged right now due to the monsoon rains. We climbed up the watchtower, walked across the suspension bridge and walked along the boardwalk. We saw lots of sea snails, volutes, tree-climbing crabs, magpie robins, giant mudskippers, blue-spotted mudskippers, and dog-faced water snakes. Covert Mum got to see her favourite giant mudskippers, which both repulsed and fascinated her.

Just as we were arriving at the second watchtower, our park guide received a call from his office that the coastal water level was rising and that our cars, which were parked in the compound of the marine park office, were in danger of being flooded out.

Hui-Min and Bushcraft John gallantly offered to return to the marine park office to move all our cars to higher ground so that the rest of us would not have to cut short our Island trip.

We completed our trek of Kukup Island and returned to the jetty to wait for our boat, during which wait John messaged to inform us that all the cars were safe and have been moved to higher ground. We were very grateful for their help, without which we would not have any peace of mind.

From Kukup Island, we proceeded to one of the floating fish farms to look at more samples of marine fauna. We saw only oysters, horseshoe crabs and bamboo sharks at this one. We returned to the mainland for lunch. We had lunch at yet another shabby Malay seafood restaurant.

The food came in quite generous portions but was so poorly seasoned and cooked that it was far from satisfactory. The calamari rings were so tough, abrasive and dry that you could scrub pots and pans with them. When the prawns arrived in a lukewarm anaemic soup of salt water with shavings of pineapple and onions, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Here was my anniversary treat to my parents and it fell completely short of everyone's expectations. We weren't forced to eat halal food on my first trip to the seagrass site, so I had expected to get good food again on subsequent trips.

I promised to take my parents out to high tea someplace else to make up for the disappointing meals we had in what was supposed to be Seafood Central. We started our long journey home after lunch with breaks in between so Covert Dad and I could take turns at the wheel. This trip may not have been a huge success but my parents enjoyed their unforgettable experience at the seagrass meadows and were happy with the thought and effort I had put into making their trip a special one.

Saturday, 22nd November - Sunday, 23rd November 2008: Deeply Boring Wedding Weekend.

After months of doing preparatory work for the Malaysian Nature Society's Open Day to be held at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), I had to delegate the job of coordinating the Green Living booth and activities to others and forgo the joy of being there to coordinate the event, as I had to be in Kuantan for my cousin's wedding the very same weekend.

I labelled all the boxes and bags of games equipment and educational and outreach materials, delivered them to one of my volunteers, and watched wistfully as my volunteers got ready for the Big Day.

I have nothing much to report about the wedding in Kuantan except that the Battletank performed really well on the road and that an almost-full tank of Compressed Natural Gas could last me 197 kilometres.

I would also add that with the exception of mindfully and deliberately green weddings, all weddings are wasteful, unnecessary and uninteresting to anyone but the couple. Let me clarify that my cousin and I drifted apart in our teenage years due to vastly different values.

As I have said, I have nothing to report on the wedding except that it was a waste of my weekend and I could have spent the 2 days doing Green Living outreach activities and volunteering at the SPCA animal shelter instead.

I was glad to be back at the parental home by 0300h Monday to tend to the needs of Chocky and Amber.

Chocky is happy to have his photo taken. Amber isn’t so sure.

Saturday, 29th November 2008 – Sunday, 30th November 2008: Ferrety Weekend

I have had a mildly challenging week dealing with the long-tailed macaques that come by to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters from the neighbouring secondary forest. Two alpha males have discovered that my compost heap was a veritable treasure trove of delights (we had persimmon, mangosteen, guava and mango this week) and had trashed my neat little compost heap.

As if the gratuitous mayhem wasn’t enough, they had also bitten through the bottle of Diarrid that I had left on the porch table and imbibed the contents, pooed in the driveway and flung Jake’s bike helmet clear off its storage space.

And so I’ve spent an unnecessary amount of time cleaning up after everyone all week.

Spent much of Saturday at the SPCA, as usual. Rose and Jane, our weekend staff, were present to assist in the animal surrenders and adoptions, so the staff and volunteers weren’t quite as overwhelmed with work. I came in through the shelter gates to find a ferret in a cage on the front table. Apparently, a man spotted the ferret running across the road while he was driving. He stopped the car and picked the very tame ferret up to stop the ferret from getting run over by moving vehicles or attacked by stray dogs and cats, and brought the ferret over to the SPCA.

I was sorely tempted to adopt the ferret for Jake, but was concerned that he (the ferret) may not get along with the cats. I asked Chelvy for Pearly’s number, as Pearly has a female ferret and this good-natured male ferret would make a great addition to her family. Chelvy and Dr. Pushpa were circumspect about letting me have Pearly’s number because they didn’t want the ferret to be used for breeding purposes. While I was trying to persuade Rose and Chelvy to give me Pearly’s number, a young couple who had come to bring their cat for a booster shot asked to adopt the ferret as they were enamoured by his endearing personality and appearance. The shelter officers decided that it was in the best interests of the ferret to authorise the couple to adopt the ferret as they have the means and time to look after an additional animal companion.

Before we bade goodbye to the ferret, Wolfhound and I had the opportunity to play with the engaging little ferret and have our pictures taken with him:

Before commencing animal care work, I moseyed around our Charity Shop and was delighted to find 2 almost-new covered cat litter trays. I have always wanted a second one to replace the Rowdies’ conventional litter tray. Jane came in and had me explain how to use a covered litter tray to her. Then Rose came in and wanted one of the litter trays for herself. In the end, I let the 2 ladies purchase the covered litter trays although I had spotted the trays first and wanted them for myself. The ladies are, after all, our animal shelter’s part-time staff and the savings would mean much more to them than to me.

I went up to the shelter Bungalow to collect copies of the UDAW Petition and to discuss the preparations for our SPCA Christmas Paw-ty with the officers. Nicole informed me that 2 of the dogs, Zack and Boobie, have ringworm, so I offered to give them medicated baths. And so Nicole, Glyn and I got down to work washing all the Bungalow dogs.

My favourite rescued dog right now has to be Angel, a victim of senseless brutality. Angel lost her eyesight and is lame in one leg as a result of an unprovoked attack by a mob who saw her as an easy target. The SPCA (prosecuting under the power of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Dept. of Veterinary Services) lost the court case due to a lack of evidence as to the identity of the perpetrators, and the Dept. of Veterinary Services (“DVS”) had, after the decision was rendered, advised the SPCA to put Angel to sleep.

This was an easy directive from a party that was not the one responsible for the care of Angel since the day of the rescue. No one loved Angel as we did, or realised what a miracle it is that she remained such a sweet-natured and trusting dog despite her night of terror, or watched her progress as she learned to cope with her newfound blindness. It is easy to request the euthanasia of an animal you have not had the opportunity to love. The SPCA Inspectorate was adamant that we keep Angel, and care for her, and love her as a member of our special family.

(Photos of Angel to follow as soon as possible)

We washed and medicated all the dogs (Bailey, Poodley, Zack, Angel, Girlie and Boobie), towelled them off and cleaned their ears and treated them for ear mites. We had to stop by 1700h as it had begun to rain. The 3 of us walked down the hill to the shops for an early dinner. Glyn was disturbed by the number of stray cats in the area. There were dozens of pregnant cats, nursing queens and kittens. This reflected badly on the SPCA as it is an indication that we do not take responsibility for the stray animals directly beyond our shelter gates.

Glyn has since put forward a proposal to the shelter officers and committee to have a campaign to spay and neuter the strays and have them ear-tipped for future identification. As an added incentive, we would inform the shopkeepers that the cats would be dewormed, de-ticked and given medical check-ups. I think it is a capital idea and very much in line with the principles of Mission Help (SPCA’s initiative) and Project Second Chance (my own initiative), and Nicole and I were quick to offer our support and assistance. With a little dedication and proper organisation, this mass neutering campaign of street animals could be one of the SPCA’s greatest success stories.

I went back to the SPCA shelter after our dinner break, as Nicole and Glyn had some work to clear off, and I wanted to help Linda and Sugen with the cleaning of the shelter. Linda was cleaning the Maternity Kennels as I got back. I got to work soaping, scrubbing and disinfecting the Cattery, Central Area, Puppy Area and Front Admin/Reception Area. We finished cleaning by 1915h. I rinsed out and put away the mops and pails and took out the trash before cleaning myself up and heading home after sundown.

Reached the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, tidied the place up, fed and cleaned up after the Rowdies (Keisha included – she is back for a 2-week stay as Hui-Min is away at a Buddhist meditation retreat) and sorted out the work clothes that I had to iron. Stopped by Tesco on my way back to the parental home to pick up supplies for my birthday party next week.

Spent Sunday back at the parental home washing the dogs, tidying the parental home, polishing the furniture, cleaning the Battletank, doing the laundry and ironing and catching up on my reading and correspondence.

For my birthday, I would like to have 10 hours of sleep.

“Happiness is a matter of one's most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self.” - Iris Murdoch.


Ellen Whyte said...

Wow you're so much on the go! just reading what you pack into a day leaves me sleepy :-)

Love hearing about your Rowdies. In the new year may I meet them? I'd love to write a story on a cat and dog pack.

I've sent you email about a local pet attitude study, please pass it on to people who are also in the business of pet/animal volunteering.

Congratulations on your parents anniversary. Shame about the horrible food. But the bumpy sea cucumber looks great! Does it feel bumpy or slick? Never touched one before.

L8R, Ellen

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a powerpacked weekend! Where do you get the energy?

The pointy sea cucumber looks fantastic. Very pretty

And the ferret looks sooo adorable.