Cyrene Reef – its very location, at the patch of sea sandwiched between industrial Jurong Island and oil refinery base Pulau Bukom in Singapore – is a testimony to the resilience and precariousness of nature. Coupled to the fact that Cyrene Reef is next to a busy shipping lane, it’s a wonder at all that a reef can exist here.
Yet Cyrene Reef thrives gloriously, with a wide assortment of marine life that rivals the best of its famous counterpart in the east, Chek Jawa. A living reef teeming with fishes also supports avian life, with birds like the Pacific Reef Egret, Grey Heron, White-bellied Sea Eagle, the rare and endangered Chinese Egret and Singapore’s largest bird the Great-billed Heron regularly finding its next meal in these waters. Because of this amazing juxtaposition of nature versus industry, I am intrigued and very much want to visit Cyrene Reef one day, to witness first hand this miracle of sorts.
However, Cyrene Reef lives on borrowed time, given Singapore’s penchant for relentless reclamation. Already, there are rock-filling works and reclamation going on just off Cyrene, as well as sand mining and dumping works at nearby Labrador Nature Reserve. It is feared that Cyrene Reef might become another case of here today, gone tomorrow. A balance has to be struck between economic expansion and nature conservation, and I believe that with more dialogue and greater understanding on both sides, a compromise can be reached such that our future generations will still have patches of nature to enjoy in Singapore.
Red Eyed Reef Crab (Eriphia smithi), partially hidden in a rock crevice.
Some of you might know that I’ll become the Chairperson of Nature Society (Singapore)’s (NSS) Education Group from 24 May 2008. NSS Education Group runs a Fun with Nature programme for NSS Kids (5-9 years old) as well as a separate HSBC-sponsored programme for primary schools in Singapore, with the aims of showcasing Singapore’s natural heritage to the young ones. Over the past 8 years, my predecessor, Dr Vilma D’Rozario, has done a fabulous job in her ardent promotion of all things natural. As she passes on the baton to me, I would like to continue this mission of advancing the cause of nature through education, not only amongst the little ones, but to the public in general.
As this year is International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2008), it’ll be a dream come true if NSS Kids can get to see Cyrene Reef one day, and perhaps from this one trip, begin their own march towards a lifelong passion for nature appreciation and conservation.