Against All Rising Odds – Keeping the Coral Reef Alive

Against All Rising Odds – Keeping the Coral Reef Alive

You’d probably be asking the similar question that went through my mind; A coral is meant to be left where it is, isn’t it? Exceptional to this case, the coral clearing involved the rehabilitation of a damaged coral reef near the Datai Bay beach that was closes to the Andaman. A marine biologist and consultant for this project, Dr Gerry Goeden, had mentioned that most of the coral reef in the Datai Bay was swept, scattered and destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami. The rehabilitation exercise involved the clearing of dead coral at certain times of the month during the lowest tides to encourage live coral to grow. The rehabilitation exercise goes further by grafting new coral onto dead coral which are then nurtured in sea water tanks before being returned to the coral reef. This activity involved not only the efforts of the resort but also the co operation of the resort’s guests and Junglewalla as well. I am neither a marine biologist nor a diver and having spent most of the time on land rather than under the sea, I am definitely a newbie to the world of corals. The only thing I know of a coral reef is that it is a very important ecological system that keeps the biodiversity in our oceans in balance. Eventually, the balanced and healthy biodiversity in the ocean will provide economic values to the Homo sapiens. After the laborious work of clearing the dead corals, the participants of the exercise are then rewarded with a ‘coral walk’ next day. A coral walk is all about getting to know what is going on and what we can find in a coral reef. Dr Gerry opened my eyes on my first walk to various species of corals and sea life such as mushroom coral, slipper coral, chitons and sea cucumbers that breathe through their anus. A coral reef is a ‘rainforest’ in the sea for us to learn, to discover and so much more. Whether it’s a rainforest on the land or in the sea, much must be done to save them from exploitation and threats. I do ponder over the last statement above as Langkawi’s natural environment slowly dwindles against the rising tide development to which even the Datai Bay isn’t immune to. Any development will definitely create an impact but how much of an impact? I do not have the answer right now but can only hope for the best and continue to help the corals flourish.
The Andaman Reef

The Andaman Reef

The Andaman Reef has a long history but it was the 2004 tsunami that changed everything. Once a carpet of brilliant corals, the giant waves broke many of the huge colonies off of the reef edge and sent them crashing towards the shore.It’s taken a few years for natural recovery to begin and now the great efforts of staff and guests alike to clear the broken coral rock out from in between the living colonies are changing the reef’s appearance. One of the most interesting discoveries is a ‘nursery’ of tiny Staghorn corals scattered over a hundred square meters or more. Some of these little corals are only a centimeter in diameter and have only half a dozen tiny polyps. But, given the right conditions, they can grow 5 – 10 cm per year. The Andaman Reef has been really showing us its best side for the last few months. Great tides have made reef exploration much easier and we have found some incredible little creatures. The Andaman Reef has a long history but it was the 2004 tsunami that changed everything. Once a carpet of brilliant corals, the giant waves broke many of the huge colonies off of the reef edge and sent them crashing towards the shore. It’s taken a few years for natural recovery to begin and now the great efforts of staff and guests alike to clear the broken coral rock out from in between the living colonies are changing the reef’s appearance. One of the most interesting discoveries is a ‘nursery’ of tiny Staghorn corals scattered over a hundred square metres or more. Some of these little corals are only a centimeter in diameter and have only half a dozen tiny polyps. But, given the right conditions, they can grow 5 – 10 cm per year.
Frolicking At The Andaman

Frolicking At The Andaman

Sitting at the Nature Desk of the Andaman Resort, while on duty, made me feel as if time had stood still. I felt like my SOS call for something to happen had been answered when my feathered friends came to amuse me. The loud and sweet whistling call wi-it wait… wi-it wait at the end of the corridor caught my attention and I instantly knew that it was Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella). The call continued and it seemed that it was there for more than a minute. It was very near too. I walked over there as I was so tempted to have a look at this beautiful birdie. It did not fly away when I approached it and my boundary limit was the balcony. This bird was about five metres away. I quickly ran to the desk to grab my camera, as it was a splendid opportunity to capture this lovely bird within this close range. Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella) While this male birdie continued to call, I was clicking away with my camera when a female Asian Fairy Bluebird came along.Aha! No wonder this male birdie remained for a while perched on the tree. Female Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena pulla) Shortly after, this note; kick kyew, kick kyew, kick kyew… was heard nearby. I scanned around and this cute little Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) was perched next to a palm tree. Similar to the male Asian Fairy Bluebird, this kingfisher was enjoying itself except that it did not have a companion. As I was clicking my camera, I whispered silently to the kingfisher, “What are you doing here, Kingfisher? You should be at the coast or in the mangroves.” Then, the kingfisher replied in silence, “Watch this”. It flew towards the edge of the roof of the resort and then in just two seconds, it had a house gecko in its beak. I was shocked and my fingers on my camera shutter stopped working. A Collared Kingfisher feasting on a house gecko. It was my first time seeing that! Wow! I managed to snap a picture of this kingfisher with the house gecko’s feet outside its beak but the picture was blurry. I had always seen the Collared Kingfisher in Langkawi feeding on small fish, shrimps, small crabs and insects but not a gecko. Now I know that there is another predator for the ever increasing population of house geckos. What a surprise lesson for me from the kingfisher. Thanks; mate! The commotion of the Asian Fairy Bluebird and Collared Kingfisher went on for a few minutes before the silence took over and then followed by the call of cicadas. The show was over. My curiosity also aroused the curiosity of the staffs that were passing by and they too, learned the name of these two birds. I was very pleased that the staffs were keen to learn about what they saw, as this would help in the effort to create awareness and help preserve the resort’s natural surrounding. Junglewalla Nature Desk is located next to the lounge on the highest floor of the Andaman Resort. That area is so close to the canopy level of the forest trees that one can enjoy a drink or two at the lounge while savoring the wildlife like the Dusky Leaf Monkeys, Oriental Pied Hornbills, Flying Squirrels (at nightfall only) and many more that come by, if you are lucky. Such a blissful privilege! Reference: A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson Writer: Wendy Chin Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Lim Bing Yee for being my proof-reader