On 2nd April, we organized our very first Herp Walk at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Bleary-eyed, (from having woken up at 5.30AM), the HSS guides and participants shuffled into the Wetland Centre at 8AM. Despite the early start, we were excited to explore the Reserve!
Right off the bat, as we walked out onto the main bridge connecting the Wetland Centre and the trail, a flurry of activity greeted us. Serin’s sharp eyes spotted the distinctive movement of two Smooth-coated Otters further up the river.
Closer to where we were standing, we were able to get a great view of two Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), including the famous “Tailless”. Saltwater Crocs are the largest reptile alive today. They are apex predators, and it takes a well-functioning ecosystem to support predators of their size! So their presence is somewhat indicative of the health of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Evolutionarily speaking, crocodiles are more closely related to birds than they are to other “reptiles”. Birds and crocodilians are both grouped under the clade Archosauria, along with the extinct dinosaurs. So the crocodiles we see today are of somewhat “royal” lineage, and it’s really cool to be able to observe them up close!
Further up the road, we saw a frog, albeit one we didn’t want to see! A Gunther’s Frog (Sylvirana guentheri) sat perched on a leaf at the side of an embankment. This species is not native to Singapore and is possibly an invasive species. It has been recorded locally since 1977 . It was worrying to encounter this species so far within the Nature Reserve.
We walked along a little further and were ecstatic to find a normally skittish Draco sumatranus lizard resting on a leaf. We shortly realized that the truth was much more morbid. The Draco, a female, had a single thread of spider silk wrapped around her neck. It is not entirely clear what transpired, but one possibility is that the lizard had gotten accidentally tangled in the web and strangled by it. This was also a testament to how strong spider silk can be!
These lizards are able to escape predators by gliding from tree to tree, by expanding their ribcages to spread patagia that they have. You can read more about this at this link.
We were soon treated to our very first snake of the walk! A lovely Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) that quickly slithered up a tree. Much like the Draco, it is able to glide from tree to tree! It accomplishes this by flattening its body like a ribbon and jumping off a tree! You can read more about this at this link.
Not too far ahead, we were treated to two more snakes, both Oriental Whip Snakes (Ahaetulla prasina). These are some of the most common snakes in Singapore, and can even be found in urban areas bordering green spaces. Of course, they are harmless and mean humans no harm!
We also caught a glimpse of a juvenile Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) catching and attempting to eat a crab. These ubiquitous creatures are the second-largest lizards in the world, after the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis). Despite their intimidating appearance, they are harmless and will not attack humans unprovoked.
Finally, near the end of the trail, Serin spotted a Mangrove Pitviper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus) coiled up in the foliage at the side of the embankment. These are one of the seven highly venomous snakes that can be found in Singapore and are not commonly seen due to their sit-and-wait behaviour. They are restricted to mangrove habitats like Sungei Buloh.
We ended off the walk with a group photo at the Main Bridge. It was a fantastic herp session, with many different herps showing up. A big thank you to ALL the participants and volunteer guides!
We’ve enjoyed every day of the last two years because of amazing walks like this. It’s been another wild year of showing Singaporeans how cool reptiles and amphibians are. We would not be able to do this without the constant, enthusiastic support of all of our volunteers and guides! And of course, none of this would be possible without the support of the Singaporean public (That’s YOU!) and the Nature community! A big thank you to anyone who has supported us in any small way over the last two years. Singapore has lots of biodiversity to be seen. We hope we can continue bringing them to you for many more years to come!
 – Leong T. M. & K. K. P. Lim, 2011. Occurrence of Günther’s frog, Hylarana guentheri (Amphibia: Anura: Ranidae) in Singapore. Nature in Singapore. 4: 135-141.