Kayakers seen venturing into Sungei Buloh waters, where crocodiles have been spotted

The man was spotted by Mr Ben Lee having a picnic on the kayak and dangling his legs in the water. The words "Danger of crocodile attack" and the circle around the man's legs were added by Mr Lee. -- PHOTO: BEN LEE
The man was spotted by Mr Ben Lee having a picnic on the kayak and dangling his legs in the water. The words "Danger of crocodile attack" and the circle around the man's legs were added by Mr Lee. -- PHOTO: BEN LEE
Mr Ben Lee spotted a couple and their young child kayaking at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, despite canoes and kayaks not being allowed due to the presence of crocodiles. -- PHOTO: BEN LEE
Mr Ben Lee spotted a couple and their young child kayaking at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, despite canoes and kayaks not being allowed due to the presence of crocodiles. -- PHOTO: BEN LEE

SINGAPORE - Nature photographers, who were expecting birds, otters or even crocodiles on an outing to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, were surprised to spot people instead on a leisurely kayaking trip.

Canoes and kayaks are not allowed in the nature reserve, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of Nature Trekkers, said he saw a couple and a young child kayaking in the reserve on Sunday.

The avid nature guide and photographer was conducting a photography session there when he saw the trio row into the reserve in the afternoon.

"I managed to capture some shots of (them) with my long-range telephoto lens camera before they rowed... out of the reserve," the 52-year-old told The Straits Times on Monday.

After a trip into the reserve, the trio spent about 45 minutes relaxing near a river bank, while having a picnic on the kayak, Mr Lee said.

He added that the man dangled his legs in the water as he ate.

"The brackish mangrove river... is infested with crocodiles and one will never know if any of these crocodile will make a surprise grab on the man's leg," he said in an e-mail to The Straits Times.

He spotted three crocodiles on his outing on Sunday, Mr Lee said, but he could not get clear photos of them as they were lurking in the water.

The area is home to a number of wild saltwater crocodiles. Male saltwater crocodiles generally grow to 5m from snout to tail, and weigh about 450kg.

Last April, a 400kg giant, probably one of the largest to have roamed wild here in decades, was found dead on the Kranji Reservoir grounds. It is believed to have been killed by poachers.

Mr Lee sent The Straits Times two photos he took of crocodiles he had spotted on Saturday.

He wrote in the same e-mail: "It would be unimaginable if (the canoe) were to capsize... as the canoeists were not having life jackets on or safety equipment..."

Mr Lee emphasised to The Straits Times over the phone that he felt the authorities should put up signs to warn unsuspecting canoeists and kayakers that they should not row into the reserve.

Besides putting their own lives in danger, they could also disturb the animals, he added.

Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, stressed that the reptiles will not attack humans unless provoked.

"But feet dangling in the water could look like fish, which is a crocodile's natural prey," he warned.

When contacted, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it was aware of the incident.

Said NParks' deputy director of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Mr How Choon Beng: "NParks officers noticed two adults and a child kayaking within Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday afternoon.

"When advised by our officers, they were cooperative and immediately left the boundaries of the Reserve."

He also reminded visitors to keep within the designated land trails when visiting the reserve.

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