Beachgoers not worried about presence of crocodile at East Coast Parkway

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SINGAPORE - A crocodile was spotted at a stretch of East Coast Park earlier this week, but parkgoers in the area told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Nov 8) that they were not worried.

Operations manager Alan Leong, 45, who was preparing for a barbecue and setting up camp next to the National Sailing Centre, near where the reptile was sighted, said: "The crocodile could just be passing by. People should be alarmed only if it is repeatedly seen in the area. When in the water, people should just take precautions and not stay in for extended periods of time."

Eugene Lim, 37, who is self-employed, echoed Mr Leong's sentiments as he prepared for a barbecue. "In countries such as the US or Australia, wildlife like alligators periodically show up, and people learn to cope with them. I don't think the authorities should ban swimming."

Student Putera Aiman Roslan, 17, was more cautious. "I'm not worried about the crocodile unless I have to go into the water, which I don't plan to do today," he said.

A crocodile was seen on Monday at a construction area next to the National Sailing Centre at East Coast Park, causing the centre to suspend all its water activities. When The Straits Times visited the centre on Wednesday, it was calm and no sailing activity was observed. A centre spokesman said that water activities are being suspended till further notice.

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However, according to a WhatsApp message circulating among the parents of student sailors that The Straits Times has seen, water activities at a neighbouring sailing club at the National Service Resort & Country Club are slated to start on Thursday.

One of the parents, who declined to be named, said most parents think that all water activities should be suspended until the crocodile is caught and relocated. He said a regatta organised by the Changi Sailing Club due to be held near where crocodiles were seen in August should be cancelled. "Or if they are adamant on having a regatta, then reclassify it as a non-ranking regatta so parents won't be pressurised to participate," he added. Parents have to consent to their children taking part in the regatta.

The latest sighting of the crocodile at East Coast is believed to be one of the first times the reptile has been detected in the Singapore Strait south of the mainland.

Crocodiles have previously been seen in the Johor Strait along the northern coast, mainly in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. But in August, there were also sightings of crocodiles at Changi Beach Park and Pasir Ris Park, leading the authorities to put up signboards warning people against getting too close to the animals. The National Parks Board (NParks) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said then that they would monitor and try to relocate the crocodiles. However, as of last month, no crocodiles have been seen.

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Nature guide Ivan Kwan thinks that the previous sightings at Pasir Ris and Changi all involve one individual that has now made its way to East Coast. "Or they could all be different individuals, all dispersing from Johor, where mangroves are being destroyed, forcing crocodiles to seek new homes." NParks said previously that estuarine crocodiles are known to swim freely in the Johor Strait.

Mr Kwan noted that the estuarine crocodile is territorial, so these animals could be showing up in Singapore waters due to a combination of factors: loss of mangrove habitats in eastern Johor Strait, or available territories being occupied by older, larger crocodiles. "So these younger individuals, in search of territories of their own, are venturing to areas without resident crocodiles to look for a suitable place to establish their own territories," he said.

He added that studies in Australia have shown that young crocodiles can travel great distances in search of territory. ABC News reported in 2015 that University of Queensland reseachers found that one crocodile had travelled more than 400km down a gulf.

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