Crocodile seen at East Coast Park taken to Sungei Buloh reserve

A 1.53m-long crocodile spotted yesterday by anglers at East Coast Park has been caught and relocated to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

It was filmed swimming in a canal near Fort Road. The clip was shared on Facebook group Singapore Wildlife Sightings and has gained over 1,000 responses.

In response to The Straits Times, Dr Adrian Loo, group director of wildlife management at the National Parks Board (NParks), said NParks staff, volunteers and contractors found the crocodile after receiving reports. "The crocodile was removed and relocated to the core area of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for the safety of the public," he said.

The core area of the wetland reserve is not accessible to the public and comprises about 150ha of wetland habitats including mangroves and mudflats.

Estuarine crocodiles occur naturally in the wild in Singapore, said Dr Loo. These reptiles feed and rest in brackish and freshwater areas, and are usually found in the water or on mudflats away from visitor routes.

Ms Kate Pocklington, senior conservator at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore, said: "Estuarine crocodiles prefer mangroves and are mostly seen in Sungei Buloh."

The 34-year-old author of the book Beast, Guardian, Island: The Saltwater Crocodile In Singapore said that as these creatures are apex predators, the sightings indicate an area with a biodiversity that can sustain them.

She noted that the earliest records of estuarine crocodiles in Singapore date back to the 1800s.

Mr Law Ing Sind, co-founder of the Herpetological Society of Singapore which studies reptiles and amphibians, said sightings of the creature outside of Sungei Buloh are sporadic but have been confirmed in Changi, Pasir Ris and Sembawang.

These are likely to be displaced individuals, which do not stay long in the area, he added.

"Saltwater crocodiles are usually restricted to Sungei Buloh where there are large tracts of mangrove forest, which provide a large prey base in the form of fishes to sustain a resident population," he said.

A crocodile of the size in the clip would indicate it is a juvenile and that its population in Singapore is most likely reproducing here, he said. "This is actually good news, as this species is regarded as critically endangered locally."

This is not the first time that the authorities have captured a crocodile. On Feb 23, 2019, NParks and national water agency PUB caught a 1.7m-long crocodile in Lower Seletar Reservoir and relocated it in the wild, days after water and fishing activities there were suspended.

NParks says on its website that members of the public are advised to stay calm and back away when they encounter a crocodile. They are encouraged not to approach, provoke or feed it. The public may call NParks on 1800-471-7300 to report any crocodile encounters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2021, with the headline 'Crocodile seen at East Coast Park taken to Sungei Buloh reserve'. Subscribe