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  • Writer's pictureOur Wild Neighbours

The Crocodile and I

Article by Bernard Seah, Wildlife Photographer (Canon EOS Master) and Conservationist, OWN Core Committee Member

June 2024

Over a dozen years ago, while out for an NParks volunteer orientation session, I was told that there was a crocodile in the water around the then Main Bridge at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The person sharing kept pointing and we all kept looking for the saltwater crocodile but just could not spot it. This may have been the catalyst as to why I became so obsessed with spotting crocodiles in Singapore’s only wetland reserve. In those days, spotting a saltwater crocodile (more affectionately known as saltie) every other visit during lower tidal levels was a treat. Today, spotting 2 salties during a low tide outing is the minimum. Where did they all come from? Likely displaced from neighbouring coastal areas that are being developed.  

Around that same time, I acquired my first super-telephoto zoom lens that allowed me to spot and document these amazing creatures with higher resolution images but instead of satisfying my curiosity, these images made me think more and churned out more questions about them. Questions like how long did it just stay underwater? What do they eat? What is that fly I see ever so often on their head? Why do they open their mouths while basking? Why do they climb up to human paths to bask?

A horse fly resting on a crocodile’s head. Zoom in and spot the fly’s bright green eyes.

Tailless is one of Singapore’s famous crocodiles with a short and deformed tail.

Otters taunting Tailless at the riverbanks. This mobbing behaviour is practised by prey animals to drive predators away and lower their immediate risk.

As I searched for the answers, I found more reliable sources to turn to. The more I searched, the more people I met. After a few years, I was in contact with a leading international researcher who helped me grow my knowledge. Yusuke Fukuda, along with NParks, has played an important role in this wealth of knowledge.

After a few years of collecting information, I found myself sometimes sharing my newfound knowledge with visitors standing next to me on the Main Bridge. So one day, I asked NParks if they would consider a crocodile-centric outreach session. To my surprise, they were interested and Croc Talk was born!

My first session of Croc Talk was 15th Sep 2018 and this would happen once a month when a low tide (<0.7m on NEA tide chart) coincided with a Saturday or Sunday. This was one of the few sessions by NParks that does not require an interested party to register and I know how difficult it is to secure a slot for most NParks events! Somewhere along the way, we changed Croc Talk to Croc and Friends, to allow more flexibility for other animals to be included during the session, enforcing not only the importance of coexisting with other native species but also, equipping people with knowledge on wildlife etiquette.

Croc and Friends at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve

To further my outreach efforts, I joined The IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG) a few years ago. In April this year, I flew to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, to attend the mostly biennial CSG Conference 2024. The knowledge shared was unimaginable from experts across the globe.

In future, I hope to bring crocodile-sharing sessions to more events across the island and not just in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. I have recently started with Our Wild Neighbours and was invited by the National Library Board to conduct a talk at the Green Market event. My wish list for future sessions includes being a guest speaker at corporate town hall meetings or even to the Singapore Armed Forces to help them better understand this majestic creature that may be found in some restricted areas. All these different avenues will help spread a better understanding of our crocodiles in Singapore.

Getting to Know The Crocodiles of Singapore talk at Central Public Library

In conclusion, my outreach journey for crocodile conservation has been a journey of documenting, learning and sharing, all in the hopes of reducing human-wildlife conflict and a chance at living with nature at our doorstep. In addition, it has taught me about the challenges we face as a country with 6 million urbanites and as a country with a hectic pace of life where tolerance for our wild neighbours can be relatively low at times. I channel my energy and passion with just one goal and that is in a decade from now, I hope to stop hearing people say “bring to the zoo la!”

Happy World Crocodile Day 2024!

A crocodile skillfully tossing a fish into its mouth.

If you would like to join me for June’s edition of Croc and Friends, here are the details:

Venue: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – Lookout Point (old Main Bridge)

Date: 29th June 2024

Time: 10am to 11.30am

Free event. No registration needed. This is a weather permitting event.

Bernard Seah and students from the Tembusu College at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve


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