By Sim Yan Ling and Agatha Oei (Millennia Institute)
“The ocean is a mystical and beautiful place. It is full of mystery and magic.”
This statement, told to us by our teacher some time back, ignited our fascination for the ocean and its habitants ever since.
We have been good friends in school and quickly became advocates for marine conservation. We learnt that many different species of marine animals can live, work together and protect each other’s habitat.
What really touched our hearts was the harmonious and symbiotic ways in which the marine animals coexisted. It reminded us of life in Singapore, of how many different races live together on this tiny island, of how hard our forefathers toiled in the past to achieve our present prosperous state. Thus, similar to our country, we see a need to protect our oceans which are integral to our community.
The opportunity of a lifetime came along when a group of us from Millennia Institute was given an opportunity to embark on a project with Marine Life Park to promote marine conservation. All of us gave a resounding “Yes!” to participate in the project, which includes a visit to S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa.
“Wow and amazing” were the first words that struck us when we first stepped into the Aquarium. The marine exhibits were really living works of art. Some of us were gaping in awe, with mouths opened like the fishes! Hilarious but so true.
There were many highlights during this visit. We were particularly struck by the ingenuity, love and commitment of the Cichlids. We saw the mother Cichlid doing something amazing to protect her children. When danger approached, the mother fish opened her mouth and all her children swam in to seek shelter. It was an amazing sight. Initially we thought that the mother was eating her babies but when the danger passed, she simply opened her mouth and all the babies swam out.
We hope the mother did not have bad breath!
Our views of sharks have also changed after this visit. Before, we thought all sharks were fearsome and bloodthirsty predators. This perception was not helped by Jaws movies, sensational media reporting and stories of fatal shark attacks worldwide.
However, our time spent at S.E.A. Aquarium’s Sharks Seas exhibit absolutely countered and arrested our false perception.
Initially, we were shocked by the large population of sharks swimming around. We had half expected them to turn aggressive when they see humans. Instead, they looked very peaceful and showed no inclination to attack at all.
When we witnessed a diver swimming with and parting the sharks while they swam peacefully, we were stunned! We had never thought that sharks would be able to swim side by side with humans without attacking them. It was a surreal experience, one we will never forget. Now, we have come to appreciate their majestic yet mostly docile nature.
On the other hand, it is sad that humans are the ones harming and exploiting sharks for their fins. And we are not even their natural predators!
A recent National Geographic report (March 2013) published that an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans, which translates to an average 273,972 sharks killed a day. This contrasts sharply to the 17 cases of humans killed by shark attacks in the world in 2011, a Wikipedia check revealed.
We left the S.E.A. Aquarium after being entertained and educated for four memorable hours, wiser, and more importantly, with a stronger resolve to protect our oceans. Mankind must learn to love and preserve the diverse and beautiful marine life we have as they are truly a treasure. As the saying goes: The ocean is a mystical and beautiful place, full of mystery and magic.
Yan Ling and Agatha are students from Millennia Institute and they write for MI Wired, an online platform for students to showcase their writing. Both are advocates of social and environmental causes.