A recent post by local outdoor agency SGTrek Expeditions and Adventures sharing an incident of a woman at Sisters' Island Marine Park allegedly removing a sea anemone from the seabed, made the rounds online.
The woman in question, however, has come forward to offer her version of events, stating that the SGTrek staff had unfairly accused her.
Bucket was for picking up trash
The woman, surnamed Tan, told Mothership that she visited the island on Dec. 31, 2020, at around 5pm with her family and friends.
She claims to be a nature lover herself, and actively participates in community service work.
She told Mothership that the bucket that she was holding was taken from the women's toilet nearby.
Tan said she wanted to pick up a pile of rubbish that she spotted on the grass patch next to the beach but was called over by her friends who were standing around a sea anemone on the seabed.
This was when two men clad in similar blue, collared shirts "rushed up" to her and accused her of attempting to remove the anemone.
Tan adds that she was not given a chance to explain herself and one of the men had insisted that she was removing the anemone.
The man allegedly told her "that this 'sea plant' has been at this particular spot of the shore for a long time and he and his staff had been protecting this "sea plant" for decades and he would be reporting me to the authorities".
Tan then decided to return the bucket and leave the island with her family and friends as she did not wish to engage with the men any further.
Man allegedly impersonated marine park's staff
Tan claims that the men had impersonated the marine park's staff but confirmed that they were not after seeking clarification with the National Parks Board (NParks).
She later found out that SGTrek posted a photo of her and their side of story on Facebook.
She was appalled to find out that they were not marine park's staff:
"I was appalled to find out that he is a staff of SG Trek and Expedition and not a staff of marine parks as he so has asserted himself to be and even more so how this wrong accusation has been circulated on the social media."
Additionally, Tan accused SGTrek of creating positive publicity for their company at her expense.
Different version of events
In response to Mothership's queries, SGTrek gave a differing account of what happened.
Vijay Kumar Patil, a staff from SGTrek, denied impersonating any staff, and added that he was dressed in an identifiable SGTrek shirt.
In his reply to Mothership, Vijay repeated that Tan was trying to remove the anemone during her visit. Vijay also said that Tan wanted to place the anemone in the bucket to see it more clearly.
He adds that Tan's son also tried to dissuade her from removing the anemone but Tan was "too stubborn" to listen to anyone.
After the confrontation, Vijay said that he met the organiser or guide from Tan's group, who told him to report the incident to the "Marine Park authority".
NParks looking into incident
The director of the National Biodiversity Centre (Coastal and Marine) at NParks, Karenne Tun, told Mothership that the agency is aware of the Facebook post claiming that a visitor to Sisters’ Islands Marine Park was seen trying to remove a sea anemone.
NParks is currently looking into the incident.
In the meantime, they reminded the public that Singapore's parks and nature areas are shared spaces for all to enjoy.
They also urged members of the public to refrain from touching or disturbing any fauna so that they may thrive in their natural habitats.
It is also against the law to remove any animals from parks, gardens and nature reserves.
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Top photo from SGTrek / FB