Best of our wild blogs: 17 Jan 17



Internship special: Youth Corps X Pesta Ubin (Mar-Jul 2017)
wild shores of singapore

How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia
Conservation news mongabay


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Singapore’s Government Breaks Months of Silence Over Sand Scandal

BEN PAVIOUR Cambodia Daily 17 Jan 17;

Breaking months of silence over accusations that it imported tens of millions of tons of smuggled sand, Singapore’s government on Monday distanced itself from any wrongdoing, a response an environmental NGO leader deemed “full of lies” and “devoid of any meaning.”

The city-state recorded about 70 million more tons of sand arriving from Cambodia than Cambodia reported sending there from 2007 to last year, according to figures sent by both countries to the U.N. Commodity Trade Statistics Database.


Differing accounts of sand trade from Cambodia to Singapore, measured in metric tons.

The gap has led to speculation from environmental groups and even the Cambodian government that the island was complicit in bringing in smuggled sand from Cambodia or elsewhere to buttress its land-building projects—charges that have gone largely unanswered by Singapore.

In an email on Monday, however, Gene Ng, manager of corporate communications for Singapore’s National Development Ministry, downplayed the significance of the sand gap and suggested contractors, not the government, were legally culpable for any criminal behavior.

“Import or export figures reported by countries are dependent on their own calculation formulas,” Mr. Ng wrote, echoing past statements from the Cambodian government. “The import of sand from Cambodia to Singapore is done on a commercial basis.”

“Singapore does not condone any trade or extraction of sand that breaches the source countries’ laws and regulations on environmental protection,” he wrote. “We have put in place strict criteria to ensure that our suppliers meet the prevailing local rules and regulations of the source country.”

“If there is any evidence that our contractors are not in compliance with the source countries’ laws and regulations, Singapore will respect that legal process will take its course,” he added.

Mr. Ng did not specify what criteria the government used to check that shipments of sand were legally sourced, and did not respond to an immediate request for elaboration. Singapore exempts marine-dredged sand destined for reclamation projects from a licensing scheme that governs most other sand imports.

Environmental NGO Mother Nature, which has blamed poorly monitored coastal sand mining for destroying ecosystems and livelihoods in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province, has hired a law firm to explore possible legal action in Singapore.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, the NGO’s exiled founder, said Singapore’s statement did not allay his concerns.

“Their response is not just devoid of any meaning, it is also full of lies and an insult to the Cambodian people, especially to the hundreds of families whose livelihoods have been thrown down the drain,” he said. “If the government of Singapore thinks they can get away with this kind of reply, they are making a very serious mistake.”


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Prehistory critters' hot, sweaty helpers

Lim Yaohui, The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Jan 17;

Trudging through warm mud and getting stuck in it while you sweat bullets on a hot and humid afternoon is not everyone's cup of tea.

But for the 86 volunteers at the Mandai mudflats, the discomfort was a small price to pay.

They were there to participate in the Nature Society (Singapore)'s Horseshoe Crab Research and Rescue Programme, which saves the horseshoe crabs that have been caught in nets and collects data for conservation purposes.

"I wore normal shoes to the mudflats and getting stuck knee-deep was an interesting new experience," said Anglo-Chinese Junior College student Brenda Lee, 17.

"It was also frustrating and some of our friends lost their shoes. But rescuing horseshoe crabs is important as they are a vital part of our ecosystem that many of us neglect."

To rescue horseshoe crabs entangled in nets or crab pots, volunteers are given scissors and cutters to cut them loose.

Volunteers also study the crabs they spot and record data such as size, gender and population density on their mobile phones.

No prior experience is needed, only a willingness to go the extra mile for an animal that many hardly give a thought to.

Nor is there an age restriction.

Children as young as three have participated - with parental supervision.

Another objective of the programme is public outreach, to raise awareness of the habitats' existence and the importance of the Mandai mudflats to neighbouring areas like Sungei Buloh.

Horseshoe crabs have been around since before the dinosaur era.

Despite their name, they are not crabs and only superficially resemble crustaceans.

Instead, they belong to a separate sub-phylum, Chelicerata.

They are closely related to arachnids - a group that includes spiders and scorpions.

There are four species of horseshoe crabs in the world, three of which are found in Asia.

Two - the mangrove horseshoe crab and the coastal horseshoe crab - are found in Singapore, but not the Chinese horseshoe crab.

"Here, there is no real status given in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, so we have no idea whether they are fine or not," said Ms J. Vanitha, 35, a teacher and current leader of the Nature Society's programme.

The IUCN Red List is recognised as the most comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of biological species.

In the United States, the Atlantic horseshoe crab is harvested for its blood, which is used in the pharmaceutical industry.

It is considered vulnerable to extinction.

Scientists in Singapore consider the mangrove horseshoe crab to be vulnerable to extinction and the coastal horseshoe crab to be endangered, owing to irresponsible fishing and habitat loss.

The Mandai mudflats are the only known place these two species gather in such big numbers.

There are mangroves in Pulau Ubin and offshore islands, said Ms Vanitha, but mangrove patches with long, large mudflats are not easily found on mainland Singapore outside the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves.

About 400 to 600 horseshoe crabs are counted during each session.

The data is used for research purposes and four scientific papers have been published based on the findings so far.

Data is also shared at local and international conferences, such as the IUCN World Conservation Congress held in Honolulu last September, which Ms Vanitha attended.

Volunteers can sign up for the sessions through the Nature Society's newsletter or website, or through schools and corporations.

The sessions are open to the public.

However, registration for the next session on Feb 11 is full.

For more information, go to https://www.nss.org.sg.


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Coastal fish farmers struggle to stay afloat in choppy waters

Recent oil spill, harmful algae blooms leave them uncertain about future of trade
Carolyn Khew Straits Times 16 Jan 17;

Over the past five years, Singapore's fish farmers have seen an oil spill and two harmful algae blooms killing off their fish.

It has been one unfortunate event after another, and fish farmers told The Straits Times that they are uncertain about the future of coastal fish farming here.

"There's this sense of nervousness about how much fish we should farm. Fish farming, being what it is, requires a long time to reap returns," said a 50-year-old fish farmer who declined to be named.

His farm, located near Pulau Ubin, was affected by the algae bloom in 2015 and he lost about $200,000 worth of fish.

Another blow came two weeks ago when he had to cancel orders worth about $10,000 - or 25 per cent of a month's revenue - after an oil spill occurred off Pasir Gudang Port in Johor.

Mr Frank Tan, managing director of Marine Life Aquaculture

117 Number of Singapore coastal fish farms in the East and West Johor Strait, and the southern waters.

His farm was among 12 told by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to stop sales while it conducts food safety tests.

He said: "If your harvest is wiped out, the work you've put in for nine to 12 months goes into the water."

In urbanised Singapore, fish farms have managed to thrive. There are 117 Singapore coastal fish farms in the East and West Johor Strait, and the southern waters, where most rear their fish in net cages in the sea. There are another six fish farms on land.

The farms mostly produce fish for Singapore's consumption. In 2015, they produced 5,300 tonnes of fish, accounting for about 10 per cent of fish eaten here, said an AVA spokesman.

Mr Ng (right) started his fish farm off Pulau Ubin in 2004. He was forced to suspend sales after this year's oil spill and was also hit by algae blooms in past years.

In 2011, the Government began a push to increase this percentage to 15 per cent to boost food security. A $63 million fund was launched by the AVA to help farmers boost their yields and raise productivity, and the AVA has disbursed more than $1.5 million under its funding schemes so far.

But events in the past few years have put a dent in that ambition.

A total of 77 farms were affected by the algae bloom that took place between February and March 2015, wiping out an estimated 500 to 600 tonnes of fish. This followed another bloom in 2014.

And the problem is unlikely to be decisively resolved.

Algae blooms flower during times of dry weather and an excess of nutrients. Some algae types kill fish by cutting off their supply of oxygen or by damaging their gills - as was the case in 2015.

Dr Sandric Leong, a senior research fellow with the Tropical Marine Science Institute at the National University of Singapore, said climate change has resulted in warmer sea water temperatures and changes in its salinity due to less rainfall, adding: "As harmful algal blooms are a complex issue, there is no single solution to this."

Fish farmer Tan Choon Teck, who has run his farm near Pulau Ubin for about 30 years, said such events seldom happened in the past, and even if they did, they were never of such severity.

He was also affected by the oil spill on Jan 3 and was forced to suspend sales. "Business is definitely affected. In the lead-up to Chinese New Year, I always prepare fish, prawns and lobsters for sale. This is the time when demand is high and we can sell our produce at a premium," said the 54-year-old.

The AVA spokesman said that after the oil spill, fish farms have reported fish mortalities that totalled about 650kg as of last Friday. "Most of the farms in the same area did not report any fish mortality. There is minimal impact to supply," she said.

Experts say farmers need to adopt new ways of farming if they want their trade to be sustainable. Lining net cages with canvas bags, for instance, could help to minimise losses.

Another way is to simply move inland. But aquaculture specialist Matthew Tan from Nanyang Technological University said: "Fish farmers are reluctant to move away from the traditional way of farming as the cost is much less than for land-based farms. They need to change their mindset."

Mr Frank Tan, 42, is among those doing so. His farm in the East Johor Strait started out as a fully coastal farm rearing fish like red snapper and seabass. But he has since moved half of his fish rearing inland, and plastic pipes are used to line the exterior of his net cages to prevent oil spills from getting to his fish.

"We decided to move inland in 2015. The double blow we experienced was devastating," he said, referring to the algae blooms in 2014 and 2015.


Hobby turns into tough business venture
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times 16 Jan 17;

After spending over 30 years at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras), Mr Timothy Ng and his wife decided to set up a fish farm off Pulau Ubin in 2004.

Then deputy commissioner of Iras, he was nearing retirement and was charmed by the idea of having a floating kelong. But he did not expect what was to come.

He was affected by the algae bloom in 2015, and the oil spill this year has caused him to suspend his sales.


"I started this more as a hobby and thought it would be good if I could make money, but I didn't expect it to be this tough," said Mr Ng, 68, who is president of the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore.

His farm rears fish like groupers and red snappers, which he sells to middlemen. They, in turn, sell them to restaurants and wet markets.

This year's oil spill caused him to lose about 60kg of fish, and left the water in net cages covered with black oil about 2.5cm thick.

"The oil was so thick that the bubbles didn't even break the surface," said Mr Ng, referring to the bubbles of his cage aeration system.

In 2015, the algae blooms wiped out his total stock - or 10,000kg - of fish.

Since then, Mr Ng said, he has known of at least two farmers who have sold their businesses and others trying to do the same, or who have scaled down their production because they could not cope with the losses.

Mr Timothy Hromatka, 44, who started his fish farm off Pulau Ubin six years ago, got a new business partner to put money into his farm here after the algae blooms in 2015. He is now running a fish farm in Bali, Indonesia.

"I don't have any more money to put into the farm... The algae blooms in 2015 really shut us down. Not just in terms of monetary loss but also a loss of heart and confidence. In Bali, the waters are deeper and there have been no harmful algae blooms so far," he added.

To minimise his losses, Mr Ng said he is moving to rearing prawns, which can be sold at twice the price of seabass.

On how sustainable coastal fish farming will be, he said: "It all depends on how deep your pockets are... I've pumped in at least a million so far and I haven't made profits yet."

Carolyn Khew


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More showers expected in second half of January: MSS

Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: More showers are expected in the second half of January with prevailing northeast monsoon conditions in the region forecast to persist, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) in an advisory on Monday (Jan 16).

The next two weeks of January are expected to be wetter than the first fortnight of the year, though overall rainfall for January 2017 is predicted to be slightly below normal, said MSS. Short-duration thunderstorms are expected on six to eight days, mostly in the afternoon, though these could extend into the evening on a few days.

There is also a chance of a monsoon surge developing over the South China Sea region in the last week of January, and Singapore could experience periods of moderate to heavy rain lasting up to two days, accompanied by occasional windy conditions and cooler temperatures.

The daily maximum temperatures on most days are forecast to be around 32°C or 33°C, and on a few days, this could hit a high of around 34°C. On some rainy days, the daily minimum temperature could range between 22°C and 23°C.

RAINFALL "SIGNIFICANTLY BELOW NORMAL"

Overall rainfall was "significantly below normal" for the first two weeks of the year, said MSS. The lowest rainfall of 12.8mm (88 per cent below average) was recorded around the Jurong area, and rainfall was highest around the Paya Lebar area, where 98.3mm (11 per cent below average) was recorded.

There were a few dry and warm days in the first two weeks of January where temperatures above 33°C were recorded at some stations.

The highest temperature recorded in the first fortnight of January 2017 was 35.1°C at Sembawang on Jan 9, 2017. At the Changi climate station, the mean daily maximum temperature recorded in the first half of January 2017 was 31.3°C, which is 1.1°C above the long-term mean for January.

- CNA/nc


Be prepared for a wet Chinese New Year
Today Online 16 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Bring your brolly along when you go visiting this Chinese New Year.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) warned on Monday (Jan 16) that the next two weeks of January is expected to be wetter than the first fortnight of the year, even though the overall rainfall for January is forecast to be slightly below normal.

“Short-duration thundery showers are expected on six to eight days, mostly in the afternoon, and on a few days, could extend into the evening,” MSS said, adding that there was a chance of a monsoon surge developing over the southern South China Sea region in the second week of the fortnight.

“Singapore could experience periods of moderate to heavy rain lasting up to two days accompanied by occasional windy conditions and cooler temperatures”, the meteorological service added, saying that the daily minimum temperature is expected could range between 22°C and 23°C.

However, in the next fortnight, a few warm days can still be expected, with the daily maximum temperatures on most days are forecast to be around 32°C or 33°C, although it could reach a high of around 34°C.

More information can be found on the MSS website (www.weather.gov.sg).


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New Mandai attractions hope to draw 10m visitors, boost job market

SIAU MING EN Today Online 17 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Come 2023, the ambitious mega-nature attraction in the works at Mandai, which includes a revamped Bird Park that will showcase birds from the Sub-Antarctic to Africa, is expected to draw 10 million visitors a year while creating more job opportunities.

This is more than double the 4.6 million visitors the four current wildlife parks operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore — Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and the Jurong Bird Park — draw each year.

Revealing this after a ground-seeding ceremony yesterday to mark the start of construction works, Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) group chief executive officer Mike Barclay added: “We’re pretty confident that we can double the visitation to the parks.”

In comparison, Sentosa drew 19.5 million visitors in 2015, according to its Financial Year 15/16 annual report. For the same year, Resorts World Sentosa, which includes attractions such as Universal Studios Sentosa and the S.E.A. Aquarium, saw nearly seven million visitors to its attractions.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran, who was the guest-of-honour at the ceremony yesterday, said that the redeveloped Mandai precinct will be able to attract tourists who are “interested in eco-friendly experiences that complement an urban lifestyle”. There will also be interesting career opportunities for those interested in conservation, research and hospitality, he added.

MPH did not say how many new jobs could be created, but Mr Barclay noted that as the scale of operations grows, staff will be able to rotate through different job functions.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore currently employs over a thousand full-time staff. By 2023, the area, which currently houses the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari, will be expanded to include the relocated Bird Park and a new Rainforest Park, as well as a nature-themed indoor attraction and eco-sensitive lodging.

Yesterday, MPH revealed more details of the attractions visitors can expect at the Bird Park and the new Rainforest Park, scheduled to open by 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Visitors will be able to enter the expanded attraction via the east and west arrival areas, while the place will be connected by more public spaces such as green landscaped decks, walking trails and boardwalks.

The west arrival area will lead to the 17ha Bird Park, which will have nine themed aviaries, such as the Papua New Guinean and African rainforests, a South-east Asian jungle and the Australian bushland, showcasing a wide variety of bird species.

MPH also unveiled plans for a “Crimson Wetlands” attraction that will showcase red and pink-hued species of plants and animals — such as flamingos — in a recreation of the flooded savannahs of South and Central America. Visitors can also observe Sub-Antarctic penguins in a re-creation of their natural habitat both above and under water.

The Rainforest Park, also accessible from the west arrival area, will house an underground cavern featuring various cave life-forms and geological formations.

Visitors can travel along the boardwalks to be built along the animals’ watering holes, and up aerial walkways to be built at tree-canopy-level to be closer to the langurs, gibbons and orangutans living in the tree-tops. Trekking and adventure activities will also be available at this park.

The Rainforest Forest Park will be completed by 2021 instead of 2023, due to changes in the scheduling of construction works, where the works in the western part of the Mandai precinct will be completed first.

Redevelopment plans for the Mandai precinct have been adjusted twice: During the Environmental Impact Assessment report commissioned by MPH, and after a month-long consultation that followed the release of the report last July.

While the majority of the opinions have been useful to the project, Mr Barclay noted that there have been some who felt that there should not be any developments at all.

“(But) the decision has now been made and we are starting work. We want to continue our very constructive discussion about how do we develop in the right way, and how do we do it in a sensitive way,” he said.


New Mandai eco-tourism hub to feature global wildlife, create jobs
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: When completed, Mandai’s eco-tourism hub is expected to attract more than 10 million visitors each year, as well as generate a significant number of jobs in conservation research, tourism and hospitality, said developer Mandai Park Holdings as it launched the construction phase of the project on Monday (Jan 16).

The Mandai rejuvenation project will see the relocation of Jurong Bird Park and the development of a new Rainforest Park in the same area as the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari.

Currently, the four parks attract about 4.6 million visitors each year.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN CONSERVATION, HOSPITALITY

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran promised “a rejuvenated experience in Mandai” once the first phase of the project - the opening of the Bird Park - is completed by 2020.

Mr Iswaran said the project would enhance Singapore's identity as a "city in a garden" and provide career opportunities for Singaporeans interested in conservation research and hospitality.

"With a strong focus on conservation and sustainability, Mandai will be a hub for nature education and research as well as a leading nature destination in Asia."

Elaborating on the type of jobs available, Mandai Park Holdings’ chief executive officer, Mike Barclay, said the aim was to run the five parks as an integrated precinct that would allow staff to rotate and work in the different parks and in various functions.

“We currently employ about 1,000 people full-time and we have many part-timers working with us. Our scale of operations will grow. We’ll have two new zoological parks here to staff up here in Mandai. We’ll have a hotel product - an eco-lodge product - and also an indoor centre, so there will be a lot of job opportunities.”

SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST ENDANGERED SPECIES

Visitors to the new Bird Park will see some of the world’s most endangered bird species in their natural habitats, said the developer. For example, it will feature the flora and fauna found in the flooded savannahs of South and Central America. Bird species from Africa, Papua New Guinea and the Australian bushland will also be represented.

Its avian collection is also billed as being among the most significant to be assembled in the world, featuring birds of paradise and hornbills, many of them endangered species.

One of the key attractions at the new Bird Park will be an underwater and "overwater" habitat for sub-Antarctic penguins. The developer said it would provide visitors a "fly with the penguins" experience - one that creates the impression of penguins "flying" through the water.

NEW RAINFOREST PARK

Another highlight, the Rainforest Park, will take visitors through the biodiversity found in Southeast Asian foliage, and allow them to see the trees from recreated caverns, a boardwalk and an aerial walkway.

“You could be at the tree-top level with the orangutans climbing the trees around you. I think it’s a very exciting concept and that’s why we want the different layering of the parks,” said Mr Barclay.

The Rainforest Park is expected to be ready by the end of 2021, earlier than the 2023 completion date previously announced.

SUSTAINABILITY THE KEY GUIDELINE

Visitors to the new Bird Park and the Rainforest Park will arrive from the precinct's west entrance - one of the two "arrival nodes" to the precinct.

The other entrance - from the east - will provide access to nature-themed indoor attractions, as well as the zoo, the Night Safari and River Safari. It will also house accommodation options.

The entrances will be connected by walking trails and boardwalks along Upper Seletar Reservoir.

The separate entry points were created to reduce the impact of visitors passing through a single entrance next to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Mr Barclay said a key guideline for the massive development is sustainability and the idea is to look at using the right materials and harvesting new energy sources.

“If you have a waterfall, it creates a lot of energy. Can we harvest that energy and put it back in to offset the energy being used to power the pumps? We have lots of opportunities for solar power as well within the parks,” he said.

Mr Barclay said Mandai Park Holdings will continue to work with nature groups to get their feedback on mitigating the impact of the project on the surrounding environment.

- CNA/mz/mo


Expect superb views, diverse wildlife
Audrey Tan, The New Paper AsiaOne 17 Jan 17;

In about three years, birdwatchers can enjoy watching feathered fowl from the rainforests of Africa, the flooded savannahs of South and Central America and the Australian bushland, all in Singapore.

They need only to pay a visit to the new Bird Park in Mandai, when the park, relocated from its current premises in Jurong, opens its doors to the public.

The new park will allow visitors to be immersed in multiple landscapes and vegetation so that they can see the birds just as they would in the wild. The birds will also be flying freely in large aviaries within the new park, a move that will heighten the experience for visitors.

Colourful birds of paradise, orange-beaked hornbills and vocal parrots are some of the birds that will be part of the avian collection, which is one of the most significant to date.

These details were given by developer Mandai Park Holdings yesterday during a ceremony to celebrate the start of the development work on the hub of the five wildlife parks it is building in leafy Mandai.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), was the guest of honour.

The Bird Park, as well as a new Rainforest Park, will join the existing trio of attractions there - the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari.

The hub, which will also include accommodation options, is expected to fully commence operations by 2023, with earlier phases, including the opening of the Bird Park, to be done by 2020.

The Bird Park, Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari offer visitors the experience of walking through habitats from all over the world. But at the Rainforest Park, the focus will be on South-east Asian biodiversity.

Animals that live in rainforests - from below the ground to the tree canopies - will have their time in the spotlight.

The park will take visitors on a journey from an underground cavern to boardwalks at the ground level and up ramps to aerial walkways that reach the tree canopies, where they can interact with arboreal apes.

There will also be trekking and adventure activities at the new park.

"We plan to offer highly differentiated experiences at each of our five wildlife parks, augmented by indoor displays and a variety of food and beverage offerings," said Mr Mike Barclay, chief executive of Mandai Park Holdings.

The massive Mandai makeover will include public spaces, such as green landscaped decks for picnics and boardwalks along the edge of Upper Seletar Reservoir, which can be used by the public free of charge.

These plans, as well as the results from an Environmental Impact Assessment, have been approved by the Government.

"Reviews and discussions on Mandai's rejuvenation have been going on for several years with various stakeholders. With the necessary government approvals now obtained, we are delighted to mark this milestones with our partners today," said Mandai Park Holdings chairman S. Dhanabalan.

The Mandai area sits right outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and nature groups had voiced concerns that development works could negatively impact the wildlife.

But Mandai Park Holdings stressed that the development will be done sensitively. For one, the development will take place on degraded land.

It also voluntarily commissioned an Environment Impact Assessment, following which changes were made to development plans.

One of the most significant is the swopping of locations of the new Rainforest Park and Bird Park - this puts the bulk of the Rainforest Park to the north, instead of the south of Mandai Lake Road, where there are more mature trees that can be incorporated into the park.

It also agreed to have a vegetated buffer area between the park boundaries and the nature reserve, ensuring that the development will not go right up to the fringes of the reserve.


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Malaysia: Conservationists against second bridge over Segama River

RUBEN SARIO The Star 17 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservatio­nists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to the critically endangered animals there.

Indications of the pending construction of another bridge near Sukau include some privately-owned forested land being cleared, for what researchers believe is a site for the construction office and heavy equipment depot.

Kinabatangan was made Sabah’s Gift to the Earth 17 years ago and in 2005, the sanctuary was created to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River, said Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens.

“It was also to protect several charismatic species such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, some of them becoming iconic species attracting eco-tourists to the state,” he said.

The Danau Girang Field Centre conducts research and training on tropical biodiversity. It is managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Benoit said the Elephant and Orangutan State Action Plans 2012-16 clearly states that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan po­pulation such as highways and bridges must be prevented.

“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road would have a direct impact on wildlife populations, especially elephants, orang utan and proboscis monkeys,” he said.

The new road that would subsequently follow the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people, added Goossens.

He said the construction of the road and bridge would lead to major human-wildlife conflicts and deaths such as elephant attacks on people and elephants shot or poisoned.

“Moreover, it will be easier for poachers to enter protected forests in search of ivory,” he said.

Sukau State Assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project would include the construction of a 1,000m wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to ano­ther under the structure.


Conservationists: New project will harm Sabah's protected animals
RUBEN SARIO The Star 16 Jan 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Conservationists fear that a second bridge over the Segama River in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary will cause further harm to critically endangered animals there.

Indications are that construction of another bridge and road is under way near Sukau with some privately owned forested land being cleared for what researchers believe are the construction office and heavy equipment depot site.

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said he is distraught over the latest development.

He said the Kinabatangan was declared Sabah’s “Gift to the Earth” 17 years ago and the sanctuary was created in 2005 to increase forest connectivity along the Kinabatangan River.

“It was also to protect several species, such as the orang utan, the elephant and the proboscis monkey, and some of them have become iconic for attracting eco-tourists to the state,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the 2012-2016 action plan supported by the state government clearly state that any process that will further fragment the habitat of elephant and orang utan populations such as highways and bridges must be prevented.

“Therefore, the proposed bridge and road in Sukau are directly conflicting with the content of those two policy documents,” Dr Goossens said.

“For the past 12 months, we have clearly demonstrated with scientific facts and data that the bridge and the road will have a direct impact on wildlife populations," he said.

“The new road and the bridge will cut off the last remaining uninhabited route for elephants near Sukau, which will have catastrophic consequences for both the animals and the people,” Dr Goossens said.

He also said that the road and bridge will make it easier for poachers to enter protected forests, especially those in search of ivory.

“We just lost three bull elephants to poachers. Can we decently increase the pressure on the elephant population in Sabah?” he said.

Sukau assemblyman Datuk Saddi Abdul Rahman said the RM69mil bridge and road project will include the construction of a 1km-wide viaduct to enable wildlife to move from one area to another under the structure.


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Indonesia: Blossoming Rafflesias hoped to attract tourists to Bengkulu

The Jakarta Post 16 Jan 17;

Rare flower enthusiasts have urged tourists to visit Bengkulu National Park in Bengkulu province following the blossoming of the Rafflesia arnoldii and Rafflesia gadutensis flowers.

“January to March is the ideal time to see Rafflesia arnoldii and Rafflesia gadutensis in their habitat in Bengkulu forest,” said Rare Flower Concerned Community (KPPL) coordinator Sofian Ramadhan, after explaining that seven of the rare flowers started blossoming at four locations within the national park on Monday.

Five Rafflesia gadutensis blossomed at Bukit Daun National Park in northern Bengkulu, popular with tourists for its Palak Siring waterfall. While two blossoming Rafflesia arnoldii could be found at the same park in Central Bengkulu regency and Kapahiang regency.

Based on Bengkulu KPPL data collection since 2010, the blossoming period of the rare flowers was between December and March, Sofian said as quoted by Antara news agency.

The flowers blossom only for three days.


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Japan criticised after whale slaughtered in Australian waters

Australia’s environment minister says government ‘deeply disappointed’ after Sea Shepherd photos show minke whale killing in Antarctic sanctuary
Michael Slezak The Guardian 16 Jan 17;

Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has criticised Japan following the release of photographs allegedly showing the slaughtering of protected whales inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary.

Frydenberg’s statement came as conservationists called for tougher action from Australia.

“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Frydenberg said.

“Australia is opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” he said. “It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them.”

The photographs, taken by Sea Shepherd activists from a helicopter, appear to show a dead minke on the deck of the Japanese whaler Nisshin Maru at 11.34am on Sunday.

After the Japanese crew saw the Sea Shepherd helicopter, they covered the harpoons and attempted to hide the whale carcass with a tarpaulin, according to Sea Shepherd.

The images emerged on Sunday afternoon while the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Australia on a state visit.

The slaughter was the first documented killing since the international court of justice ruled Japan’s Antarctic whaling illegal in 2014. So far the Australian government has resisted calls to send official vessels to patrol its waters and intervene in illegal whaling.

But Frydenberg said no country has done more than Australia to try to end whaling.

“We will continue our efforts in the International Whaling Commission to strongly oppose commercial whaling and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, uphold the moratorium on commercial whaling, and to promote whale conservation.”

Jeff Hansen, the managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said a “lack of action by the Turnbull government” in response to the killing of whales in Australian waters on the tail of a state visit from Abe showed “the government has no spine when it comes to protecting the wishes of Australians to defend the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary”.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society director, Darren Kindleysides, said the government must hold Japan to account for its actions.

“Rather than rolling out the red carpet for Japanese prime minister Abe, our government must take every legal and diplomatic avenue available to stop his government’s continued whaling, for example through the United Nations convention on the law of the sea,” he said.

“This year the Japanese whaling fleet is intending to kill 333 Antarctic minke whales under the guise of ‘scientific research’. This is despite the 2014 International Court of Justice ruling that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program was illegal and must stop.

“Japan cannot be allowed to continue to thumb its nose at the international community and the international courts by killing hundreds of whales for the spurious purpose of ‘research’,” Kindleysides said.

Labor’s spokesperson for environment and water, Tony Burke, attacked the killing he said was done “under the guise of ‘scientific research”.

“Japanese whaling ships have been sighted with their harpoons uncovered in the Southern Ocean, where a moratorium on whaling in currently in effect,” he said.

“This is happening in areas Australia recognises as being protected.”


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Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jan 17



Oil spill at East Johor Strait: YOUR sightings part 2
wild shores of singapore

After the oil spill at Changi Creek, Changi Creek mangroves, Changi Beach, Changi seagrass meadows
wild shores of singapore

Pulau Hantu after chemical spill and other impacts
wild shores of singapore

Night Walk Along Punggol Road (13 Jan 2017)
Beetles@SG

Cuttlebone of Kisslip Cuttlefish (Sepia lycidas) @ Changi
Monday Morgue


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Indonesia: High fire potential predicted for West Kalimantan as rainfall drops

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 15 Jan 17;

A climatology station in Mempawah, West Kalimantan, has predicted high land and forest fire potential in the province as its climate analysis showed a decline in rainfall, especially in the western and northern coastal areas, in early January.

The lower rainfall was followed by a decline in humidity due to the disappearance of water vapor layers above the land surface. This situation can increase the potential for land and forest fires.

Mempawah Climatology Station head Wandayantolis said less rain, followed by a decline in humidity, had led to higher intensity sunlight reaching the land surface.

“It is predicted that the rainfall decline will continue. In the middle of January, the 10-day rainfall rate will be only around 21 to 100 millimeters, or in the low-to-middle category,” Wandayantolis said on Friday.

He said the higher potential for fires in plantations, forests and settlement areas must be anticipated because high temperatures and low humidity would make it easier for fires to spread.

The Supadio Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pontianak said United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites detected seven hotspots in West Kalimantan on Jan. 12. They were located in four regencies and municipalities across the province, namely Pontianak city and Kubu Raya, Mempawah and Sintang regencies.

The West Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) said 1,575 hotspots were recorded in 2016, down from 2,721 in the previous year. The agency’s emergency division head Bosman Hutahaean revealed that 342 were detected in Sanggau last year, making it the regency with the most hotspots. (ebf)


Riau, Kalimantan get helicopters to prevent land, forest fires
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 15 Jan 17;

The Environment and Forestry Ministry is set to dispatch helicopters to Riau and Kalimantan to help maximize ongoing efforts to prevent and control land and forest fires.

Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head Yulwiriati Moesa said the Riau administration’s request for the dispatch of helicopters to tackle land and forest fires had been fulfilled by the central government.

“We are waiting for the arrival of the helicopters they’ve promised us. Helicopters will also be sent to Kalimantan,” she said during a coordination meeting at the Riau gubernatorial office on Friday.

Yulwiriati hopes the helicopters arrive soon to aid in efforts to prevent land and forest fires in 12 regencies and municipalities.

“Forestry authorities have been handed over by regencies and cities to the provincial administration. That’s why we have more duties now. The helicopters will ease our agency’s task to prevent and control land and forest fires in locations difficult to reach via land routes,” she said.

“I observed fire locations in the Bukit Betabuh protected forests in Kuantan Singingi regency several days ago. Firefighting teams faced difficulties in reaching fire spots in hilly areas. That’s why we need helicopters.”

Yulwiriati said she planned to set up an integrated patrol team to anticipate fires in forest areas. The development of ditches and canals in peatland will also continue, for which the Riau administration has allocated Rp 984 million (US$73,873.89).

“A media center for hot spot monitoring will be set up to make it easier for us to detect and coordinate land and forest fire prevention,” she said, adding that the monitoring of the adherence of companies in managing the environment would also be heightened. (ebf)


Efforts ramped up to monitor fires in Riau, Kalimantan amid haze fears
Today Online 16 Jan 17;

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry is set to dispatch helicopters to Riau and Kalimantan to help maximise ongoing efforts to prevent and control land and forest fires, amid growing concern that transboundary haze could soon return.

“We are waiting for the arrival of the helicopters they’ve promised us. Helicopters will also be sent to Kalimantan,” said Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head Yulwiriati Moesa during a coordination meeting at the Riau gubernatorial office on Friday (Jan 13).

Ms Moesa did not state the number of aircraft that they will soon receive.

Expressing hope that the aircraft will arrive soon, she said the helicopters will be used to help 12 regencies and municipalities to monitor and patrol areas that are prone to land and forest fires.

“The helicopters will ease our agency’s task to prevent and control land and forest fires in locations difficult to reach via land routes,” the Jakarta Post quoted her as saying. “I observed fire locations in the Bukit Betabuh protected forests in Kuantan Singingi regency several days ago. Firefighting teams faced difficulties in reaching fire spots in hilly areas. That’s why we need the helicopters,” she said, adding that plans are afoot to set up an integrated patrol team to anticipate fires in forest areas.

The Riau province is located in Sumatra, which is right across the Strait of Malacca from Singapore. The Kuantan Singingi regency is located in Riau. Last week, there were fears that the transboundary haze could return after up to seven hotspots were detected in several regencies in Riau.

Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency head Sugarin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, had warned that forest and land fires could plague Riau again, noting that the dry season from next month until March in Riau could make the province’s forests more prone to fire.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, the number of hotspots in Sumatra rose to four on Friday before registering zero on Saturday. It also detected a hotspot in Kalimantan on Saturday.

Haze caused by Indonesian farmers who burn forests to clear their land for agriculture is an annual occurrence that sends smog wafting northward to Singapore and Malaysia.

In late 2015, Singapore, as well as Malaysia and parts of Thailand suffered a severe haze that affected tens of millions of people, forcing schools to close and causing thousands to fall sick across the region. And in June 2013, fires in Riau caused a haze that was behind Singapore’s record Pollutant Standards 
Index of 401, which is 100 points above the hazardous threshold. AGENCIES


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Residents go green for eco challenge

TOH EE MING Today Online 15 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Instead of switching on air conditioning in two bedrooms at night, training manager Corrine Ong, her husband and her three children slept together in one bedroom of their five-room flat for three months, so that they would only use the air-conditioning in one room.

Ms Ong would also remind her children, aged 3, 9 and 11, to cut down on their energy usage such as by switching off the main power if they are not watching the television.

Steps like these helped the family shave off about 10 per cent of their utility bill. “After some time, it’s (become) a (habit) that is ingrained in us… But of course, for the children, you need the constant reminders for them to do it,” said the 39-year-old, who is also chairman of the Boon Lay Zone J Residents’ Committee.

Ms Ong’s family was among the 700 households who took part in an energy-saving challenge called Power Savers-for-Charity @ South West, a joint initiative by the South West Community Development Council (CDC) and Singapore Power (SP).

Spanning between July to September last year, the 17 participating blocks managed to save about 50,000 kilowatt hours of energy — enough to power more than 160 three-room Housing Development Board flats for a month.

South West CDC and SP matched the energy savings with a S$50,000 donation to Touch Home Care and vulnerable residents in the district.

To get residents involved, volunteers at Boon Lay division for instance, which achieved the highest energy savings, put up large posters at lift landings to remind residents to go green. They also went door-to-door to educate residents about the initiative, and conducted monthly visits to each household to check their progress.

Electricity meter readings of each household were monitored between July and September, and compared against their June readings of electricity consumption, said a SP spokesperson. Residents could also track their progress on the SP Services mobile app.

While the challenge has ended, Ms Ong said she plans to continue with her green efforts, and will look into which are the most energy-consuming areas in the household and cut the family’s usage from there.

Another Boon Lay resident Nyeow Ai Hui, 40, reduced her electricity consumption by setting her air-con on a timer mode so it would switch off automatically after three or four hours. When the weather became too warm, they would turn on the fans. The payoffs from changing her habits were worth the 30 per cent of savings off her utility bill, she felt.

Speaking at the Eco Day Out 2017 @ South West event on Sunday (Jan 15), Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor shared other ways through which residents could adopt “environmentally conscious” habits, like increasing the air-con’s temperature to 25 degrees, switching off lights and mains of all electrical appliances when they are not in use and using energy-efficient lights.

“Saving the environment is not some airy-fairy ideology… By conserving the environment, we are creating a better environment for ourselves and future generations and saving costs as well,” she said.

The pilot initiative will now be expanded to involve some 750,000 residents in the South West District, said Ms Low Yen Ling, mayor of the South West District. It will start on Earth Day in April.

To ramp up on education and outreach to encourage eco habits, the initiative will have community roadshows and residents are encouraged to pledge to save on resources, such as conserving water, minimising wastage and recycling more.


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