Best of our wild blogs: 16 Sep 14

Wild dolphins! Sea turtles! In Singapore waters!
from wild shores of singapore

The Biggest Challenge
from Green Future Solutions

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Indonesia planning cloud seeding to tackle haze that is also affecting Singapore

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 15 Sep 14;

The Indonesian authorities are making plans for cloud seeding operations to extinguish forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra and Riau that have shrouded Singapore in foul-smelling haze yet again.

The fires, which had been raging for days, prompted pollution levels in Singapore to climb to the unhealthy range on Sunday and early Monday morning. The pollution readings have since eased back to moderate levels.

"We are communicating with BNPB (the National Disaster Mitigation Agency) now and will start arrangement to do cloud seeding. BNPB will make the call," Mr Erwin Mulyono, a scientist with Indonesia's Applied Technology Agency (BPPT), which helps to strategise cloud seeding operations, told The Straits Times by telephone.

He added: "We have personnel ready in Pekanbaru and in Palembang right now. The aircraft (for the cloud seeding operation) are in the Halim Air Force base (in Jakarta) today and should soon be deployed there."

Haze over southern and central Sumatra in the past few days has been mostly due to forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra. The wind has been blowing a northeasterly direction over Riau, as is typical for this time of the year, sending the haze in the direction of Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.

Hourly air quality readings in Malaysia on Monday morning have been either healthy or moderate so far.

Dr Ajisman Syafaat, a lung specialist at the Arifin Achmad state hospital in Pekanbaru, told The Straits Times that the city has been shrouded by a light haze since last Saturday.

"Hopefully the government will do something soon," he said.

In mid-March, Dr Ajisman made an appeal to the Pekanbaru municipal adimistration to evacuate pregnant women, babies and toddlers from the capital of Riau province until conditions return to normal, saying the haze situation was "too dangerous" to health.

The Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport in Jambi in the southern part of Sumatra was closed for four hours on Sunday as the visibility level dropped to below 1km, the minimum required for airlines to land safely, according to local online news portal

The weekly weather forecast for Jambi indicates a continued dry spell for the province. Local administration officials appealed to farmers and plantation companies not to do slash-and-burn to clear lands.

Haze from forest and plantation fires also blanketed Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Sunday evening, prompting residents who were outdoors to wear masks, according to, the online news portal owned by Indonesia's largest newspaper. Several flights in Sumatra and Kalimantan have also been disrupted due to haze in recent days.

BNPB has been carrying out water bombing operations using helicopters in affected areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan to contain the spread of fire.

Haze returns here as fires in Indonesia rage
Feng Zengkun, Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja My Paper AsiaOne 16 Sep 14;

That burnt smell, the foggy blanket in the air - your senses have not deceived you: The haze is back in Singapore.

Singapore's National Environment Agency Pollution Standards Index (PSI) readings crossed into the unhealthy range in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The three-hour PSI was 102 at 1am and continued to rise through the night.

By 6am, the PSI hit 113, but fell slightly to 111 at 7am.

The reading tailed off after that and was 66 at 7pm, in the moderate range.

People with chronic lung and heart disease are advised to avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

Just last month, Singapore passed a law to punish polluters who cause the haze.

Firms will be fined for each day that they contribute to "unhealthy" haze. Unhealthy haze is defined in the new law as air quality having a PSI value of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more.

Polluting companies may be fined up to $100,000 a day, up to a maximum of $2 million.

The Indonesian authorities are also making plans for cloud-seeding operations to extinguish forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra and Riau that have raged for days and shrouded Singapore in the haze.

Erwin Mulyono - a scientist with Indonesia's Applied Technology Agency, which helps to strategise cloud-seeding operations - told The Straits Times: "We are communicating with BNPB (the National Disaster Mitigation Agency) now and will start arrangements to do cloud seeding. BNPB will make the call."

He added: "We have personnel ready in Pekanbaru and in Palembang right now. The aircraft (for the cloud-seeding operation) were in the Halim Air Force base (in Jakarta) yesterday and should soon be deployed there."

Haze over southern and central Sumatra in the past few days was mostly due to forest and plantation fires in South Sumatra.

The wind has been blowing in a north-easterly direction over Riau, as is typical for this time of the year, sending the haze in the direction of Singapore and the Malaysian peninsula.

Hourly air-quality readings in Malaysia yesterday morning have been either healthy or moderate so far.
- See more at:

Expect slight haze on Tuesday: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said to expect occasional slight haze on Monday night (Sep 15). As of 6pm, the 3-hour Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) reading stood at 64, according to the NEA website. This is in the "moderate" band, and down from a high of 113 at 6am on Monday.

However, the 24-hour PSI reading for western parts of Singapore was still in the "unhealthy" range of over 100.

NEA said to expect slightly hazy conditions on Tuesday, with prevailing winds forecast to blow from the southeast or southwest. "Overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to fluctuate between the high-end of the 'moderate' range and the low-end of the 'unhealthy' range," NEA stated.

Members of the public started to report a "burning smell" and dropping visibility as early as 7pm on Sunday. NEA said in a statement that levels of PM2.5 were elevated from 10pm on Sunday to 7am on Monday, with mainly the western parts of Singapore affected. This is likely due to hotspots in South Sumatra detected over the past three to four days, it said.

"We haven't noticed any significant jump in hotspots. It's been quite active since the beginning of the month. A large fire that we have been tracking has been burning for at least a week. So the reason why it's affecting air quality in Singapore now is because the previous wind direction did not take the smoke directly to Singapore," explained Mr Chia Aik Song, Associate Scientist with the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) at the National University of Singapore.

However, a check of a website run by Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency shows there are close to 690 hotspots detected on Monday, mainly in Kalimantan.

NEA has requested an urgent update from Indonesia on the ground situation and measures they are taking to address the hotspots in southern Sumatra. It had already sent a letter to Indonesian authorities on Friday. In response, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment has informed them that a forest fire control team has been mobilised, and that the Indonesian National Board for Disaster has also sent emergency response teams to the area.

- CNA/ly/ac

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Malaysia: Malayan tigers in danger of becoming extinct

patrick lee The Star 16 Sep 14;

PETALING JAYA: Poachers and deve­lopment have pushed Malaysia’s tigers to the brink of extinction.

The country’s national animal is now categorised as a critically endangered species on the IUCN Red List, with official estimates pegging the population of the big cats to as low as 250 to 340.

“Poaching for illegal commercial trade is the greatest and most urgent threat to tigers in Malaysia, followed by loss and fragmentation of forests,” Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) said a joint statement.

Mycat general manager Dr Kae Kawanishi said data collected only by NGOs showed more than 2,241 poacher traps and 1,728 illegal camp sites were destroyed in local forest reserves and protected areas between 2010 and 2013.

“Intelligence has also indicated a sharp increase in the number of trespassers and poachers in forests across the region since 2012,” she told The Star.

Dr Kae said tigers and other wildlife were being hunted by both local and foreign poachers “right under our noses”.

Previously, the estimated number of Malayan tigers in the country was at 500.

In 2013, a man from Kedah was sentenced to five years jail for ha­ving eight tiger skins, 22 tiger skulls and nine elephant tusks. He was not fined.

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John said nearly 100 live tigers and tiger parts were seized by authorities between 2000 and 2012.

“How long can any wild tiger po­pulation cope with that level of slaughter?” she asked.

WWF Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysus Sharma said current efforts to save the Malayan tiger were not enough.

“If this trend continues, then tiger numbers can be expected to go down further,” he said.

He said TX2, a WWF move to double numbers in 13 tiger range countries by 2022 may be possible if poaching was kept under control, and enough tiger prey around to support those numbers.

Malayan tiger now critically endangered, numbering as few as 250
patrick lee The Star 15 Sep 14;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's national animal, the Malayan tiger, is being being pushed to the point of extinction.

Current estimates have pegged Malaysia's tiger population at as little as 250 to 340 tigers in Peninsular forests, nearly half of the previous estimate of 500 tigers.

"Despite all efforts, including the strengthening of legislation and increased patrolling, tiger conservation across the vast tropical forest landscape continue to face challenges."

"Poaching for illegal commercial trade is the greatest and most urgent threat to tigers in Malaysia, followed by loss and fragmentation of forests," said a joint statement by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat).

It was added that the new estimates were made from studies conducted between 2010 to 2013 using camera traps under a standardised protocol at seven sites across three major tiger landscapes in Peninsular Malaysia.

Though it said that more sites needed to be surveyed to determine a more robust tiger population estimate here, it added that the Malayan tiger now met the IUCN Red List criteria of "Critically Endangered".

It previously classified as "Endangered" in 2008.

Previous moves to increase Malaysia's tiger population to 1,000 by 2020, such as specified in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan, were now considered "unachievable".

Immediate tiger conservation efforts are being explored, including the setting up of tiger patrol units in the Belum-Temengor, Taman Negara and Endau-Rompin tiger priority areas.

Also included were a comprehensive national Tiger Survey in the Peninsular's remaining major forest landscape, and the strengthening of existing forest and tiger conservation mechanisms.

It was added that though federal funding and donations from Mycat's NGO donors had helped thus far, more resources were needed.

There are no Malayan tigers in Borneo.

According to the Mycat website, tiger populations a century ago measured about 100,000 worldwide, declining to about less than 3,200 today.

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Indonesia: Greenpeace Activists Mourn Burnt Peatland

Jakarta Globe 16 Sep 14;

Jakarta. Greenpeace mourners on Monday placed funeral wreaths on burned peatland in Riau province, highlighting an ongoing crisis and urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to secure his “green” legacy by ensuring real peatland protection.

Speaking in a blackened landscape adjacent to Tanjung Leban village in Rokan Hilir district, locally born Greenpeace forest activist Rusmadya Maharuddin explained that data shows three quarters of Indonesia’s recent hotspots were burning in peatland.

The president’s moratorium on new forest concessions clearly does not go far enough to ensure protection for the nation’s peatlands, which store almost 60 billion tones of carbon, Rusmadya said.

“We are standing on peatland which should be protected, according to the forest clearing moratorium map. Yet clearing and draining of the wider landscape has left the land as dry as a tinderbox. Ongoing fire destruction and smoke haze are inevitable in this situation.”

Peatland drainage and conversion has released enough greenhouse gas to put Indonesia among the world’s top three emitters. This has put at risk President Yudhoyono’s commitment to the world to reduce Indonesia’s emissions by between 26 percent and 41 percent by 2020.

Unfortunately the president’s response to the peat crisis has missed the mark. The draft peat regulation awaiting his signature fails to protect peatland as an ecosystem-landscape and peat areas within existing concessions. Destroying one part of a peat dome can lead to the rapid demise of the “protected” parts through drying out and edge effects.

Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace’s forest political campaigner, urged the president not to sign the flawed peat regulation in his last days in office.

“Indonesia’s peatland forests are dying. They need strong and comprehensive protection, but the draft peat regulation does not provide that,” Yuyun said in Jakarta.

Activists can only hope Joko Widodo will take strong actions against forest clearing.

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Plastic rubbish from land, not ships, killing Australian sea life, say scientists

Research shows three-quarters of rubbish was plastic and debris concentrated near cities
Australian Associated Press 15 Sep 14;

Mounds of plastic rubbish along Australia’s coastline are growing and killing wildlife which is ingesting or becoming ensnared in it, researchers say.

Scientists visited more than 170 sites along the coast and found about three-quarters of the rubbish was plastic from the land, not vessels on the ocean, and debris was concentrated near cities.

The density of plastic ranged from a few thousand pieces per square kilometre to more than 40,000 pieces, a CSIRO scientist, Denise Hardesty, said.

“There has been an increase in plastic as we have had an increase in our population,” Hardesty said on Monday.

The report showed other marine debris included bottles, cans, bags, balloons, rubber, metal, fibreglass and cigarettes that could smother coral reefs, kill wildlife and even pose a threat to human health.

About one-third of marine turtles around the world had probably ingested debris, and that figure had increased since plastic production began in the 1950s, Hardesty said.

Up to 15,000 turtles had also been killed in the Gulf of Carpentaria, off Australia’s northern coast, after becoming ensnared by derelict fishing nets.

Meanwhile, the Tasman Sea, south of Australia, was a problem hot spot for seabirds.

“Globally, nearly half of all seabird species are likely to ingest debris, Hardesty said.

By identifying sources and hot spots of debris, solutions could be developed, including improved waste management, targeted education and technology advancements, she said.

Local council outreach, anti-dumping campaigns, advertising and incentive strategies such as South Australia’s container deposit scheme were effective in reducing marine debris, the report found.

The research is part of TeachWild, a national three-year research and education program developed by EarthWatch Australia in partnership with CSIRO and Shell.

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Best of our wild blogs: 15 Sep 14

Full of crabs at Punggol shore
from wonderful creation

Night Walk At Lower Pierce Reservoir (12 Sep 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Crazy Insect Challenge- Tiny grasshoppers everywhere!
from My Nature Experiences

Common Gliding Lizard (Draco sumatranus) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Looking at a different class of preschool locations

Chitra Kumar Channel NewsAsia 14 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: What if kindergarten lessons are conducted in a tree-house near the expressways? That could be possible in a preschool of the future, says Lien Foundation and Singapore-based architecture firm Lekker Architects.

“A Different Class: Preschool Spaces Redefined”, a project commissioned by Lien Foundation, looks at unusual and underused spots in land-scarce Singapore where preschools could potentially be located. Lekker Architects has identified 10 types of locations.

The project looks at converting under-utilised spaces at Lower Seletar Reservoir into a preschool, where classrooms are built on a floating platform, allowing children to have a better awareness of the river life.

The purpose is to integrate the outdoor and indoor environment to help with a child's learning.

Lee Poh Wah, CEO of Lien Foundation, says: "Imagine if you are in a preschool environment that is beautiful, soothing, full of wonder and discovery… You are eager to live, learn and work in that place.

“In my opinion, I find that preschool spaces in Singapore don't make the grade. Why are all our boisterous children in all these cramped, cluttered, cookie-cutter preschools that are devoid of nature itself? So 'A Different Class' is a bold exercise to envision the future of preschools spaces."

The project also urges policy-makers to think more creatively when considering new locations.

Building a preschool on a rooftop of a multi-storey car park in HDB estates may not be the norm, but the architects say it is safe.

Ong Ker-shing, director of Lekker Architects, says: "You might look at some of the schools, like the schools on top of the HDB car parks and say, ‘you are putting kids so high up in the air, and it doesn't look like there are any fences’.

“Well, there are fences. But we designed it in a way where there are methods of keeping the kids away from the edge, but they are not visible. Instead of putting up a giant barrier, and making it very obvious that there is a giant barrier, we thought about it in something very beautiful - we hide it behind greenery."

The Early Childhood Development Agency has described the project as "a useful contribution in providing design ideas for pre-school development in unique spaces”, and that it has been "working with various agencies to explore and incorporate innovative design features”.

- CNA/xq

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Air quality in 'unhealthy' range as PSI hits 113

Channel NewsAsia 14 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Air quality in Singapore moved into the "unhealthy" range on Monday (Sep 15), with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) three-hour reading hitting 113 at 6am. As of 7am, the three-hour reading was 111.

The three-hour PSI reading was 64 at 6pm on Sunday and it climbed to 74 at 9pm Sunday. It has since remained in the 101-200 range.

A PSI reading of 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 is classified as "moderate", while 101-200 is in the "unhealthy" band.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has advised healthy people to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion when the PSI is in the "unhealthy" range. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise such activities, which should also be avoided by people with chronic lung disease or heart disease, NEA said on its website.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post on Monday morning that he was monitoring the air quality with "some concern".

His post said a change in wind direction brought with it haze that had been accumulating over Sumatra for the past few days, with the western parts of Singapore especially affected, he wrote.

"There has been an escalation in hot spots in Sumatra. NEA was in touch with the Indonesian authorities last week and has urged them to take action," he wrote, adding that Singapore "stands ready" to provide assistance if necessary.

- CNA/ir

Air quality hits unhealthy range
Today Online 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Air quality worsened late last night, with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) creeping into the unhealthy range.

The three-hour PSI reading hovered between 61 and 69 for most of the day, before rising to 74 at 9pm. It went up to 83 an hour later, and reached 96 at 11pm. The reading hit 100 at midnight. At 1am, it was 102.

A PSI reading of 0 to 50 is considered “good”, 51 to 100 is classified as “moderate”, while 101 to 200 is “unhealthy”.

The air quality reporting was tweaked in April to incorporate levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which were previously reported separately from the PSI.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an update on the haze situation that the total number of hot spots detected in Sumatra decreased yesterday to 82 from 194. The reduced hot-spot count was due to partial satellite coverage.

The NEA said occasional slight haze may be experienced in Singapore if the winds blow from the south-west. It expects the overall air quality for today to be in the moderate range.

Singapore's air pollution index rises to unhealthy level
Reuters AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's air pollution rose to unhealthy levels on Monday, the National Environment Agency said, as winds changed direction and brought in light smoke from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.

Singapore is in the middle of its "haze" season, when smoke from forest clearing in Indonesia traditionally chokes the air, but this year has been practically haze free, despite warnings in May it was going to be worse than 2013's record pollution.

The three-hour Pollution Standards Index broke above 100, the level beyond which the air is considered unhealthy, at 1 a.m. and remained above that level into the daylight hours, the government agency said on its website.

The NEA warned on Sunday that if the wind blew from the southwest, Singapore could experience occasional haze from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

The smoke blanketed Singapore last June, pushing the air pollution index to a record 401.

In August, Singapore's parliament passed a bill proposing fines for companies that cause pollution regardless of whether the companies operate on the island, though it remains to be seen how the law can be enforced.

Singapore air pollution soars due to Indonesian forest fires
AFP AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Air pollution in Singapore rose to unhealthy levels Monday, blanketing the city-state's skyline with clouds of smog from fires raging across giant rainforests in the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra, officials said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency said the pollutant standards index (PSI) reached a high of 111 at 7:00 am (2300 GMT) before easing to 80 a few hours later.

A reading between 101-200 is considered "unhealthy", with people with existing heart or respiratory ailments advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia are smothered annually in varying degrees by smog from forest fires in Indonesia during the summer months from June to September.

Last year's smog was the worst since 1997-1998, when the smoke caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across Southeast Asia.

The NEA said in a statement that the current smog is "most likely due to the hotspots (forest fires) in South Sumatra detected over the past three to four days".

"Given the continued dry weather in southern Sumatra, we can expect the hotspots to persist and the 24-hour PSI for Singapore to fluctuate between the high-end of the moderate range and the low-end of the unhealthy range for the rest of the day." White smog shrouded the city-state's skyline, with smoke wafting into the business district.

But the smog was thickest in western part of Singapore, which is nearest to Sumatra, where residents said they could smell a light acrid smell of burning foliage.

In an annual occurence, westerly monsoon winds blow smoke from the fires caused by slash-and-burn land-clearing by individuals and plantations on Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait.

Last year, the PSI hit record levels in Singapore and Malaysia forcing people to wear face masks and stay indoors and prompting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to apologise to both neighbours.

Singapore last month passed a bill that gives the government powers to fine companies that cause or contribute to the annual smog up to S$2 million, regardless of whether they have offices in the city-state.

While the new law is designed to target companies both based in Singapore and outside, observers have said enforcement will be difficult.

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Malaysia: ‘Avoid Kuantan port shellfish’

New Straits Times 15 Sep 14;

KUANTAN: Recent checks on shellfish collected from Kuantan port waters showed reduced levels of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP), as compared with when it was first detected in the seafood last month.

State Rural Development, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif said the latest samples of shellfish taken from the affected areas showed PSP readings of 1,700 microgram (μg) per 100gram of shellfish.

The level of contamination is still higher than the permissible level of about 80 μg per 100g of PSP, or red tide toxin, which could lead to symptoms leading to death.

Shafik said the Fisheries Deparment and other agencies continued to collect and test samples of shellfish from the affected area every week.

“Based on tests made by the Fisheries Department, only the flat oysters are affected by the PSP.

“But we are advising the public not to consume all types of shellfish in the area as a precautionary measure,” he told the New Straits Times when met at Kuala Penor here yesterday.

Shafik assured seafood lovers could continue enjoying shellfish sold in Pahang as these were brought in from other states in the west coast.

“Pahang is not a supplier of shellfish, such as cockles, kepah (mussels) and lala (baby clams),” he said adding that department would make an announcement when the PSP level in the flat oysters returned to safe levels.

Those who consume the affected oysters could experience symptoms, such as numbness in the neck and lips, vomiting, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Pahang Engineering Technology Faculty dean Professor Dr Zularisam Abd Wahid said high nitrogen levels in the water, caused by untreated sewage, had been identified as the cause of the contamination.

He said studies showed that the high nitrogen concentrations could trigger the blooming of poisonous microscopic algae, such as dinoflagellates, which are the main natural toxin producers
found in shellfish in tropical Asian waters.

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Malaysia: Orangutan under threat

stephanie lee The Star 15 Sep 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Climate change is causing a rise in temperature and the gradual destruction of plants, which are food sources to the orangutan, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.

“When food becomes scarce, the orangutan will move to higher areas,” he said, adding that this would make it harder for them as forests were becoming more isolated and fragmented due to development.

Dr Laurentius said Sabah was home to 80% of the Malaysian orangutan population, making the department custodians of the large majority of the nation’s orangutan.

“Therefore, we have to find ways to ensure the survival of the orangutan,” he said, in a study co-authored by Dr Benoit Goosens of the Danau Girang Field Centre, a research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Benoit said although lowland forests were the favoured orangutan habitat, higher locations in the western side of Sabah would be more favourable to these species.

“Researches show that they (the lowland forests) will be less and less productive as the plant biodiversity changes and their suitability to sustain the orangutan decreases,” he said.

“Forests in higher locations in western Sabah that are not prime orangutan habitat today will become more hospitable to the orangutan.

“They will offer a refuge to the orangutan when climate changes affect the lowland forests,” he explained.

“Unfortunately, it is difficult and, in some cases, impossible, for wildlife to move from lowlands to higher ground in the present situation of having fragmented and isolated forest patches,” Dr Benoit said.

“Hence, there is a need for careful spatial planning now to ensure corridors and forest patches are established as a land bridge which will allow wildlife to move in order to survive.”

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Best of our wild blogs: 14 Sep 14

Bats in my porch: 14. When is the bat’s head pointing up?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Lacy Encounters
from Butterflies of Singapore

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More options for nature lovers even as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve closes

Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will be closed from Monday (Sep 15) for restoration works, and will reopen partially during weekends in April next year. Repairs will only be completed at the end of 2016, but nature lovers can still visit the adjacent park.

The reserve will undergo repair and restoration works to its slopes, trails and forests. NParks will also upgrade its visitor centre - which is more than 20 years old - during this period.

The closure of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from Monday does not mean it is the end of the road for nature lovers, hikers, runners and bikers. The adjacent Hindhede Nature Park and the mountain bike trail will still be open to members of public.

Visitors may also choose to explore routes less travelled. The three-kilometre Kampong Trail and the Rail Corridor - which ends at the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station - are nearby.

NParks has started holding tours for the public twice a month on Saturday mornings. The tours explore Kampong Trail - where squirrels, monkeys and rambutan and durian trees are among the highlights. Another highlight of the trail is the Singapore Quarry.

The free tours can be booked on NParks' website.

- CNA/xq

Nature reserve closing? Try other trails
Jalelah Abu Baker The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Sep 14;

From elderly joggers to young nature lovers, they came yesterday to bid a temporary goodbye to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which will be closed for a two-year renovation starting tomorrow.

But lesser-known sites around the reserve will still be accessible during the makeover to firm up the soil on trails, plant more trees and install more toilets.

The Hindhede Nature Park, Kampong Trail, Rail Corridor and mountain bike trail will remain open to the public till works end in 2016.

The 164m-high summit of Bukit Timah Hill will be accessible through the reserve's tarmac road on weekends from April next year.

Explaining the need for the repair works, Ms Sharon Chan, deputy director of the Central Nature Reserve, told The Sunday Times: "Slope failures and landslips are happening all the time. If we don't do anything, in the end, visitors won't even have the main road to walk on."

She explained that the works will take two years because they need to be done in stages so as not to disturb the ecological balance in the area and drive the animals out.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at the National Parks Board, said visitorship has increased from 80,000 a year in 1992 to 400,000 now. The changes will help the reserve cope with a rise in human traffic.

In the meantime, visitors will get the chance to discover three walking trails they may otherwise have ignored. Along the way to the nature reserve along Hindhede Drive is a dirt slope that leads to the scenic 24km Rail Corridor.

Further up is the Kampong Trail, which is still rife with fruit trees. There will be guided tours for this trail on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month till November.

Retired public relations veteran Goh Shih Yong has turned up at the reserve for his hike at 11am every Saturday for the past eight years with a group of seven to 10 friends.

He is excited at the possibility of starting his hike at the Kampong Trail, which leads to MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

"We will try it out first. We have to see if the trail suits our age. We are all in our 60s," he said.

It's time for a big facelift
Darishini Thiyagarajan The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Sep 14;

He last visited the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 10 years ago..

When he learnt it would be closed for about two years to undergo major renovation works, he decided to visit it one last time.

The 163ha reserve will be closed from Monday, the first time in its 22-year history.

Heavy rainfall and the increase in the number of visitors over the years have taken its toll on the reserve.

Half of its 9km trail will be repaired.

A visitor who wanted to be known only as Johnny, 73, said he last visited it a decade ago with his friends.

He went yesterday with a neighbour.

He said: "We both wanted to see this place before they close it down. Two years is a very long time to wait, and we didn't want to wait."

When The New Paper visited the nature reserve yesterday morning, nature enthusiasts had flocked there to spend time at the only hill dipterocarp (a family of hardwood trees) forest in Singapore.

A group of women aged between 50 and 65 were practising yoga as early as 7am at the Kruing Hut, which faces the Hindhede quarry.

They said they were sad about the closure.

The yoga instructor, Madam Joo Nguee, 50, said: "We met through yoga, and we've been coming here four times a week for four years now.

"But with the closing of the reserve, we might have to meet somewhere else."

On the other hand, Mr Mike Rehu, who was walking up the trek with two of his children, said the closure would not be affecting him as much.

Having made it a point to visit the reserve thrice a week for the past four years, Mr Rehu, in his 50s, said: "I will still be able to walk the dogs around the reserve, and my kids like going to the West Coast Park.

"Maybe we'll spend more time there before it (the reserve) reopens."

Three main areas will be repaired - from Simpang Hut to Police Repeater Station; from Quarry Road to TAS Station; and the main road between Kruing Hut and Simpang Hut.


In addition to the upgrading of the visitor centre, a 1.3 km-long raised boardwalk at Dairy Farm Loop and Summit Path will be built for visitors.

At the summit, many nature lovers were seen taking a rest with their loved ones before heading down.

Mr Alan Chan, 56, was greeting everyone with a smile. The retiree has been visiting the nature reserve every Monday for the past two years, and would like the restoration works to be finished as soon as possible.

He will be going to Jurong Lake for walks in the meantime.

The trails will be open to the public during the weekends after six months.

Mr Chan said: "It gets too crowded on weekends, and I would like some peace after I reach the top of the hill.

"But I can't wait to see the reserve after its restoration works."

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