Best of our wild blogs: 28 Mar 15



Night Walk At Lower Peirce Reservoir Park (27 Mar 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Asian Glossy Starlings eating Alexandra Palm fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group


Read more!

Malaysia: Marine creatures most at risk from plastic dumped at sea

RUBEN SARIO The Star 28 Mar 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Marine researchers are once again raising the alarm about the dumping of plastic material in the sea following the death of a pilot whale that was found to have ingested 4.25kg of plastic bags.

A post-mortem on the 310kg male pilot whale found that the three compartments of its stomach were filled with 14 pieces of large plastic bags, 11 small plastic bags, 11 plastic sheets and 6m of caution tape, among others.

Also discovered in the confines of its stomach was a yellow detergent bag manufactured in Guangzhou, China, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) director Assoc Prof Dr Rossita Shapawi.

“After the pilot whale ingested these plastic bags, its stomach was blocked and it could not consume anything else. It starved to death due to the plastic,” she added.

She said it was likely that the pilot whale had mistaken the plastic bags for food.

Latest casualty: Marine researchers getting ready to conduct the post-mortem on the pilot whale assisted by UMS staff.
Latest casualty: Marine researchers getting ready to conduct the post-mortem on the pilot whale assisted by UMS staff.
Giving details to the press about the death of the whale that was estimated to be between two and three years old, she said the pilot whale was the latest casualty of the tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean.

“It is very possible that we will see more marine creatures washed ashore, given the amount of plastic out there,” she said.

She said the pilot whale, initially thought to be a risso dolphin, was discovered by a villager at Likas Bay on March 19 and subsequently taken to the BMRI where it was given round-the-clock care.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said the condition of the pilot whale appeared to have improved after it was given antibiotics, painkillers, anti-­parasitic drugs, appetite stimulants, gastric protectants, multivitamins and fluid therapy.

“However, its condition suddenly deteriorated. The pilot whale vomited and died on March 25,” he said.

Sen said wildlife rangers discovered a pantropical spotted dolphin in waters off the northern Kudat district in September last year that died due to plastic ingestion.

He said green turtles were the most common creatures to die in Sabah waters for that same reason.

UMS lecturer for water quality for aqua­culture and marine pollution Dr Abentin Estim said a study last year of several beaches along the state’s west coast found 11,000 pieces of plastic bags per 100m stretch.

“The prevalence of plastic in our sea is a ­serious problem which needs to be tackled,” he said.


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 27 Mar 15



The curse on the waters off Pasir Ris
from Water Quality in Singapore

grey-headed fish eagle squawk & flight @ SBWR - Feb 2015
from sgbeachbum

Plain Plushblue caterpillar and its attendant ant
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Why palm oil expanded, and what keeps it growing
from Mongabay.com news


Read more!

Clay particles could help fish farmers tackle deadly plankton blooms

Method known as clay spraying may help end plankton blooms, fish deaths
CAROLYN KHEW Straits Times 27 Mar 15;

Dumping clay into the water when there is a plankton bloom, like last month, when 600 tonnes of fish died, could be a lifeline for fish farmers in Singapore.

Clay flocculation, also known as clay spraying, involves the spraying of clay particles into the water so that they can bind to the plankton before they clump together and sink to the sea floor.

It is among the solutions the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore will be proposing to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) next month.

Mr Timothy Ng, the association's president, speaking to The Straits Times after a members' meeting on Tuesday, said the group will send a proposal that will also include an appeal for financial help to restart their businesses.

Fish farmers here are still reeling from the deadly plankton bloom last month and early this month, which wiped out almost all their fish stocks overnight.

While coastal farms in Changi were the most badly hit, those in Lim Chu Kang and Pulau Ubin were not spared either.

Mr Ng said he does not know of any farmer here who has tried clay spraying. "We hope we can go on study trips to find out more about it. Currently, what we know is from the Internet," he said. "We don't want to take the risk and restart our business unless there is some confidence that these methods can work."

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's website, clay has been effectively used during "red tides" in South Korea and Japan. Red tides refer to algae blooms that turn the water red.

Experts, however, said more research needs to be done to study the effectiveness of clay in the Singapore context, and the impact it could have on marine life.

The plankton said to be the cause of the recent fish kills here is "much smaller" than the one found in the algae blooms in South Korea, said Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.

Some plankton blooms contain deadly algae which take up oxygen in the water and suffocate marine life.

"It would be difficult to quantitatively remove these minute cells by clay flocculation," he said. It should be used only as an "emergency procedure" as settling clay could have "adverse impacts" on bottom-dwelling marine life.

Associate Professor Federico Lauro from the Asian School of the Environment at the Nanyang Technological University said: "If they are planning to use natural clays, the problem is that algae is precipitated but not killed. Some of the algae can escape and still be deadly to the fish."

Another solution proposed by the farmers is to tow floating fish farms to areas with better water conditions, such as Pulau Tekong. The use of bags to store fish, and a closed containment system are two other proposed methods.

AVA said yesterday it is working with the fish farmers to recover from recent plankton blooms, and build up resilience against similar incidents in the future.

"This includes putting in place robust contingency plans and conducting contingency exercises." AVA added that it will help the farmers learn from those who have installed resilient systems.

"Farmers can also tap on AVA's Agriculture Productivity Fund to purchase relevant equipment to enhance their resilience. Beyond these, we are also exploring further assistance for affected farms to restart their operations."

Last Friday, AVA met with about 10 fish farmers to discuss how they can move forward, said Mr Ng. It also shared with them possible improvements to contingency plans, such as having a colour-coded system to warn them of adverse water conditions.

Said Mr Ng: "We have to spend six months to a year growing new fish fry, with no income in between."

How workers clear dead fish

OVER 12 days, workers from NSL OilChem Waste Management went out in boats to clear away dead fish along farms in the Lim Chu Kang and Pulau Ubin area. The firm collected 900 bags or 18 tonnes of dead fish from Feb 25 to March 5. It was among those firms engaged by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for the clean-up after the mass fish deaths last month and early this month.

Mr Young Ying, 47, a senior manager at the company, who led the clean-up, said his 19-men team, including him, worked an average of six to seven hours each day bagging up dead fish. "When the fish started rotting, it was quite difficult to retrieve them," he said. "The tidal current contributed to the difficulty."

An AVA spokesman said its officers were present to supervise and provide assistance in the clean-up.

"Those who disposed of the dead fish on their own were told to place them in trash bags and place the bags in skid tanks at Lorong Halus jetty," she added.

A National Environment Agency spokesman said it is responsible for cleaning up public areas such as beaches and canals. It collected more than 22,000kg of dead fish from beaches at Pasir Ris, Punggol, Changi and Ubin. The fish were incinerated.

CAROLYN KHEW

Clay solution to fish farmers' plankton woes?
Carolyn Khew My Paper AsiaOne 27 Mar 15;

Dumping clay into the water could be a lifeline for fish farmers here in the event of a plankton bloom, such as the last episode that killed 600 tonnes of fish.

Clay flocculation, also referred to as clay spraying, involves the spraying of clay particles into the water so that they can bind to the plankton before they aggregate and sink to the seabed.

It is one solution the Fish Farmers Association of Singapore will be proposing to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Timothy Ng, the association's president, told The Straits Times that it will submit the proposal in one to two weeks' time, following a members' meeting on Tuesday. The proposal will also include an appeal for financial help to restart their businesses.

Fish farmers here are still reeling from the deadly plankton blooms late last month and early this month, which wiped out almost all their fish stock overnight.

While coastal farms in Changi were most badly hit, those in Lim Chu Kang and off Pulau Ubin were not spared either.

On clay spraying, Mr Ng said he does not know of any farmer here who has tested it.

"We hope we can go on study trips to find out more about it. Currently, what we know is from the Internet," he said.

"We don't want to take the risk and restart our business unless there is some confidence that these methods can work."

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's website, clay has been effectively used during red tides in South Korea and Japan. Red tides refer to algal blooms that turn the water red.

Experts, however, warn that more research needs to be done to study its effectiveness in the local context and the impact it could have on marine life.

The plankton said to be the cause of the recent fish deaths here is "much smaller" than the ones found in the algae blooms in South Korea, said Gustaaf Hallegraeff from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.

"It would be difficult to quantitatively remove these minute cells by clay flocculation," he said.

It should be used only as an "emergency procedure", as settling clay could have "adverse impacts" on bottom-dwelling marine life.

Federico Lauro from the Asian School of the Environment at the Nanyang Technological University added: "If they are planning to use natural clays, the problem is that algae are precipitated, but not killed. Some of the algae can escape and still be deadly to the fish."

Another solution proposed by the farmers is to tow floating fish farms to areas with better water conditions, such as off Pulau Tekong. The use of bags to store fish and a closed containment system are two other methods proposed.

AVA said yesterday it is working with the fish farmers to recover and build up resilience against similar incidents in future.
"This includes putting in place robust contingency plans and conducting contingency exercises," said AVA.

It added that it will help the farmers learn from those who have installed resilient systems.

"Farmers can also tap on AVA's Agriculture Productivity Fund to purchase relevant equipment to enhance their resilience. Beyond these, we are also exploring further assistance for affected farms to restart their operations."

Last Friday, AVA met about 10 fish farmers to discuss how they can move forward, said Mr Ng.

The authority shared with them possible improvements to contingency plans, such as having a colour-coded system to warn them of adverse water conditions.

Stressing the importance of financial help, Mr Ng said: "We have to spend six months to a year growing new fish fry with no income in between."

He added that fish feed usually makes up about 60 per cent of operating costs.

Last year, the Government co-funded a portion of the cost needed to help farmers buy fish fry and new equipment to strengthen their resilience.


Read more!

Domestic recycling rate dips to 19 per cent despite 'go green' push

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Mar 15;

Singapore residents are recycling less despite the push to encourage people to go green, including equipping each public housing block with a recycling bin.

The domestic recycling rate fell to 19 per cent last year from 22 per cent in 2010, the National Environment Agency (NEA) told The Straits Times. The drop was largely due to a 30 per cent increase in food waste output over the period, NEA said.

Food waste in the domestic sector is not segregated for recycling. But if placed with other recyclables, it would contaminate the lot, which the public waste collector then has to toss out.

Singapore Environment Council (SEC) lead environmental engineer Kavickumar Muruganathan said: "Contamination of recyclables reduces the recyclability and quality of the materials, and this will lead to the reduction in the value of the recyclables."

The overall dip in the domestic recycling rate has caused concern among environmentalists, who say more needs to be done to engage and educate residents.

Since last September, every Housing Board block has a blue recycling bin, in which people put paper, plastics and other recyclables, placed close by. Before the initiative began in 2011, one bin was shared by five blocks. In January last year, the HDB said it will install recycling chutes in all new HDB blocks with throw points on each floor. This came on the heels of an encouraging pilot in Punggol.

Mr Eugene Heng, founder and chairman of green group Waterways Watch Society, said infrastructure will not solve the problem.
"Education is a slow process - if people are not aware of the benefits of recycling, there is no incentive for them to do so," he said.

The recycling framework must also be robust enough to assure people that their efforts to recycle are not wasted.

Last month's incident, in which waste collection firm Veolia was found to have mixed items meant for recycling with rubbish for incineration, would not help, said Mr Eugene Tay, founder and director of consultancy Green Future Solutions.

All five experts The Straits Times spoke to agreed that to hit a domestic recycling rate of 30 per cent by 2030 - a target set out in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 - more targeted public outreach needs to done.

Ms Olivia Choong, co-founder of environment group Green Drinks Singapore, said the recycling message could be better put across to the elderly through face-to-face interaction instead of just handing out brochures. For younger people, social media could be a better option.

One successful recycling programme started by the North West Community Development Council has volunteers sharing with residents the importance of reducing and reusing, and how to make use of 11 recycling points across the district.

Green groups, including SEC and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, said that beyond recycling, it is also important to remind people to consume and waste less.

WWF Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan said: "The old adage of reduce, reuse and as a last step, recycle, is key to reducing our impact on the environment."

Mr Heng said Singapore's only landfill will run out of space at an even quicker pace if people do not recycle. The Semakau Landfill is expected to be filled up by 2035 - a decade sooner than the original 2045 projection.


Read more!

Malaysia: Plastic bags found in dolphin

RUBEN SARIO The Star 27 Mar 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Plastic bags appear to have killed the Risso’s dolphin that was found in a weakened state in shallow waters at Likas Bay here nearly two weeks ago.

The dolphin died on Wednesday while being cared for at the Borneo Marine Research Unit Institute at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

A post-mortem on the marine mammal revealed that its intestinal tract was filled with plastic bags, a researcher said.

UMS officials are scheduled to announce the death of the dolphin and its causes today.

The researcher said it showed that the dolphin might have mistaken plastic bags floating in the sea for jellyfish, which is part of its diet.

This, he added, was the result of the widespread problem of plastic bags being thrown into the sea.

Other marine creatures such as turtles have also been reportedly found dead with plastic bags in their digestive system.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there is an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean with the debris covering an area as large as the United States and India combined.

Marine researchers had initially assumed that the dolphin was suffering from a chronic bacterial, virus or parasitic infection.

The dolphin died despite being treated with a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, appetite stimulants and multi-vitamins.

The Risso’s dolphin, which mainly lives in warm, tropical waters, is not considered endangered.


Read more!

Thailand issues world’s first elephant ID cards

New Straits Times 26 Mar 15;

PRACHUAP (Khiri Khan): Thailand has issued the world’s first elephant identity cards, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

The cards were presented to four elephant operators in Muang Hua Hin Municipality in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in the upper south at a ceremony presided by governor Weera Sriwatanatrakul late last month.

The operators are Elephant Village, Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, Hua Hin Safari and Hua Hin Hills Vineyard.

Listed in the ID cards are details such as an elephant’s name and age, photos, bodily marks, place of living, owner’s name, ID and microchip numbers.

The cards were issued in compliance with a new regulation implemented by the Interior Ministry and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to curb illegal ivory trade.

Prachuap Khiri Khan assistant governor Pongpan Wichiansamut said the move is hoped to prevent wild elephants from being kept and raised illegally. - –BERNAMA


Read more!

Earth’s Forests Are Broken

John R. Platt Takepart.com Yahoo News 25 Mar 15;

Imagine, if you will, a forest on the edge of a parking lot.

That first line of trees next to the concrete isn’t very healthy, is it? The plants are scraggly, oddly spaced, and choked off by pollution from the cars that come and go all day long. The ground beneath them is dry, partially barren, and strewn with litter and detritus. No birds or other wildlife can be seen.

Now, imagine those unhealthy conditions extrapolated to every other forest on the planet.

Finally, imagine that this is reality. You won’t be that far off from the actual condition of Earth’s forests, which, according to a powerful new study, have become increasingly fragmented from one another in a way that threatens not only what lives in the forests but everything that lives around them.

The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, brought together two dozen scientists who have been studying habitat fragmentation around the globe. It not only condenses the researchers’ individual observations from experiments conducted over the past 30 years; it also uses advanced satellite data to look at the state of the world’s forest habitats.

The results aren’t good.

“Whenever you’re in a forest anywhere on the face of the Earth, there’s a one in five chance that you’re within a football field’s length of the edge of the forest,” said the study’s lead author, Nick Haddad, a biology professor at North Carolina State University. “And there’s a three out of four chance that you’re within a kilometer of the edge. That’s just a few city blocks. I’m looking out my office window right now, and I can see a kilometer. That’s not that far.”

This fragmentation has a wide range of effects, not just on the forests but also on the entire ecosystem. Animal and plant species first become locked into smaller habitats, and then many of them disappear. Pollination in the area diminishes, affecting flowers and other plants directly outside the forests. The ground near the edges of the forests becomes less able to absorb nutrients, causing further plant loss.

These diminished forests also lose much of their ability to sequester carbon, which slows climate change, Haddad said. Losing even small regional habitats could collectively have a lasting global impact.

Not least, the destruction of forests makes it harder to escape into nature and get away from it all. Haddad said the forests that exist are so fragmented and so close to the noise of civilization that few can truly be called wilderness.

Some of these effects are almost immediate; others take five or 10 years—or much longer—to materialize.

“Fragmented habitats degrade over time,” Haddad said. “It’s a downward trajectory that we can measure over a period of decades.”

The paper calls this “extinction debt”—the delayed loss of species in a habitat following its fragmentation. In their experiments, the researchers found that the number of species within a fragmented habitat drops by 20 percent or more after the first year. After a decade, that increases to more than 50 percent.

It’s not just the big, noticeable, “charismatic” species that suffer. “It’s the entire breadth of plants and animals—the diversity of life—that is affected by habitat fragmentation,” Haddad said.

Although he warned that “we do not know the end to what fragmentation will be,” Haddad said there are possible solutions. Those include establishing connecting corridors to link isolated habitats, conserving more land, and establishing new ways to improve agricultural efficiency so we don’t need to keep cutting down forests to feed Earth’s ever-growing human population.

But as the paper warns, much of the planet’s remaining forest fragments are already smaller than 25 acres. With agricultural land expected to grow another 18 percent by 2050 and the size of the urban population expected to triple by 2030 (according to sources cited by the paper), that doesn’t leave much room for the forests Earth will need for centuries to come.


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 26 Mar 15



Palm oil waste and other damaging activities at Pasir Ris
from wild shores of singapore

How are seagrasses at Pasir Ris after the mass fish deaths?
from wild shores of singapore

Pellets from Tuas: 6. Nesting of Black-shouldered Kites
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Destruction of elephant, tiger, and orangutan habitat doubles
from Mongabay.com news


Read more!

Indonesia defends deforestation for palm oil on economic grounds

Stella Dawson PlanetArk 26 Mar 15;

Clearing forests for palm oil plantations is a "technical" matter that should not get tied up with trade discussions, an Indonesian minister told a land and poverty conference.

Growing global demand for palm oil is fuelling rapid deforestation in Indonesia, at a faster pace than in Brazil's Amazon region, making Indonesia a major contributor to global warming.

But Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, assistant deputy minister for forestry in the Economic Affairs Ministry, told a World Bank conference on land and poverty held in Washington this week that deforestation was a rich-country concern.

"We know that our primary customers are not concerned about deforestation," he said.

Asian nations, led by India, China and Pakistan, buy 55 percent of Indonesia's palm oil exports, while Europe buys only 8 percent, yet Europe puts much of the pressure on Indonesia not to cut down and burn forests to make way for plantations, he said.

Palm oil is important to Indonesia's development because it reduces poverty by bringing roads, schools and other infrastructure to rural communities and generates five million jobs that benefit 15 million people, Wibowo said.

The pace of forest loss declined rapidly between 2009 and 2013, he said, even before last year's New York Declaration on Forests called for an end to deforestation by 2020.

Hence the issue should be treated as a technical matter not a trade issue, and reserved for discussion in such forums as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) among industry, investors and civil society groups, he said.

"The zero deforestation commitment should not be a trade barrier because deforestation is a governance issue and about effective implementation, not about trade," Wibowo said.

Illegal logging, a primary source of deforestation in Indonesia, is under discussion at the World Trade Organization, which aims to complete some environmental negotiations by July as part of the Doha round of global trade talks.

Indonesia also signed a 2006 memorandum to combat illegal logging as part of its trade agreement with the United States.

(Reporting by Stella Dawson; Editing by Tim Pearce)


Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 25 Mar 15



lone otter @ pasir ris - March 2015
from sgbeachbum


Read more!

Malaysia: Chant questions Middlebank reclamation by state government

MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW New Straits Times 24 Mar 15;

GEORGE TOWN: An environmental interest group here questioned the state government's insistence in going ahead with the Middlebank reclamation, with the knowledge that it could destroy the ecosystem of the seagrass bed there.

Speaking in a press conference today on the matter, Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) adviser Yan Lee said the Penang government should explain why it insist on reclaiming the Middlebank area, when there are so many other places to be reclaimed.

"Choose somewhere else that is feasible. The ecosystem on the seagrass bed has to be a priority," he said in a press conference here.

Lee claimed that reclamation in the area would change the whole system and water flow in Penang, affecting fish farmers from the island to Nibong Tebal, and cause siltation.

Lee cited the Forest City project in Johor as an example of how such a seagrass bed should not be touched for development. He said the Johor Department of Environment (DoE) had not allowed the Forest City developer to reclaim areas that have a large amount of seagrass.

The 50.6ha seabed in the Middlebank, located between the first Penang Bridge and the Sungai Pinang river mouth, is the second largest in Peninsular Malaysia after Merambong in Johor.

It was reported that the state government planned to reclaim the area under the proposed RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.

The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) had called for a Request for Proposal (RFP) to reclaim the area, and ended on Feb 23.

When contacted by the New Straits Times, state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said nothing has been decided yet on the project.


Read more!