Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jun 18



Balik Chek Jawa 2018
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

July 2018 sampling events for NUS–NParks Marine Debris Monitoring Programme
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore


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Man fined S$3,500 for importing a live tortoise

Channel NewsAsia 20 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: A 40-year-old man was fined S$3,500 on Wednesday (Jun 20) for the illegal importation of a Greek tortoise into Singapore.

The animal is a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and a permit is required for any import, export and re-export of CITES-listed species in Singapore.

The live tortoise was found in a plastic container that was concealed in the rear left compartment of a Singapore-registered vehicle, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint media release on Wednesday.

ICA found the tortoise following checks at Woodlands Checkpoint. AVA, who was alerted on Feb 9, said investigations revealed that the man, Ong Yi Chao, did not have a valid permit to import the tortoise.

The tortoise is currently under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

"The ICA and AVA would like to remind travellers against bringing live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit," they said.

Offenders can be fined up to S$50,000 per species and/or jailed up to two years.

Source: CNA/na


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Locally grown strawberries a first for Singapore's farming industry

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 20 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: It was once an unthinkable feat - growing non-native temperate produce on Singapore soil. But a local urban farm has managed to do just that - growing strawberries, with the help of technology in a controlled hydroponics environment.

"We manipulate the environment to enhance the flavour profiles of our products, even down to the nutrients that run in the water," said Benjamin Swan, co-founder of Sustenir Agriculture.

"So even though it took two months to get the (strawberries) up, we spent the better part of six months understanding how we can best optimise the growth footprints we have to make the products the best we can be ... by controlling the environment."

Strawberries are the latest fruits of the vertical farm's labour, with other temperate produce in its basket including kale and arugula. The vertical farm also has plans to explore innovations in agriculture, by setting up a research and development lab in startup complex JTC LaunchPad @ one-north.

In a visit to the 1,000 sq ft facility on Wednesday (Jun 20), Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the Government would continue supporting urban farmers in co-developing solutions with industry players, in light of challenges faced by the urban farmers.

"The industry gave feedback that they have two challenges. One is that there is a lack of plug-and-play, cost-effective solutions for automation they can use quite quickly," said Dr Koh. "The second challenge they face is that they may need to have more understanding of science of certain niche crop types they can grow in an indoor environment."

"Urban farming as a movement is still fairly new globally. Therefore some of these solutions may not be readily available off the shelf," Dr Koh said. "But we do see a lot of solution providers innovating solutions that can be adoptable."

"They being here in LaunchPad – where a lot of innovation and entrepreneurs are – this can be a place to catalyse cocreation of solutions. And I think that would not just meet needs, but create an entirely new pillar of exportable technology for our local companies as well," Dr Koh said.

He cited the example of Sustenir Agriculture, which partnered with robotic solutions company PBA Hanhwa Robotics to devise a robotic arm for its seeding and transplanting process.

The farm is exploring the use of robotic arms to help in its seeding and transplanting process, with the robots able to take on the workload of eight personnel, according to Mr Swan. (Photo: Wendy Wong)

Dr Koh added that the Government would continue to encourage collaboration between farmers and institutes of higher learning. "The NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI) is already working with some of our industry to better understand the science behind growing niche crop varieties, and to look at agrotech they can co-develop together to meet those challenges."

The vertical farm, which is expanding into Hong Kong in the third quarter of 2018, is also looking at growing "indoor grapes" – and eventually even harvesting "made in Singapore" wine among others.

"All strawberries need to be pollinated – typically that happens with bees outdoors," said Mr Swan. "What we do right now is that we do it by hand with a forensic brush. It’s a little bit laborious and we don’t get 100 per cent success. But we are exploring bringing in bees to the room, which means we could have 100 per cent clean honey as well."

Source: CNA/na


Coming to a supermarket near you: Made-in-Singapore strawberries
VICTOR LOH Today Online 20 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — Ideally suited for a cooler climate with temperatures between 16°C and 27°C, strawberries are hard to grow here — until now.

In what is touted as a first in the country and the region, a Singapore start-up Sustenir has managed to produce strawberries on a commercial scale, in a controlled indoor environment.

Buoyed by its success, the enterprise has set its sights on made-in-Singapore grapes and even wine.

Speaking at the launch of its research and development lab at JTC Launchpad in one-north on Wednesday (June 20), Mr Benjamin Swan, 37, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sustenir, said: "The sky is the limit to this because, effectively, we can grow anything indoors."

The strawberries are now sold at selected Cold Storage supermarkets and online grocer RedMart at S$12 for a 200g packet, and Mr Swan said that there may be plans to sell them at more shops in the heartlands.

The fruit is produced using patented technology, which allows Sustenir to maximise its output in land-scarce Singapore, to grow more with less.

For example, a traditional farm can grow an average of 140 tonnes of leafy greens in one hectare of land, but Sustenir can produce 2,100 tonnes in the same space using 95 per cent less water.

A typical farm also takes about seven to eight weeks to grow strawberries from the plant stem using regular farming methods, but Sustenir can do so in under six weeks.

Its vertical farm at Sembawang — which is certified under the food safety management systems scheme, ISO 22000 — has been cultivating other non-native vegetables such as kale and arugula (rocket) since 2014, and can now produce about 800kg of strawberries monthly all year round. Plans are afoot to double the size of its 54sqm strawberry farm.

Mr Swan, a former UOB and Citibank banker before he co-founded Sustenir, said that because its products are cultivated in "perfectly clean conditions that are free from pesticides, contaminated soil and any form of haze or air pollution from outside", there is no need to wash its fruits and vegetables before consumption, and they can last for two weeks when refrigerated.

While the firm took just two months to research and cultivate its first batch of strawberries, but pollination — which usually happens with bees outdoors — was a challenge.

Pollination is now done manually, but the company is looking to introduce bees indoors, and perhaps from there, even create "100 per cent clean honey", Mr Swan said.

He stressed that Sustenir is not out to compete with Singapore farmers for staple vegetables and fruits. "We can grow bok choy and so forth locally, but do we want to grow (bok choy) here indoors or outdoors? Of course not. What we are doing is focusing on imported products."

It is this same imported-produce-first strategy that Sustenir is taking to Hong Kong, where it will open a vertical farm in the third quarter of this year.

He added: "We are going as far as the more medicinal products. Take TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). We are working with NUS (National University of Singapore), for example, so that we can extract the enzymes out of (nutrient-rich) kale, a superfood to help with (the well-being of) cancer patients."

POTENTIAL FOR MASS-MARKET PRODUCE

On Wednesday, Sustenir also launched the sale of its strawberries at Cold Storage's new one-north outlet.

When asked about the S$12-per-200g price of its strawberries, Mr Swan said that they are "very competitive" compared with the South Korean varieties, for instance.

An online site sells strawberries from South Korea for S$11.60 per 330g box, while a 250g box of strawberries from the United States costs S$6.50 at Cold Storage.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, who was present at the launch event, was asked if urban farmers are limited to producing just high-value fruits and vegetables.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon (left) with Sustenir Agriculture's CEO Benjamin Swan looking at home-grown strawberries at Sustenir's Research and Development facility. Photo: Chng Shao Kai/TODAY

He noted that the technology has the potential for other common vegetables such as bok choy to be grown locally for commercial use.

"Strawberries is one of those varieties that we would not have imagined possible growing in Singapore. But for a controlled environment, by manipulating the growth conditions, we see that strawberries are now possible.

"If you know how to grow strawberries in an indoor environment, you know how to manipulate conditions, I think it will not take a big leap for (urban farmers) to switch to more mass-market vegetables like bok choy, for example," Dr Koh said.

"It's only left to our imagination to see how (urban farmers) can capitalise on this to do more with less and get ourselves more fruits, and be self-sufficient."


Strawberries grown in Singapore vertical farm make debut
Low De Wei Straits Times 20 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Strawberries grown in a vertical farm in Singapore - and available all year round - are being sold at selected supermarkets.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon, who took a look at Singapore's first commercially-grown local strawberries on Wednesday (June 20), said government agencies will need to see how best they can change rules to assist vertical farms here.

This means that agencies may need to be flexible, and liberalise regulations, to accommodate the needs of such firms here, he added.

Acknowledging the challenges that the vertical farm industry faces here, Dr Koh said that one solution was for commercial companies, universities and firms with research and development (R&D) expertise to work together with urban farmers. The Government will explore how clustering can be applied in this industry as well, like siting vertical farms with other businesses they can leverage for expertise, he added.

He accepted that finding spaces here for vertical farms was a challenge and said that the Government would see what more it could do to assist farmers who identify areas and buildings that they are keen to set up facilities in.

Dr Koh was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the R&D laboratory of local vertical farming company, Sustenir Agriculture, at one-north.

Sustenir's researchers had successfully cultivated strawberry plants in the lab, and the fruit has since been grown in Sustenir's vertical farm.

The strawberries are being sold at selected Cold Storage outlets at $12 a punnet.

Most vertical farm companies, such as Sustenir, currently grow vegetables like kale and other salad vegetables for sale in the local market. The latest addition to this plate are home-grown strawberries.

Dr Koh said that the technology used to grow high-value crops like strawberries can also support Singapore's food security requirements in times of need.

"The idea is to develop the know-how and have the technology mature so that in a time of need, you can easily switch over to different plant types (to grow in vertical farms)," he said.

Figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) show that there were 26 indoor vertical farms here as at the end of April. In 2016, there were just six such farms.

More players need to be willing to adopt such business models even as the Government reaches out to them, Dr Koh said.

As the urban farming landscape matures in Singapore, the Government will also seek to engage residents.

Citing the example of the new town of Tengah, which features "community farmways", Dr Koh said the Government is exploring how to incorporate more urban community farming into newer housing estates.

While AVA figures show that the number of commercial rooftop farms here remained at one as of end-April, with no new additions in the past two years, Dr Koh said the Government will continue to look at how rooftop spaces like those at multi-storey carparks can be adapted for producing edible food.

"As we explore this space, and as interest grows, we will be able to do something more concrete," he said.

Berry fresh prospects for vertical farming
Govt agencies may have to ease rules to let sector flourish, says senior minister of state
Low De Wei Straits Times 21 Jun 18;

Now in selected supermarkets near you: Strawberries grown in a Singapore vertical farm.

On the sidelines of a visit to an R&D laboratory belonging to Sus-tenir Agriculture, which developed a method to grow strawberries here, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said government agencies will need to see how best they can change rules to assist vertical farms.

This means agencies may need to be flexible, and liberalise regulations, to accommodate the needs of such firms, he added yesterday.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by the vertical farm industry, Dr Koh said one solution the Government will explore is to locate such farms near commercial companies, universities and R&D firms.

He explained that having such "clusters" will let urban farmers leverage on expertise in other areas to devise cost-effective technological solutions. He also acknowledged that finding spaces for vertical farms was a challenge, and said the Government would see what more it can do to help farmers who identify areas and buildings they are keen to set up facilities in.

Mr James Liu, co-founder of vertical farming company SING.Fresh, is one such farmer who had to grapple with the "significant challenge" of getting approval from various agencies for the use of unused spaces, which he said is hindered by land usage policies.

Higher location costs for vertical farming would also mean higher costs for consumers, he said.

Most vertical farm companies grow high-value greens like kale and other salad vegetables that can be sold at more competitive prices compared to imported varieties.

Asked about the rationale for growing such crops, co-founder and chief executive of Sustenir Agriculture Benjamin Swan said this was to avoid competing against lower-cost greens like bok choy.

Dr Koh said the know-how gained from growing high-value crops like strawberries can still contribute to supporting Singapore's food security in times of need.

Figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) show there were 26 commercial indoor vertical farms as of end-April this year. In 2016, there were six such farms.

Still, more players need to be willing to adopt such business models even as the Government reaches out to them, Dr Koh said.

And as the urban farming landscape matures, the Government will also seek to engage residents. Dr Koh said the Government is exploring how to incorporate more urban community farming into newer housing estates.

AVA figures show there was only one commercial rooftop vertical farm as of end-April.

A spokesman for the Ministry of National Development, when asked about its policy on rooftop farming, said it adopts "a facilitative approach". "We will continue to push for innovative projects to optimise our land use and grow the urban farming movement," the spokesman added.

Asked if the Government can do more, Dr Koh said it will continue to look at how rooftop spaces like those on multi-storey carparks can be adapted for producing edible food.

"As we explore this space, and as interest grows, we will be able to do something more concrete," he said.


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Malaysia: "Ghost nets" destroying life within Sabah's marine park

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 20 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Ghost nets have been wrapping themselves around coral reefs, trapping and killing hundreds of marine life daily within Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a popular tourism spot and dive site off here.

Over the years, concerned divers have taken their own initiative to remove fishing nets caught in coral reefs within the protected marine park covering five islands – Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik, and Sulug.

Despite their efforts in protecting the marine life and highlighting the matter to relevant authorities, ghost nets continue to creep into TARP and become threats to the coral reef and marine life.

Divemaster Jude Junius said tourism activities may collapse if illegal fishing and the dumping of nets within TARP off here persist without effective and proper monitoring from relevant authorities.

“Our reefs are being threatened at a very alarming rate and it will die off if this continues.

“We are doing our part but there is little we can do. Sabah Parks and the fisheries department need to take heed of this problem.

Fishing trap set up by irresponsible individuals within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu. Photo Courtesy of Jude Junius.
“We have stumbled upon 100m to 300m long fishing nets caught on reefs. The 300m net is worse because it means leisure divers can see them throughout the whole dive.

“We boast of Sabah being rich in marine biodiversity, but this situation makes the diving industry look bad especially when a diver has just been certified and is looking forward to experience underwater adventure,” he said.

Diver removes a fishing trap found within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu. Photo Courtesy of Jude Junius.
Jude also pointed out fishing traps found hidden between reefs as a method to catch fish by irresponsible individuals, and questioned the point of having a conservation fee paid to Sabah Parks.

Since last month, concerned divers had discovered more than 13 ghost nets. Jude noted Gaya Island marine conservation and dive operators namely Borneo Dream, Diverse Borneo, and Land Below The Wind sponsored them the boats and diving gear for the cleanup initiative.

Meanwhile, Sabah Parks TARP manager Anthony Tinggi said the parks relied on information from divers and the exact coordinates, so it would be easy for their team to act on complains with regards fishing nets.

“We have five divers in our marine unit and our team has also removed ghost nets during their dives. I agree we cannot work in silo to tackle the problem and we need to have a strong cooperation from the diving fraternity,” he said.

Fishing trap set up by irresponsible individuals within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu. Photo Courtesy of Jude Junius.
He noted that Jude has come to see him to discuss on cooperation, adding TARP management assisted in providing boats and manpower to help in the removal of ghost nets.

“However, we stopped (providing boats) for a while as our divers and boatmen were fasting during the Ramadan. We will nonetheless continue to assist them. I am also looking into establishing a Honorary Ranger.

“We have informed the matter to Sabah Parks director (Dr Jamili Nais) and I am in the midst of preparing the proposal paper to be presented to the top management,” he said.

On the origin of the ghost nets, Tinggi however believed the fishing nets were not being dropped intentionally in TARP but had drifted from outside the park’s boundary.

Diver removing fishing nets with marine life trapped in it within Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu. Photo Courtesy of Jude Junius.
Having said that, he stressed that Sabah Parks continues to conduct patrols around TARP, including in the wee hours when fishermen were believed to conduct illegal fishing activities.

“However, we have never come across fishermen or fishing boats within the marine park,” he added.


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Malaysia: Forum on sharks and rays protection to kick start tomorrow

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 20 Jun 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A high level forum to discuss sharks and rays protection in Sabah waters will kick start here tomorrow, with participation from local and foreign researchers, non-governmental organisations (NGO), and government officials.

The groups will convene at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort here, to further deliberate on the situation of sharks and rays population in the state’s waters at the two-day Sabah Sharks and Rays Forum 2018, which ends on Friday.

Among the forum participants are the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry, Sabah Fisheries Department under the state Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and Universiti Teknologi MARA.

NGOs include WWF-Malaysia, WWF-Pakistan, WWF-International, Save Philippine Sea, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Sabah Sharks Protection Association (SSPA), Marine Research Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society among others.

In the forum tomorrow, participants will be given an update on the protection progress, which include eco-tourism research, socioeconomic study, awareness-raising works as well as law and policy on Malaysia’s sharks and rays.

Participants will also be given an insight into the shark policies in the Philippines.

A high-level dialogue is scheduled on Friday, of which state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew is expected to attend the dialogue.

The Sabah Sharks and Rays Forum 2018, which carries the theme “Exploring Synergies between Fisheries, Conservation and Tourism“, is jointly organised by Land Empowerment Animals People, WWF-Malaysia and SSPA.

The forum is also expected to reveal results of an updated study to assess the current economic value of the shark diving industry in Semporna, following the 2012 Shark Tourism Economic Valuation Study that was led by AIMS.


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Best of our wild blogs: 19-20 Jun 18



RIP Mama Jong
wild shores of singapore


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Pod of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins spotted off Pulau Semakau

Charmaine Ng Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - In his 10 years of fishing, Mr Quek Wei Teck has never come across anything like it.

The 39-year-old was with six other friends on a yacht off Pulau Semakau last Saturday afternoon (June 16) when they saw something jump from the water.

"All of us stopped fishing and rushed to the front (of the yacht)," said Mr Quek, who owns a fishing academy.

As they got closer, they were treated to the sight of at least six dolphins - one of which appeared "a bit pinkish in colour", he told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

As the yacht inched slowly towards the pod so the fishing enthusiasts could get a closer look, the dolphins continued frolicking in the water.

"The nearest we got was about 10 to 20m," Mr Quek said. "We've been there many times but it was our first time seeing dolphins."

The group then whipped out their camera phones to try to capture the sighting.


Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins spotted off Pulau Semakau in Singapore

Chairman of the Nature Society (Singapore)'s Marine Conservation Group Stephen Beng told ST that the dolphins are Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, or pink dolphins - named after the colour they grow into with age.

The dolphins of this species are common in Singapore waters, and have been observed around the southern islands, Mr Beng added.

"It's good that these dolphins are commonly spotted in our reefs," he added. "It is important for us to be aware of their existence in our waters, and that they are part of our reef ecosystem."

He added that people should not discard fishing lines and nets in the sea, as they pose a threat to the marine life living in the waters, including dolphins, otters and sea turtles.

In April this year, a dolphin was spotted at Bedok Jetty, after it was reportedly caught in a fishing line.

After about 15 minutes, the fisherman cut the line and the dolphin drifted away into the waters, according to an eyewitness.


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Endangered SEA Aquarium turtles Hawke and Louie released into the wild

Channel NewsAsia 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Two rescued sea turtles swam to freedom on Tuesday (Jun 19) after more than two years of rehabilitation.

Hawke, a critically endangered male hawksbill turtle, and Louie, an endangered green sea turtle, were released by the SEA Aquarium into the waters around Singapore in the hope that they breed and increase the population in the wild.

Hawke was released at about 10.50am in the waters of Sisters' Island Marine Park while Louie was released about an hour later in the waters of Pulau Semakau, SEA Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa said in a press release.

"Both started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds," said the two organisations. "Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers."

The turtles were tagged and microchipped so they could be identified should they return to Singapore's shores, they said, adding that the two release points were chosen in consultation with the National Parks Board.

"It is an emotional moment for our team today to see Hawke and Louie return to the ocean, but our end goal has always been to nurse these turtles back to health and release them back into their natural environment," said Mr Kenneth Kwang Keng Hei, aquarist at SEA Aquarium.

"Our team has spent more than two exciting years caring for them like our babies and it is an aquarist’s dream to see our animals grow healthy after rehabilitation and return to the wild so they can contribute to the overall marine ecosystem.”

Both turtles had made their "official debut" during World Turtle Day last year and were the first sea turtles to join SEA Aquarium's marine life collection, according to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

Louie was only one week old when it was handed over to the aquarium on Sep 28, 2015. The turtle had been found by a member of the public in a drain, and weighed only 20g when it first arrived at the aquarium.

It has since grown to about 61cm in length and weighs 21.5kg.

Hawke arrived at the aquarium on Mar 24, 2016 after being found in the sea by a member of the public.

Believed to have been abandoned by its owner, who had kept it illegally as a pet, the turtle weighed 800g when it first arrived but has since grown to 59cm in length and weighs 23kg.

In addition, it has a slightly pyramided carapace - a shell deformity likely attributed to poor nutrition and care during its early years, according to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

To prepare the turtles for their release, Hawke and Louie were gradually moved from back-of-house areas to larger habitats at the aquarium to "encourage exploration" and interaction with other "compatible marine life", said the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa.

In addition, the aquarists fed the turtles a diet similar to that found in the wild including items such as sea jellies, squids and prawns.

Before their release, the aquarium's animal health team conducted a "thorough veterinary examination" which indicated both were healthy and suitable for release.

According to the aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa, there are seven different species of sea turtles: Green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback.

Of these, six are considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Flatbacks are not listed as threatened due to insufficient data.

Worldwide, sea turtles face many threats (primarily from humans), including injuries from boat propellers, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic pollution and poaching for eggs, meat, skin and shells.

Source: CNA/nc

2 rescued sea turtles released back into the wild after 2 years of rehabilitation at S.E.A Aquarium
Charmaine Ng Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Two sea turtles that were rescued and put under the care of the S.E.A Aquarium have been released into the wild after more than two years of rehabilitation.

The turtles were released into the waters around Singapore on Tuesday morning (June 19), in hopes that they will breed and increase their population in the wild, the aquarium said in a statement.

The release was done with support and assistance from the National Parks Board, the aquarium added.

Hawke the hawksbill turtle - a critically endangered species- was released in the waters of Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Meanwhile, Louie of the endangered green sea turtle species was returned to the waters of Pulau Semakau.

Both turtles were tagged and microchipped so they can be identified if they return to Singapore's shores in the future, the S.E.A Aquarium said.

During their two years at the aquarium, the turtles were under the care of curatorial and animal health teams.

Aquarist Kenneth Kwang said it was an emotional moment for the team to see both turtles return to the ocean.

"Our team has spent more than two exciting years caring for them like our babies and it is an aquarist's dream to see our animals grow healthy after rehabilitation and return to the wild so they can contribute to the overall marine ecosystem," he said in the statement.

Upon release, both turtles started swimming immediately in the water and disappeared from sight within seconds, according to the aquarium.

"Following the release, Louie was later spotted swimming near the same boat with its head out of the water, as though it was bidding farewell to its caretakers," it added.

Prior to their release, both turtles underwent a veterinary examination, including a blood test, weight and length measurement, to ensure they were healthy.

To prepare them for the wild, both turtles were moved gradually from back-of-house areas to larger habitats at the S.E.A Aquarium, to encourage exploration and interaction with other marine life.

Louie the green sea turtle was one week old and weighed 20g when it came under the care of the aquarium in 2015, after it was found in a drain by a member of the public. It is now 21.5kg and has grown to 61cm.

As for Hawke, the hawksbill turtle was believed to be kept illegally as a pet, and weighed 800g when it first arrived at the aquarium. The male turtle now weighs 23kg and measures 59cm, said the S.E.A Aquarium.

Hawke also has a shell deformity, which is likely due to poor nutrition and care when he was young, said the aquarium.

Both Louie and Hawke are native to Singapore, and were the first sea turtles to join the aquarium's marine life collection.

There are seven species of sea turtles: green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, olive ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback. Of these seven, six are considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.


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Singapore’s largest electric vehicle charging network to have 500 charging points islandwide by 2020

Amir Yusof Channel NewsAsia 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network - consisting of 500 charging points islandwide - will be made available in public areas such as malls, residential areas and business parks by 2020, Singapore Power (SP) Group announced on Tuesday (Jun 19).

The network, which SP Group said will be a boost for electric vehicle adoption in Singapore, will first be rolled out with 30 charging points that will be in operation by end-2018.

“Singapore is regarded as an ideal environment for EVs as it is highly urbanised and compact,” SP Group said.

“This pervasive charging network will plug a critical gap in scaling up EV adoption in Singapore by reducing range anxiety in EV drivers,” it added.

SP Group's head for strategic development Goh Chee Kiong told media that there is a concern among drivers that their vehicles will "run out of juice" when driving from point A to point B, and the launch of a large charging network is crucial to giving these drivers "peace of mind".

In tandem with the charging points, SP also announced the launch of two tenders for the network. The tenders are for the procurement of charging hardware for both AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) chargers, and for the installation of the chargers.

The national utility company highlighted that of the 500 charging points, more than 100 will be 50kW-DC charging points, a fast charge technology that can fully charge an EV in 30 minutes.

According to SP Group, the technology allows EVs to be charged three to seven times faster than predominant EV chargers available in Singapore today, which are rated at 7.4kW.

"And that gives drivers more comfort when charging their EVs with us ... and provides them a faster turnaround time," explained Mr Goh.

MOBILE APP TO SHOWCASE CHARGING STATIONS

Additionally, the group will also be introducing an SP Group mobile application to allow drivers to locate available charging stations in Singapore.

Besides that, the application can also provide drivers with automated updates on their charging progress and electronic payment modes for use of the charging points.

"Through the app, we will be also be able to provide information to the EV drivers on whether charging has been completed as well as the charging duration of the cars," explained Mr Goh.

In terms of costs, Mr Goh explained that the pricing plan for the charging stations will be released closer to the launch of the network at the end of the year, but he confirmed that the pricing will be "tiered" based on the type of chargers.

In 2016, SP Group’s EV journey commenced when it started to convert its entire vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. As of Jun 19, the company said it has 30 EVs, with 40 charging points across 13 locations.

SP Group said the move allowed it to develop its capabilities to operate an internal charging network that will now be scaled up to a nationwide public charging network.

Source: CNA/zl(mn)


500 electric vehicle charging points to be rolled out by 2020
CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 19 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — In a bid to encourage more people to own electric vehicles (EV) in Singapore, utility provider Singapore Power (SP) will be installing 500 new charging points across the island by 2020, with the first batch of 30 operational by the end of this year.

Announcing the initiative on Tuesday (June 19), SP Group said the points will be accessible to drivers and located at shopping malls, residential areas, business parks and industrial sites, among others.

There are currently 40 EV charging points owned by SP Group islandwide, most of which are located at the firm's depots.

The upcoming roll-out will be the largest public EV charging network in Singapore, noted SP Group chief executive officer Wong Kim Yin.

Of the 500 charging points, more than 100 will be 50kW-DC (direct current) charging points, which is a fast charge technology that can fully charge an EV in less than 30 minutes. Existing chargers currently run at between 7.4kW and 8kW.

The higher speed charging points will reduce full charge times from about eight hours to 30 minutes, said SP Group head of strategic development Goh Chee Kiong. He pointed out that one of the main grouses of EV drivers is that their vehicles run "out of juice" after a day of driving, and the lack of chargers on the island.

There are currently only 5 DC chargers on the island, added Mr Goh.

SP Group is also developing a mobile application to allow EV users to make payments through the app. Users will also receive real-time information about the availability and the location of the charging points.

The pricing plans will be announced closer to the launch of the network.

SP Group also announced the launch of two tenders for the EV charging network.

These are for the procurement of charging hardware for both AC (alternating current) and DC chargers — which have power ratings ranging between 22kW and 50kW — and the installation of the chargers.

While SP Group said that it has yet to decide on the exact locations of the additional charging points, it welcomes recommendations by users and prospective drivers who are interested to have chargers installed near their premises.

SP Group is not the only firm providing public charging infrastructure for EVs here.

Red Dot Power announced in February that it would be partnering Finnish technology specialist PlugIT to install at least 50 charging stations islandwide by the end of 2019. Its first installation will begin in September.

Another electric charging service provider, Greenlots, has also installed 16 public charging stations at office buildings and shopping malls such as The Heeren.

Greenlots has plans to install another 50 by the end of the year, said its regional manager Terence Siew, who is also the president of the newly-founded EV association of Singapore.

INFRASTRUCTURE, CAR PRICES KEY TO EV ADOPTION

While the move by SP is aimed at getting more people to use EVs, EV adoption in Singapore had come under the spotlight earlier this month after Tesla founder Elon Musk claimed that Singapore’s policies are not supportive of such vehicles.

The LTA said in response that it encourages the adoption of greener and cleaner vehicles such as EVs, but that it is part of its approach to address emissions levels and air quality. The wider aim, said the LTA, is to achieve a car-lite society.

With 354 electric cars currently registered in Singapore as of May, the addition of 500 new charging points will see the latter outnumbering the number of EVs here.

However, Mr Wong said that investing in infrastructure is crucial to incentivise people to adopt EVs.

He said: “It’s a chicken and egg question, without charging points, people will not buy EVs. But without EVs, operators (will question) whether to invest in charging points. In this aspect, we are taking the lead.”

Mr Goh said that the implementation of a “pervasive charging network” will resolve the conundrum while addressing the “range anxiety” that some drivers have about how far EVs can go.

While boosting supporting infrastructure is key for the adoption of EVs, the move to add 500 additional charging points was met with some skepticism.

Citing the lack of demand for EVs, Dr Park Byung Joon, urban transport expert from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) questioned the need to build more charging points.

He said: “There could be some concerns over why we are building up capacity when demand (for EVs) isn’t really there yet.

“Also, one doesn’t actually need a special outlet to charge vehicles, you can charge an EV with any kind of electrical outlet in Singapore.”

The uptake of EVs in Singapore also boils down to the price of the vehicles, said Dr Park, as he pointed out that the “upfront cost of buying an EV” is significantly higher than that of a normal petrol car.

Checks by TODAY found that the Ioniq Electric, the first mass-market, battery-powered electric car introduced here, is priced at about S$137,000, while other variants of Hyundai petrol cars like the Elantra costs within the $70,000 to S$80,000 range.

Mr Siew, however, felt that a public charging network is still important to support users who live in public housing and condominiums.

“While charging EVs may not be an issue for those who live in landed properties, a large majority of people in Singapore still live in HDBs and condominiums and they might not necessarily have access to charging points in their vicinity,” he said.


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KFC Singapore to stop providing plastic caps and straws for drinks

Channel NewsAsia 18 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: KFC announced on Monday (Jun 18) that in an effort to reduce single-use plastics, it will no longer provide plastic caps and straws with drinks at its 84 outlets in Singapore starting on Wednesday.

It will, however, continue to offer plastic caps for takeaway drinks.

In a press release, the fast-food chain said that the move - part of its No Straws Initiative - will see a reduction of 17.8 metric tonnes of single-use plastics in a year.

"We acknowledge the strain that single-use plastics put on our environment and are taking steps to do our part in endeavouring a change," said Ms Lynette Lee, general manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken Management.

"We recognise that every little bit counts and are proud to be the first fast food restaurant in Singapore to champion this movement, one straw at a time," she added.

KFC Singapore's first attempt at going green was in December 2016 when it phased out dine-in paper boxes and served their meals in reusable baskets instead. In early 2017, KFC replaced the foam packaging for their breakfast platters and porridge bowls with recyclable paper ones.

The efforts reduced their use of paper boxes and foam packaging within six months by nearly 2.5 million and more than 700,000 sets respectively, it said.

The company also said it will continue to review and roll out the use of more biodegradable packaging.

Source: CNA/hs


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Malaysia: The government should introduce more stringent laws to curb wildlife poaching activities

Amira Eizan Azman New Straits Times 19 Jun 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Animal activist, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the government should introduce a more stringent law to help curb wildlife poaching activities as many of the culprits are not deterred by the punishment provided under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

“The Act should be amended to include a mandatory minimum jail term for those found guilty to be involved in poaching activities, including those who keep the carcasses of the wild animals.

“Although the Wildlife Conservation Act, which was passed in 2010 to replace the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, is tough on lawbreakers, some quarters claimed that it is not a deterrent enough,” he added.

NST in its recent reports exposed that poachers have become cruel and they opted for brutal ways to catch animals including laying wire snares that could inflict a slow painful death.

The Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) had proposed for the amendment of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and with that, poachers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and it will provide heavier punishment while a minimum period of imprisonment will be introduced as currently the act has no such provision.

Lee said all Malaysians must be more proactive in curbing the sale and purchase of endangered animals and their parts through a more effective national and international legislation and enforcement.

The patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Selangor hoped that the enforcement agencies can strengthen their cooperation to help cripple poaching syndicates nationwide.

He further suggested the agencies involved use the latest technology, including drones, remote sensing and camera trapping, to curb poaching and smuggling activities all over the country.

“Wildlife protection is not only the responsibility of the enforcement agencies but protecting wildlife but requires collaboration across NGOs, government, corporate stakeholders and local communities.”

He believed that greater public awareness, better law enforcement and stronger political will are needed to not only prevent illegal wildlife trade but also to avoid over exploitation of natural resources.

“Animal cruelty in whatever form must never be tolerated and we need to care for all of them as they also have the right to live and share this planet, Lee said giving his opinion in regards of animal rights.

Anybody who has any information on wildlife crime can lodge a report to the Perhilitan hotline (1-800-88-5151, office hours) or the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 0193564194.


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Indonesia: Sperm whale found stranded in East Aceh

The Jakarta Post 19 Jun 18;

A sperm whale was found stranded on Kuala Baroh Bugeng Beach in Nurussalam district, East Aceh regency, on Sunday.

"We estimated the weight [of the whale] to be about 10 tons. It is in a decaying condition," a resident said as quoted by tribunnews.com.

The huge mammal drew the attention of nearby residents who, according to Antara news agency, harvested oil from its body on Monday.

Ten beached sperm whales were found by residents of Aceh late last year in Ujong Kareung, Mesjid Raya district, Aceh Besar regency.

Four of the whales later died and were buried, while the other six were returned to the water by about 50 rescuers. (evi)


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