Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jan 11

Kranji field survey (15 Jan 2011)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

110115 Sungei Buloh
from Singapore Nature

Singapore Welcomes the Malay Dartlet
from Butterflies of Singapore

Barred Kukri Snake, Striped Kukri Snake
from Creatures Big & Small

Dr John Yong shares on "What is a ‘healthy’ Mangrove Eco-system?"
from wild shores of singapore

Otters at Sungei Buloh and mangrove marvels at Kranji
from wild shores of singapore

Oriental Pied Hornbill feeding on a spider
from Bird Ecology Study Group

More on Monitors
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Pasir Ris Park On The First Day of 2011
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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Uncovering life in Sungei Buloh's mud

Volunteers search for marine life at reserve's mudflats in 1st NParks biodiversity survey
Lin Yang Straits Times 16 Jan 11;

Knee-deep in mud, with his back bent and hands digging through a soggy mixture of sand and soil, Mr Cliff Ho could not hide the smile on his face.

The 27-year-old police officer was one of 20 volunteers who showed up yesterday to survey wildlife in the mudflats of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. He was savouring every moment of this outdoor expedition.

'The last time I saw a mudflat was during a school camp in primary school,' he said. 'Now I realise, as someone from the younger generation, I must play my part in conservation efforts.'

The Sungei Buloh project is part of the first Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey done in Singapore, a four-year effort that began last year to document the marine life that inhabits Singapore's coastal waters.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which leads the project, roped in Shell Companies in Singapore and the Care-for-Nature Trust Fund as sponsors, as well as the

National University of Singapore (NUS) to provide scientific expertise.

However, most of the work is done by volunteers. NParks has recruited more than 80 people to do the grunt work.

Yesterday, the volunteers travelled to the research site in Sungei Buloh in mid-afternoon. After trudging through an obstacle course of thick mud, they used small planter shovels to dig 20cm-deep holes for the purpose of taking samples.

Next, the samples were sifted with water to remove sediment and reveal the marine life.

The volunteers then picked out and separated all the biodiversity offered by the mudflats, including ribbon worms, bristle worms, hermit crabs, fiddler crabs, mussels, anemone, and several species of clams.

The samples, placed into plastic containers, will be taken to the laboratory at the NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute, where they will be identified and catalogued.

Ms Ria Tan, founder of wildlife website Wild Singapore, was also helping out. She often recruits volunteers to monitor coral reefs, seagrass patches and mudflats across the island.

During a break, she related a story of how durians are pollinated by bats, which eat the nectar of mangrove flowers.

'Our natural world has many examples of ecosystem services, where different species depend on each other for survival,' she explained. 'Often, these connections are not obvious to us until something has disappeared.'

Mr Ho is one who recognises the importance of this.

'We need to document what's left,' he said. 'Reserve lands are decreasing. Maybe 20 years down the road, you won't have these mudflats any more.'

The question of development versus conservation filled the minds of volunteers and researchers alike.

Dr Tan Koh Siang, the survey's lead scientist, sees his role as a provider of facts when the crucial choices have to be made.

'We are not conservation campaigners,' he said. 'When the time comes, the Singapore Government will look at the facts and decide whether to preserve this land or not.'

However, he has great hopes for his volunteers.

'By giving them ownership of this work, maybe they'll become one of our main pillars for conservation.'

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A green corridor to East Coast Park

3.8km link is part of ambitious makeover and will provide easier access from Bedok
Andrea Ong Straits Times 16 Jan 11;

Sports enthusiasts, food lovers and families looking for recreational spots in the east will find it easier to get to their playgrounds.

A new 3.8km green corridor linking up the popular East Coast Park with Bedok Town Centre, as well as Bedok Reservoir, will be built over the next five years.

This means that Singaporeans will be able to walk - taking about 20 minutes, or cycle directly from the MRT station or bus interchange in Bedok, to either of the two recreational spots.

It is part of a larger 'ambitious' makeover for the East Coast, and comes on top of previously announced plans for a revitalised Bedok town with a new food centre, an integrated sports complex, a mall and an air-conditioned bus interchange.

Also in the pipeline is a cycling network connecting schools, parks and MRT stations in an area stretching from Kaki Bukit to Tanah Merah.

Unveiling the details yesterday at Bedok Town Centre, Senior Minister S. Jayakumar, an MP for East Coast GRC, called the makeover an 'ambitious' one that 'will benefit not only residents of East Coast but also other Singaporeans'.

The vision is 'to be the Gateway to the East Coast', he said. 'This means giving everyone greater access to what the East Coast is best known for - a great place to have fun, leisure and good food.'

The makeover is part of the $1 billion second phase of the Remaking Our Heartland programme to rejuvenate mature estates over the next five years. The other two towns selected are Hougang and Jurong Lake.

MPs from the three GRCs - East Coast, Marine Parade and Aljunied - benefiting from East Coast's makeover were also present at an exhibition on the new plans, where the public can give their feedback. It is at Bedok Town Centre and runs till Wednesday.

So far, they are getting the thumbs-up from residents.

Madam Siti Rohdiah, 37, a personal assistant who lives in Changi, visits East Coast Park once a month with her family to relax and eat their favourite barbecued chicken wings at the food centre there.

'Now, we have to travel there by taxi or bus. The bus ride can take more than an hour because we have to transfer buses twice,' she said. 'We will most definitely use the new corridor.'

Currently, there is no direct route for non-drivers to get from Bedok Reservoir to East Coast Park. They have to take buses or use the 6km Bedok Park Connector. Those coming from Bedok Town Centre have to traverse the expressway and roads via underpasses, or take a bus.

Now, the new cycling and pedestrian path, which runs parallel to Bedok North Avenue 1 and Bedok South Avenue 1, will cut travelling time. It will also be lined with gardens and sports facilities.

Meanwhile, a new integrated sports facility will be built in Bedok North Street 1, replacing the existing Kampong Chai Chee Community Centre, Bedok Sports and Recreation Centre (SRC) and swimming complex. The current SRC will be used for housing developments and a new stadium.

The bustling Bedok Town Centre will also be given a new lease of life, said SM Jayakumar, with a transport hub that incorporates a mall, the new bus interchange and a condominium.

It will also have a new hawker centre with a multi-storey carpark, built next to the existing one.

The existing site will be developed into a town plaza for community events.

Lastly, an 11km heritage foot trail will be built. Tracing the old Upper Changi Road, it contains information boards on the area's history and links up famous food spots at Simpang Bedok and Siglap.

Speaking to the media, SM Jayakumar called the Remaking Our Heartland developments 'town council plans, plus plus'. Many of the projects involving multiple agencies are beyond the town council's purview and budget, he noted.

As Bedok's MP for 30 years, SM Jayakumar said the area has seen a 'total change' over the years.

'But things cannot stand still. With other new towns coming and new estates, we have to move on with the times and see how we can have a total remake of this area,' he said.

Gateway to East Coast
S Ramesh and Mustafa Shafawi Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 11;

SINGAPORE : Plans for the "Gateway to the East Coast" were unveiled on Saturday as part of the S$1 billion Remaking Our Heartlands (ROH) programmes for three areas announced a week ago by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

Senior Minister S Jayakumar, who is an MP for East Coast GRC, said the plans once realised, will benefit not only those living in the East Coast but other Singaporeans too.

Plans to remake the area will focus on improving homes, revitalising the town centre and providing more recreational choices.

"Much of East Coast is an ageing estate. Therefore to make people feel that it is an exciting place to live and work in, you have to have constant upgrading. But this is not ad hoc upgrading. We are pulling all the pieces together, and many agencies have come forward. In five to six years time, when you come here, it will be completely transformed, it is exciting," said Professor Jayakumar.

Over the next five years, the Bedok Town centre will be transformed into a vibrant new hub with a new air-conditioned bus interchange.

Stallholders at the food centre at Block 207 Upper Changi Road have been very much concerned about the re-development plans for this area. Under the Remaking Our Heartlands plans for the East Coast , there will be a new food centre built next to their food centre and it is expected to be be ready by 2014.

The stallholders hope that the new food centre would continue to be managed by the HDB or the National Environment Agency, to keep rentals low.

To preserve the history of the East Coast, a Heritage Corner will be built at the new Town Plaza in 2015.

HDB will create a physical heritage foot trail, which traces the early road network of the East Coast area.

And for the first time, Bedok Reservoir and the East Coast Park will be directly linked by a corridor.

The new green spine will enable cyclists and pedestrians to get across from both areas.

A comprehensive cycling network will be introduced within the East Coast area to enhance cycling connectivity to MRT stations, major employment areas, parks, schools and neighbourhood centres.

Sports enthusiasts can also look forward to a new integrated sports facility located within the town centre.

It will house a swimming complex, sports hall, tennis centre and a community centre.

The ROH plans for East Coast were announced a week after plans for Hougang have been made public.

Plans for the Jurong Lake area will be launched next weekend.

- CNA /ls

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The good that bats do

Mazlinda Mahmood New Straits Times 16 Jan 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: It looks like 2011 will not just be the Year of the Rabbit, it is also the Year of the Bat.

At the launch of the Year of the Bat 2011-2012 at Zoo Negara yesterday, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's professor of ecology and taxonomy of small mammals, Dr Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad, said bats were very much misunderstood.

"Bats are not to blame for the spread of diseases but human disturbance to the environment is."

Dr Zubaid said by helping disperse seeds, fruit bats play a major role in forest regeneration.

"Studies conducted in Thailand showed that the plant-visiting Lesser Dawn Bat species are most effective in pollinating durian and petai.

"In terms of disease and pest control, an insect eating bat can eat up to 600 mosquito-sized insects in an hour and they make a major contribution to natural pest and disease control."

Zoo Negara director Dr Mohamad Ngah said Zoo Negara as a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is celebrating the Year of the Bat to promote conservation, research and education on the 1,100 species of bats, of which half are at risk of extinction.

The worldwide campaign will focus on the ecological benefits that bats provide, such as pest control and seed dispersal.

"Bats throughout the world need continuous protection and this campaign is important to encourage people across the world to get involved.

"According to WAZA, 700 million people visit zoos every year. Zoo Negara itself receives about a million visitors annually.

"This is why zoos are the best place to spread information on the need to protect bats from being hunted for food and medicine and needlessly killed," he said.

At the same time, Zoo Negara is also partnering with Animation Society of Malaysia (Animas) to attract children to Zoo Negara and has chosen a famous local cartoon character 'Keluang Man' as the official mascot.

Zoo Negara houses a megabat species commonly known as Malayan Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus).

They feed exclusively on fruits and have an average lifespan of eight years.

Malaysia has about 118 species and 34 of them are at risk of extinction.

In conjunction with the campaign, Zoo Negara is organising seminars and talks on bats every third Saturday of the month until March.

For more information, log on to

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Average Hong Kong resident consumes double our planet's capacity

WWF 15 Jan 11;

Hong Kong, China - A new WWF report shows that Hong Kong people are living well beyond the Earth’s limits, consuming over two times our planet's capacity to sustain us.

According to the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010, if everyone in the world lived a similar lifestyle to that of Hong Kong people, we would need the equivalent resources of 2.2 Earths. Hong Kong has the 45th largest Ecological Footprint per person compared to 150 countries with populations larger than 1 million people in 2007.

Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint measures the extent of human demand for the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. Both quantities are expressed in units of global hectares (gha). Hong Kong has an average per person Ecological Footprint of 4.0 gha, which is more than double the 1.8 gha of biocapacity - the area actually available to produce resources and absorb CO2 - available per person globally.

Reliance on imports, high carbon footprint

Hong Kong’s excessive reliance on imported resources such as crops, meat, seafood and timber makes it most vulnerable to a changing world.

“While it is unrealistic to think that Hong Kong could ever be self-sufficient in terms of renewable natural resources, Hong Kong has become excessively reliant on the natural resources of the rest of the planet,” notes Dr Andy Cornish, Director, Conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.

“This reliance has not caused Hong Kong significant difficulties so far, but the increasing global ecological overshoot will inevitably mean more global competition for natural resources and is changing the rules of the game – rules that Hong Kong must adapt to. Extreme weather events will be more common as the climate changes, making it even more urgent that we reduce our excessive reliance on imported resources.”

Hong Kong’s carbon Footprint is significant, representing 60 percent of its total Ecological Footprint. While Hong Kong’s per person carbon Footprint is excessive, having grown 24 times since 1962, in terms of proportion, CO2 emissions released in Hong Kong account for only 26 percent of the total carbon Footprint. The remaining 74 percent is embodied in imports, meaning that CO2 is emitted elsewhere to supply imports to Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong will have to seriously reduce its carbon Footprint to bring its overall Ecological Footprint down, and that will require a holistic and comprehensive climate and energy strategy,” said Dr Cornish.

Seafood, timber from unsustainable sources

In addition, Hong Kong is still consuming seafood and timber products which are mostly from unsustainable sources, although a massive recent increase in Forest Stewardship Council paper providers is evidence of increasing demand for sustainable products. Increases in the consumption of beef per person are less positive, where the beef consumption per person has surged in recent years, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases.

"We are in a new era where humanity’s growing Ecological Footprint is outpacing what nature is able to renew. In such times of global overshoot, cities and countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies severely at risk," said Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel.

"As a region particularly reliant on the ecological health of the rest of the world, Hong Kong stands to benefit from minimizing its resource dependence. The more it can provide a high quality of life for its residents on a smaller Ecological Footprint, Hong Kong will not only address global risks, but more directly, it will make its economy more resilient facing the future," he added.

Hong Kong businesses and individuals need to take action

WWF calls for immediate actions from Hong Kong businesses and individuals. “Consumers can demand that the seafood and timber products we consume are produced sustainably. In this way we can leverage Hong Kong’s buying power and act as a regional catalyst to drive natural resource producers towards sustainability. In turn, this will create increased and reliable sources of sustainable products supply for Hong Kong,” concluded Dr Cornish.

“The potential impacts of climate change overseas to the resources Hong Kong imports provide additional self-interest incentives to increase efficiency, reduce wastage and source sustainably. It is imperative to do so sooner rather than later,” he continued.

Hong Kong Eco-footprint Report and The Living Planet Report

The Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010 and WWF's flagship publication, The Living Planet Report, is produced in collaboration with Global Footprint Network. Both provide an invaluable benchmark to track our shift in consumption and the size of our Ecological Footprint. WWF will produces the reports every two years, from which trends can be identified and actions proposed.

Earth Hour 2011

The release of the Hong Kong Ecological Footprint Report 2010 also marks the launch of Earth Hour 2011, a global campaign that aims to show governments, individuals and businesses that it is possible for everyone to take positive actions to conserve our living planet.

Earth Hour 2011, the global lights off campaign, will be held on 26 March, 8:30PM. This year WWF is calling on individual citizens to take the future into their own hands by going beyond the hour, beyond climate and to focus on living for a sustainable future. In 2010, hundreds of millions of people from 4,600 cities across 7 continents turned off their lights for one hour in a show of solidarity for the future of our planet. WWF-Hong Kong invites everyone to join Earth Hour and expects at least 2.5 million participants in Hong Kong.

Details of each action over the next two months leading up to the Earth Hour day will be available at

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Targets to boost recycling may backfire, say engineers

Roger Harrabin BBC News 13 Jan 11;

Pressure on local authorities to meet targets of keeping waste out of landfill is at risk of backfiring, a report has said.

The document by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says councils are focusing too much on the quantity of recycling rather than quality.

This is tending to produce a poor-quality stream of recyclable material. Because of this, the lower-grade material sometimes has to be sent to landfill anyway.

The report says the waste industry must change its culture so the focus is not only on increasing the quantity of recycled materials but on retaining the quality and value of reusable materials.

This would allow recycled materials to be fed back into the economy as first-rate saleable goods.
Circular economy

The syndrome is particularly acute with paper recycling. One of the UK's main paper mills has been rejecting some British recycled paper because shards of glass in the paper have been tearing the mills.

In its State of the Nation: Waste and Resource Management 2011 report, the ICE says the changes needed would cost between £10-20bn by 2020.

But it says the progression to a "circular economy" where recovered and recycled materials are good enough to be routinely brought back into use could contribute 10% to CO2 reduction as part of a broader efficiency drive.

The EU Landfill Directive states targets for reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill sites in the UK.

The targets are set against a 1995 baseline: Reducing 25% by 2010, 50% by 2013, and 65% by 2015.

The government's "Waste Strategy 2000" introduced targets to recover 45% of waste by 2010 and 67% by 2015.

Most recycled materials have a lower CO2 footprint than raw materials. The ICE says 50% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from timber.
Tax opportunity

Jonathan Davies from ICE said: "The UK's waste management policy has been too narrowly focused on diverting waste from landfill.

"But we still need more action also to drive up the quality of the material being produced. Without this, the UK could generate increasingly poor quality recycled materials for which there are few buyers, and ironically their most likely final destination is landfill."

The report says council tax payers could benefit from the change in approach, as producing and selling higher value recycled materials will generate more income for councils.

It says ministers should utilise some of the £842m per year generated by Landfill Tax to help capitalise the proposed Green Investment Bank, and support new low-carbon waste technologies.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We welcome this report by the Institute of Civil Engineers - a very timely input to the current review of waste policies in England. It contains some interesting ideas and policy suggestions which we will look at in detail as part of our review."

Shifting priorities on waste presents many challenges. Many councils have moved to co-mingled waste in which domestic waste is sent to recycling centres where items are separated by air-blowing machines like giant tumble-driers.

The system is cheaper than separation by hand, but can leave fragments of waste in the wrong recycling streams - glass in paper is a particular problem.

Another challenge is developing markets for recycled materials. The UK waste industry is fragmented with different councils adopting very different approaches.

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Current La Nina Could be Strongest Ever Recorded Yahoo News 14 Jan 11;

This year's La Nina event, a cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean, could be one for the record books, according to new satellite data from NASA. Satellite images of the Pacific Ocean reveal La Nina stayed strong in the final two months of 2010.

"The solid record of La Nina strength only goes back about 50 years and this latest event appears to be one of the strongest ones over this time period," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Patzert said this powerful La Nina's effects can be felt around the world, and researchers say it is partially responsible for the floods now devastating Australia.

"The copious rainfall is a direct result of La Nina's effect on the Pacific trade winds and has made tropical Australia particularly rainy this year," said David Adamec, an oceanographer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md.

"Although exacerbated by precipitation from a tropical cyclone, rainfalls of historic proportion in eastern Queensland, Australia have led to levels of flooding usually only seen once in a century," Adamec said.

The new NASA satellite image depicts sea surface height, which is linked to sea temperature as water expands when it heats up and becomes more compact as it cools. The cooler-than-normal pool of water that stretches from the eastern to the central Pacific Ocean is a hallmark of a La Nina event.

"This La Nina has strengthened for the past seven months, and is one of the most intense events of the past half century," Patzert said.

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