Best of our wild blogs: 13 Feb 11

Pulau Ubin (12 Feb 11)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore and sgbeachbum

Bon Appetit!
from Butterflies of Singapore

Songs of the Hill Mynas
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Coppersmith Barbet excavating a nesting hole
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Promise of 10 Spiders...
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Celebrating the Submerged Forest at Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

from PurpleMangrove

Evaluating the necessity and usefulness of water filters for domestic tap water from Water Quality in Singapore

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Free wireless trail for visitors at Sungei Buloh

Shaffiq Alkhatib Channel NewsAsia 12 Feb 11;

SINGAPORE: Visitors at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve can now receive on-the-spot information about the flora and fauna at the nature park using their smart phones and tablet computers.

The free wireless trail will give nature lovers the opportunity to view videos as well as take part in games and quizzes on the wildlife found there.

Visitors have to use their devices to scan ColorCodes - which are similar to barcodes - found on 25 signboards located all over the Reserve.

They can then access information on the animals and plants found at the park with the help of the ColorCam software which they can download online.

There are plans to increase the number of ColorCodes to 40 by this October.


New wireless trail turns Sungei Buloh into outdoor classroom
Straits Times 13 Feb 11;

The next time you are at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, whip out your smartphone to learn more about the natural attraction.

By installing a software called ColorCam, visitors can use their Internet-enabled smartphones to snap pictures of coded images located along the 500m-long mangrove boardwalk, main bridge and main hide.

The software decodes the images and sends multimedia content like videos of the reserve's wildlife, bird calls and quizzes to the smartphones.

The rise in the use of smartphones prompted the launch of the wireless trail, said Ms Sharon Chan, assistant director of the reserve.

'By making information bite- sized and interactive through this technology, visitors will be able to learn more about the importance of mangroves and come to appreciate Singapore's rich biodiversity,' she added.

Supported by Colorzip SEA, the company behind the ColorCode technology that creates the coded images, the $200,000 initiative has 25 coded images, with the number to be increased to 40 by October.

The National Parks Board will regularly update the Web-based content along the trail.

One visitor who gave the thumbs up to the idea was Chng Chun Kang, 14, a Secondary 2 student from Hillgrove Secondary.

'I particularly liked the video of the mudskippers. The wireless trail is just like an outdoor classroom, where we can use technology to learn more about our natural surroundings,' he said.

For instructions on how to download the software onto your smartphone, visit

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Singapore tops in building policy, water management

But it lags behind in renewable energy usage and waste management: Study
Lin Zhaowei Straits Times 13 Feb 11;

Singapore is among the top four in a new study ranking Asia-Pacific cities in terms of their 'greenness'.

The first comprehensive study of this kind in the region, it names Tokyo, Seoul and Melbourne ahead of Singapore for their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and live in a sustainable manner.

The other cities in the top 10 are Osaka, Sydney, Auckland, Busan, Taipei and Hong Kong.

The study, conducted by consultancy firm Solidiance, looked at economic, environmental and social factors that contribute to how eco-friendly each city is.

The criteria included carbon dioxide emissions, renewable energy use, waste output and management, public transport ridership and water management.

The study highlighted that the urban population has been rising rapidly in the region in recent years, driven by economic growth.

Coupled with the fact that urbanites account for up to 80 per cent of humanity's global greenhouse gas emissions, Asia-Pacific cities have had to turn to green infrastructure projects to ensure environmental sustainability, said the study.

Singapore came in No. 1 in terms of water management and green building policy, a further nod to its efforts in these two areas. Last September, the World Green Building Council, based in Canada, gave Singapore high marks in green building efforts and water efficiency in a climate change report.

But Singapore fared poorly in terms of renewable energy usage, coming in last in the Solidiance report, though its renewable energy investment ranked third, suggesting that it is working to catch up in this area.

Singapore also came in last among the 10 cities in terms of overall waste management. It fared poorly both in terms of waste produced per capita and municipal recycling ratio.

Associate Professor Wong Nyuk Hien, a design and environment researcher at the National University of Singapore, said the Republic's rankings seemed reasonable.

'Generally, in terms of environmental policy, we started quite late compared to other cities. But it is heartening to see we have caught up in some areas,' he said.

Dr Wong credited the Green Mark scheme for Singapore's good showing in the green building category.

Launched by the Building and Construction Authority in 2005, the scheme rates the environmental friendliness of buildings. By 2030, 80 per cent of all buildings in Singapore must be certified by the scheme. Since 2008, all new buildings must attain the minimum Green Mark standard.

More than 500 buildings have been certified to date.

But Singapore's poor ranking in renewable energy did not come as a surprise, Dr Wong told The Sunday Times.

'We are quite constrained in this area because of our size and geography. Solar energy is currently the only option but panels are very expensive now.'

The study pointed out that the global demand for environmental sustainability in sectors ranging from agriculture to energy has created 'huge opportunities' for business.

'Traditionally, products and services are based on what consumers want and need. However a new market has emerged that is dictated by what consumers do not want - climate change,' it said.

Solidiance managing director Damien Duhamel said the firm's studies have shown a correlation between green urban environments and innovation. The export of green technology from innovation-leading Japan, for example, could revitalise its lagging economy.

The clean technology sector has been identified as a major pillar of growth for Singapore. It is expected to contribute $3.4 billion to gross domestic product by 2015 and provide 18,000 jobs.

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Vietnam: New snake species discovered in Kon Tum

Vietnam Net 12 Feb 11;

VietNamNet Bridge - A group of Vietnamese, French and German scientists announced their discovery of a new species of stream snake in Vietnam, named Opisthotropis cucae.

A group member, Pham The Cuong, from the Vietnam Nature Museum, said that the snake was found at the Chu Mon Ray National Park in Sa Thay district, Kon Tum province in the Central Highlands.

The stream snakes of the genus Opisthotropis have speciated in many of the streams to become localized endemics. There are 19 species in the genus most of which have not been researched. Most are found in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia but species occur from Sumatra to the Philippines.

Most probably eat fish, but a few eat crustaceans, and it seems likely that some are more aquatic than others - spending most of their lives in the water and perhaps leaving the water only to lay their eggs.

Patrick David at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and colleagues have now described Opisthotropis cucae based on an adult female, from Chu Mom Ray National Park, Sa Thay District, Kon Tum Province, Vietnam. The snake was found at 740 m above sea level in secondary evergreen forest and was collected at night (21:30) under water in a rocky stream. The new species is named in honor of Mrs Ho Thu Cuc at the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources in Hanoi, for having collected the holotype and for her long lasting contributions to the herpetology of Vietnam. This is the seventh species of Opisthotropis known from Vietnam.

In late December 2010, Vietnamese and Russian scientists also discovered the specimens of two rare snake species in Hoang Lien mount in Lao Cai province, named Oligodon lacroixi and Maculophis bellus chapaensis. In the last 80 years, no specimen of these species have been found in the world.

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Thailand: Phuket Dive Reefs Rescue Plan Aims for Quotas, Zones, Controls

Pathomporn Kaenkrachang PhuketWan 12 Feb 11;

A ZONING system to separate snorkelling and scuba diving ''will come soon,'' the Phuket and Andaman coast dive industry heard at a seminar run by the Tourism Authority of Thailand on Thursday.

Quota systems to control the numbers of tourists and restrict the time they spent at coral reefs are also likely, about 100 dive firms and tour company representatives were told.

The seminar was called after the announcement of a surprise ban on select coral dive sites to allow Andaman reefs to recover from the damaging natural phenomenon of coral bleaching.

Authorities appear to have decided that the time has come for action at last on other fronts, too.

A vision of possible controls on Thailand diving industry came from the TAT's Attractions Promotion Director, Kulpramote Wanalert, who added that a summary of the sentiments expressed at the Khao Lak seminar would be passed on to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It was hoped that standards set for the key diving sites at the Similans and Surin island, off the province of Phang Nga, north of Phuket, could set the standards for a proposed ''Green Resolution'' in Thailand's tourism.

Greater control and enforcement had to come, the meeting at the La Flora Resort and Spa Khao Lak was told, to protect Thailand's coral reefs.

As stakeholders, tour companies, boat operators and dive companies needed to band together to protect their common future, the meeting heard as it stretched across three-and-a-half hours.

While the bleaching of coral reefs has been the trigger for bans on dive sites within the marine national parks, the TAT clearly believes that much broader controls are needed to prevent deterioration of the quality of the diving experience in Thailand.

Under pressure to perform better will be snorkelling tour guides, generally considered to be poorly trained and incapable of preventing hordes of uninformed tourists from abusing the coral.

''There is a limit to what's called the carry capacity of the coral reefs,'' Khun Kulpramote said. ''This applies especially to snorkelling. We are looking at ways of spreading the load to different sites and to setting quotas and time limits.

''All this would require greater coordination and better training for everyone involved.''

However, she added that the controls could apply only within the national marine parks, leaving coral reefs outside the parks to cope with increasing numbers of sometimes ignorant tourists, with guides who did little to guard against reef damage.

She told the meeting: ''Don't misunderstand what we are saying. Some of you may be the problem, but you are also the solution.''

Thailand's one time position as the world's best diving destination was under pressure because of what was happening, she said, and the TAT had endeavored to broaden the region's attractions by promoting golf, spas, watersport, trekking and other activities.

Artificial reefs could help to take the pressure off popular dive sites outside the national parks, she said.

Kanakorn Limkroudet, owner of the Phuket-based White and Blue Harmony dive company, said that his firm had suffered about 40 swift cancellations in the wake of international media coverage of the restrictions placed on Andaman dive sites.

''Scuba and snorkelling do need different management,'' he said. Thailand's reefs remained among the best in the world and the scuba diving industry brought strong income to Thailand.

What was needed, though, was one organisations to take care of all the coral refs, he said. He highlighted the illegal fishing that had caused great damage.

''I always feel a sense of shame when I take tourists to a place where there are no fish to be seen,'' he said. ''Last year on a reef, we found a huge fishing net covering a large part of it. We did not know who to call, who to ask to come to cut it free.''

Phuket dive tour operators who protected the reefs and made sure their guests were careful were ''angry at the closures,'' he said, adding that it was ''time to enforce the law'' on illegal fishing around the reefs.

Sustainable diving tourism was the common aim, the meeting was told. Experts from Phuket's Marine Biology Centre and Marine Preservation Office detailed the reasons for the diving bans and the damage that had been caused by last year's unusually extended period of heat, which put large areas of coral at risk of never recovering unless they were left undisturbed.

Industry standards needed to be set, particularly for guides of non-English speaking snorkelling groups, and some of the sites that had already been damaged in ignorance needed to be given the chance to recover. There were alternative sites, the meeting heard.

But zoning, quotas, time limits and creation of artificial reefs probably represented the best options for the long-term future.

Among those at the meeting were the Director of the TAT, Southern Region, Poramet Amartayakul, and Phuket Regional Director, Bangornrat Shinaprayoon.

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Philippines: P1.5 billion allocated for tree planting

Rhodina Villanueva 13 Feb 11;

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) yesterday announced plans to allocate some P1.5 billion for the national greening program where students will be tapped to plant trees.

DENR Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi said the P1.5-billion allocation would be the initial amount as additional financial assistance would come from the private sector and other government agencies, including the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

“We can also get mining companies, wood growers and private nurseries to donate seedlings to be used in the project,” Gerochi told the International Conference of Biodiversity and Climate Change at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

In cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd), Gerochi said the project would tap some 14 million students who will be guided on where they would plant the seedlings.

“Apart from planting trees, this undertaking also aims to provide livelihood to communities in the uplands. Seedlings of hardwood as well as fruit-bearing trees will be planted by these students under the guidance of DepEd,” Gerochi said.

Gerochi added some 1.5 million hectares of forestland would be covered by the project.

To make this possible, partnerships will also be made with other agencies such as the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways and the Commission on Higher Education.

Gerochi explained high school and college students taking up the National Service Training Program would be required to plant trees in the uplands while elementary students will plant in the lowland areas.

Gerochi added the DepEd is planning to include tree planting in the curriculum and make the program mandatory.

“What happens is that we will be covering 200 to 250 hectares per year so that it will take us five years for this project to be completed,” Gerochi said.

“We need these trees to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he added.

Gerochi said a team from DENR has already started identifying sites where the seedlings will be planted.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said they are looking at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija as a pilot area for the program.

“It will not just be a simple tree planting. We will now also require students to take care of and nurture the seedlings they planted until such time that they are grown,” Paje said.

Under the program, schools will be required to compost their waste that will serve as fertilizer for the tree seedlings.

Environmentalists, researchers, scientists, academicians, policy makers and representatives from various related organizations participated in the conference.

Paje said the conference would provide a venue for the participants to come up with strategies to conserve biodiversity, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

He said the activity comes on the heels of the celebration of the year 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, with the theme “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.”

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Kenya sees rise in elephant population despite poaching

Yahoo News 12 Feb 11;

TSAVO NATIONAL PARK, Kenya (AFP) – Despite increased poaching and a recent severe drought, Kenya has recorded a rise in elephant population in its flagship park, wildlife authorities announced Saturday.

Elephant population in the expansive Tsavo ecosystem in the south of the country rose to 12,572 from 11,696 three years ago according to the preliminary results of a census released Saturday.

The figures, which represent an increase of around two percent, is however less than the four percent rise that has been recorded in previous counts.

"This has happened in the backdrop of a very bad drought," said Julius Kipng'etich, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. "The new numbers might also reflect the increased demand for ivory and the subsequent rise in poaching."

The Tsavo National Park is Kenya's premier elephant sanctuary, hosting one third of its entire elephant population and covers 46,437 square kilometres of territory, an area bigger than Denmark and more than twice the size of Israel.

The expansive Tsavo is also the pulse on the status of Kenya's endangered elephants.

In 1976, Tsavo was home to some 35,000 elephants. In early 1970s, around 6,000 animals died during a harsh drought, and by 1988 only 5,400 remained in the park in the wake of a serious poaching onslaught.

However, the numbers have gradually grown since the early 1990s owing to tighter conservation and protection.

Conservationist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants organisation said the latest figures were "hugely significant not only for Kenya but for Africa."

The wildlife authorities also raised alarm over the surge in illegal ivory trade after southern African countries of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were allowed a one-off stockpile sale in 2008 to Japan and China.

Kenya has in recent months arrested several people trafficking ivory through its main airport in Nairobi to Asian countries where the tusks are used in traditional medicines and ornaments.

"Whilst this census is integral to the conservation and management of elephants, the real challenge remains in protecting them from threats such as poaching and challenges brought forth by land use changes," said James Isiche of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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Florida sea cow count second highest

Biologists worry they aren't out of cold yet
Jim Waymer Florida Today 29 Jan 11

Biologists spotted 4,840 manatees this month during their yearly statewide aerial sea cow survey, the second highest count on record.

But they still worry winter's chill could cut into the federally endangered species' numbers.

"That has definitely been a concern since December," said Martine de Wit, a veterinarian for the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

Biologists have recorded at least 81 manatees that have perished from ill effects of cold since December.

"Normally during this time of the year, we didn't have more than 10 cold stress animals," de Wit said. "All sizes of manatees were affected."

At least eight manatees were found dead in Brevard this month of cold-related illness. Another five were too decomposed to determine cause of death.

Acute hypothermia can kill sea cows in hours. Longer-term effects include potentially fatal immune suppression, which could linger into the spring breeding season. "It's a little bit too early to tell," de Wit said. "We're definitely keeping our eyes open."

A team of 20 observers from 11 organizations counted 2,438 manatees on Florida's East Coast and 2,402 on the West Coast during surveys Jan. 20 and 24.

State biologists have yet to break down the counts by county, and final numbers won't be available until late February, after biologists verify the survey results.

The count is topped by last year's record 5,076 manatees and comes in above the previous year's 3,802 manatees.

"Although weather conditions were not as cold as last year, we had excellent conditions leading up to and during this year's survey," Holly Edwards, a biologist with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a news release.

Manatees congregate in warm spots and may be easier to count in cold weather.

Researchers have been conducting the surveys since 1991, weather permitting, to meet a state requirement for an annual manatee census in Florida waters. They are considered minimum counts of the population.

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