Best of our wild blogs: 24 Mar 11

Living reefs at Terumbu Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

Little Egret’s leg-tapping foraging strategy
from Bird Ecology Study Group and Black Swan’s aggression

from The annotated budak

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Tsunami contingency plan in place: NEA

Straits Times Forum 24 Mar 11;

WE THANK Mr Tin Chee Yee ('Let's be prepared') and Mr Lee Kek Chin ('Set up crisis communication site') for their letters on Monday.

Following a study in 2008, the National Environment Agency (NEA) informed the public that there was a low probability of Singapore being affected by a tsunami, as the country is sheltered by the surrounding land masses. The shallow waters in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea will significantly slow down the propagation and dissipate the energy of a tsunami before it reaches Singapore.

The potential impact on Singapore will therefore be minimal.

Notwithstanding this, NEA has implemented an early warning system to closely monitor the occurrence of earthquakes and tsunamis.

A multi-agency tsunami response plan is also in place to coordinate the responses of the relevant government agencies.

In the event a tsunami is assessed to potentially affect Singapore, NEA will issue advisories and warnings to the public via media channels. As part of its contingency planning, Singapore also participates regularly in international tsunami response exercises to test and fine-tune our operational readiness. Inter-agency exercises are conducted regularly.

For the Japan crisis, the Singapore Government has established a micro-site on as a one-stop information portal for the public. This site provides useful information and frequently asked questions.

The micro-site is also available through the apps on the iPhone and Android phones, as well as the mobile site.

Patricia Ee (Ms)
Acting Director
Operational Services Department
Meteorological Services
National Environment Agency

K. Bhavani (Ms)
Public Communications Division
Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts

Let's be prepared
Straits Times Forum 21 Mar 11;

'Are there tsunami warning systems on our beaches, at our air and sea ports?'

MR TIN CHEE YEE: 'Singapore is surrounded by sea and the earthquake zone is not that far away. Should we consider conducting tsunami drills? Are there tsunami warning systems on our beaches, at our air and sea ports, and on our islands? It is better to be prepared than sorry.'

Set up crisis communication site
Straits Times Forum 24 Mar 11;

THE crisis in Japan has driven home the need to have a robust system to locate and account for loved ones when disasters strike.

When cellphone networks were jammed following the earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese used online social sites like Facebook and Twitter to contact loved ones and search for missing persons.

The authorities here should consider setting up an online 'disaster recovery' site which all can access to update their whereabouts or register names of missing kin, friends and neighbours.

Once such a site is set up and publicised - it could be made part of our Total Defence exercise - people will know what to do in times of crisis.

Lee Kek Chin

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Disaster readiness needed as Singapore firms venture abroad

Kathryn Yap Business Times 24 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE is relatively safe from natural disasters but businesses here can still feel the impact if they have operations or suppliers that are based in Asia-Pacific countries that are disaster prone. After the March 11 Japan earthquake and tsunami, for example, the share prices of companies listed on Singapore Exchange with business interests in Japan, such as Global Logistic Properties, Mapletree Logistics Trust and Parkway Life Reit, were being closely monitored.

People living in Asia-Pacific are 25 times more likely to be affected by natural catastrophe than Europeans or North Americans and four times more vulnerable than those living in Africa, according to the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2010 by the United Nations.

Natural hazards of almost every kind can be found in Asia-Pacific - from earthquakes to droughts, from floods to tsunamis. Specialists argue that the situation will get even worse with the impact of climate change. Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia, countries closest to Singapore, are listed as four of the top 10 Asia-Pacific countries to have the highest number of disasters between 1980 and 2009, according to the same report.

A natural disaster in any of these locations could have immediate impact on a company's stock price, not to mention employees, morale, facilities, day-to-day operations and the company's ability to perform. Business leaders in Singapore must ensure their businesses have integrated emergency management systems and appointed senior executives in place before disaster strikes, so they will know how to mobilise resources quickly. Thorough analysis of vulnerabilities, crisis response strategies and crisis implementation for the company should be conducted periodically.

While most companies have in-house risk-management teams and disaster-recovery strategies in place, CEOs in Singapore with overseas business interests must themselves be amply prepared too.

Personal leadership qualities can make all the difference between a company that barely survives through challenging and difficult times and a company that leaves a lasting positive legacy on affected communities, its reputation and value.

A case in point is the response by leaders at Exxon to the (man-made) Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster. During natural disaster management, CEOs and business leaders face extraordinary demands as they have ultimate responsibility and accountability for the company and the actions of their staff. Decisions made in the first hours of a company emergency especially can have far-reaching and lasting consequences.

Yet it is during the first few hours that CEOs have the least amount of resources to assist them in the decision-making. Such conditions place CEOs at considerable risk on many fronts: professionally, legally and financially.

To mitigate against such risks, CEOs and business managers must be personally prepared for both situational awareness and self-awareness in a crisis. Disaster management, after all, is a test of real leadership.

Having situational awareness means having the ability to effectively coordinate all functions of the crisis response through frequent communications, to correct mistakes early and to monitor what stakeholders and the media are expecting.

Effective leaders will focus their attention on mobilising appropriate responses to protect corporate value and demonstrate the credibility to manage emergencies brought on by natural disasters. Effective leaders also demonstrate self-awareness and their position as role models. Keeping commitments, honesty and trustworthiness are paramount personal leadership traits.

As news of natural disasters become more frequent, Singaporean companies that venture abroad need to ensure that both they and their leaders are well prepared to respond and protect shareholder value.

The writer is managing partner, CTPartners in Singapore. She has nearly 20 years' experience in placing CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs and members of boards of directors for global companies

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Singapore monitoring forest fire smoke in Jambi

Antara 22 Mar 11;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Singapore continues to monitor smoke from forest fires that often blankets Jambi and its surrounding areas and sometimes reaches neighboring countries, Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia Ashok Kumar Mirpuri said.

He said Singapore was seriously cooperating with the Jambi provincial administration in the environmental field, something that had been going on since 2007.

"We have been working with Jambi since four years ago through the minister of environment. We are seriously maintaining this cooperation," Ashok said.

He said, the cooperation was reaping the results. For instance, about the monitoring of smoke in Jambi, the government had been working to monitor forest fires in Jambi for a long time. However, the cooperation was not in the form of funds but programs.

"One of the cooperation programs is monitoring the smoke," Ashok noted.

Although the cooperation so far had been successful, forest fires continued to happen, he said, noting the cooperation was limited to monitoring only. The most important factor in this program was the Jambi people`s understanding of how to cope with forest fires that do not result in air pollution.

The Singapore government was only cooperating in the handling of fires. The goal was that the people understand the impact of forest fires.

Ashok promised that the cooperation would continue to be improved.

The government was even serious about the cooperation. In the future, the cooperation will continue to be improved in the new programs in the environmental field.

Besides, this cooperation could serve as an example for other provinces as it is very good for the application in society.

"As awareness of environmental damage, the cooperation with Jambi province was already very good and can be emulated by other provinces," Ashok said.

The Singapore government in 2009 also had donated equipments to help extinguish forest fires and land in Muaro Jambi district, Jambi province. The equipment is in the form of early warning fire and air quality monitor.

At that time, all the equipment was delivered directly by the Singapore minister of environment and water resources at the Murao Jambi district head`s office.

The grants are intended for handling the land and forest fires effectively, so that the smoke will not spread to Singapore.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Singapore firms 'lagging in sustainability reporting'

Jonathan Kwok Straits Times 24 Mar 11;

COMPANIES here are not up to the mark in terms of sustainability reporting - that is, disclosing social and environmental aspects of their businesses.

But a recent move by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to encourage this type of disclosure is a step in the right direction, said Dr Richard Welford, chairman of CSR Asia, which studies and advises on sustainable business practices in Asia.

'Reporting here is very underdeveloped and there's a lot more to be done if Singapore is to move up to international standards of reporting,' said Dr Welford on the sidelines of a conference yesterday.

'Having said that, Singapore is not doing too badly in the Asian context because, to be honest, the whole of the Asia-Pacific is very poor when it comes to disclosure and reporting.'

Sustainability reporting was in the spotlight when the SGX last August issued guidelines on the topic. It is encouraging listed firms here to undertake such reporting but has not made it mandatory.

Dr Welford feels that not enough firms undertake sustainable reporting. Any disclosure made is 'very conservative' and does not stand up well to principles of accountability and transparency.

'There's a nervousness about reporting in the Asia-Pacific region,' he added.

Still, he said the SGX's guidelines could help to drive improvements. 'If someone like the stock exchange is putting... some encouragement out there, I hope that Singapore companies will respond to that rather quickly. Singapore companies do make decisions quite fast.'

Already, some firms listed here are doing well on sustainable reporting. Dr Welford cited Wilmar International and City Developments as examples.

Investors could also help to drive change. He said institutional investors like pension funds that take a long-term view on stocks are looking at firms to ensure they are identifying and managing risks.

He highlighted instances where social responsibility and sustainability issues have affected share prices. Oil giant BP's stock plunged after last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and Hong Kong's Foxconn International also lost value after a spate of worker suicides at its Shenzhen factory.

He hopes the Government will also encourage firms on this issue, noting that politicians in China and Malaysia have spoken on the need for sustainability reporting.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Singapore yesterday launched a website with resources to help Singapore firms do sustainable reporting. The site has a self-diagnostic tool for organisations to determine the type of report to produce.

Singapore lags ASEAN peers on sustainability reports
Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 23 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore companies are falling behind when it comes to sustainability reporting with only 59 such reports produced in the country's history - a relatively small number compared with its ASEAN peers.

Experts at CSR Asia say that this highlights the risk that local business are running of losing out to other Asian countries which are already marching ahead with significantly higher levels of reporting on environmental, social, and governmental issues.

Last year the Singapore Exchange issued a "Policy Statement on Sustainability Reporting" and a proposed guide for its listed companies to use when formulating such reports.

However, experts say that if companies don't respond, sustainability reporting could stop being a voluntary act and become a regulatory obligation. And it may happen in as early as in three years.

To further encourage Singapore companies to move in the right direction, experts say that boards of directors and the government need to take more action.

Mr Richard Welford, chairman of CSR Asia, said he would like to see the Singapore government be clearer about its stance on social responsibility and sustainability reporting.

"I think it is the role of the government - to take a lead and say to companies look this is becoming common practice throughout the world and I think Singapore has to position itself as a global player and businesses need to think about best practice in their sectors," said Mr Welford.

Mr Welford also added that another reason for the Singapore government to be more vocal about its stance is its special characteristic of being a significant shareholder.

- CNA/cc

Singapore lagging behind in sustainability reporting
Rachel Adrienne Kelly Today Online 28 Mar 11;

Singapore companies are falling behind when it comes to sustainability reporting, with only 59 such reports produced in the country's history - a relatively small number compared with its ASEAN peers.

Experts at CSR Asia say that this highlights that local businesses are running the risk of losing out to other Asian countries, which are already marching ahead with significantly higher levels of reporting on environmental, social and governmental issues.

Last year, the Singapore Exchange issued a "Policy Statement on Sustainability Reporting" and a proposed guide for its listed companies to use when formulating such reports.

However, experts say that if companies do not respond, sustainability reporting could stop being a voluntary act and become a regulatory obligation in as early as three years.

To encourage companies to move in the right direction, experts say boards of directors and the Government need to take more action.

Mr Richard Welford, chairman of CSR Asia, said: "I think it is the role of the government to take a lead and say to companies: Look, this is becoming common practice throughout the world ... Singapore has to position itself as a global player and businesses need to think about best practice in their sectors."

Meanwhile, accounting body ACCA has launched a website to help companies start on the path of sustainability reporting.

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Indonesia: Proporal to widen wildlife corridor in Sumatra

BKSDA proposes widening of wildlife corridor in Seblat
Antara 22 Mar 11;

Bengkulu, Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Bengkulu`s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has asked the Forestry Ministry for permission to widen the wildlife corridor connecting the Seblat Elephant Training Center with the Kerinci Seblat National Park.

"If the corridor is is not widened soon, I`m afraid the Lebong Kandis limited production forest and reserve area will be destroyed by forest trampling activity," the head of Bengkulu`s BKSDA, Amon Zamora, said here Tuesday.

According to Amon, the wildlife corridor was essential to accommodate the movement of elephants from the elephant training center to the Kerinci Seblat National Park without trespassing plantations of local residents.

However, around 500 families were reported to have opened land in the reserve area of the wildlife corridor, Amon said, adding that they even had land certificates.

The Seblat Elephant Training Center forest, located in Putri Hijau SuB-district, North Bengkulu District, was expanded from 6,800 ha to 18,503 as the the wildlife corridor covers 11,638 hectares, Amon said.

According to a 2004 survey, 90 percent of Sumatran wildlife live in the Seblat Elepahant Training Center area, he said.

Some rare animals such as ranggong, siamang, kuwau bird, some primate species, and tapir live in Seblat and need to be preserved, Amon said.

Meanwhile, another official of Bengkulu`s BKSDA, Supartono. said the status change of the elephant training center forest and the wildlife corridor had been proposed since 2007.

However, the proposal was ignored while wildlife in Seblat were losing their habitat, he said.

The status and the functional improvement of the wildlife area was expected to be realized in 2011 so that the population of the wild elephants and other wildlife in the area would be preserved and conflicts with humans prevented, he said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Malaysia: Three jungles gazetted as tiger habitat

The Star 24 Mar 11;

TEMERLOH: Taman Negara and the jungles of Merapoh, Lipis have been gazetted as tiger habitat research areas in Pahang.

State Department of Wildlife and National Parks director Khairiah Mohd Sharif said Taman Negara, the Main Range and several forests in Perak, Terengganu and Johor are home to the Malayan tigers (Pantera tigris).

“Tigers like cool wetland areas which offer them sufficient food sources,” she added.

Based on Perhilitan’s study, the current population count is at 500 cats in the jungles of peninsula Malaysia.

“They are totally protected and cannot be hunted or kept,” she said.

In the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which took affect this year, those who kill, posses the meat, nails, skin or other parts of the tiger can be charged under Section 68 of the Act, which carries a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to RM500,000. – Bernama.

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Sumatran Tiger Found Dead in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe 23 Mar 11;

An official says a rare Sumatran tiger has been found dead in a palm oil plantation in western Indonesia.

Sartono, a local forestry police officer, says the tiger apparently had been electrocuted. Its body was discovered Wednesday in the plantation near Berbak National Park in Jambi province.

Villagers have built an electric fence around the plantation which they say is to keep out pigs.

Sumatran tigers, the world's most critically endangered tiger subspecies, are on the brink of extinction because of destruction of their forest habitat for palm oil and wood pulp plantations, poaching and clashes with humans.

The World Wildlife Fund says their numbers have dwindled to about 400 from about 1,000 in the 1970s.

Associated Press

Rare Sumatran tiger killed by electric fence
Yahoo News 25 Mar 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – An endangered Sumatran tiger has died after brushing against an electric fence set up by Indonesian farmers, in the second such incident this year, an official said Friday.

There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and environmental activists say the animals are increasing coming into contact with people as a result of their natural habitat being lost due to deforestation.

The two-metre (six foot) male tiger was electrocuted on Monday in Jambi province in the centre of Sumatra, Indonesia's largest island, a provincial conservation agency chief, Trisiswo, told AFP.

He said it was the second time this year a tiger had died as a result of the electric fences installed by locals to protect palm oil plantations.

"The tiger's body was partly charred but unlike the first incident, the body was still intact," he said. Locals had sold some of the body parts of the tiger that was killed last month.

Trisiswo said people in the village of Air Laut Hitam village had encircled their palm oil plantations with the high-voltage electric wires to keep out wild animals and had refused to abide by local rules banning the practice.

"We reported the case to local police to act firmly against them and we'll cooperate with local administration to stop this dangerous practice," he said.

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India: Coral bleaching noticed

Vijaysinh Parmar Times of India 23 Mar 11;

RAJKOT: Scientists working on biodiversity of coral reefs in the Gulf of Kutch have warned of coral bleaching, which is a major contributing factor for their decline. The demographic pressure along coastal areas is continuously placing increasing demands on these complex and fragile ecosystems that can no longer sustain such pressures.

"In Gulf of Kutch, the bleaching was noticed in Paga reef, Poshitra, Laku reefs, Dedka-Mundika reef and other reef areas. The major stresses to coral reef around the world are sedimentation, inorganic and organic pollution and overfishing, all directly created by humans. Other anthropogenic impacts like oil pollution, heavy metal and pesticides, engineering activities like dredging, destructive fishing, physical damage from boat anchors and uncontrolled tourism," said a senior forest official.

Officials say that apart from natural threats like cyclones, tsunamis and predators which have become very frequent in recent years, coral reefs are facing extinction primarily due to human interference. "The most recent and deadly among the threats is coral bleaching. This phenomenon takes place due to expulsion of zooxanthellate algae from the coral tissues due to creation of unfavourable conditions such as like increase in the temperature or salinity," said a senior official. However, forest officials say that the magnitude is not large but we need to be vigilant.

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Droughts to Worsen in East Africa, With Implications for U.S.

Katherine Bagley SolveClimate Reuters 23 Mar 11;

USAID says findings will influence food program for Horn of Africa; IPCC author says panel will consider the results in next climate assessment

Rising global temperatures could trigger more extreme drought conditions in the coming decades in East Africa, U.S. researchers have concluded. Their findings contradict earlier research from a United Nations science panel and could have far-reaching consequences for American food aid.

The researchers, who reported their conclusions in the journal Climate Dynamics, used data spanning six decades to show that rising sea surface temperatures from emissions of human origin have created an intensification of air circulation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, also known as the "Walker cell."

This strengthening has caused the circulation to swell westward toward the African coast, boosting heat transfer in the atmosphere and triggering greater rainfall and cloud cover over the Indian Ocean over the past 30 years.

For East Africa, this has spelled trouble — perhaps counterintuitively.

The study finds that warm and dry winds have moved west toward Africa's coast, inhibiting rainfall, particularly in parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia from March to June, one of the main growing seasons.

Chris Funk, a climatologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the study, said in an interview that this drought pattern can be expected regularly in the future — even during both rainy seasons, they now believe.

He and co-author Park Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at U.C. Santa Barbara, have submitted follow-up results for potential publication.

'Food Insecurity More Fragile,' Report Shows

Their research will influence food aid and development funding to the estimated 17.5 million food insecure people living in the region's three most afflicted countries — Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia — according to officials from the USAID Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which funded the study.

"We take very seriously the picture this new research is painting for the Horn of Africa," Gary Eilerts, program manager of the FEWS NET, told SolveClimate News. "The situation it describes will certainly make food insecurity more fragile in the already extremely vulnerable region."

Prior research by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that there will be more rain over East Africa, not less.

But at least over the past two decades — and particularly since the year 2000 — dry spells in the Horn of Africa have become more severe and much more frequent, according to data collected from the NOAA Satellite and Information Service.

Droughts that once appeared every decade, now strike almost yearly, says Oxfam, the international aid group. Some estimates say precipitation has decreased by as much as 30 percent in some areas such as Sudan, over the last four decades.

The 2009 drought, the fifth consecutive one to grip East Africa, was described by Oxfam as the worst humanitarian crisis in East Africa in more than a decade.

The region's rainy seasons are critical for agricultural production and livestock management in East Africa, and water shortages are increasingly seen as an underlying trigger for armed conflict. This was the case with the Darfur conflict in Sudan, according to an 18-month study of the country by the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

Food Aid Programming Must Adapt

David Wheeler, an expert on climate and aid distribution at the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit group, said in an interview that an increase in climate-related droughts in East Africa will likely have "significant" implications for aid agencies, especially USAID, which is a major donor in the region.

In 2010, USAID donated more than $2 billion in food aid to 46 countries, and 2.1 million metric tons of food globally. A majority of the aid is dispersed across the Middle East and Africa.

Last year alone, USAID's Food for Peace program, the organization's primary food distribution program, donated nearly $700 million in aid to the three most drought-affected nations in East Africa.

James Verdin, the USGS project leader for USAID's FEWS NET, said that droughts are "the principal climatic hazard to food security issues and to countries that are dependent on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism."

Officials will have to adjust food aid budgets accordingly, he told SolveClimate News.

"As much effort as we put into providing warning, food aid is largely a humanitarian response activity. If we see a trend like the one that has been observed — and predicted — for East Africa that provides an important backdrop to year-to-year food aid programming."

Findings Contradict 2007 IPCC Report

The findings by Funk and Williams contradict what the IPCC said in its 2007 fourth assessment report about the region.

The Nobel Prize-winning panel, the UN's scientific advisory body on climate change, projected that warming oceans will result in more El Nino-like conditions globally. In contrast to the newer research, they claim that the "increased hydrologic cycle" over the Indian Ocean will move toward the East African coast and cause more rainfall.

In an interview, Isabelle Niang, a project coordinator for UNESCO's Adaption to Climate and Coastal Change in West Africa program and a coordinating lead author of the Africa chapter of the IPCC report, said the 2007 study was based on available literature at the time, but that members would "certainly take [Funk and Williams research] into consideration in the next assessment." The IPCC has begun its fifth assessment, which is scheduled for release in 2014.

But not everyone is as open to the new findings.

Richard Odingo, who works at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and is a former vice chairperson of the IPCC, called the study "half baked" in an article published in Science and Development Network. He said IPCC's report was based on 300 years of records, while the new study used only a few decades of climate information and only from the lower atmosphere.

Verdin of USGS said the reason for the disparity is that different models were used.

Funk and Williams used a model that observed data such as temperature, wind speed and precipitation mined from East Africa data stations since 1948, whereas the IPCC mainly used climate model simulations of general global rainfall trends over three centuries.

Implications for Climate Change Adaptation

Funk agreed that his model's "focus was much more immediate, the last and next twenty years, and targeted the core growing season."

He sees enormous potential in using localized and decadal climate predictions to help better target aid allotments in drought-stricken regions worldwide. Such models could also help farming communities in these countries adapt to climate changes.

"While our research suggests more frequent droughts, these impacts could likely be largely overcome by the adoption of improved farming practices," Funk said, such as using more efficient watering systems, drought-tolerant crops and pest and watershed management.

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