Best of our wild blogs: 27 Mar 11

Coral reefs of Singapore
a video clip of Terumbu Raya by Brandon

Students understanding cats – territorial behaviour and home range of community cats from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Black-naped Oriole’s coarse call
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterfly of the Month - March 2011
from Butterflies of Singapore

shark egg capsules @ cyrene 25Mar2011
from sgbeachbum and anemone shrimp

All-girl net removal at Pulau Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

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Singapore marks Earth Hour

Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid Channel NewsAsia 26 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE: Thousands in Singapore on Saturday marked the global climate change campaign - "Earth Hour" - across the island. The organiser - World Wildlife Fund - said support for the movement has been overwhelming this year.

It was lights out at the Marina Bay Area exactly at 8.30pm.

Even as revellers were kept in the dark for an hour, festivities continued.

More than 2,000 people took part in a 3.5 kilometre walk around Marina Bay to show solidarity in the push for a more sustainable future.

This is the third time Singapore is marking the climate change campaign.

The message this time round is 'make a commitment beyond the hour'.

Organisers said the campaign has gained more ground over the years.

Earth Hour campaign manager Karine Serror said: "Last year I think we had between 400 and 500 businesses (involved).

"I think you can add just about 20 per cent to this number. And also very interestingly, we have religious institutions pledging their support this year".

Some Singaporeans, it seems, are rising up to the challenge to reduce their carbon footprint.

One lady said: "We will switch off the fans and lights when we don't use them, and my parents, when using the air-conditioner, will set it at 24 degrees".

Another said: "I'd take more public transport instead of taking the cab or drive".

"I'd discard items into correct recycle bins by checking which ones are plastic. I'll make a conscious effort even though it may take up some time," said another.

Going beyond the hour were shopping malls at Orchard Road, which switched off their facade lights for 90 minutes.

The shopping district was instead transformed into a sea of candles as thousands pledged their commitment to the environment.

And in the effort to raise environmental awareness, the plight of the Japanese quake and tsunami victims was not forgotten.

Donations too were collected for the relief efforts in Japan.


Lights off as 'Earth Hour' circles the globe
Yahoo News 27 Mar 11;

PARIS (AFP) – Lights went off around the world Saturday as landmark buildings and homes flipped their switches while the annual "Earth Hour" circled the planet in what was dubbed the world's largest voluntary action for the environment.

In Paris a minute's silence was observed for Japan as the city of light went dark, with illuminations switched off at the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, City Hall, opera houses and many bridges, fountains and public places.

Sydney's Opera House was the first of many global landmarks to go dark as the event got under way, as hundreds of millions of people prepared to follow suit to enhance awareness of energy use and climate change.

Others in their turn included Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium that hosted the 2008 Olympics, the London Eye ferris wheel, Times Square in New York and Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue.

Many were switching off their floodlighting, advertising signs and other illuminations for an hour from 8:30 pm local time.

"The amount of power that's saved during that time is not really what it's about," Earth Hour co-founder and executive director Andy Ridley told AFP in Sydney, where the movement began in 2007.

"What it is meant to be about is showing what can happen when people come together."

Ridley said a record 134 countries or territories were on board for this year's event.

Organisers also asked people to commit to an action, large or small, that they will carry through the year to help the planet.

Ridley said Earth Hour, organised by global environment group the WWF, this year would also focus on connecting people online so they could inspire each other to make commitments to help protect the environment.

In Australia, organisers said an estimated 10 million people, nearly half the population, took part, with Sydney Harbour Bridge another of the landmarks to go dark.

Hong Kong's neon waterfront dimmed, while in Singapore all decorative lights were switched off and non-critical operational lights lowered at Changi Airport for an hour.

In Japan, which is reeling from a huge earthquake and tsunami that struck this month, several thousand people and a hotel-turned-evacuation centre in the northeast marked Earth Hour.

"People in Japan will have a special feeling this year when they turn the switches off," WWF spokeswoman Hideko Arai told AFP ahead of the switch-off.

In Russia some 30 cities were joining in, from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the most easterly city on the Kamchatka peninsula, through Moscow to Murmansk in the far north.

Moscow was to turn off floodlighting on more than 70 buildings and bridges, including the 540-metre (1,780-foot) television tower and the 32-storey Moscow State University building.

In Athens monuments being darkened included the Acropolis, the parliament building, the presidential palace and the temple of Poseidon near the city.

Lights went out in 52 Romanian cities, where concerts and candle-light marches were organised. In Bucharest, dozens of people cycled through the city centre before gathering in George Enescu square.

In South Africa the Grammy award winning group Soweto Gospel choir along with other local musicians treated hundreds of people to a free candelight concert in the township of Soweto. Music fans waved lit candles while others used their cellphones to light up the stage.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon backed Earth Hour, urging people to celebrate the shared quest to "protect the planet and ensure human well-being".

"Let us use 60 minutes of darkness to help the world see the light," he said.

Ridley said he never expected the Earth Hour movement to become so large.

"We didn't imagine right at the beginning... it would be on the scale that it is now. And the fact that it is so cross cultural, beyond borders and race and religion," he said.

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Flood woes: A balancing act

Government decision to balance drainage with roads and other land uses makes sense
Lee Wei Ling Straits Times 27 Mar 11;

This is already the end of March. The north-east monsoon should have ended. Yet I was awakened by torrential rain at 6am on a recent morning.

After a few minutes, I decided to go back to sleep and chase my dream. This was a technique I had developed myself. I found that if I could get back into the dream that I had woken up from, I could fall asleep again.

So I mentally went over my dream and indeed fell asleep, and the dream continued.

In my dream - which consisted more of recollection of my actual past rather than dreams - my bro-ther Hsien Yang and I were still pupils at Nanyang Primary School. To get to school, we were driven along Bukit Timah Road, which of course was next to the Bukit Timah canal.

In those days, the canal was much narrower than it is now, so whenever there was heavy rain, Bukit Timah Road tended to get flooded. If the heavy rain occurred at the same time as a high tide, flooding was certain.

Near Nanyang Primary in the 1960s were attap houses. The boys from the kampung would wade through the dirty flood water and offer to push stalled cars for a fee.

Readers under 30 years old would probably have never seen these attap houses for they stood on what is now prime land. Property prices near Nanyang Primary have gone up stupendously since the 1960s. Many ambitious parents move to be within 1km of Nanyang Primary to ensure that their children have a good chance of getting into the school.

Yang and I were in a car along Bukit Timah Road trapped in the flood. Our older brother Hsien Loong was attending Catholic High School and so was not around to chastise us.

Our car stalled because water had got into its engine. The canal had overflowed and one could not tell where the canal ended and where the road began.

It is amazing how daring one was before fear robbed us of the fun of childhood. Yang and I got out of the car, ignoring our driver's protests and tried to push the car. But we were too small and did not have enough strength to move the car. So, bashfully, we got back into the car, wet and muddy. Then three big boys came along to push our car in exchange for a fee.

Then I woke up and peered out of my window. It was too dark to see the rain, but the sound of heavy rain confirmed I hadn't just dreamt about it.

Now awake, I recalled clearly those days when Singapore flooded often. After the car was pushed to where the road was dry, the driver would open the bonnet, and remove the five cables attached to the distributor cap and dry them all with emery paper. I can remember this technical detail because the five cables attached to the cap were nicknamed sotong, which means cuttlefish in Malay.

We would eventually get to school, but less than half the pupils would have made it. So we would be told to go home.

Going home promised more fun. We would fold paper boats and place them in the drain which flowed away from our house. Now much older and a little wiser, I wonder whether the paper boats would have added to the obstructions in the drain further on.

Last year, we had exceptionally heavy rainfall over a very short period of time. Many roads which had never flooded before flooded. Some houses and shops were damaged. There was much complaining among those who were concerned about the losses they incurred.

My father Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew explained recently the Government's thinking on flood control:

To guard against a super-heavy rainfall that would occur once every 20 to 30 years, we would have to build more and bigger drains. But no amount of engineering can prevent floods. Also more and bigger drains would mean less space for roads. As it is, even the high cost of cars has not dissuaded people from wanting cars.

I don't always agree with the Government, but in this case, I do: It is better to have drains capable of coping with the usual rainfall, rather than invest in a system that can cope with the giant floods that occur only once every 20 to 30 years.

According to the PUB, there are currently 32 rivers and more than 7,000km of drains and canals in Singapore. They are part of PUB's flood management approach, which also involves:

Providing adequate drainage ahead of new developments;

Raising road and building levels, and getting building owners to implement flood protection measures; and

Making continual drainage improvement in areas affected by floods.

As a result of investing some $2 billion over the past 30 years in an extensive drainage system, our flood-prone areas have been significantly reduced by 98 per cent - from over 3,000ha in the 1970s to 56ha today. Singapore has achieved this despite increased urbanisation, which would usually have resulted in more floods. The flash floods that still occur tend to be localised affairs that subside within an hour.

Every decision comes with an opportunity cost. The wisest decision is one that minimises this cost. The public needs to understand the Government's logic. Unfortunately, grumbling is our favourite pastime.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute.

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Malaysia: Five foreign pangolin hunters nabbed

The Star 27 Mar 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Five foreign poachers allegedly hunting pangolins at the Marang Tembat Forest Reserve were detained following a raid by the Wildlife Department rangers.

The rangers also seized a bottle filled with pangolin meat and scales as well as 2kg of Gaharu wood.

The suspects, a Cambodian and four Vietnamese in their 30s, were spotted by two rangers when they were exiting the forest reserve in a car on Wednesday.

Department state director Yusoff Shariff said: “They discovered pangolin scales, pieces of timber as well as an axe and parang.

“The suspects' passports were also seized,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

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Malaysia: Eight tonnes of processed wild boar meat seized

The Star 26 Mar 11;

PADANG BESAR: The Perlis Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP) seized eight tonnes of wild boar meat processed at an illegal premises in Kampung Kolam on Friday.

Padang Besar UPP Commander ASP Noor Janihan Nanyan said the meat was seized when UPP officers stumbled upon a lorry unloading goods, while patrolling the area at about 3pm.

Upon inspection, it was found that the premises was used as a store for the meat but the 57-year-old owner of the premises did not have any permit or licence for such activities.

“When requested, the owner produced a licence that belonged to another premises at a different location,” he told reporters here Saturday.

Noor Janihan said the seized meat was worth RM40,000 while a lorry that was also detained was worth about RM60,000.

“We believe the meat was transported from Perak and meant for local market and also smuggled to Thailand.

Noor Janihan urged the public with information of such activities in and around Padang Besar to contact 04-9490624 or 04-9490625. -- Bernama

8,000kg of gory load inside lorry
New Straits Times 27 Mar 11;

PADANG BESAR: Some 8,000kg of frozen wild boar carcasses, unskinned and cut in half with their heads lopped off, were found stacked at the back of a lorry parked inside an illegal store in Kampung Kolam here on Friday.

The Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP) was checking the store during a patrol at 3pm and stumbled across the store owner, a 57-year-old man, unloading the wild boar carcasses.

Padang Besar UPP chief Assistant Superintendent Noor Janihan Nanyan said the owner of the store had obtained his supply from Lenggong, Ipoh, which he would process and sell it to customers in Malaysia and Thailand.

He added that the man had a licence to store wildlife carcasses but failed to keep the wild boars at the address stated on the licence.

"The meat recovered could have fetched up to RM40,000."

The case has been handed over to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department.

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India's tiger population 'on the rise'

Yahoo News 27 Mar 11;

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India's tiger population has increased for the first time in decades, a newspaper said on Saturday, citing a national tiger census report slated to be released next week.

According to the 2009-10 tiger census report, the number roaming India has jumped to 1,510-1,550 from 1,411 in 2004-05, The Indian Express newspaper said.

The newspaper report came ahead of an international tiger conservation conference due to open on Monday in the Indian capital New Delhi.

India is home to more than half of the world's rapidly dwindling wild tiger population, but its conservation programme, said by the government to be the world's most comprehensive, has been struggling to halt the big cat's decline.

Tiger conservationists welcomed the news and said that the population increase was due to the authorities surveying more areas to conduct the census and creating more tiger reserves.

Tito Joseph, programme director at the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said "the latest census included some of the areas they left out last time because of problems accessing the terrain, like the Sunderbans" which is home to hundreds of tigers.

The Sunderbans mangrove forest straddles the borders of India's West Bengal state and Bangladesh and lies on the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

"They have also set up more tiger reserves. In 2004 there were only 28-33 tiger reserves, now there are 39 reserves, so that's obviously helped," Joseph told AFP.

"It's a good strategy, because tigers need space above all, and if you can create inviolate space their numbers will naturally go up," he said.

The current tiger population still remains a long way off the numbers registered in 2002 when some 3,700 tigers were estimated to be alive in the country.

There were estimated to be around 40,000 tigers in India at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

Authorities across Asia are waging a major battle against poachers and other man-made problems such as destruction of the tigers' habitat due to industrial expansion.

A major poacher trafficking route begins in India and ends in China where tiger parts are highly prized as purported cures for a range of ailments and as aphrodisiacs.

"Tiger skins fetch anywhere around 11,000-21,000 US dollars and bones are sold for about 1,000 US dollars in China," said Rajesh Gopal, chairman of National Tiger Conservation Authority in New Delhi.

India releases tiger numbers as experts convene
WWF 28 Mar 11;

New Delhi, India – The Indian Government today released new tiger population numbers for the first time since 2007, indicating that numbers have increased in the country that has half of the world’s remaining wild tigers.

The government estimated current tiger numbers in India at 1,706, up from 1,411 during the last count in 2007. However, the 1,706 figure includes an additional tiger reserve in the count, the Sundarbans, that contained 70 tigers. This area was not counted in 2007.

Therefore, when comparing the previous survey with the current one, the official estimate stands at 1,636 when leaving out the Sundarbans, or an increase of 225.

Figures were broken down by site with some populations showing increases, and others falling.

“As seen from the results, recovery requires strong protection of core tiger areas and areas that link them, as well as effective management in the surrounding areas,” said Mike Baltzer, Head of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “With these two vital conservation ingredients, we can not only halt their decline, but ensure tigers make a strong and lasting comeback.”

The figures marked the opening of the International Tiger Conservation Conference, a three day meeting following on the heels of the groundbreaking Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), a worldwide plan to bring the species back from the brink of extinction which was forged in November 2010 at an international tiger conservation meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia organized by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The count was conducted by India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority with key partners, including WWF, in the largest tiger population survey ever undertaken.

“These numbers give us hope for the future of tigers in the wild, and that India continues to play an integral role in the tiger’s recovery,” said WWF International Director General Jim Leape, who is chairing a conference session on the role of international and national partners in the GTRP's implementation.

In its detail, this tiger estimation exercise shows the importance India attaches to this prime conservation issue,” said WWF India CEO Ravi Singh. “The results indicate the need to intensify field based management and intervention to go beyond the present benchmark, bringing more people and partners into the process.”

Several areas in India, including those that are not Tiger Reserves and outside national parks, were intensively surveyed for the first time. The Moyar Valley and Sigur Plateau in Southwest India’s Western Ghats Complex, that has been a focus of recent WWF conservation efforts, was found to contain more than 50 tigers. Similarly, the Ramnagar Forest Reserve outside Corbett National Park showed a good number of tigers.

In addition to high-level officials from the 13 countries that still have tigers, the conference is expected to hear from key NGOs and global partners in the GTRP, including the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative, the Global Tiger Forum, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Smithsonian Institute, the wildlife trade network TRAFFIC, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Numbering more than 100,000 at the turn of the last century, tigers have lost more than 97 percent of their population and 94 percent of their home range in just 100 years. They live in increasingly isolated pockets of land in Asia and the Russian Far East in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, China and Russia. The Global Tiger Recovery Programme marks the first formalized international initiative to save the species from extinction.

India's tiger census shows numbers on the rise
Nirmala George Associated Press Yahoo News 28 Mar 11;

NEW DELHI – India's latest tiger census shows an increase in the numbers of the endangered big cat, but threats to their roaming territory could reverse those gains, officials said Monday.

The census counted at least 1,706 tigers in forests across the country, about 300 more than four years ago, a government official said Monday.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh called the increase good news but cautioned against any complacency in efforts to save the iconic animal from extinction.

"The rise in numbers is the result of sustained efforts, but the shrinking of tiger corridors is alarming," Ramesh said.

Wildlife experts who conducted the census said tiger corridors, which are the routes frequently used by the big cats to move from one reserve to another, had declined sharply as huge power projects, mining and roads cut into their habitats.

"Securing these corridors should be taken up as a priority," said Rajesh Gopal, director, National Tiger Conservation Authority.

But with India pushing ahead with its economic agenda, the threat to the tiger increases as the government tries to juggle the competing claims of development and wildlife conservation, Ramesh said.

Unlike earlier tiger estimates, when pugmarks of individual tigers were counted, this time round conservationists used hidden cameras and DNA tests to count the cats in 17 Indian states where tigers live in the wild.

"The count is more scientific this time and therefore more accurate," Gopal said.

The census included 70 tigers in the eastern Indian Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, which had not been counted in the last census in 2007. Not counting the Sunderbans population, the latest count reflects an increase of about 16 percent.

The 2007 census had shown 1,411 tigers, a sharp fall in the population from about 3,600 five years earlier.

A century ago, about 100,000 tigers roamed India's forests.

Shrinking habitats have brought the wild cats into conflict with farmers who live near tiger reserves and poachers who kill them for pelts and body parts, highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine.

The release of the latest tiger census results coincided with the start of a three-day international conference to follow up on progress made at the 2010 St. Petersburg summit of 13 countries that are home to wild tigers.

At the New Delhi meeting, countries will present strategies to implement the Global Tiger Recovery Program adopted in St. Petersburg which includes plans to double the tiger population by 2022, crack down on poaching and on trading in illicit tiger pelts and body parts.

(This version corrects number of tiger states in India in paragraph 8.)

India's tiger numbers up in new count
Rupam Jain Nair Yahoo News 28 Mar 11;

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India, home to most of the world's wild tigers, on Monday reported a rise in the animal's numbers for the first time in years in a rare piece of good news for conservationists.

The census found 1,706 tigers in India last year, compared with 1,411 in 2006, officials in New Delhi announced -- though they said much of the increase was due to more thorough counting.

"We have expanded the survey to cover the entirety of India and our estimate is now more accurate," said Rajesh Gopal of Project Tiger, the government's tiger conservation body.

Increased surveying included coverage of difficult terrain such as the Sunderbans mangrove forest, which straddles the borders of India's West Bengal state and Bangladesh.

The count -- using hidden cameras and DNA samples from droppings -- found 70 tigers in the Sunderbans, which was not included in the last census.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh welcomed the figures as "a very encouraging sign" but warned the upturn should not lead to complacency as the tigers' habitat was being seriously reduced.

"The threat from poachers, international smuggling networks and powerful mining companies continue to pose threat to the endangered animal," Ramesh said.

"Four years ago, tigers occupied 93,600 square kilometres (36,000 square miles) but now the area has shrunk to 72,800 square kilometers," he said, adding that this was "a worrying" development.

More than half of the world's rapidly dwindling wild tiger population live in India, but the country's conservation programme has been struggling to halt the big cat's decline.

The current tiger population still remains a long way off the numbers registered in 2002 when some 3,700 tigers were estimated to be alive in the country.

There were thought to be around 40,000 tigers in India at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

Conservationists said the increase in numbers indicates a general growth trend but that the decline in the total area occupied by the tiger needed urgent attention.

"Shrinking area is an added threat, we need to expand this to create a fresh base to be able to increase the tiger population in India," Belinda Wright, director of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), told AFP.

Authorities across Asia are waging a major battle against poachers, who often sell body parts to the lucrative traditional Chinese medicine market, and other man-made problems such as development leading to habitat loss.

In the last year, the Indian government has relocated nearly 3,000 families living in tiger reserves and plans to move another 50,000 families in the next five years.

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