Best of our wild blogs: 25 Apr 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [18 - 24 Apr 2011]
from Green Business Times

Signs of dugong at Chek Jawa?
from wild shores of singapore

Another Starry & Sluggish Trip
from colourful clouds

Chek Jawa (24 Apr 2011)
from teamseagrass

Red-Nosed Cicada and Glochidion brunneum
from Flying Fish Friends

from Monday Morgue

The Green Corridor: Wildlife, Alive and Dead, along the Tracks
from Wanderfolly and Jurong Line: Wildlife and Old Times in the Forest

Maiden Trip To Semakau
from The Gal – Nicole

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Three ways to help turn every day into Earth Day

Danielle Nierenberg & Mara Schechter for the Straits Times 25 Apr 11;

ON APRIL 22, thousands of people around the world participated in events to celebrate Earth Day, demonstrating their commitment to protect the environment. In Singapore, people planted trees as part of the Million Trees Project. Changes in our everyday activities, including reducing pesticide use in our gardens or committing to eat more locally sourced foods, can make a big difference.

Although agriculture is often blamed for water scarcity and rising greenhouse gas emissions, farming is also emerging as a solution to global problems. Sustainable farming practices can help mitigate climate change, improve soil fertility and preserve biodiversity.

Through our research for Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing The Planet project (, we travelled to 25 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting innovations that offer effective models that can be scaled up and replicated beyond Africa.

We offer three recommendations that showcase agriculture's untapped potential to address some of our most urgent environmental challenges.

Reducing food waste

In 2008, Singaporeans threw away 0.6 million tons of food waste, only 12 per cent of which was recycled. Large quantities of food rotting in landfills emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide.

In Singapore, local organisations help redistribute waste to keep it out of landfills. Waste Is Not Waste connects businesses getting rid of unwanted items with organisations that can use those materials. Food For All has a food rations matching service to connect food suppliers and community food programmes. Food From The Heart distributes unsold bread from hotels and bakeries to hungry people and welfare organisations, serving over 11,000 people a month.

In developing countries, 15 per cent to 20 per cent of food is lost each year, decreasing farmers' incomes and increasing malnutrition. But regionally appropriate storage and preservation techniques are helping farmers protect their harvests. In West Africa, farmers have saved around 100,000 fruits by using solar dryers to dry mangoes, papaya and other fruit.

Increasing local food biodiversity

The shift from local and indigenous foods to monoculture crops, including maize, wheat, soya beans and rice reduces biodiversity, threatens local economies and undermines the community's cultural identity.

For countries that import most of their food, like Singapore, a lack of food production for local consumption can mean vulnerability to foreign markets and speculation. But in many places, local and diverse food is gaining ground and beginning to thrive. In Senegal, for example, women farmers are switching back to traditional varieties of fruit, including karkade, pain de singe, tamarindo and ditakh that they process into value-added products, such as juices and jam.

Using agriculture to cope with climate change and build resilience

As climate change takes hold, erratic temperatures, shifting growing seasons, and frequent drought will reduce soil fertility and crop yields.

Singapore will likely be impacted by climate change in many ways, including land loss, flooding, increased temperatures and reduced water resources.

But agroforestry and intercropping can help mitigate climate change, while also boosting soil quality and improving water management. By planting trees among crops, stewarding nearby forests, and keeping soils planted with crops for more of the year, African farmers can sequester 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the next 50 years. This is equivalent to eliminating an entire year of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - a generous contribution from a region that emits only a small share of these gases.

Urban populations are expanding at an unprecedented rate. The United Nations estimates that more than 65 per cent of the global population will live in cities by 2050. In Vancouver, New York and Nairobi, communities are turning to urban agriculture as a solution that is not only helping to boost food self-sufficiency, but also helping to raise incomes, empower women and improve urban environments.

Although it is known as the Garden City, Singapore devotes less than 3 per cent of its land to agriculture, and its farmers grow less than 10 per cent of the country's food. But there is a lot of space for food - rooftop space, for example, is about 1,000ha. Taking into account balcony spaces and some ground areas between apartments, Professor Lee Sing Kong from Nanyang Technological University estimates that Singapore could become self-sufficient in vegetable production by expanding urban farming.

Innovative methods make urban farming easier. Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has created a high-rise farm system for spare warehouse space or any tight areas, where vegetables in soil-filled trays can be stacked up to 10 shelves high, and can be grown indoors with LED lighting. The National Parks Board's Community In Bloom programme encourages residents to start community gardening by providing land.

By focusing on agriculture to not only alleviate hunger and malnutrition, but also to achieve our environmental goals, we can make every day Earth Day.

The writers are from the Washington-based environmental group Worldwatch Institute, where the former is co-director of the Nourishing The Planet project and the latter is a research intern.

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Water sports making a huge splash

PA's 8 Water-Venture outlets are helping to boost participation rate
Daryl Chin Straits Times 25 Apr 11;

ON MOST weekends in the last four years, Lim Teck Koon, 17, has taken a two-hour ride by train and bus from his home in Jurong to a water sports club at Changi Beach.

He spends the next six hours on the water, polishing his kayaking skills. The reason he makes the long journey is that Changi's Water-Venture outlet is one of two clubs where he can sharpen his capsize drills; the other is in Sembawang.

The Institute of Technical Education student hopes to become a kayak instructor when he hits 18, 'so I can share my passion for water sports and get to know more people too'.

He is almost there. Last December, he earned his three-star kayaking certificate, which allows him to paddle a one-man kayak on most water bodies, in the company of another kayaker.

The teenager is riding the crest of a wave of new enthusiasm among ordinary folk for water sports, which used to be too expensive for the man in the street.

The promotion of water sports by the People's Association (PA) through its network of Water-Venture outlets has a lot to do with this.

It now runs eight outlets in Changi, Pasir Ris, Sembawang, East Coast, Kallang, Bedok Reservoir, Jurong Lake and Lower Seletar Reservoir, and plans to reach out to one in five residents by 2015 through such community sports.

It offers reasonably priced courses and equipment rental for activities such as dragon-boating, abseiling, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. A kayak costs $15 to rent for two hours, and a windsurfing board, $35 for the same time period, with members paying half that rate.

With the facilities in place, the people have responded by showing up: In 2008, 5,933 people used the facilities; by last year, the figure had grown nearly sevenfold to 40,989. Eight in 10 of these participants were under 35.

Dragon-boating attracted the most participants - 46 per cent - last year, followed by kayaking at 35 per cent.

Ms Zoe Lek, 32, who has been kayaking for 14 years, credits the increased number of facilities for the new interest in water sports, and estimates that the number of kayakers has gone up by three times in the last 10 years.

Said the IT project manager: 'In the past, I had to look through a phone directory to find a kayak club. Now, it's more accessible to the community and people can head to the one nearest them.'

Veteran windsurfing trainer Cyrus Medora, 60, said affordability has also helped popularise the sport. 'When windsurfing took off here in 1979 or so, it was a trendy sport for yuppies and cost hundreds of dollars for equipment, which was a lot in those days.'

Prices at places like Water-Venture club in East Coast are now about a third of what they used to be.

A PA spokesman said that, in particular, constituencies near waterways have taken a shine to water sports.

A partnership between the PA and Kolam Ayer's grassroots groups led to the set-up of a water activity centre last year. Nearly 200 residents there have since had kayak orientation exercises.

The PA said more such tie-ups with grassroots groups are in the works.

The growing popularity of water sports has piqued the interest of other athletes, who may otherwise not get their feet wet.

Avid runner Chris Tay, 18, a student, said: 'My knees have been giving me problems recently, so I may give water sports a shot. The last time I tried windsurfing though, my contact lenses were washed away!'

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Nepal's rhino numbers 'recovering' after war

Yahoo News 24 Apr 11;

KATHMANDU (AFP) – The number of rhinos living wild in Nepal has risen above 500 for the first time since a civil war that led to rampant poaching of the endangered animals, the government said Sunday.

It said wildlife experts who have spent the past month conducting an exhaustive survey had counted 534 rhinos in Nepal's southern jungles -- 99 more than when the last such study was carried out in 2008.

The new figures show the one-horned rhino population is recovering after a dramatic plunge in numbers during the 1996-2006 civil war, when soldiers deployed to prevent poaching left to fight a guerrilla insurgency.

Maheshwor Dhakal, ecologist with the government's national parks department, told AFP the rhino population's recovery was down to improvements in law enforcement and in local awareness of the importance of conservation.

"The government is encouraged by this positive result, although challenges remain in curbing poaching and protecting rhino habitat," he added.

Thousands of one-horned rhinos once roamed the plains of Nepal and northern India, but their numbers plunged over the past century due to poaching and human encroachment of their habitat.

The animals are poached for their horns, which are prized for their reputed medicinal qualities in China and southeast Asia.

A single horn can sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the international black market, and impoverished Nepal's porous borders, weak law enforcement and proximity to China have made the country a hub for the illegal trade.

Nepal rhino census shows increase
WWF 24 Apr 11;

Chitwan, Nepal – Data from the three-week National Rhino Census in Nepal shows that the population of the greater one horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) has increased.

There are 534 rhinos in Nepal, marking an increase of 99 rhinos from the 435 recorded in the last census in 2008, according to the census results, which were released Saturday.

Of that total, 503 rhinos were recorded in Chitwan National Park (an increase of 95 from 2008 data), 24 in Bardia National Park (an increase of 2 from 2008 data) and 7 in Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (an increase of 2 from 2008 data). These numbers reflect the success of conservation efforts for this species and are a result of improved rhino protection measures and management of habitat.

Working together

The rhino counting was conducted simultaneously in Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve of Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape, and was a combined effort of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation of the Government of Nepal, WWF Nepal and the National Trust for Nature Conservation. WWF provided technical as well as financial support for the National Rhino Census.

This is a fine example of working together where all conservation partners and local communities are contributing to the conservation efforts of the Government of Nepal, says Krishna Prasad Acharya, Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. Support received from WWF Nepal is appreciated and we are hopeful that this support will continue in the coming years with more vigor, Mr, Acharya added.

The positive result of the National Rhino census 2011 is an indication of the successful conservation efforts of the Government of Nepal in partnership with conservation partners. WWF Nepal is very pleased to see our investment being paid off, says Mr. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. Even though the current census shows the rise in rhino number we cannot be complacent and therefore continuous efforts from all sectors is essential to protect endangered species like Rhino and their habitat.

"We are much encouraged that increased WWF support to the anti-poaching efforts of Government of Nepal has actually resulted in an increase in the Rhino population within three years," says Dr. Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy coordinator.

"WWF Nepal acknowledges with gratitude the support received from the WWF US, WWF UK, WWF Finland, WWF Netherlands, WWF International, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Trust for Nature Conservation and all other contributors, particularly local communities and private sector for this conservation endeavor," says Dr. Ghana S Gurung, Conservation Program Director, WWF Nepal. Based on this encouraging result now we need to come up with strategies to build a thriving population in the Terai Arc Landscape, Dr. Gurung added.

The threats

Today, rhinos mainly are threatened by habitat loss and poaching, and worldwide few them survive outside of national parks and reserves.

The greatest threat to rhinos is the demand for rhino horn, used in traditional Asian medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

Although international trade in rhino horn is banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) and although some traditional medical practitioners are using alternatives to rhino horn, the demand for horn remains high.

Habitat loss is a concern too, especially in south-east Asia and India, as human populations rise and forests are degraded or destroyed.

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Monk parakeets in UK to be culled over dangers to electricity and native species

Population of wild birds, also known as quaker parakeets, deprive economy of £1.7bn a year, says Defra
Owen Bowcott 24 Apr 11;

Monk parakeets, which have established colonies in the home counties, are to be culled because they are alleged to pose a danger to crops, the electricity grid and native species.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is launching an eradication programme targeting the south American birds that first began breeding in the wild near Borehamwood, Hertfordshire in the mid-1990s.

Also known as the quaker parakeet, its raucous screech normally echoes through the subtropical forests and grasslands of Bolivia and southern Brazil. The birds' habit of building enormous communal nests does, however, cause problems.

In the United States, escaped birds have settled on electricity substations and power lines, causing blackouts when nests become sodden with rain. In some states – including California, Georgia and New Jersey – ownership, let alone release, of the species is banned.

The UK population is thought to number only 100-150 birds. With its green back, pale grey chest, pale orange beak and blue wing feathers, the monk parakeet, which grows to around 30cm in length, is a distinctive addition to the UK's wildlife.

At least three other parakeet species have established feral breeding colonies: the most numerous is the ring-necked parakeet, now common in many London parks and suburbs. Alexandrine parakeets, originally from Asia, and blue-crowned conures, from Venezuela, have also been observed nesting in eastern England.

Two years ago, Natural England designated ring-necked and monk parakeets as pests, enabling them to be shot without a licence. At the time there was an outcry of racism towards non-native species; the London Wildlife Trust said the ring-necked variety was "as British as curry".

Defra has now initiated an extermination programme against monks as a preventative measure. "Control work is being carried out as part of a Defra initiative to counter the potential threat monk parakeets pose to critical national infrastructure, crops and native British wildlife," a departmental spokesman said.

"This invasive species has caused significant damage in other countries through nesting and feeding activity and we are taking action now to prevent this happening in the UK."

The spokesman added: "We want to get rid of the wild population. There will be trapping, rehoming in aviaries and we will probably have to shoot some as well. Non-native, invasive species deprive the British economy of £1.7bn every year."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds backs Defra's cull. A spokesperson said: "These species aren't causing any major conservation problems in the UK at the moment, but they might in future."

But Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, said: "Branding other species as vermin or intruders is intolerant and selfish. The danger is overstated. We should stop the importation of these birds which are sold as commodities and endure lives of boredom in cages.

"It's not surprising they want to escape. If we are serious about coexisting with other species, we have to concede them territory."

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Major trade organization report emphasizes need to rein in fisheries subsidies

WWF 24 Apr 11;

WWF applauds the strong language in a long-awaited report that a key World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiating body released Friday, which underscores the urgent need to halt government-subsidized overfishing.

“This WTO report is a stark wake up call for anyone who cares about the future of our oceans and our fishing communities,” said WWF Senior Fellow David Schorr. “Governments have the power to stop using taxpayer money to promote fisheries depletion, so they need to act now to enact strong WTO rules to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies.”

The report, issued by the Chair of the WTO’s Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, calls the dramatic decline in fisheries stocks “a crisis of exceptionally serious implications for all humankind”. The report notes broad agreement that “subsidies play a major role” in contributing to the problem, and reflects “nearly universal calls” for WTO action to eliminate inappropriate fisheries subsidies in an effective way.

“The Chair’s report clearly leaves the door open to strong WTO rules on fisheries subsidies,” added Schorr. “Particularly in light of the deepening uncertainty over the conclusion of the Doha Round, the report signals the continuing urgency of the environmental mandate underlying the fisheries subsidies talks.”

WWF further praised the important role played in recent weeks by the informal WTO coalition, “Friends of Fish” governments, who have held out for serious WTO fisheries subsidies rules. With consistent leadership from New Zealand and the United States—along with Argentina, Australia, Chile, Iceland, and Norway—the Friends of Fish coalition issued a strong statement on April 1 warning that the credibility of the WTO on environmental issues is at stake.

“While a handful of other governments continue to push for weaker rules, the Friends of Fish have been true to their name in keeping sight of the real stakes for the environment and for the quality of the WTO’s global leadership on trade,” said Schorr.

“The Doha Round may be struggling, but the need for effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies remains clear,” he added. “The Chair’s report reveals how far we have come since the start of these negotiations. Most countries support strong WTO rules to end subsidies that drive overfishing, and they have agreed on a basic framework for doing so. The WTO must not retreat from this historic opportunity to show how innovative trade rules can produce important benefits for the environment, and especially for human communities whose lives depend on the health of our oceans.”

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