Best of our wild blogs: 13 and 14 May 11

Bet your bottom dollar
from The annotated budak

14 May (Sat) is World Migratory Bird Day
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Chek Jawa Boardwalk trip this Saturday, 14th May
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Kids’ Musang Watch!
from The Diet of the Common Palm Civet in Singapore

Back to Ubin! and an unexpected civet poop site!
from The Diet of the Common Palm Civet in Singapore

croc on the path @ SBWR 08May2011
from sgbeachbum

Unwelcome tips
from The annotated budak

Been to Cyrene: "Exceeding expectations"
from Cyrene Reef Exposed!

'Massive oil-gas hub' planned in Pengerang, Johor
from wild shores of singapore

Green Volunteers update
from The Green Volunteers

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Public urged not to release animals into the wild on Vesak Day

Channel NewsAsia 13 May 11;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) on Friday reminded members of the public not to release animals into the wild on Vesak Day (May 17) as they would be doing more harm than good.

Its director of conservation, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, said: "We would like to appeal to the public not to release animals into the wild, as they are not likely to survive.

Many die within a day as they are not used to the surroundings and are not able to cope in the wild."

Last year, NParks saw five cases where people released animals into the wild.

These included fish, frogs and crickets, which can be easily bought at aquarium shops.

To raise public awareness on the harm of releasing animals into the wild, NParks is working with volunteers to carry out 'Operation No Release' in the nature reserves and reservoirs this weekend.

Mr Henry Baey, President of the Buddhist Fellowship, agreed that releasing animals into reservoirs and nature reserves would not be productive.

He said: "Furthermore, they will upset the existing eco-system and may be harmful to the native wildlife. It is therefore not necessarily a kind act."

NParks is also targeting a special group of people to spread the eco message - children.

To celebrate the International Year of Forests, this year, NParks is, for the first time, organising three full-day camps for children aged between nine and 12 years old.

Themed "Our Forest", the camp is part of the two-year Nature Keeper Programme to raise children's appreciation for nature and Singapore's natural heritage.

They will participate in nature walks and hands-on activities.

The full-day camps will be held on May 21, May 28 and Jun 10 from 9am to 5.30pm.


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Some upset over call for tenders to cull strays

Complaints about aggressive dogs, so move to ensure public safety: NParks
Jessica Cheam & Grace Chua Straist Times 14 May 11;

TWO tenders for the catching and culling of stray dogs roaming free in some parks have upset civic society groups and dog lovers.

Called by the National Parks Board (NParks), one contract is for removing 20 stray dogs from Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, and the other, for 15 to be rounded up in East Coast Park, Changi Beach Park or Pasir Ris Park.

When contacted, NParks told The Straits Times that it was appointing an external agent to remove the dogs in response to the more than 100 complaints it has received in the past year from members of the public.

NParks' general manager of parks Chia Seng Jiang said park users or their pets have been chased and nearly bitten, and that public safety was NParks' primary concern.

But Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and other animal-welfare groups are distressed that the contractors who eventually clinch the tenders may not use humane methods in rounding up the dogs or putting them down.

The NParks tenders call for the contractor to provide 'paper evidence' of the culling; the contractor has nine months to do the job, and will be paid when documentary proof is shown for each animal caught and euthanised.

NParks clarified yesterday that the contractor must send the animals to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) to be euthanised.

Online forums like Facebook got wind of the tenders on the Government's e-procurement portal GeBiz on Tuesday and started buzzing.

Ms Bhavani Prakash, founder of an environment website here, said in an online post that it was 'cruelty to the animals'.

'We should know the methods used, and consider a holistic treatment of stray dogs to take a longer-term view,' she later told The Straits Times.

Separately, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals executive director Deirdre Moss acknowledged that stray dogs presented a safety issue, but said urbanisation and pet abandonment lay at the root of the problem of strays.

'It's not the dogs' fault they're out there. There was a beginning and the root cause was probably abandonment. Either way you look at it, there's no happy solution all round,' she said.

Mr Chia said NParks has been monitoring the situation with the AVA, and because of the number of strays involved, decided to engage an external contractor to catch them and get them culled.

He said dog catchers are required to use humane methods that comply with established guidelines on the capture, transportation and handling of stray animals.

An AVA spokesman said all caught stray animals must be surrendered to it to be put down.

AVA also does its bit to manage stray dogs. When it receives complaints, it sends its officers to catch them and put them down humanely; sometimes, it hires external contractors for the job.

It confirmed that contractors are not allowed to use poisoned bait.

But ASD president Ricky Yeo said his group and other animal-welfare agencies want more to be done: They want the operating procedures for contractors spelt out, to ensure that humane methods are used.

And instead of culling the dogs, he proposed they can also be caught and sterilised to control breeding.

Mr Eugene Tay of environmental consulting firm Green Future Solutions, who said culling was a short-term solution, told The Straits Times: 'How does NParks define 'aggressive' and decide which dog to kill? Loud bark, fierce-looking, ugly face, chases people, attacks other dogs? Or what the dog-catcher decides?'

The more humane solution is to work with animal-welfare and non-government groups to see whether these strays can be housed and rehabilitated, and to explore sterilisation for other strays in the long run,' he said.

But those who have been terrorised by these strays also want a say: Mr H.B. Choo, 60, who lives near Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, told The Straits Times that the strays - there are at least eight of them in the area - have chased residents and children.

'At night, they bark constantly, disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood. What if they injure residents? Who will answer for it?'

35 stray dogs to be chipped, not culled
Grace Chua Straits Times 18 May 11;

THE 35 stray dogs that the National Parks Board (NParks) wanted removed from two parks will no longer be put down, but sterilised, micro-chipped and sent to a shelter instead.

The Straits Times understands that the change came about after animal welfare groups met NParks on Monday.

The decision, welcomed by the animal groups, is the latest development that began with The Straits Times' report last week that NParks had called two tenders for the catching and culling of 20 stray dogs in Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, and 15 more in East Coast Park, Changi Beach Park or Pasir Ris Park.

Upset civic society groups and dog lovers had said they could not be sure the dogs would be humanely handled and culled by appointed contractors.

NParks explained that it was calling the tender on the back of some 100 complaints from park users after people or pets had been chased and nearly bitten.

Now, after talks with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), wildlife group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), Action for Singapore Dogs, and Mutts & Mittens animal shelter in Pasir Ris, the dogs will still be rounded up but not put down. They will be sterilised and micro-chipped, probably with at least partial financial support from NParks.

They will then be sent to Mutts & Mittens, which will try to find homes for them.

In addition, the animal welfare groups will likely be allowed to observe the dog trapping, to ensure it is done humanely.

SPCA executive director Deirdre Moss said: 'I look forward to the fact that the dogs are going to be given a chance, and that it's not automatic that they are going to be caught and culled.'

Acres founder Louis Ng said that all NParks wanted was for the animals to be removed for park users' safety, but that it should have consulted the public before making the decision. He said that although there were some complaints, many other park users were concerned about the culling of the dogs.

Mr Cohen Ng, the director of Mutts & Mittens, conceded that mongrels and former strays could be tough to rehome.

He noted that Housing Board rules prevent flat-dwellers from keeping larger dogs, and that many potential adopters have the impression that mongrels are 'wild and not trainable', which he dispelled as a myth as they can be 'just as affectionate as pedigree dogs'. 'But we're taking the chance and trying to find them homes,' he said.

NParks should explain culling decision
Straits Times Forum 18 May 11;

WE SHARE the National Parks Board's (NParks) concerns with regard to public safety, but is culling dogs a long-term solution? ('Some upset over call for tenders to cull strays'; last Saturday).

We understand that its decision was 'in response to the more than 100 complaints it has received in the past year from members of the public'. Can NParks clarify how many people actually complained, as each person might have complained more than once?

We should also bear in mind that thousands of people have used the parks and have not complained, and are concerned about the culling of dogs. Any decision made should also consider the sentiments of this group of park users.

Lastly, can NParks clarify if it has consulted animal welfare groups like Action for Singapore Dogs or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to find alternative solutions before it called for the tenders?

As stated in the article, a more humane solution is possible and should be looked into as well.

Louis Ng
Executive Director
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres)

Stop culling strays
Straits Times Forum 18 May 11;

I REFER to last Saturday's report on the National Parks Board (NParks) calling for tenders to cull stray dogs in some parks ('Some upset over call for tenders to cull strays').

Culling of strays is a short-term answer. The long-term solution is to work with animal rescue groups on neutering and releasing strays. Controlling the stray population can be done humanely.

It is unfair to round up strays just because some people think they will hurt someone. I have never seen a stray that does not run off when approached. But I have seen people taunting them with sticks and stones.

Children harass and corner them, only to run away like raving banshees at the slightest reaction, and upset parents subsequently label strays as dangerous and a nuisance.

The money NParks has set aside for contractors to cull the dogs would be better spent on veterinarian fees to have them sterilised. Alternatively, give animal rescue groups time to carry out the neuter-and-release project.

Sharon Lee (Ms)

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Braised dog meat in restaurant? It's pork, confirms AVA

Straits Times 14 May 11;

A CHINESE restaurant in Jurong, dogged by online comments that it serves dog meat, has been cleared by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) of any wrong-doing.

An AVA spokesman said yesterday that tests of meat samples taken from the eatery showed that Song Hua Jiang Restaurant did not use dog meat.

'The meat used for the 'dog meat' dish was confirmed to be of porcine species,' she added.

On Sunday, the three-year-old restaurant and its owner, who is from China, had raised hackles - and heckles - after a netizen posted a picture of its menu on online forums.

The picture showed a page in the menu that said, in English, that 'braised dog meat' was for sale.

Mr Song Yu Ran, 39, the restaurant's owner, had clarified in a Straits Times story on Tuesday that it was a typographical error.

The text was supposed to say that the dish is similar to dog meat.

The restaurant serves two dishes that give customers the taste of dog meat, he had said in the ST story.

Contacted yesterday, he said he was relieved that the AVA tests had set the record straight.

'I've always said it's pork, not real dog meat,' he added in Mandarin. 'I hope everyone can go back to being understanding, good people now.'

He added that members of the public had stopped harassing him with calls since Thursday.

He has also corrected the errors in the menu to ensure that misunderstandings do not happen again.

The import of dog meat is illegal in Singapore and there are no licensed premises for the slaughter of dogs here.

If convicted, offenders face a fine of up to $10,000 or 12 months' imprisonment, or both, for each charge.


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Singapore sees increase in demand for exotic game meat

Evelyn Choo / Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 12 May 11;

SINGAPORE: The demand for exotic game meat has doubled over two years.

Owners of game meat stores said the increase is due to the presence of more Chinese nationals in Singapore who enjoy eating the exotic meat more than the locals.

One local farmer who breeds his own game meat said 6 out of 10 customers are from China.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority allows the import of exotic game meat like rabbit, pigeon, quail, squab and wild guinea fowl.

But game meat is not common in Singapore.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore said less than 10 per cent of restaurants under the organisation sell game meat.


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Singapore: Hazy days ahead, clear in Malaysia

Channel NewsAsia 13 May 11;

Singapore: A light blanket of haze has descended over Singapore.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), prevailing winds blew slight haze from central Sumatra towards Singapore since Thursday afternoon.

It noted that over the past few days, the region has been experiencing dry weather conditions and an increase in hotspots from 60 on Sunday 8 May to 156 on Tuesday 10 May, has been detected over central Sumatra.

Despite the haze, the 24 hour Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) which measures air pollutants was rated at 60, which is in the moderate range.

Over the weekend, the NEA said late morning and afternoon showers can be expected and these could bring temporary relief.

However, winds blowing from the southwest or southeast may continue to bring in haze to Singapore over the weekend.

The NEA added that it is monitoring the haze situation closely and those who require more information, can check the NEA's PSI website or call the NEA Call Centre at 1800 CALL NEA (1800 2255632).

- CNA/sf

Expect hazy skies this weekend
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 14 May 11;

THE weekend weather forecast is that Singapore could experience haze.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said south-west and south-east winds could bring haze from fires in Sumatra to Singapore, though late-morning and afternoon showers could lessen the amount.

Yesterday evening, the PSI, or Pollutant Standards Index, hit 60 - the highest reading since last October. Then, big forest fires in Indonesia caused parts of Singapore to be blanketed with haze and the PSI reading to exceed 80 regularly.

Air becomes unhealthy when the PSI hits 101.

The NEA said there was no health danger to people here and it would continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates if the air quality worsens.

The decline in air quality over the past week has been caused by the recent fires in Sumatra created by land clearing and scorching weather which sparked off brush fires.

Malaysia has also not been spared the effects, with its Air Pollutant Index hitting 104 in Port Klang on Thursday.

A reading in the 100-200 band is considered unhealthy. Skies in Kuala Lumpur were also overcast with haze.

In Sumatra, the number of hot spots peaked at 156 on Tuesday before easing over the week due to showers.

Experts The Straits Times spoke to said it was difficult to predict the effects of the Sumatra fires on Singapore beyond the weekend, as weather conditions here are especially changeable now in the inter-monsoon period.

During April and May, the weather here switches from the north-east to south-west monsoon season.

This means wind and rain conditions could follow the patterns of either season and are difficult to predict.

Dr Matthias Roth, an associate professor in the geography department at the National University of Singapore, said heavier rain and a north-east wind would improve the air quality.

'Heavier rain helps to clear the air of haze particles,' he added.

Doctors told The Straits Times that the dip in air quality posed little health risk to the general public but those with medical conditions, such as asthma, and the elderly should be more careful.

Dr Jansen Koh, an associate consultant in the department of respiratory medicine at Changi General Hospital, said asthma sufferers should carry their inhalers wherever they go.

He added: 'If the PSI gets any higher, avoid the haze and stay indoors. Avoid any strenuous activity and see a doctor if you feel unwell.'

Favourable weather improves air quality in the peninsula
Wong Pek Mei The Star 14 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: The country’s air quality has improved following favourable wind conditions and rain patterns since 7am yesterday.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings at the Department of Env­ir­on­ment’s air quality monitoring stations showed 29 stations registering good air quality while 22 other rated moderate at 5pm yesterday.

The department said yesterday that none of the stations recorded unhealthy levels of air quality.

Port Klang recorded an API reading of 51 yesterday, a big drop from Thursday’s 102.

The worst reading of 83 was registered in Nilai and Serem­ban.

Malaysian Meteorological Dep­artment said that rain was expected in the next few days in the west coast, north and south of peninsular Malaysia.

Meanwhile, rainstorms are ex­­pected in the east coast of the peninsula.

Satellite images provided by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed a decrease in Sumatran hotspots from 45 on Thursday to 29 yesterday.

However, there was an increase in hotspots in the country from none on Thursday to eight yesterday.

A satellite image showed major winds blowing from north west to north of peninsula and winds from the southwest – from hotspots in Riau in the central Sumatran province – blowing towards the west coast and south of the peninsula.

The public are advised to avoid open burning and requested to help put out small fires and report any open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 and Department of Environment at 1-800-88-2727.

It's blue skies, good air quality
Minderjeet Kaur New Straits Times 14 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians woke up to clearer skies yesterday after experiencing three days of haze in most parts of the country.

Heavy showers in the past couple of days helped to clear the haze.

The air pollutant index (API) readings also improved, with 56 per cent of areas reporting good air quality. The remaining areas registered moderate readings.

For the first time in three days, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's website did not record any readings of unhealthy air quality.

The highest API was in Bukit Rambai, Malacca (90), followed by Muar, Johor (84) and Pasir Gudang (83) while other areas nationwide recorded air quality readings of between 30 to 50.

Three days ago, Port Klang and Tanjung Malim had reported unhealthy readings of above 100, but yesterday the readings were reduced to healthy levels.

Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang recorded the best API reading of 22.

Healthy API readings are 50 and below, moderates are 51 to 100 while unhealthy levels are 101 to 200. Readings above 300 are deemed hazardous.

Meteorological Department weather forecast director Saw Bung Liong said the air quality had improved following recent showers that helped to reduce haze.

"The dry spell is expected to continue in the coming weeks with an overall temperature of 34o to 35o Celsius. We will have rain off and on."

The Health Ministry has advised the public to cut down outdoor activities during the haze.

In a statement, it also advised the public to don face masks if they had to engage in outdoor activities, to drink plenty of water and to maintain good hygiene.

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Haze from Sumatra fires blankets KL

Situation could last for three months; Singapore air quality good for now
Zubaidah Nazeer, Indonesia Correspondent & Carolyn Hong Straits Times 12 May 11;

THE haze is back, with parts of Malaysia and Indonesia blanketed in choking smoke; Singapore could be affected soon too. And the haze could be around for the next three months.

A combination of large numbers of land-clearing fires and scorching weather, which sparks brush fires, has seen the number of hot spots in Sumatra go up in recent weeks.

From 60 hot spots detected on Sunday, the number rose to 136 on Monday and 156 on Tuesday before dropping to 119 on Wednesday and 45 yesterday because of sporadic rainfall. The situation this time last year was better because of wet weather hitting the region.

The effects of the heat and haze are being felt acutely in the Klang Valley, including Kuala Lumpur, driving many Malaysians as well as tourists indoors.

Ms Emma George Francis, 22, a Swede who has spent five days in Kuala Lumpur, said the air was smokier yesterday compared to earlier this week. 'My throat feels dry in this haze,' said Ms Francis. 'I've been drinking lots of water, and shopping mostly in the malls.'

Port Klang, about 40km south-west of Kuala Lumpur, hit an 'unhealthy' level of 104 on the pollution index yesterday morning before falling back into the 'moderate' range of 99 at 5pm after a late afternoon downpour. The readings of five surrounding areas at 5pm were above 80, the high side of moderate.

There will be some reprieve as more rain can be expected next week, according to a Meteorological Services Department officer.

Thick haze began to envelope parts of Sumatra late last month, causing breathing difficulties and forcing people to cut back on outdoor activities.

A meteorologist in Sumatra's Riau province, Mr Ardi Tama, said yesterday the haze could be around until August.

Of the 156 hot spots detected on Tuesday, almost half - or 77 - were in Riau. The province has also seen some of the highest temperatures this year.

Said Mr Ardi: 'We have seen temperatures peak at 36.5 deg C in Riau, the highest on record. It has since gone down to 34 deg C, which is still above the normal 32 deg C for this period.'

Contacted yesterday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said air quality in Singapore remained in the 'good' range, although 'some slight haziness may be expected... under light wind conditions'.

Late morning or early afternoon showers could help dispel the haziness, NEA said, adding it is monitoring the situation in the region closely.

But there are signs that the winds could carry the thick smoke to Singapore.

'The winds are blowing in a north-easterly direction towards Singapore and Malaysia,' said Mr Ardi. Riau is one of the Indonesian provinces closest to Singapore.

For now, the worst-hit areas remain those in Sumatra. On April 27, it prevented a SilkAir flight from landing in Pekanbaru, local reports said. Last Saturday, a Garuda plane was diverted from Jambi to Palembang also because of poor visibility caused by the haze. There have been no reports of airport closures as yet.

In the sub-district of Rokan Hilir, Mr Surya Arfan, the head of an environmental impact control agency there, told Antara news agency that his officials had found several pieces of idle land burning.

'In the next few days, if the condition gets worse, we will distribute face masks especially to elementary students who are taking the national exam at present.'

The haze season usually occurs each year from June to September, which is the dry season in Indonesia and also a time when farmers clear their land using the slash-and-burn method.

The worst haze to hit the region took place in 1997. In 2006, it was so bad that Malaysia was forced to close Port Klang and declare a state of emergency in Klang and Kuala Selangor.

Asean's efforts to tackle the annual haze problem saw nine of its members ink the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. Only Indonesia has yet to ratify the accord.

Hot, dry spells for next few weeks
New Straits Times 13 May 11

KUALA LUMPUR: Yesterday’s showers in some parts of the country do not indicate the dry spell is over, said the Meteorological Department.

Weather forecast director Saw Bun Liong said temporary showers were usually expected throughout the country for a day or two after a dry spell with temperatures of 34ºC-35ºC.

“For the next few weeks, the weather is expected to be hot and dry followed by a day or two of rain,” he said yesterday.

Social networking site Twitter was filled yesterday with locals rejoicing as soon as they heard thunder and a downpour. Some of them twittered: “It’s raining. It’s a miracle.”

The dry spell started about 1½ weeks ago which caused temperatures to hit 36ºC.

With no rain, the Kuala Lumpur skyline was enveloped in haze two days ago with unhealthy air quality readings.

Yesterday, Port Klang showed unhealthy air quality levels with an Air Pollutant Index reading (API) of 104. Other parts of the country, which almost breached the unhealthy level of 101 were Banting (96), Shah Alam (86), Kuala Selangor (85), Nilai (88) and Bukit Rambai in Malacca (85).

Two days ago, Tanjung Malim reported unhealthy air levels but had recovered from 109 to 64 while Universiti Sains Malaysia recorded its lowest API reading of 25 for two days straight.

Healthy API readings are 50 and below, moderate are 51 to 100 while unhealthy levels are 101 to 200. Readings above 301 are hazardous.

The first haze emergency was declared in August 2005 with a week long-choking-like haze caused by open burning in Sumatra and Malaysia after air pollution in Port Klang and Kuala Selangor areas hit dangerous levels of 500 API.

Hazy Days Due To Cross-Border Haze From Sumatra
Bernama 12 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Bernama) -- The hazy air over several parts of the country, especially in the Klang Valley, Selangor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor is due to cross-border pollution by haze particles coming from Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Department of Environment (DOE) in a statement Thursday said the NOAA-18 satellite images Wednesday showed the wind blowing from south-west, which were the hot spot areas in the Riau, South Sumatra and Jambi provinces, to the west coast and southern part of Peninsular Malaysia.

The satellite report issued by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed reduced number of hot spots in Sumatra Thursday to 45 from 119 detected Wednesday.

No hot spots were detected in Malaysia Thursday compared to three Wednesday.

The statement said that DOE had activated the Standing Operating Procedure for the Prevention of Peat Soil Fire programme starting May 10.

"The public is advised not to carry out open burning and to cooperate by putting out small open fires, and to report on open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department by calling 999 and DOE at toll-free 1-800-88-2727," it said.

Meanwhile, the Air Pollutant Index (API) nationwide recorded a slight improvement as at 5pm Thursday, with no area listed as unhealthy compared to one area as at 11am.

Thirty-one areas recorded moderate levels with API at 51 to 100, while 21 areas were reported as Good (API 0-50), the DOE website reported.

Among the areas with the highest API at the moderate level as at 5 pm were Port Klang (99), Bukit Rambai (96), Melaka city (88) and Port Dickson (85).


Air around Port Klang unhealthy
The Star 12 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: The air quality in Port Klang reached the unhealthy level Thursday morning, topping 102 on the Air Pollutant Index (API) released by the Department of Environment (DOE).

Other areas showing high API were Banting (96), Nilai, Negri Sembilan (89) Shah Alam (84) and Bukit Rambai, Malacca at 82.

An API level exceeding 100 is considered unhealthy.

The haze blanketing much of the Klang Valley and many areas in the west coast has been attributed to open burning in Sumatra.

The DOE has blamed the condition on the southwesterly winds blowing smoke from open burning in Sumatera's hotspots.

The number of hotspots in Sumatra, particularly at central Riau, has jumped significantly in the last four three days.

Pekanbaru haze causes delay in two flights
Antara 13 May 11;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Two commercial flights were delayed at Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, Friday, due to haze coming from forest and peat fires.

"Two flights were delayed this morning, respectively from Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia," Taslim, the head of the SSK II airport, said here Friday.

The visibility dropped drastically in the morning, while the minimal visibility for air safety was 1,000 meters, he said.

The two flights scheduled to fly to Jakarta were delayed for a half hour due to the haze, he said.

According to the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency, the visibility drooped to only 150 meters in the morning at around 6.30 am local time.

Based on the NOAA 18 Satellite, there were nine hotspots in Riau on Friday morning, consisting of three in Rokan Hilir, four in Rokan Hulu, one in Siak , and another in Kampar districts.

Two days ago, Riau had 46 hotspots of forest, peat and plantation fires.

Meanwhile, Merpati Airways` MA 60 flight serving Medan-Dumai route was delayed for five hours due to haze hanging over Pinang Kampai airport, in Dumai, on Friday morning.

The visibility at the airport was only 1,500 meters, forcing Merpati to delay its flight from Medan to Dumai for five hours, Irvan, head of the Pinang Kampai airport, Dumai, Riau Province, said Dumai, Friday.

The delay was at the initiative of the plane`s pilot to prevent such a plane incident in Kaimana waters, West Papua recently.

"We at the Pinang Kampai airport this morning confirmed that the weather in Dumai was bad. After receiving the weather report, we informed Merpati. They later decided to postpone the flight schedule from Medan," he said. (*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Indonesia battling tough peatland fires

Firefighters sent to Sumatran hot spots amid fears of haze
Straits Times 14 May 11;

JAKARTA: Indonesia has sent 120 firefighters to battle blazes in Sumatran peatland areas, amid mounting fears about the return of the haze season in the region.

Peatland fires can burn for days and release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Even when extinguished on the surface they can continue burning underground and reappear days later.

'The smoke comes from fires in peatland areas in Riau province,' Indonesian Forestry Ministry fire control official Deni Haryanto told the French news agency, Agence France-Presse.

He said the fires were sparked by the clearing of land for oil palm plantations.

'Our satellite monitoring shows that the fires in Rokan Hilir of Bengkalis district in Riau province have been on and off since they started on Monday,' Mr Haryanto said.

Antara news agency said visibility dropped sharply in the morning yesterday at the airport in Pekanbaru, in Riau, forcing at least two flights to be delayed.

But the number of hot spots, according to Antara, had dropped from 46 on Tuesday, to nine yesterday morning.

Indonesia's government has outlawed land-clearing by fire, but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored. The haze season usually occurs each year from June to September, which is the dry season in Indonesia and also a time when farmers clear their land using the slash-and-burn method.

A meteorologist in Riau province, Mr Ardi Tama, on Wednesday warned that the choking smoke could last until August this time around.

The worst haze to hit the region took place in 1997. In 2006, it was so bad that Malaysia was forced to close Port Klang and declare a state of emergency in Klang and Kuala Selangor.

Malaysia's Health Ministry yesterday advised the public to cut down on outdoor activities as air quality remained out of the good range on the pollutants index, Bernama news agency reported.

The authorities reported moderate air quality in 31 areas, with the air pollutant index hovering between 51 and 100. Among the worst-hit areas were Port Klang, Bukit Rambai, Malacca and Port Dickson on the west coast of the peninsula.

Many areas, including Port Klang and Shah Alam, registered unhealthy air quality levels on Thursday but the situation improved later in the day because of a downpour.

Malaysian meteorological officials have forecast more hot and dry weather for the next few weeks.

Bracing themselves for the worst, officials in Kuala Lumpur have issued an appeal for greater coordination of a regional ministerial committee given the task of combating the haze problem. Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are members of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Asean's efforts to tackle the annual problem saw nine of its members ink the 2002 Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Only Indonesia has yet to ratify the accord, although Environment Minister Gusti Hatta in February said he was confident that Jakarta would do so by the end of the year.

Indonesia battles forest fire on Sumatra island
Yahoo News 13 May 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia has sent 120 firefighters to battle blazes from peatland areas that are causing unhealthy levels of pollution in neighbouring Malaysia, an official said.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur said on Thursday air quality had reached 104 in Port Klang, on a scale which rates 101-200 as unhealthy. Elsewhere in central Selangor state, 29 areas had "moderate" readings.

"The smoke comes from fires in peatland areas in Riau province," forestry ministry fire control official Deni Haryanto told AFP.

The fires are used to clear land for palm oil plantations, he said.

"Our satellite monitoring shows that the fires in Rokan Hilir of Bengkalis district have been on and off since they started on Monday," Haryanto said.

Fires on peatland can burn for days and release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Even when extinguished on the surface they can continue burning underground and reappear days later.

Indonesia's government has outlawed land-clearing by fire but weak law enforcement means the ban is largely ignored.

Indonesia is widely considered the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, largely due to deforestation from forest fires and logging.

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KL building massive oil-gas hub in Johor

$24b project on the coast in Pengerang is seen as direct threat to Singapore
Leslie Lopez Straits Times 14 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has unveiled ambitious plans to establish a major oil-and-gas hub in the eastern corridor of the Johor coast, posing a direct threat to Singapore's position as the region's premier energy trading and refining centre.

National oil corporation Petroliam Nasional, or Petronas, said yesterday that it will spend RM60 billion (S$24 billion) to build an integrated downstream oil and gas complex in Pengerang.

The Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development, or Rapid, will feature a crude oil refinery with a throughput capacity of roughly 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), a naphtha cracker and several petrochemical complexes.

The project, which represents the single largest undertaking by Petronas to date, is part of a major push by the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak to draw much-needed foreign investment and create new sources of growth for the Malaysian economy.

Datuk Seri Najib, who officiated at the unveiling of Malaysia's latest oil and gas undertaking, described it as a bold push by Petronas to seize opportunities presented by Asia's robust energy and chemical markets.

Malaysia also took pains to dispel the widely held view that the project represented Kuala Lumpur's latest effort in the decades-old economic rivalry with Singapore.

Petronas chief executive Shamsul Azhar Abbas noted that Rapid would complement Singapore's existing petrochemical industry. 'Let's not view Singapore as a competitor,' he told reporters.

But industry executives and private economists insisted otherwise.

'Malaysia could have easily expanded its current facilities. Rapid is clearly designed to compete,' said a senior executive of a foreign oil services company in Kuala Lumpur, referring to Petronas' existing oil refinery and petrochemical facilities in the coastal regions of Terengganu and Pahang.

Over the years, Kuala Lumpur has moved to develop its airports, port services and bunkering sector to claw back business from Singapore. But those efforts have yet to bear fruit.

'The emphasis here is putting in the hardware by building and ignoring the software. We keep losing out because Malaysia lacks the ability to deliver world-class services,' lamented a chief executive of a large infrastructure group in Malaysia who asked not to be named.

Rapid, which has earmarked just over 1,000ha of coastal land for development, will be different, argue proponents of Petronas' new initiative.

Malaysian planners note that Singapore is hitting the limits of its ability to expand storage capacity. To meet growing demand, Singapore has been forced to pursue novel projects, such as carving tunnels and caverns beneath the seabed west of the island to create storage space for oil.

Singapore has an export refining capacity of 1.3 million bpd, compared with Malaysia's 560,000 bpd capacity.

Malaysian government officials insist that Asia's growing appetite for crude oil will create room for another player.

One major boost has been the March disasters in Japan.

The earthquake and tsunami, which damaged power facilities and triggered a nuclear crisis, have touched off a scramble among key Asian economies to find alternative locations for power plants and manufacturing facilities to ensure security of supply in the event of a major natural disaster.

Japan, which has pledged to close several older nuclear plants, will need to turn to alternative power sources, such as liquefied natural gas. So will South Korea and Taiwan, which will also need to relocate critical industries, such as petrochemicals and oil refining, to safer locations.

'Rapid has the land and infrastructure to cater for this relocation,' said a senior government official involved in the planning of the Petronas project.

The Rapid development will also feature a RM5 billion deepwater petroleum terminal, which is being built by a consortium led by Dailog, a publicly listed oil and gas services company controlled by low-profile businessman Ngau Boon Keat. The first phase of the project is expected to come onstream in 2016.

With increased refining and chemical processing in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is hoping to take a slice of Singapore's oil and derivative trading over the next decade, government officials said.

Petronas to invest RM60b in Johor complex
It will be Malaysia's largest single downstream oil investment; project to complement rather than compete with Singapore, says Petronas
S Jayasankaran Business Times 14 May 11;

PRIME Minister Najib Razak yesterday announced that national oil company Petronas will invest RM60 billion (S$24.9 billion) to develop the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) complex in Pengerang, Johor.

According to Petronas, it is being positioned to 'complement', rather than to compete, with Singapore.

The single largest downstream oil investment in the country, Rapid will comprise a crude oil refinery capable of producing 300,000 barrels per day; a naphtha cracker able to produce 3 million tonnes of ethylene, propylene and butane-to-pentane olefines; and a petrochemicals development, together with an unspecified foreign partner, which will produce three million tonnes of highly specialised petrochemical products a year.

'I am told that Rapid's oil refining capacity is greater than the combined capacities of Petronas' existing refineries in Malacca and Kerteh,' a smiling Mr Najib told guests at the project's launch. 'Its petrochemicals development is also expected to exceed the combined capacities of the Gebeng Integrated Petrochemical Complexes and Kerteh.'

It will also provide some 20,000 jobs during its construction phase and up to 4,000 jobs to highly-skilled oil and gas workers upon its completion in 2016.

'I am confident this landmark undertaking by Petronas will prove to be yet another significant milestone not only for the company's corporate history but also for Malaysia's industrial development,' Mr Najib said.

The premier added that the oil company was also reassessing the feasibility of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving and re-gasification terminal in the area to help complement the energy needs of the project.

The development will give Mr Najib's Economic Transformation Programme an unexpected boost as it hadn't been factored in originally as part of the country's multibillion ringgit investment transfusion to propel it into the high income leagues. 'This wasn't part of the original ETP,' Petronas chief executive Shamsul Azhar Abbas told reporters at a media briefing later. 'This is a bonus.'

But given the massive resources required by Rapid, Petronas's ability to pay high dividends to the government could be sorely tested. Last year, the oil firm contributed over 35 per cent of government revenues.

Even so, the successful rollout of Rapid could witness a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) as ancillary industries - the life sciences, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, etc - that rely on the project's by-products set up shop around the development. Indeed, Mr Najib described the project as a 'major trigger' for FDI.

Meanwhile, Ghani Othman, the chief minister of Johor, told reporters that there was no shortage of land in the area available for interested foreign parties. Rapid itself requires 1,012 hectares while a RM5 billion oil terminal project seven kilometres away leased 809 hectares from the state government yesterday.

Petronas' Mr Shamusl said that Rapid would 'complement' Singapore's petrochemicals business. 'Let's not view Singapore as a competitor,' he said. 'There are opportunities where we can do business integration because petrochemicals are not like any other product. Once you start cracking the naphtha, you get ... a lot of flows of tail-end products which will need to find a home.'

He said Petronas would not only seek 'full business integration' with Singapore but also the company's other petrochemical facilities in Malaysia. On foreign interest, Mr Shamsul revealed that foreign parties from 'earthquake-prone' countries who were reluctant to expand further in their home countries have already shown 'a lot' of interest. 'They're having problems in terms of expansion ... so what they have to do right now is move their expanded capacity out of the country into this particular region,' he said.

He stressed that the foreign partners in Rapid would be 'high-end companies' involved in specialty products that may also set up their own facilities in the region to help lower production costs.

RM60bil Petronas project will fuel massive spin-offs, says PM
Florence A. Samy The Star 14 May 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Petronas will invest in a major RM60bil integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in Pengerang, Johor, touted to be its largest.

To be known as the Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development (Rapid) project, it is is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2016, as part of the national oil company's efforts to expand its downstream production.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak confirmed this, following a StarBiz breaking news story on Wednesday.

The mammoth project is expected to create at least 20,000 jobs during the construction phase and 4,000 potential jobs for highly-skilled workers.

This does not include the many spin-offs in related sectors, Najib said when announcing the project at the Petronas headquarters here yesterday.

“It is truly a remarkable initiative and a significant landmark for Malaysia. The project presents Malaysia with a major vehicle to attract foreign direct investments, bolster private investment and expand the country's access to world-class technologies.

“It will also provide avenues for a new generation of technical professionals to develop their skills and capabilities,” he said, adding that the Government would provide its full support and assistance.

The Rapid project, Najib said, would consist of three main components:

> A crude oil refinery with a capacity of about 300,000 barrels per day, larger than the combined capacities of its refineries in Malacca and Kerteh.

> A naphtha cracker with the ability to produce three million tonnes of ethylene, propylene as well as C4 and C5 olefins; and

> A joint petrochemical development with a combined production capacity of three million tonnes per year, more than the combined production capacities of its integrated complexes in Kerteh and Gebeng, Pahang.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said although the Rapid project was not part of the entry point projects under the Economic Transformation Programme, it was still in line with plans to turn Malaysia into a leading petroleum industry hub in the region.

The area, Najib said, was chosen because of its large land acreage, strategic location near major international shipping lanes, deepwater port facilities and proximity to regional demand centres.

Malaysian oil giant to build $16b complex in Johor
Asia News NetworkBy Risen Jayaseelan and Jeeva Arulampalam in Petaling Jaya The Star/ANN Yahoo News 11 May 11;

Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia's state oil giant, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), will announce on Friday plans to invest around 50bil ringgit (US$16.7bil) in an integrated downstream oil and gas complex in Pengerang, Johor, reliable sources said.

Dubbed Rapid or Refinery And Petrochemical Integrated Development, the project is aimed at building something "larger than Kertih" and will eventually include multinational oil and gas companies as joint-venture partners.

The integrated development will not only include oil refining and petrochemical activities, but include a gas power plant and other "supportive industries" said sources.

Rapid is a project identified in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), which is led by the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

One of the reasons why Pengerang was chosen is because its waters can reach depths of more than 20m, which is what is needed for very large crude carriers (VLCC) and ultra large crude carriers.

The Johor government will be a joint-venture partner of the project and will provide the land.

Sources indicate that Petronas' Rapid project complements plans for the 5bil ringgit independent deepwater petroleum terminal in Pengerang, which is to be the first deepwater terminal in South-East Asia.

The terminal is a tankage facility for handling, storing, blending and distribution of crude oils and petroleum products with marine facilities capable of handling VLCCs.

Part of the thinking behind Rapid was to replicate what Singapore has already done successfully, sources said. Singapore's oil refining businesses only started around 10 years ago.

Singapore has an export refining capacity of 1.3 million barrels per day, compared with Malaysia's 560,000 barrels per day, according to the ETP roadmap.

Singapore Refining Company Pte Ltd, which operates a refinery on Jurong Island, is capable of processing 290,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Other major refineries in Singapore include ExxonMobil's refinery in Jurong that process about 605,000 barrels of crude per day and Shell's Pulau Bukom Refinery with some 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Plans for Petronas to develop Johor's Pengerang into a sizeable force in the oil and gas (O&G) space are not new.

Last November, the Government said Petronas would play a major role in the development of Johor's south-east areas of Teluk Ramunia and Pengerang into a O&G hub in the region.

It was then said that the investments in the hub would come from Petronas and its international partners and the investments would bring major development into Johor's south-east areas and could turn Teluk Ramunia and Pengerang into a new Kertih.

Petronas chief executive officer Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas confirmed then that Petronas was talking with several international investors to invest in Teluk Ramunia and Pengerang.

Once a sleepy fishing village in Terengganu, Kertih is now a thriving township due to O&G related activities with Petronas as the main driver in the O&G sector there.

The Petronas Kertih Refinery is the national oil company's first oil refinery in Malaysia, and processes 49,000 barrels of Malaysian light, sweet crude oil per day.

In total, Petronas owns and operates four refineries (three in Malaysia and one in South Africa) with a total refining capacity of more than 448,000 barrels per day.

The Government had also said then that while the investments would come from Petronas and its partners, the Government was looking into allocating money for infrastructure developments in the areas.

Another aspect of the oil and gas thrust in the ETP (and which is linked to the Rapid project) is for Malaysia to venture into the lucrative area of oil trading. Singapore accounts for hundreds of billions of oil trading every year, an area of business that is virtually absent in Malaysia.

According to the ETP roadmap, Singapore, by 2007, had built a significant trading business worth more than 1 trillion ringgit in physical oil trade and 2 trillion ringgit in derivative trade.

Sources said the Government may consider providing additional incentives to attract oil trading firms to be located in Johor.

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Collector Francis Lim is penning a book about the mistletoe

A kiss and tell
nicholas yong Straits Times 14 May 11;

Most people will have heard of the Christmas tradition of couples kissing under a sprig of mistletoe.

But in ancient times, mistletoe - with its leathery, bright green leaves and colourful berries - was also thought to have medicinal and magical properties, and was often hung from doorways to bring good luck.

The semi-parasitic plant has even played a key role in mythology: It was the only thing that could harm the Norse god Baldur, and eventually caused his death.

But with 1,500 species globally, it is not just confined to the Western world.

Nature lover Francis Lim, 55, says: 'Singapore used to boast 16 species of mistletoe, but today, only eight species remain as the rest are extinct locally. Two of the eight are known to be critically endangered.'

The former curator at the Singapore Zoo, and now retired, ought to know - he has amassed a collection of more than 100 mistletoe plant samples, including roots, leaves, flowers and fruit.

Many samples have been pressed and dried, then placed in old picture frames bought from the thrift shop of a church he attends. Others are stored between bubblewrap in plastic bags in an old suitcase to preserve them.

Branches and other plant parts also hang on the walls of his Yishun five- room flat, with little handwritten labels identifying the species.

'I go mistletoe-spotting with my binoculars in wild places, parks and friends' gardens. Sometimes, they are quite hard to find because they are right on top of trees,' says Mr Lim.

The father of three has been collecting the samples for four years, going as far afield as Sungei Buloh and even off-shore islands such as St John's.

Collecting, framing and storing the samples has cost him less than $250.

One of his favourites is a framed sample of the rarely seen leafless mistletoe, which he collected on Lazarus Island. The amateur botanist had to stand on his bicycle and climb a tree to harvest it, almost falling in the process.

But despite risking life and limb, some mistletoe species have remained beyond his reach. Scurrula parasitica, or the rusty-leafed mistletoe, is the other critically endangered species here and is found only on Pulau Tekong.

The island is being used by the Singapore Armed Forces as a training base and is closed to civilians.

Mr Lim, who spent 36 years with the zoo, has very particular tastes in flora and fauna - he has penned a book about reptiles. But he says it is 'hard to explain' his fascination with mistletoe. 'I was interested in snakes because no one else was. I started reading, then branched out to other reptiles. So with mistletoe, I see it as a platform to branch out and find out about other plants.'

He has also written a book about mistletoe, analysing the biological and cultural role of the plant. It will be his fifth book - following other books about his experiences at the zoo - and is set to be released by Select Books in October. Further details on it are unavailable at this stage.

He says: 'My desire is to bring about an awareness and appreciation for this group of remarkable plants.

'When people find mistletoe in their garden, they often try to destroy it. But I would like to give another angle to that view.'

He hopes to use his collection for a roving exhibition which he can take to events and schools. In the meantime, the collection continues to grow.

'I am running out of space. I may need another suitcase soon.'

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A*Star and NUS to support growth of Green Electronics

Business Times 13 May 11;

THE environment is taking centrestage in the electronics industry with 'Green Electronics' being identified as one of four new engines of economic growth.

To support the development of this sector, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) have launched two research programmes to nurture and trained skilled professionals to power this emerging niche area.

Announced yesterday, the new programmes undertaken by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and the NUS Faculty of Engineering in collaboration with A*Star Data Storage Institute and Institute of Microelectronics will lead to a PhD for successful candidates.

They will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to enhance green data centre technologies and develop next-generation power devices for green automotive and energy harvesting.

According to Professor Chua Kee Chiang, department head of ECE, such initiatives are timely, and 'in response to an urgent need to tackle the global challenges of energy supply and sustainable development'.

The programmes aim to produce highly skilled researchers and engineers who are able to plan and design data centres of the future, which can result in high-performance services with huge energy and cost reductions.

It is hoped that these will further boost the electronics sector, which experienced 27 per cent growth and generated $89.9 billion in fixed-asset investment last year.

Scholarships provided by A*Star and NUS are available to support successful candidates. The programmes will start in August.

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Explosion at Benoi Road shipyard kills two

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 12 May 11;

SINGAPORE: There has been an explosion at a shipyard in 3 Benoi Road, resulting in the death of at least two people.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that the incident involved a barge undergoing maintenance work at the shipyard. A SCDF spokesman said the two were pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.

The Manpower Ministry has identified the two as a 43-year-old Malaysian and a 20-year-old Bangladeshi.

They were working on the barge when the blast occurred at around 1.20pm, after the workers had just returned from their lunch break. There were also some workers at the shipyard who suffered minor injuries due to the blast, but no one was hospitalised.

The deceased Bangladeshi is Hassan Mainul. His uncle said Hassan came to Singapore just three months ago.

He said: "That time when they called, I cannot believe myself. How come? Only last Sunday, I saw him. He is a very innocent boy, innocent face and he is very handsome, very handsome boy. He finished intermediate and higher secondary, I brought him here for a job, to [have a better life]. Now he is gone. I really cannot believe it."

The Manpower Ministry has ordered a stop to all work at the incident site, which is occupied by Haosen Marine Pte Ltd. Preliminary investigations by the ministry showed that the two workers were assigned to conduct checks for leaks on one of the barge's tank compartments.

Both the SCDF and police said they received a call about the incident at about 1.30pm. SCDF dispatched two fire engines, two fire bikes, one ambulance and two other support vehicles to the scene.

The intensity of the blast also affected buildings nearby. A witness Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the explosion broke some glass panels in her office across the road.

It also caused a ceiling panel to collapse but no one was injured.

The witness, who wanted to be known as Mandy, added that the ground shook when the explosion occurred.

Another eye witness, 34-year-old Adrian Lee who was in the area for a meeting about four factories away from the explosion site, said he saw people running out after the blast caused a roof to collapse.

He said: "I was at a neighbouring unit at number 3 Benoi Road when I heard a loud explosion. Went out, I saw the roof collapse, people running out. Minutes later fire engines came, that was the sequence."

Another eyewitness, Eugene Chua, said: "At 1.20pm today, we heard a very loud explosion. So the rest of us in the company evacuated because there was a lot of ceiling coming down. And we had to leave our office. It felt like an earthquake. It was very tremendous. Our instincts took over and we had to get out of the office."

There was a twisted pile of metal within the premises and a writ of possession/eviction was pasted on the gate of 3 Benoi Road.

It states that the occupiers of the building have to vacate the premises by 9.30am on May 16.

- CNA/cc/ac

Two workers killed in shipyard blast
Explosion believed to be caused by sudden release of compressed air
Jalelah Abu Baker & Elizabeth Soh Straits Times 13 May 11;

TWO foreign workers died after an explosion rocked a shipyard in Tuas, with the blast felt even 3km away.

The explosion at about 1.20pm yesterday at the UDL Shipyard in Benoi Road split a flat-bottom barge into two, causing it to flip over.

The explosion also ripped out the metal walls and part of the roof of a workshop beside the barge, and shattered the windscreens of vehicles, and windows in adjacent buildings.

The incident is believed to have occurred when the victims, 43-year-old Malaysian Zainudin Wan Jusoh and 20-year-old Bangladeshi Hasan Mainul, were conducting checks for leaks in one of the barge's tank compartments.

Their bodies were recovered near the barge, estimated to be about 100m long and about 10m tall.

The explosion is said to have been caused by a sudden burst of compressed air during air testing, a process used to maintain the water-tightness of a barge.

The loud impact sent about 100 workers from nearby companies scrambling out of their premises.

Among them was Mr Karuppiah Thangamani, 31, a tyreman who works at a company opposite the accident site.

'Everything was shaking, it was like an earthquake,' he said.

Hundreds of others, some from as far as 3km away, converged on the scene after being jolted by a sound which they described as loud as a bomb explosion.

Safety was the main concern for the management at Goltens, a company opposite the shipyard. All its 147 employees were sent home.

The metal ceiling at one of the company's buildings was reduced to dangling strips, and windows were shattered.

'They are traumatised. When you see the mess up there, it is quite a relief that no one got hurt,' Mr Tom Boyle, the company's managing director, said of his workers.

He was at his desk when the impact of the explosion brought down a false ceiling, leaving an air-conditioning unit hanging precariously above him.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force, which received a call at 1.23pm, sent two fire engines, two fire bikes and an ambulance. Officers arrived in eight minutes, and announced the two men dead upon arrival.

A spokesman said no one was hospitalised.

The Ministry of Manpower said it has ordered a stop to all work at the site, which is occupied by Haosen Marine.

While investigations into what happened are ongoing, industry experts who spoke to The Straits Times speculated that an explosion could have taken place because welding was being done while there was still compressed air in the barge.

The welding was possibly to fix a hole that would compromise the water-tightness of the barge.

However, such welding would cause the air to expand, and therefore gush out all at once. Air that is pumped in is usually released bit by bit after the test is over.

A 37-year-old friend of the Malaysian victim said he had introduced the father of two to the job at Haosen Marine, and that the man had been working there for about seven months.

His family has been informed, he added.

The niece of Mr Zainudin's wife said the family has gathered at his home in Johor Baru.

'We were shocked. We didn't expect it to happen. His wife is inconsolable.'

The Bangladeshi victim is believed to have worked here for three months.

The management of Haosen did not want to comment.

Flammable vapours may have caused fire
Likely to have come from spray-painting work, says MOM probe
Carolyn Quek Straits Times 14 May 11;

THE presence of flammable vapours may have led to a flash fire and explosion which killed two foreign workers at a Benoi Road shipyard on Thursday.

In making known preliminary investigations yesterday, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said flammable vapours were detected at the barge where the incident happened at 1.20pm, killing a 43-year- old Malaysian and 20-year-old Bangladeshi.

These vapours were likely to be from spray-painting work carried out on the barge three days before the blast.

The ministry added that it tore apart four of the 14 tank compartments that the 50m long barge was made of.

The compartments were empty and meant to help the barge float on water.

The explosion also ripped out the metal wall panels of a workshop 5m from the barge. About 10 workers were in the facility then and some suffered scratches.

The MOM said its Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate will next focus on establishing if the flammable vapours had fuelled the flash fire that led to the blast. It will also be investigating if hot works had been carried out before the blast.

The flat-bottomed vessel was being lengthened at the Haosen Marine shipyard in Benoi Road.

The ministry said the Malaysian worker, Mr Zainudin Wan Jusoh, who was working on top of the barge, was thrown off when the explosion occurred.

The Haosen Marine worker is believed to have been checking for leaks at one of the tank compartments and making sure it was water-tight.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi Hassan Mainul, who worked for New Millenium Construction, happened to be near the barge when the incident happened. The MOM is still trying to find out why Mr Mainul - who had been working in Singapore for only three months - was at the site.

Workplace Safety and Health Commissioner Ho Siong Hin urged employers and workers to remain vigilant and do their part to prevent workplace accidents.

'The two workers who died in the tragic accident had families, colleagues and friends who are now mourning the sudden loss of their loved ones,' he said.

'Accidents occur when safe work procedures are not followed due to complacency or when rushing jobs,' he added.

The two deaths on Thursday have dented progress by employers and workers to keep workplaces fatality-free.

There were 55 workplace fatalities last year - a six-year low - while workplace injury cases fell to 10,319, a 5 per cent drop from 2009.

Benoi blast could have been caused by lingering flammable vapours
Channel NewsAsia 13 May 11;

Singapore: Investigations into the Benoi Road shipyard blast on Thursday which killed two men, has revealed that four tanks ruptured on a barge during works to lengthen the vessel.

Flammable vapours were present in the barge tanks after the blast and the possibility of a flash fire in the damaged tanks resulting in the blast could not be ruled out, said the Ministry of Manpower.

The presence of flammable vapours is believed to have been due to paint vapours from spray painting works that had been carried out three days before the accident.

Further investigations by the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate will be carried out to confirm whether hot works were being carried out and if the flammable vapours in the tanks had fuelled a flash fire, leading to the blast.

The blast which was reported just before 1.30pm ripped apart the front of the barge, and caused wall panels of a workshop situated about five metres from the barge to fall off.

According to an MOM news release, some 10 workers were in the workshop when the blast occurred and some of them sustained light scratches.

A 43 year-old Malaysian worker who was working on top of the barge at the time of the accident, was thrown off the vessel by the blast.

The other victim was a 20-year-old Bangladeshi who was near the barge when the accident occurred.

Relatives of both men claimed their bodies on Friday afternoon.

Hassan's uncle, Mohd Mosleh Uddin, said Hassan's body would be sent home to Bangladesh by Saturday night.

According to Mr Mohd Mosleh, the money to transport Hassan's body has been paid for by the employer, New Millenium Construction.

Work on the site has been stopped indefinitely and investigations are ongoing.

Emphasising the need to remain vigilant to prevent workplace accidents, Mr Ho Siong Hin, the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, said: "This tragic accident is a sombre reminder for everyone to remain vigilant and be alert to risks at work."

"Accidents occur when safe work procedures are not followed due to complacency or when rushing jobs," he added.

- CNA/sf/al

Flammable gases detected at Benoi Rd shipyard
Today Online 14 May 11;

SINGAPORE - Investigations into the Benoi Road shipyard blast on Thursday which killed two men has revealed that four tanks ruptured on a barge during work to lengthen the vessel.

Flammable vapours were present in the barge tanks after the blast and the possibility of a flash fire in the damaged tanks resulting in the blast could not be ruled out, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The presence of flammable vapours is believed to have been due to paint vapours from spray painting work that had been carried out three days before the accident.

Further investigations by the MOM's Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate will be carried out to confirm whether hot work was being carried out and if the flammable vapours in the tanks had fuelled a flash fire, leading to the blast.

The blast, which was reported just before 1.30pm on Thursday, ripped apart the front of the barge and caused wall panels of a workshop situated about 5m from the barge to fall off.

According to an MOM update released on Friday, about 10 workers were in the workshop when the blast occurred and several sustained light scratches.

Malaysian worker Zainudin Wan Jusoh, 43, who was working on top of the barge at the time of the accident, was thrown off the vessel by the blast.

The other victim was 20-year-old Bangladeshi Hassan Mainul, who was near the barge when the accident occurred. Relatives of both men claimed their bodies on Friday afternoon.

Mr Hassan's uncle, Mr Mohd Mosleh Uddin, said Hassan's body would be sent home to Bangladesh by Saturday night, and the expenses have been paid for by his employer New Millenium Construction.

Work on the site has stopped and investigations are ongoing.

Mr Ho Siong Hin, the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, said the accident was "a sombre reminder" for everyone to remain vigilant and be alert to risks at work.

"Accidents occur when safe work procedures are not followed due to complacency or when rushing jobs," he added.

Read more!

Eight new reef fish found off Indonesia's Bali

(AFP) Google News 13 May 11;

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Scienists from Conservation International have discovered eight new fish and one new coral species off Indonesia's Bali island.

The new species include eels and damsels, the colourful little fish that dart among coral branches and help give reefs their dazzling appearance while playing a key role in reef ecology.

"We have carried out a marine survey in 33 sites around Bali island. We have identified 952 reef fish, and among them we discovered eight new species," team senior adviser Mark Van Nydeck Erdmann said.

The surveys were carried out off the popular tourist island's northeast coast at Tulamben, a well-known recreational dive site, as well as Nusa Dua, Gili Manuk and Pemuteran, at depths of 10 to 70 metres (11 to 77 yards).

Erdmann said the new fish species had not been named but they were in the genuses of Siphamia, Heteroconger, Apogon, Parapercis, Meiacanthus, Manonichthys, Grallenia and Pseudochromis.

In their two-week marine survey which ended Wednesday, the team also found a new species of Euphyllia or bubble coral.

Indonesia is a massive archipelago of 17,000 islands which form part of the so-called Coral Triangle, an area of rich marine biodiversity deemed vital to the health of the seas and global food stocks.

Tulamben is the grave of the US Army Transport ship Liberty, which was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942.

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Sabah hotels stop selling shark fin soup

Muguntan Vanar The Star 14 May 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Top Sabah hotels have begun taking the popular shark fin soup off their menu well ahead of the state government plan to ban harvesting of sharks in its waters.

However, restaurant owners and fishermen are voicing concern over the move.

Sabah Hotel Association president Christopher Chan said they were ready to take it off the menu if the ban was enforced.

“Just because there is no shark fin dish, it does not mean that we will go out of business.

“The chefs will just have to be more creative,” said Chan, in support of the proposed ban.

The Sabah Cabinet had agreed to ban shark fin harvesting with state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun stating that they hoped to implement it by year's end.

Hoteliers in the east coast of Sabah noted there was no problem with the ban of shark fin as previously much sought after delicacies - such as bear's paw and rhino's horns - were no longer remembered by consumers after they disappeared from the menu.

“I dont think the shark fin soup ban will in any way affect our business as we have many other delicacies to promote,” said Tawau's Belmont Marco Polo general manager Shaik Mohamad Shah, adding that many hotels had already removed it from their menu.

A restaurant owner Thomas Lau said that imposing the ban without efficient enforcement would be meaningless.

“A good example is the effectiveness of the ban on sales of turtle eggs.

“As long as there is a demand for these eggs, the supply will be there,” he said, referring to the easy availability of turtle eggs in Sandakan.

Sandakan Fishermen Association chairman Phua Peh Chee questioned the practicality of the ban in terms of fishing equipment to avoid snaring sharks, as well as how it would encourage the smuggling of fresh fins across the border.

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US Gives Grant To Tiger Conservation Project In Endau-Rompin Parks

Bernama 12 May 11;

JOHOR BAHARU, May 12 (Bernama) -- The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has awarded a grant of RM150,000 to World Conservation Society-Johor (WCS-J) for tiger conservation projects at the Endau-Rompin National Park.

Paul W. Jones, the US ambassador to Malaysia who presented the grant, said the USFWS has been collaborating with WCS-Johor and the Johor National Parks Corporation (JNPC) in their conservation efforts at Endau-Rompin for a decade.

"We have worked together to provide tiger conservation education and workshops to local educators and leaders. And we have supported and continue to support the 'Tigers Forever' program," he said during the grant presentation ceremony in Johor Baharu Thursday.

The grant, he noted, was meant to carry out a project, titled "Conservation of the Tigers of the Endau-Rompin Landscape through improved Law Enforcement and Expansion to the Southeast and Southwest."

The funds, provided by the US, will be used to help WCS to further expand law enforcement coverage in the southeast and southwest of the Kota Tinggi region.

He added that over the past five years, the US had directly provided RM1.5 million to WCS-Johor to support Malaysia's goal of doubling its tiger population by 2020.

According to Jones, Malaysia has some of the most bio-diverse ecologies in the world and the US has been proud to support conservation efforts through the Heart of Borneo programme and the Coral Triangle initiative.

"The beautiful and diverse flora and fauna of Malaysia are treasures for the entire world. The US is committed to helping protect these treasures," he said.

Meanwhile, JNPC director Abu Bakar Mohamed Salleh pointed out that the state government had embarked on the Johor Wildlife Conservation Project in 2007 to spearhead conservation efforts in that region.

The 10-year project, he said, was meant for the conservation of two core umbrella species -- the Asian Elephant and the Malayan tiger.

Dr Melvin Gumal, Director of Malaysia Program at WCS, added that the grant would be used efficiently and effectively to protect endangered tigers and their environment.


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Sumatran tigers on brink of extinction

Antara 12 May 11;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera Tigris Sumatrae) in Bengkulu province is on the brink of extinction due human activities harming their habitats, an official said.

Bengkulu Province`s Natural Resources Conservation Chief Amon Zamora said here Thursday that there are only 50 tigers left in the area covering six districts where massive logging activities harmed their habitats.

The tiger are found in Seluma, Kaur, Central Bengkulu, North Bengkulu, Muko-muko and Lebong districts, Amon said.

The tigers often appeared in residential areas in the rain forest border often killed livestock.

Often their appearance near the residential areas also threatens and attacks people working in their farms.

In the meantime these wild animals are also often trapped and hunted in Bengkulu by the local residents for their skin and body parts, he said.

"Tigers will appear only after their habitats are damaged, and we therefore told the local people not to damage the rainforests," he said.

One of the main hurdles in reducing hunting the endangered species in Bengkulu province is the lack of forestry police not properly covering, he said.

"We have proposed to recruit more guards in overcoming the matter to the Forestry Ministry, so efforts of preserving the forests and tigers is optimized," he said.

Amon is optimist that the poaching of the Sumatran tigers could be reduced by increasing the number of forestry police, and conservation will also continue to enhance cooperation with the police to reduce the hunting of tiger.

Previously, in early March 2011 the Bengkulu conservation authority caught a female Sumatran tiger that roamed the Talang Baris Village, Seluma district, Bengkulu Province.

The tiger has killed 22 goats and also attacked the farmers on February 22, 2011.

The captured two meters long and 79 centimeters high tigers were treated by the conservation`s medical personnel and sent to the Rescue Center run by the Lampung Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC) in South Bukit Barisan National Park.

Editor: Bambang

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Philippines seizes huge cargo of turtles, corals

(AFP) Google News 12 May 11;

MANILA — Philippine authorities on Thursday said they had seized an enormous haul of illegally harvested corals and more than 100 preserved sea turtles before they could be smuggled abroad.

Customs and fisheries officials seized about 124,000 pieces of sea fan and sea whip corals, as well as 158 stuffed sea turtles -- all protected species -- at Manila's port on Wednesday.

The turtles, corals and 209 boxes of shells -- misdeclared as "rubber" -- were hidden inside two huge containers that had been shipped from the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, customs officials said.

Although the corals and shells were estimated to have a sale price overseas of about 20 million pesos ($47,000), the environmental damage was far more, said fisheries bureau senior marine biologist Ludivina Lave.

"This is worth even billions in environmental and economic costs, because if you remove these reefs from their natural habitat, the effect is exponential," she told AFP.

"Coral reefs are homes of many organisms. Technically speaking, the organisms are interrelated. If you lose one, all of the organisms are affected."

It is illegal in the Philippines to gather and sell endangered coral, although other countries allow it to be traded.

The value of the sea turtles cannot be estimated since trading them has been banned globally since the 1980s, said Nilo Ramoso, a biologist with the government sea turtle protection programme.

The sea turtles had been preserved so that they looked like they were alive.

Customs officials said the shipment may have been intended for China, Europe or the United States.

Illegal possession of coral is punishable by up to two years in jail in the Philippines, while illegal possession of sea turtles carries a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment, the fisheries bureau said.

However authorities said it was not clear who was behind the shipment.

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Thai police arrest UAE man with bear, panthers in case

Yahoo News 13 May 11;

BANGKOK (AFP) – A man whose luggage contained a baby bear, a pair of panthers, two leopards and some monkeys was arrested as he tried to smuggle the live animals out of Thailand, police said Friday.

Noor Mahmoodr, a 36-year-old citizen of the United Arab Emirates, was detained soon after midnight by undercover officers at a Bangkok airport with the animals -- all aged under two months -- in his cases.

The man, who was trying to get the creatures onto a first-class flight to Dubai from Suvarnabhumi airport, was charged with smuggling endangered species out of Thailand, Colonel Kiattipong Khawsamang of the Nature Crime Police told AFP.

He said one of the bags had been abandoned in an airport lounge because the animals were being too noisy.

"This is a very unusual case and a very large one so we really applaud the Thai police for going after them as strongly as they did," said Roy Schlieben of wildlife protection group FREELAND, whose staff were present at the arrest.

Several people were thought to be involved and police investigations are under way into a wider network of traffickers, Schlieben said. The animals were taken into the care of local veterinarians.

"There's a pretty strong likelihood that some of them wouldn't have survived the flight in the condition they were in," he told AFP.

"The fact they were transported alive would indicate the person at the other end wanted to keep them in their residence or some sort of zoo, or maybe even breed them," he said.

If convicted, Mahmoodr could face up to four years in jail and a 40,000 baht ($1,300) fine, Kiattipong said.

Live leopards and other animals found in luggage
TRAFFIC 13 May 11;

Bangkok, Thailand, 13th May 2011—Passport, tickets, leopard cubs? That’s exactly what a United Arab Emirates man was found carrying when police arrested him at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in the early hours of this morning.

Seven infant animals—four Leopard cubs, a Bear cub, a baby gibbon and a marmoset—were found alive and packed in the 36-year-old suspect’s bags.

And it wasn’t bulky luggage or suspicious behaviour that foiled the trafficker’s audacious attempt. What gave him away was the muffled cry of one of the Leopard cubs stuffed in his bag.

Officers from the Natural Resources and Environmental Crimes Suppression Division of the Thai Police had received a tip off that a passenger bound for Dubai would be attempting to smuggle live animals out of the country.

At about 1 am this morning officers from the division ordered all passengers who were minutes away from boarding a flight for Dubai, to be checked, in the hopes of identifying the individual who was carrying the animals.

It was during that process, that a police officer heard the Leopard’s cry and zoomed in on the suspect. The animals were found in his hand luggage.

The animals are recovering at a National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department rescue centre while the suspect is expected to be charged with smuggling endangered species out of Thailand, its Deputy Director General Dr Theerapat Prayunsitthi told a press conference.

If convicted, the suspect could face up to four years in jail and a THB40,000 (USD1,300) fine.

This is not the first attempt by smugglers to traffic infant wild animals out of Thailand: this February, and Indonesian man was found to be carrying three suitcases full of animals, while in August last year, authorities found a drugged tiger cub hidden in the luggage of a Thai woman who was attempting to smuggle it to Iran.

The case put the illegal capture and trafficking of young wild animals for the pet trade in the limelight and the problem has since become the focus of a TRAFFIC Southeast Asia – Body Shop campaign in Malaysia.

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Bear bile in Malaysia: Bearing down on an illicit trade

Lee Yen Mun The Star 12 May 11;

PETALING JAYA: Many traditional medicine shops surveyed by a pro-animal movement are openly selling bear bile products.

All bear species are listed under the Wildlife Act as “totally protected” and may only be traded for non-commercial purposes and subjected to approval by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Traffic, an international wildlife trade monitoring network, found that 77% of traditional medicine shops it surveyed in the peninsula sold the products.

In Sabah and Sarawak, 23 shops were discovered to be selling bear gall bladder, pills, flakes and ointment containing the bile.

Traffic suggested that a majority of the gall bladders were wild-sourced.

Although three bear species were known to be sought for bile products, only the Malayan Sun Bear is native to Malaysia.

The other two South-East Asian species identified were the Asiatic black bear (also known as Moon Bear) and the Brown Bear.

“The high percentage of shops openly selling bear products indicates a market demand and little enforcement effort to discourage shops from providing the product.

“Malaysia's role as a producer may be changing in recent years from the small-scale provision of products to East Asian tourists, to a potentially commercialised production business,” Traffic said in its report released yesterday.

The group's research had focused on the bear bile trade in Asia between June 2010 and April 2011.

In Malaysia, a total of 212 traditional medicine shops were surveyed in Penang, Perak, Johor, Kelantan, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Kuching and Sibu.

Traffic claimed that Malaysia played a dual role in the bear bile trade as a consumer as well as a producer.

“We recommend that the authorities investigate shops and manufacturers selling and producing both real and purported bear bile medicines and prosecute them accordingly,” it said.

Bear bile is a liquid secreted by the liver to aid digestion and stored in the gall bladder.

It is believed to be used to treat sore throats, sores, haemorrhoids, sprains, bruising, muscle ailments, epilepsy and to “clear” the liver.

Bear bile products come in various forms including whole gall bladders, raw bile, pills, powder, flakes and ointment.

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Study: Sea Turtles in Africa need protection

UPI 12 May 11;

NEW YORK, May 12 (UPI) -- Protected areas for endangered olive ridley sea turtles off the coast of Central Africa may be inadequate to safeguard them from fishing nets, researchers say.

Scientists in the study recommended the extension of an international marine park that spans the waters of Gabon and the Republic of Congo and urged better international cooperation to manage the threatened species, a release by the Wildlife Conservation Society said Thursday.

In a tracking study of olive ridley sea turtles during the nesting season, researchers used satellite transmitters to follow 18 female turtles during their journeys ashore to lay eggs, which bring the turtles closest to the coastline and to the danger of being captured in fishing nets.

"Thousands of olive ridley sea turtles are caught every year in fishing nets along the coast of Central Africa, yet we previously had no understanding of their movements or what areas are critical to protect their populations," said Sara Maxwell, who led the study as a graduate student at University of California, Santa Cruz.

Turtles were tagged in Mayumba National Park, a 900-square-kilometer marine protected area on the southern coast of Gabon, but the study revealed the tagged turtles spent more than half of their time in the Republic of Congo waters, highlighting the need for international cooperation to protect this species, the researchers said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society said it is working with the national park agencies of both countries to join and expand Mayumba and Conkouati-Douli National Parks, creating the first international marine park in the region.

Africa's Sea Turtles Need 'Passports' for Protection, Scientists Urge
ScienceDaily 12 May 11;

Satellite tracking of olive ridley sea turtles off the coast of Central Africa has revealed that existing protected areas may be inadequate to safeguard turtles from fishing nets, according to scientists with the University of California-Santa Cruz, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Exeter, and others. Scientists involved in the study recommended the extension of an international marine park that spans the waters of Gabon and the Republic of Congo and better international cooperation to manage this threatened species.

The study was published May 11 in the online journal PLoS ONE. The authors of the study include: Sara M. Maxwell, Greg A. Breed, Barry A. Nickel, and Daniel P. Costa of the University of California-Santa Cruz; Junior Makanga-Bahouna, Edgard Pemo-Makaya, Richard Parnell, and Angela Formia of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Solange Ngouessono of the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, Libreville, Gabon; Brendan J. Godley, Matthew J. Witt of the University of Exeter; and Michael S. Coyne of the University of Exeter and

First author Sara Maxwell, who led the study as a graduate student at University of California Santa Cruz, said it provides novel insights into the movements of olive ridleys and how to better protect them.

"Thousands of olive ridley sea turtles are caught every year in fishing nets along the coast of Central Africa, yet we previously had no understanding of their movements or what areas are critical to protect their populations," said Maxwell, now a postdoctoral fellow with Marine Conservation Institute.

In the first comprehensive tracking study of olive ridley sea turtles during the nesting season, the authors used satellite transmitters to follow 18 female turtles during their journeys ashore to lay eggs. The nesting season brings the turtles closest to the coastline and to the danger of being captured in fishing nets.

Turtles were tagged in Mayumba National Park, a 900-square-kilometer marine protected area on the southern coast of Gabon. Mayumba National Park and Conkouati-Douli National Park just across the border in the Republic of Congo were created to protect both olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles from fishing nets, but dozens of dead olive ridley sea turtles have continued to wash up on the shores of the park every year. These deaths have perplexed park managers and resulted in mounting concern about the health of this threatened species.

"What we found, however, made sense. Turtles were regularly moving outside of the park boundaries where we believe they were encountering fishing nets and drowning, and later washing ashore where we would see them," said Angela Formia of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants Program.

The study revealed another critical finding: the tagged turtles spent more than half of their time in the Republic of Congo waters, highlighting the need for international cooperation to protect this species. The Wildlife Conservation Society is now working in conjunction with the national park agencies of both countries to join and expand Mayumba and Conkouati-Douli National Parks, creating what is the first international marine park in this region of the world.

"The proposal to combine and extend the protected areas will be incredibly effective," said coauthor Brendan Godley, professor at University of Exeter Cornwall and coordinator of the Marine Turtle Research Group. "We estimate that 97 percent of the most critical habitat for this population of olive ridley sea turtles would fall within the expanded park boundaries."

"Our results clearly provide a solid foundation for the implementation and extension of the transboundary marine protected area," said coauthor Michael Coyne, director of the non-profit SEATURTLE.ORG, which hosts a website where the sea turtles can be followed online by the public.

Studies such as this one highlight the critical importance of international cooperation in managing and protecting long-lived and migratory species such as sea turtles. This work also demonstrates the power of satellite tracking technology to show where animals are going and how to better protect them.

Coauthor Dan Costa, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said, "This is a great example of how innovative science on the ecological needs of wide-ranging, long-lived marine species can help justify regional collaborations for effective conservation."

This study was made possible through funding and support of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the UK Darwin Initiative, the Tagging of Pacific Predators Project, UC Santa Cruz Center for Integrated Spatial Research, SEATURTLE.ORG, and the Gabon Sea Turtle Partnership, which is funded by the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund (United States Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior).

Journal Reference:

Sara M. Maxwell, Greg A. Breed, Barry A. Nickel, Junior Makanga-Bahouna, Edgard Pemo-Makaya, Richard J. Parnell, Angela Formia, Solange Ngouessono, Brendan J. Godley, Daniel P. Costa, Matthew J. Witt, Michael S. Coyne. Using Satellite Tracking to Optimize Protection of Long-Lived Marine Species: Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Conservation in Central Africa. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (5): e19905 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019905

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