Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jun 11

Nature Society (Singapore) Code of Ethics for photographers
from wild shores of singapore

Behaviour and life history of giant clams
from Psychedelic Nature

Singapore Tarantula... why do they have such a bad reputation?
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Nictitating membrane and very soft calls of White-Throated Kingfisher from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Sea Anemone Lecture
from Compressed air junkie

Man puts birdcage 'trap' in tree with mango as bait -- why is he catching birds? from Lazy Lizard's Tales

The Last Stand for Sumatran Rhinos
from the EDGE blog

Read more!

Anemone haven in waters off Singapore

Island hosts over 50 species of the marine critter, including some possibly new to science
Grace Chua Straits Times 23 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE is hardly ever mentioned in the same breath as marine wonderlands such as the Great Barrier Reef or those in the seas off the Philippines.

But the waters off this island play host to more species of anemones than the entire west coast of North America.

Of the 1,000-odd known species of these flower-like predatory marine animals, more than 50 are found in Singapore - even in mangrove swamps, previously thought to be inhospitable habitats.

The world's smallest anemone, at a mere 1mm across, is found on seagrass here, as is the world's largest, at more than 1m in height and diameter.

These critters, which have stinging cells on their tentacles to paralyse prey for food, have been the subject of Dr Daphne Fautin's fascination.

Since 2007, the American taxonomist from the University of Kansas has helped researchers here find, classify and describe a dozen species of sea anemones that have never been seen here before, including a couple that could be new to science.

This week, she was here again to train participants in a comprehensive survey of marine biodiversity here. On Tuesday evening, she gave a public lecture on anemones to about 300 people at the National University of Singapore.

Asked why Singapore has so many anemone species, she said she believes it could be that this island sits on a sort of biological crossroads: Currents carry anemone larvae here from both eastern and western waters.

Last weekend, she and 20 or so researchers and volunteers were at the mangrove mudflats at the end of Lim Chu Kang Road. The area, along with Sungei Buloh and other sites, is being studied in an ongoing, three-year biodiversity survey of marine habitats here. And it has turned out that anemones are thriving in the knee-deep mud there, as there is plenty of food to go around.

Dr Fautin said: 'Perhaps it's not that they prefer this habitat, but that nothing else can thrive here, so that's why they thrive.'

Last Saturday, a type of anemone with bumps along its column-like body excited the researchers, who said it could be new to science, or at least a new sighting here. Dr Fautin said it has not been identified, and she will study it further.

Already, research into the compounds of sea anemone venom has uncovered their ability to fight rheumatoid arthritis. But here and elsewhere, sea anemones are being threatened by development.

The marine environment in Marina East, for example, has been lost to land reclamation and undersea dredging carried out to build the Marina Coastal Expressway.

Ocean warming and acidification, both effects of climate change, could also harm the ecology of sea anemone habitats, Dr Fautin said.

More about Dr Daphne Fauntin's work in Singapore on the wild shores of singapore blog

Read more!

PUB's flood control projects in full swing

Wide-ranging efforts include covering drains and raising roads
Straits Times 23 Jun 11;

AS PART of its flood protection measures, the PUB covered the open section of a drain along Grange Road on Monday.

Water from the drain had surged into Tanglin Mall on June 5, flooding the mall's supermarket and carparks. Covering the drain will prevent water from overflowing, a PUB spokesman said.

Other measures taken by PUB include:
*Raising a depressed portion of Tomlinson Road;
*Installing about 2.4km of safety railings in 24 areas, including Commonwealth Lane, Hillview Avenue, Marymount Lane and Marsiling Drive;
*Widening and deepening Bukit Timah Canal, to be completed by December 2012;
*Constructing an outlet drain near Lorong Bakar Batu, scheduled for completion in September.

In August, the PUB will widen and deepen the drain at Mandalay Road into which a 15-year-old Indonesian boy fell and drowned earlier this month. It will also raise the road to improve drainage.

PUB also awarded a $2.5 million contract to infrastructure and civil engineering firm OKP Holdings yesterday to improve roadside drains in several residential estates. The firm had secured a $3.4 million contract last month to improve drains in other areas.

Some Orchard malls have also instituted flood protection measures. Tanglin Mall centre director Jenny Ng said floodgates will be installed at the mall's entrances.

At Liat Towers, pipes have been upgraded to improve water flow to the canal, said Mr Lam Chik Hai, a supervisor at Liat Towers Building Management.

The building's management is still evaluating whether to install a second set of flood barriers in front of the ground floor shops such as Massimo Dutti, he said.


Read more!

Students to get their feet wet learning at PUB's river classroom

Ong Dai Lin Today Online 23 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Students in Clementi will have a river classroom near their schools for outdoor learning, while residents in Rochor will have a green community area in a few years under the national water agency PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme.

PUB told MediaCorp that Sungei Pandan and Sungei Ulu Pandan have been chosen as one of its ABC Waters projects and are conceptualised as a river classroom to allow for experiential learning by students due to the vast presence of schools in the area.

Gathering decks will be built to serve as outdoor classroom spaces for students to learn more about the ABC Waters design features of the projects. These include a sedimentation pond, eco-pond and marshland through which rainwater run-off from the main drains leading to the two rivers will flow and be treated before it is discharged into the rivers.

PUB said it conducted a workshop for some schools in the vicinity in November last year to brief them on the project. More details on school involvement will be firmed up when the project is nearing completion in the first quarter of 2013.

The Rochor Canal is the other coming project under the ABC Waters programme. It will feature a Gateway Plaza, where people can gather for community events, and a promenade along the canal that will be seamlessly integrated with the surrounding developments.

Lookout decks will be built at selected spots for people to take in views of the river.

PUB will also place specially selected plants along the river to filter and cleanse rainwater run-off from the promenade so that cleaner water flows into the river.

Work will be carried out on the whole stretch of the Rochor Canal between Jalan Besar and Crawford Street and it is expected to be completed by January 2014.

But because of the canal's close proximity to existing developments such as buildings, bridges and MRT tunnels, the challenge is to take extra care to prevent damage to these structures, said PUB.

One resident, who wanted to be known as Mdm Lim, welcomes the project. She said: "It could provide relaxation from city living as residents can walk and jog there in the evening after work."

Read more!

Singapore, a regional natural gas hub?

Lynda Hong Ee Lyn Today Online 22 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Abundant enough to sustain world production for over 250 years and available all over the world, natural gas produces one of the lowest levels of carbon emissions when burnt for electricity production.

And Singapore is well-positioned to be a regional natural gas hub, said Dr Birol Fatih, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Natural gas was one of the main topics touched on by Dr Birol, who spoke at the Energy Market Authority's (EMA) Distinguished Speaker Programme, which was attended by nearly 300 industry players in the energy sector.

Sharing key findings from IEA's special report, "Are We Entering a Golden Age of Gas?" Dr Birol said that the building of an LNG terminal in Jurong Island was "very timely".

"It's definitely going to put Singapore in a very good position in the region to be a regional hub. This will definitely put Singapore in a very advantageous position in the region," said Dr Birol, who was named by Forbes Magazine as the world's fourth most powerful and influential person in the global energy scene,

EMA CEO Chee Hong Tat said the LNG terminal is on track to complete by the second quarter of 2013.

When in operation, Singapore's LNG terminal will be Asia's first open-access, multi-user LNG terminal, allowing different companies to process LNG by processing and storing up to six million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) in its three tanks.

Mr Chee also said LNG has seen a strong uptake by Singapore companies, having sold about 2.3 Mtpa of LNG to mostly power generation companies as of end-May this year. There is also interest from industrial companies outside the power generation sector to purchase LNG to fuel their new businesses and project expansions, added Mr Chee.

Compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas is considered by industry players and academics to be the "cleanest", producing less carbon than other hydrocarbon fossil fuels, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Energy production and sources have been responsible for producing two-thirds of the world's carbon emissions, noted Dr Birol.

However, natural gas alone cannot help mitigate carbon emissions from climate change. Renewable energy sources have to be part of the balance, and so far, all countries with a strong renewable energy programmes are backed their governments, he said.

Read more!

Goodie, NDP fun packs go green

Reuse, recycle, reflect - the mantra for item designers and those attending parade alike
Royston Sim Straits Times 23 Jun 11;

SOME items in this year's National Day Parade (NDP) takeaway goodie bagare intended to have a life beyond the parade festivities.

For example, the maracas found in each of these 'fun packs', as the bags have come to be called, turn from percussion instruments into containers.

The mini Singapore flag comes with a stand, so it can serve as a decorative item and namecard holder; the NDP light stick comes with a customised base, which transforms it into a table lamp.

Eco-friendliness is a theme in the fun pack, which was designed with the concepts of 'reuse', 'recycle' and 'reflect' in mind, said Major Chan Ming Hoe, who chairs the NDP logistics and finance committee.

He told reporters at a briefing yesterday: 'The committee felt that these items should be reused, instead of chucked to one side in the storeroom and left to go to waste.'

Other items in the fun pack sound the same eco-friendly note: The sun visor and hand fan are made from recycled materials, and the tote bag is biodegradable.

Major Chan said the parade organisers wanted to play their part in being environmentally friendly, given the scarce resources in Singapore.

The fun pack also contains a collectible NDP 2011 pin, a collection of short stories titled Stories Of The Singapore Spirit, and a card for parade- goers to pen their thoughts on the Singapore Spirit. These items are aimed at encouraging the audience to reflect on this year's NDP theme: Majulah! The Singapore Spirit.

As with previous years, the fun pack will also contain snacks, drinks and items such as a souvenir magazine and a discount-coupon booklet.

The tote bag itself, with its compartments for laptops and cellphones, invites reuse after the parade.

Parade-goers will each take home one of four designs created by designer Jesline Teo, a 21-year-old graduate of Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Design. Each version portrays iconic Singaporean images, such as the Merlion and Changi Airport, rendered like a watercolour painting and in pastel-coloured lines.

She said: 'I chose those icons that were very identifiable... that I felt people could connect and relate to. I wanted to portray how beautiful Singapore is.'

The back of each bag features a design by Rebekah Lee, 16, who won the NDP 2011 T-shirt design competition with her design of Singapore island made up of various words.

This year's bag tag was designed by manager Mas Shafreen, 39, who put an image of the Marina Bay skyline on the tag.

Noting that this would be the first NDP held against a skyline complete with the ArtScience Museum, he said: 'The fireworks are always set against the cityscape. What's fantastic is that year on year, the cityscape changes. I did my design in one uninterrupted line to represent the unceasing efforts of all Singaporeans to get Singapore to where it is.'

Major Chan said: 'We hope this fun pack will be well liked by people of all ages, and will be useful.'

NDP fun packs go green this year
Sara Grosse Today Online 23 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - Save the light sticks from the National Day Parade (NDP) fun pack and reuse them as table lamps, with this year's packs and their contents have been designed to be kinder to the environment.

The tote bag itself is biodegradable, and created with more compartments for items like laptops, books and mobile devices, to encourage spectators to reuse them after the parade, and key items inside will be made to be reusable.

"For example the maracas can be converted to a container. The LED light sticks can be used as a table lamp. The mini Singapore flag can be used as a name card holder," said chairman of the NDP logistics and finance committee, Major Chan Ming Hoe.

Other items such as the sun-visor and the hand-fan were made from recycled materials.

The front of the fun packs will come in four designs depicting various Singapore icons, like the Merlion, Changi Airport and Housing and Development Board flats.

They are the creations of 21-year old Jesline Teo, a Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, who used water-colour effects and pastel lines to get the desired effect. "These designs portray some feelings I have for Singapore. Like how we are a colourful city," she said.

The back of the fun pack is designed by 16-year old Rebekah Lee, a student from St Margaret's Secondary School. It is an image of the island, composed of words that name various landmarks and colloquialisms unique to Singapore.

In addition to food items, the fun pack also has a collection of short stories and an NDP 2011 pin.

Read more!

Decade-Long Study of Pacific Predators Shows Importance of Biological 'Hotspots'

ScienceDaily 22 Jun 11;

An unprecedented decade-long study of apex predators in the Pacific Ocean found a wider range of distribution among some species than previously thought, unknown relationships between other species, and the importance of biological "hotspots" to the survival of most of these sea creatures.

The field program, dubbed Tagging of Pacific Predators -- or TOPP -- looked at 23 species from 2000-09 and included researchers from multiple institutions.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Nature.

"One thing that quickly became apparent is that there are many similarities among top predators in the California Current System," said Bruce Mate, director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. "There is a strong overlap in territory, for example, between blue whales and tuna. Blue whales eat krill; the tuna eat fish that eat the krill.

"But the krill, and the ocean conditions that promote its abundance, are key to both species," added Mate, who directed the cetacean portion of the TOPP study. "When there are hotspots of krill or other food, the apex predators need to find them."

Most of these hotspots result from upwelling, or the fertilization of surface waters with nutrient-rich deeper water as a result of wind-driven mixing. One such biological hotspot occurs just west of Santa Barbara, Calif., where the wind comes around Point Conception and triggers strong upwelling.

"When the winds there died, we watched whales eat literally all of the available food in three days, and then they just took off," Mate said. "Most of them moved to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco, which is another productive feeding area. Blue whales likely know these hotspots from experience. Instead of waiting for upwelling to renew the krill population, they'll travel 400 miles in three days to find a new food source."

The study also found, however, that some species have more difficulty with poor ocean productivity, as often happens during El Niño events. Coastal birds also depend on krill, and during an El Niño in 2006-07, most of their hatchlings failed, the researchers noted.

Pinnipeds -- including seals and seal lions -- normally experience a successful birth rate of 80 percent, but in El Nino years, that drops to 20 percent. "Most of the offspring die," Mate said, "because the mothers cannot produce enough milk."

The TOPP study was the first ocean basin-scale study of marine predator distribution and movement ever conducted, and the massive amount of data collected will help resource managers develop effective ocean protection strategies, the researchers say.

The study underscores the importance of apex predators in different ecosystems, noting how the loss of bluefin tuna and porbeagle sharks in the Atlantic Ocean contributed to the near-extinction of cod and similar species.

Mate, a pioneer in the use of satellites to track endangered whales and other species, has been studying blue whales for decades and has been featured in the National Geographic Magazine and the National Geographic Channel film, "Kingdom of the Blue Whale." Most of that documentary was shot aboard OSU's research vessel Pacific Storm, which tracked blue whales tagged off California in the fall to their first-ever discovered winter breeding and calving area 500 miles off Costa Rica in an upwelling area.

Blue whales may be unique among large whales in using areas for reproduction where they can continue to feed. Interestingly, the whales do not have just one route for this migration but instead use a variety of offshore routes and variable timing.

Adult blue whales can grow to the length of a basketball court and weigh as much as 25 large elephants combined. A blue whale's mouth could hold 100 people, Mate said, though its diet is primarily one-and-a half-inch long krill. The heart of a blue whale is the size of a small automobile. Scientists say the blue whale is the largest creature to ever inhabit Earth -- and it is one of the loudest animals in the sea, capable of making sounds equivalent to those of a jet engine, though at frequencies below human hearing.

Mate and his colleagues also tracked a fin whale for more than a year as part of the TOPP research.

"It did nothing that we expected," he said with a laugh. "Usually, we think large whale species go south for the winter and north in the summer, but this whale spent its winter in the Gulf of Alaska and didn't go south until spring when it went as far south as the tip of Baja, but returned back to the Gulf of Alaska without stopping anywhere. In total, the whale made four trips through a 30-kilometer wide area off Vancouver Island, suggesting a preference for a very precise corridor.

"It's hard to generalize about whale behavior with a small sample size," Mate said. "But that's the value of tracking animals over the years through efforts like the TOPP program. We learn about patterns and variability -- and inevitably, we learn something we never knew before and often times it is really fundamentally different that what we thought we would find."

Among the Pacific Ocean predators tracked by researchers in addition to whales and tuna were several species of sharks, leatherback sea turtles, two species of albatross, sooty shearwaters, Northern elephant seals and California sea lions.

Barbara Block of Stanford University was lead author for the Nature paper. Other institutions participating in the study with OSU and Stanford included Dalhousie University, San Jose State University, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, University of California-Santa Cruz, and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.

Journal Reference:

B. A. Block, I. D. Jonsen, S. J. Jorgensen, A. J. Winship, S. A. Shaffer, S. J. Bograd, E. L. Hazen, D. G. Foley, G. A. Breed, A.-L. Harrison, J. E. Ganong, A. Swithenbank, M. Castleton, H. Dewar, B. R. Mate, G. L. Shillinger, K. M. Schaefer, S. R. Benson, M. J. Weise, R. W. Henry, D. P. Costa. Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10082

Read more!

Malaysia: Breeding sea cucumbers

Simren Kaur The Star 22 Jun 11;

UNIVERSITI Sains Malaysia (USM) has discovered a new method to breed two types of sea cucumbers.

USM’s School of Health Sciences Assoc Prof Dr Farid Che Ghazali said researchers had discovered new methods to breed the Stichopus vastus and Stichopus horrens sea cucumbers.

“With the discovery, entrepreneurs can now kill two birds with one stone by helping to breed the sea cucumbers to save it from extinction and also to boost economy by exporting them for their medicinal values,” he said at a press conference at USM to announce the discovery.

He said sea cucumber produces high proportions of sulphated polysaccharides, glycoproteins and lectins which can treat arthritis, cancer and for HIV therapy.

Dr Farid also said sea cucumber breeding is a traditional industry but since it became a lucrative industry in China, entrepreneurs are encouraged to venture into it for export purposes.

He explained that the new breeding method was developed using the hatchery technique at the Fishery Research Institutes (FRI) in Tanjung Demong, Terengganu and Kampung Pulau Sayak, Kedah.

“This technique involves various processes such as broodstock harvesting, induced spawning, sexual and asexual propagations and larval rearing,” he said.

Entrepreneurs who are interested to learn the technique can write to USM’s Innovation Office to arrange for a meeting.

It was announced during the press conference that Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin will launch USM’s four-day annual National Research and Innovation Competition (NRIC) which begins today.

Themed ‘World Class Research and Innovation For Tomorrow’s Sustainability’, the competition will see participants from the University of Brunei Darulsalam and Jefri Bolkiah Engineering Institute, and University of Technology Thonbur from Thailand taking part.

A new category — the Community Research and Innovation Competition will be introduced this year in addition to the previous categories such as the Engineering and Technology, Fundamental Sciences, Information Technology and Communication, Life Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences and Social Transformation and Creative Arts.

The competition is sponsored by the Motorola Foundation.

Read more!

Elephant Tramples Man to Death at Aceh Farm

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 21 Jun 11;

Banda Aceh. A rampaging elephant killed a rubber plantation worker on Monday in Pante Ceureumen, Aceh, officials said the following day.

Nur Yasin, head of Pante Ceureumen, told the Jakarta Globe that the attack occurred around 3 p.m. at the Sari Inti Rakyat plantation in Menuang Kinco village.

“All of a sudden an elephant came running out of the forest at the edge of the plantation, knocked down the foreman and started trampling him,” he said.

“Some plantation workers tried to shoo the animal away, but it didn’t work.”

He said the victim, identified as Khalidin, 40, died at the scene due to severe injuries.

Ramli, the village head, said four workers nearby were unwilling to try to stop the attack because they were scared of getting trampled as well.

“None of them dared go near the elephant,” he said.

“They were afraid that they’d be next.”

He added that the body was removed from the scene only after the elephant had returned to the forest two hours later.

Nur said this was the latest in a long list of human-elephant incidents in the area. He said despite the loss of lives and property as a result of the animals running rampant in farms and villages, authorities had failed to do anything to prevent more attacks from happening.

“We’ve sent several letters appealing to wildlife authorities to relocate the elephants, but they have yet to respond,” he said.

Calls by the Globe to Abubakar Chekmat, head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency, were not answered.

The agency has attributed the escalation in such conflicts to man’s encroachment into the elephants’ natural habitat.

Read more!

Indonesian forest people condemn climate scheme

Presi Mandari Yahoo News 22 Jun 11;

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indigenous peoples of Indonesian Borneo on Wednesday demanded a halt to internationally backed forest conservation schemes, saying they are trampling their rights and robbing their lands.

The Central Kalimantan chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance issued a statement condemning the projects, including those being implemented under a $1 billion deal with Norway to cut carbon emissions from deforestation.

The projects, which also involve the Australian government, CARE International and WWF environmental group, fall under a UN-backed conservation drive known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Indigenous alliance secretary general Abdon Nababan said the rights of traditional landowners had been ignored, and forest-dependent communities faced being driven off their lands or denied their customary livelihoods.

"REDD could be the cause of cultural genocide as most indigenous people live in primary forests and peatland areas" which fall under a forestry moratorium announced by the Indonesian government last month, he told AFP.

"Its implementation will surely drive them away, though they have lived there for hundreds or thousands of years," he added.

Several studies have found that indigenous peoples are good forest managers but Nababan said schemes like REDD -- part of UN talks for post-2012 climate action -- handed control to corporations and environmental groups.

"There is no other choice but to appoint indigenous people as the REDD projects' main actors. They have traditional knowledge in managing and safeguarding our forests over centuries," he said.

The alliance called for an "immediate moratorium" on all REDD projects in Central Kalimantan until various conditions are met, including recognition of the mainly Dayak peoples' "political sovereignty" and "collective rights".

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's top advisor on climate change and REDD issues, Agus Purnomo, said that the group's statement was groundless as the indigenous group will have great authority to monitor its implementation.

"The statement is baseless. I can guarantee that the rights of indigenous people will be protected. We have agreed that the group will be among the REDD's board members with significant power," he told AFP.

Indonesia is often cited as the world's third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, due mainly to rampant deforestation by the palm oil, mining and paper industries.

Central Kalimantan is a heavily forested and resource-rich province with a total area of about 153,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles), or more than the land mass of Greece.

It has been designated as a test ground for REDD pilot projects, which are key to Indonesia's commitments to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020.

Deforestation is estimated to account for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Indonesia it is said to produce more carbon emissions than all the cars, buses, trains and planes in the United States.

But a joint statement issued after a meeting of the indigenous alliance last week said REDD schemes under way in Central Kalimantan were creating "confusion and chaos among indigenous communities".

It said the government and the schemes' backers had ignored their obligations to inform and consult with indigenous peoples whose lives could be dramatically altered by measures to prevent deforestation.

The alliance also demanded the Indonesian government address allegations of massive corruption surrounding forestry concessions.

The forestry ministry admitted in February that less than 20 percent of plantation companies and less than 1.5 percent of mining firms had official operating permits in Central Kalimantan.

It said that out of 352 plantation companies operating in the province, only 67 had permits, while only nine out of 615 mine units were operating legally.

Read more!