Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jun 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [20 - 26 Jun 2011]
from Green Business Times

Animal Life and Nature in Singapore
from Psychedelic Nature

White-throated Kingfisher attacks monitor lizard
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Dairy Farm Road
from Singapore Nature

juvenile estuarine croc @ SBWR 26June2011
from sgbeachbum

Durian Season 2011
from Ubin.sgkopi

Thousands of fish escape AVA fish farm?
from wild shores of singapore

One last dance on the railway through the green corridor
from The Long and Winding Road and The unkempt beauty of Coffee Hill and A walk on the wild side of the north

Four-lined Tree Frog
from Monday Morgue

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Save selected parts of Bukit Brown Cemetery

Straits Times Forum 27 Jun 11;

I HAVE just returned from a trip to Malacca and had the opportunity to visit the Unesco World Heritage city's famous Bukit China Cemetery ('Take a DIY walking tour at Bukit Brown'; June 18).

Singapore's Bukit Brown Cemetery may pale beside Bukit China in terms of size or the size and age of the graves themselves, but it is our own. Chinese Singaporeans like me will undoubtedly experience a sense of history, identity and pride visiting the graves at Bukit Brown which belong to our Chinese forefathers, including prominent personalities like Tan Lark Sye, Lim Chong Pang and Chew Boon Lay.

Bukit Brown also boasts the oldest grave in Singapore dating from 1833 and the largest grave 'guarded' by statues of the Sikh watchmen or jagas, belonging to businessman Ong Sam Leong and his wife.

While we understand the need to adopt a balanced approach towards conservation in our land-scarce country, nonetheless I hope the authorities will heed the calls of Singaporeans to find creative ways to conserve at least parts of Bukit Brown, perhaps by relocating some selected graves and tombstones to occupy a smaller area.

As the Bukit China graveyard shows, a historic cemetery may yet have its place in the modern cityscape.

More importantly, its conservation, even if it is done selectively, may mean that this and future generations of Singaporeans need not mourn yet another loss of an invaluable and irreplaceable piece of our heritage which contributes to our sense of rootedness to the place we call home.

Edwin Pang

Bukit Brown graves have tales to tell
Straits Times Forum 29 Jun 11;

ALLOW me to add my voice to Mr Edwin Pang's ('Save selected parts of Bukit Brown Cemetery'; Monday) and those of others who support the preservation, part or whole, of Bukit Brown Cemetery. I hope it will not go the same way as so many of Singapore's heritage sites - demolished in the country's haste to rebuild and modernise.

My maternal grandparents, Cheong Koon Seng and Chia Siew Tin, are buried at Bukit Brown, beside other plots that my grandfather had thoughtfully purchased for his relatives.

My grandfather's name is associated with:

- The auction company he founded in pre-war Singapore;

- The Chinese Swimming Club, where he held the position of president for several terms;

- The Anglo-Chinese School, which has a 'house' carrying his name; and

- Koon Seng Road in the heart of Peranakan Katong.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, it was a family tradition to congregate at his gravesite on the second day of Chinese New Year.

There, the usual duties - trimming grass, cleaning the stone lions and tablets, and asking for numbers - were somehow accomplished amid the chatter and distraction that inevitably dominate such gatherings. Afterwards, it took an age to line everyone along the semi-circular stone rim demarcating the large grassy mound for a family photo. Finally, as we trooped downhill, the boys would set off firecrackers, flinging them in the direction of the elderly aunts to send them scurrying as fast as their sarongs would allow.

I add these little anecdotes in the hope that the authorities would allow some of these sites to be preserved and not be sacrificed for soulless structures. In every developed country, these links to history are what scholars, students and sightseers are proud to show off.

The graves at Bukit Brown can tell many a tale. The living families are still here to delve into their memory banks. Should we not grasp the opportunity while we still can, in order to build on national pride and a sense of belonging? Give our young people a more meaningful heritage than bricks and mortar could ever do.

Maureen Lim (Ms)

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Crowds come out for KTM line's final days

Rachel Chan my paper AsiaOne 27 Jun 11;

Passengers have been packing the trains from Singapore to Johor Baru, while foodies have thronged the food stalls in Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

Less than a week before the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) trains cease operations from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Singaporeans are turning out in droves to visit the Malayan Railway lands here.

Passengers have been packing the trains from Singapore to Johor Baru, while foodies have thronged the food stalls in Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

And yesterday, more than 100 people embarked on one last weekend stroll along the railway tracks in Upper Bukit Timah Road. The group started the 3km walk from the truss bridge in Upper Bukit Timah Road at 8am, moving on to highlights such as the girder bridge in Hillview Avenue, the gated level crossing and KTM staff huts in Gombak Drive, before ending at the level crossing in Choa Chu Kang Road.

Armed with cameras, participants snapped pictures and waved with gusto every time a train rattled past. Train drivers and passengers alike waved cheerfully back.

Organised by environmental consultant Eugene Tay and conducted by naval architect Jerome Lim, a history buff, the walk was to raise awareness for the Nature Society of Singapore's (NSS') proposal to conserve the railway lands as a continuous strip of recreational space.

Mr Tay, 34, and Mr Lim, 46, are independent volunteers and not part of the society. Altogether, 600 people have gone on Mr Tay's monthly walks since he started them last November.

There are two reasons he supports NSS' proposal for a "green corridor".

"I want to help preserve shared memories. Buildings like the old National Library have disappeared in a fast-developing city. We need more of these things to remind us that this is Singapore," he said.

Secondly, he believes in creating a shared vision. He said: "A green corridor is not only for nature lovers, but also for history buffs and photographers."

TV personality Denise Keller, 29, who resides near The Rail Mall in Upper Bukit Timah Road, was among those who joined the walk. She said: "I hope that (the Government) will keep the railway, or save some of these tracks for the green corridor, because it's history."

The producer-host for Discovery Channel said that she used to take the train at least once every month as it is a "cheap, cheerful and really scenic" way of getting to the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

For retiree Sally Tan, 56, the sight of the truss bridge near The Rail Mall brought back memories of the nearby squatter hut that her late grandmother used to live in. "We didn't need a clock to tell the time - we went by the trains. I recall there was one that passed her house every day at 5pm," she said. The last of the squatters was resettled in the 1990s.

As for gate operator M. Manikavasam, 48, the railway has been his livelihood for the past 27 years. The Malaysian from Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, joined KTM as a repair man. He worked at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station for 13 years before becoming a gate operator.

Mr Manikavasam controls the traffic signals and railway barrier gates at Singapore's widest level crossing in Choa Chu Kang Road.

His kampung-like workplace is surrounded by flowering shrubs and fruit trees, and the jovial man obligingly allows visitors inside his little hut and demonstrates how he does his work.

"I love Singapore. I have been working here all my life, how can I not love (it here)? I am sad, very sad. But what to do?" he said. After Thursday - the last day KTM trains will ply the tracks from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands - he will be transferred to work in Kluang, Malaysia, and his salary will be halved, he added.

He will bid audieu to the last train when it passes his work station at 10.45pm on Thursday, driven by the Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor.

Over at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station last Saturday afternoon, throngs of people - easily hundreds - voraciously snapped photos for posterity and wolfed down goreng pisang by the wok.

The building has been gazetted as a national monument and the Bukit Timah railway station further north will also be conserved. The railway lands, spanning 173.7ha, belong to KTM but will be returned to Singapore on Friday.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said in a recent Facebook post that the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the National Parks Board have been in talks with NSS over the "green corridor" proposal.


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Organic gardens set to sprout up

Grace Chua Straits Times 27 Jun 11;

IN A corner of Bukit Panjang Park, a pocket-size organic garden is taking root.

The plot, the size of a couple of ping-pong tables, is the first of five community crop farming (ComCrop) projects to be set up in the neighbourhood by next year, and the first such neighbourhood project islandwide.

It was launched yesterday by North West District Mayor and Member of Parliament for Bukit Panjang Teo Ho Pin, to teach local community gardeners new farming techniques and boost both community spirit and food security.

Unlike conventional community gardens, which are fenced and locked, the ComCrop garden of lemongrass, pandan and dill is open to the elements, including neighbourhood troops of monkeys.

And it should be open to all comers. That is the vision of The Living Project, a joint venture between Alpha Biofuels and landscaping firm Garden Asia, which started the ComCrop programme early this year.

Any Bukit Panjang resident who wants to take part can sign up with his community club or residents' committee.

Alpha Biofuels chief executive Allan Lim said one key challenge was persuading community gardeners to work on a shared plot. But they were won over - now, 10 of the 80 resident gardeners in Bukit Panjang will tend the ComCrop plot as well as their own. They will harvest the produce to share with fellow gardeners and neighbours.

The new plot also uses organic compost, made from tonnes of used coffee grounds and brewery hops donated by Starbucks and Brewerkz.

It is built as a 'keyhole farm', an enclosed farm with plants at thigh level so elderly residents need not bend down to garden.

Also present at the launch was noted British primatologist and conservation advocate Jane Goodall. She urged people to eat less meat and more organically grown fruit and vegetables.

Dr Teo, meanwhile, encouraged people to use organic compost and cut back on synthetic fertilisers, which can cause pollution.

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Rare form of dengue hits Marsiling

Over 60 cases of Den-3 reported there since April, but no deaths
Huang Lijie & Jalelah Abu Baker Straits Times 27 Jun 11;

DENGUE-3, a form of dengue which is uncommon here, has hit the Marsiling area, with more than 60 cases reported since April.

No deaths due to the current outbreak have been reported, and there is no sign that it has spread to other parts of Singapore, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

Experts say Den-3, which has been previously reported here, is no more serious than the more common types of the virus, such as Den-1 and Den-2.

There are four types of dengue viruses circulating here, with Den-2 being the predominant form. It is detected in about 80 per cent of dengue cases surveyed.

But Singaporeans are more vulnerable to Den-3 because they may have little or no immunity against the infection, causing quicker dengue transmission.

In 2009, an unusually high number of cases of Den-3 was also reported in Little India and Geylang, prompting the Health Ministry to issue circulars to general practitioners (GPs).

The Marsiling area has seen two clusters of dengue transmission recently.

The current cluster, bordered by Marsiling Rise, Marsiling Road and Woodlands Street 13, was detected on May 19. It is the largest cluster so far this year, with 40 cases.

The first cluster was in Marsiling Rise and it was detected on April 21. Transmission in that cluster ended on April 30.

The NEA has stepped up control measures, with the outbreak of the second cluster in Marsiling.

Forty officers were added to an earlier team of 30 to search for and destroy potential mosquito breeding grounds.

The NEA is also now working with GPs in the area to encourage all suspected and confirmed dengue cases to apply insect repellent on themselves during this period.

Public outreach efforts have also been increased, including house visits and the distribution of insect repellents. Grassroots organisations in the area will also be putting up more public educational materials in the estate to notify residents.

The Sembawang-Nee Soon Town Council and agencies like the National Parks Board are also conducting checks and removing potential breeding spots.

A total of 53 breeding habitats were found in the first cluster, 38 in homes and 15 in outdoor areas. In the current dengue cluster in Marsiling, a total of 35 breeding habitats have been found so far, 25 in homes and 10 in outdoor areas.

The NEA said enforcement action has been taken against all parties found breeding Aedes mosquitoes.

Mr Hawazi Daipi, an MP for Sembawang GRC (Marsiling) and the chairman of Sembawang-Nee Soon Town Council, said: 'The NEA is working with the town council, which has engaged pest control firms to look into it.'

He added: 'It is important for all residents to be vigilant, to make sure that it doesn't spread and that there are no new clusters.'

Dr Fatimah Lateef, an emergency medicine specialist at Singapore General Hospital, said that in most dengue cases, the blood platelet count will drop and there is a tendency for bleeding.

She added that symptoms across the four forms of dengue are quite similar.

'The majority of those affected by dengue get symptoms like body aches, muscle aches, headaches, mild diarrhoea and vomiting,' said Dr Lateef, who is also an MP for Marine Parade GRC.

There were 1,600 dengue cases in the first five months of this year.

Uncommon strain of dengue hits Marsiling area
Ng Lian Cheong and Alvina Soh Today Online 27 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE - An uncommon strain of dengue has hit the Marsiling area, with 61 cases reported as of Friday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said residents may have little or no immunity against the Den-3 virus, leading to quicker dengue transmission.

However, the NEA assures the public that there is no indication of the strain spreading to other parts of the country at this point in time.

The Marsiling area has seen two clusters of dengue transmission recently, with the first detected at Marsiling Rise on April 21.

The second cluster detected on May 19 is also the largest so far this year.

The NEA has stepped up control measures in the area, including dispatching 70 officers to carry out mass operations to search and destroy potential breeding habitats.

The agency has also roped in various partners, including Sembawang Town Council and the National Parks Board (NParks) to fumigate the area.

At the Woodlands Town Park East, the NEA and NParks carried out search and destroy operations and applied biological controls to get rid of larvae, especially in the forested area. NParks contractors also stepped up combing of the area to remove discarded receptacles.

The NEA is working with general practitioners in the area to encourage all suspected and confirmed dengue cases to apply repellent on themselves during the infective period.

Public outreach efforts - including house visits and the distribution of insect repellents - have also been stepped up.

The NEA is advising residents to be alert to any potential mosquito breeding areas in their homes.

The agency said enforcement action will be taken against all parties found breeding the Aedes mosquito.

Uncommon dengue hits Marsiling
Channel NewsAsia 26 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: A rarely-seen type of dengue - DEN-3 - has hit the Marsiling area with more than 60 cases reported as of Friday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said residents may have little or no immunity against the infection, leading to quicker dengue transmission.

However, it added there is no sign for alarm that this form of dengue is spreading to the rest of the island.

The Marsiling area has seen two clusters of dengue transmission recently, with the first detected at Marsiling Rise on April 21.

The second cluster detected on May 19 is also the largest so far this year.

NEA has since stepped up control measures, including dispatching 70 officers to carry out mass operations to search and destroy potential breeding habitats.

The agency has also roped in various partners, including Sembawang Town Council and the National Parks Board to get rid of larvae.

A Marsiling resident told Channel NewsAsia he welcomed the increased monitoring.

Property agent Allen Lee recently contracted dengue along with other members of his family.

Mr Lee, his daughter as well as his domestic worker were affected for the first time.

"My daughter's platelets count dropped tremendously and she was feeling nauseous. She couldn't eat at all (and) was hospitalised at Mt Alvernia (while) my domestic maid was hospitalised at Tan Tock Seng CDC.

"The sad part was my wife had to do all the running (around) because three of us were down," he said.

NEA is also advising residents to be alert to any potential mosquito breeding areas in their homes.

The agency said enforcement action will be taken against all parties found breeding the Aedes mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee said he has also taken his own measures.

"My domestic worker has been taught... how to check for breeding (in places)... like pots of plants.

"I think the rest of the residents here have to be well-informed and also to do their part as a community," he said.


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Cats and humans at Chong Pang: Can they get along?

The humans and cats of Chong Pang haven't always been on the best terms. Now, they will be test subjects in a humane experiment that hopes to resolve the question ...
Teo Xuanwei Today Online 26 Jun 11;

The first time she saw cat poo at her doorstep one morning five months ago, Mdm Tan C M thought she was just plain unlucky. But, two weeks later, it happened again.

And despite her deploying obscure "remedies" such as mothballs and vinegar outside her house as repellents, the feline rebel struck again two more times in the following three months. The culprit was never caught in the act but the 52-year-old housewife believes one cat among the handful of strays in the neighbourhood was responsible for causing the mess outside her Yishun Avenue 5 flat.

There's also the overpowering stench that wafts into her house, soiled shoes and the flies the poo attracts that she had to put up with, she said in exasperation. And as the Chong Pang estate she lives in becomes the first to commit to a no-culling approach to spayed strays, Mdm Tan is clutched up about when, rather than if, the problem will resurface again.

"You sterilise the cats; they still need to do their business, right?" she said. "If you remove them, you don't have to worry about it anymore."

Cat Welfare Society (CWS) vice-president Veron Lau and other cat lovers Today spoke to, however, believe that it is unlikely a homeless cat was responsible for Mdm Tan's predicament. More possibly, it was the work of a pet cat that was allowed to roam.

Said cat caregiver Joey Goh, 39: "A stray would not know how to go up a high-rise building by itself." Culling cats, therefore, cures the symptoms but not the problem, she adds.

The differing mindsets depicts the perennial divide between the pro- and anti-sterilisation camps in the cat management conundrum that has been reopened in Chong Pang.

Last Saturday, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency K Shanmugam, who is also Law and Foreign Affairs Minister, announced that his ward will embark on a more humane programme to manage the population of stray cats in the area. This means the grassroots organisations and government bodies will work with animal welfare groups and activists to sterilise cats and care for them in a responsible manner, such as cleaning up food scraps.

At stake, possibly, is which way the Ministry of National Development swings in deciding how to handle cat complaints across the island henceforth.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who first revisited this issue in a June 2 blog post, said killing cats is "not the best way to go" and that he has put weight on the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to "seriously consider reviewing" its culling policy.

He added in the same post: "Where there are enough cat-lovers out there willing to own this problem, we can avoid culling in those estates."


For animal lovers, it is clear this is their shot at a return to the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme that was ditched in 2003 at the height of the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis - after unsubstantiated reports linking house cats and ferrets to the virus.

They believe the trap-neuter-release-manage (TNRM) method will effectively and humanely solve the cat population issue in the long run. A cat feeder in Chong Pang, who declined to be named, put it thus: "It's a chance to prove to detractors that sterilisation works and that there are enough animal lovers in the community who are capable of taking ownership and resolving the various concerns some people may be facing."

Although animal welfare activists have repeatedly argued that culling is but a band-aid fix - they reason that other homeless cats will quickly stream in to stake claim on vacated territories and the same nuisances will resurface - winning over those who have been left hapless by oft-voiced cat-related woes could be a tall order.

This group views cat-culling through clinical lenses, as simply a necessary evil that's their best shot at eradicating their woes for good.

Banker Kevin Lee, 30, who lives in Yishun Avenue 2, is one who has also been scarred by cat issues. Having spent S$1,800 on paint jobs on his car after it was purportedly scratched by homeless cats four times, he is looking at Chong Pang's new policy with trepidation.

"After you sterilise a cat, it doesn't make it not want to sleep on warm bonnets. If (culling) is something that has to be done to prevent the same problems from happening to me and other car owners, then no choice, you still have to do it," he said.

But Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals executive officer Deirdre Moss asked: "Other than some fur and some paw prints on the car, is there photographic evidence of a cat actively scratching a car? It takes quite a lot to be able to scratch a car's paint off. If it's true, there are solutions to be considered, such as devices that repel cats."

Even if one assumes this improbability, cat caregiver Ms Goh said: "It's about being reasonable. You park under a tree and your car gets stained by bird droppings, do you remove the bird? You suck up a lot of other things, why go out of the way to persecute cats?"

But Mr Lee had this counterpoint: "You cull crows too because they are a nuisance but nobody says anything. Do you think culling crows is humane? It's just a matter of how people view a particular animal."


The truth is some cat-related nuisances, such as the caterwauling racket in the dead of the night or unpleasant living spaces caused by irresponsible feeders who do not clean up food scraps, may persist.

What's needed is some tolerance and a little bit of time to educate people, said Ms Lau from the CWS. She said: "It's those who indiscriminately feed cats but do not clear up, or ignorant owners who allow their pets to roam or breed and then abandon the kittens that is the hurdle."

She noted that 70 per cent of complaints the CWS handles involve house cats or abandoned pets. "We're not saying everyone should be so tolerant and love cats too, but if people learn to be responsible, many of these problems can be managed."

Ms Moss also said: "Most people in general won't be against sterilisation in principle, it's just that they want a quick-fix solution to the issues they face. For them, here today-gone tomorrow is the best way, but it's not."

In fact, it could lead to other problems. For instance, the rat population could go up, as evidenced by the rat extermination drive that had to be launched in estates along Hume Avenue and Taman Jurong after the AVA returned to culling cats in 2003.

For some time now, the CWS has been working informally with the AVA and some town councils on resolving cat management issues through the sterilisation approach; Ms Lau also revealed that the CWS is in talks with other MPs - all favourable signs that more constituencies could follow Chong Pang's lead.

Mr Shanmugam, however, sought to rein in expectations a little. Responding to Today's queries, he said it was "premature to say how the Chong Pang cat management programme will affect the re-implementation of an islandwide sterilisation programme".

What he is hoping to do is simply to "put together a model which others could look at".

Indeed, much of how this test case plays out eventually still hinges on whether the wider community cares enough to do their bit for animal welfare.

When Today visited the bustling town last week, a shop attendant was cooing at and stroking a stray cat. Asked how he felt about cats roaming around, he said: "They are cute what, they come around so I play with it. Anyway I don't have to take care of it."

But does he think non-culling of cats is the way to go? The 30-something, who declined to be named, said wryly: "As long as they don't cause me problems."

Trap, neuter, release - but can it be managed?
by Teo Xuanwei
The trap-neuter-release-manage (TNRM) approach involves bringing a cat caught by professional trappers for sterilisation and returning it to its territory. Then the crucial next step is to foster responsible cat caregiving and ownership by engaging the community.

This multi-pronged approach is favoured by animal welfare activists because it addresses the root of most cat-related complaints.

Sterilised cats, identified by their clipped left ears, feel no need to mate. What this means is an end to cats roaming large tracts of the estate and marking territories with pee, catfights over mates and caterwauling.

Releasing the cats back to their communities stops new strays from moving in to fill the vacuum and keeps the cat population - as well as rat and cockroach numbers - in check, studies in other countries have shown.

The "manage" aspect of the approach though, could be its Achilles heel because it involves sustained education efforts. Littering issues, for instance, would be resolved if cat lovers just bothered to clear up after leaving out food scraps for strays. Then there is pet abandonment by owners who are uneducated, can't afford to sterilise their cats or don't know how to care for them.

A review of the ban on cat ownership in HDB estates would greatly boost efforts to educate owners and nip abandonment in the bud, said Cat Welfare Society vice-president Veron Lau.

"Because (ownership) is outlawed, cat owners will not come forward to ask for advice or help. We are not able to reach out to them." Teo Xuanwei

'We will work hard to make sure it's sustainable'
In the past week, Mr K Shanmugam says, he has gotten "an overwhelming number of emails, posts on my Facebook Wall and letters of support" from animal lovers and "residents who support the spirit of civic engagement that is going into this project".

But there are also some who have expressed reservations over whether efforts to promote responsible cat ownership can be successful. The MP for Nee Soon GRC said, in response to Today's queries: "They are valid concerns, and we will have to work hard to make sure that the programme is sustainable."

On why Chong Pang is serving as the first test case for reviving the sterilisation-not-culling approach, Mr Shanmugam said he was approached by the Cat Welfare Society a few weeks ago through the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society, which he has helped for some years. They agreed on a pilot programme with the support of volunteers.

He revealed that there are those who want to extend the programme to managing stray dogs. "I think this is encouraging. We need to, however, make sure that we can deliver before expanding further."

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Indonesia: Locals help dolphins return to the wild

Maria Kegel The Jakarta Post 27 Jun 11;

Locals living near the Dolphin Rehabilitation Center in Kemujan, Karimun Jawa, are lending their support to the center’s team, who aim to return to the wild dolphins accidentally caught by fishermen or used in the entertainment industry, by getting involved with their programs.

The center is the first permanent facility in the world to rehabilitate and release dolphins back into the wild and was set up to help dolphins illegally captured in the area readapt again to their natural environment.

The initiative comes under the jurisdiction of the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the ministry of forestry (PHPA) and is run by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), named as the official partners of the program.

Local fishermen have been enlisted to help monitor released dolphins by reporting their sightings of those that have been freeze-branded, a method in which a branding iron of a simple symbol is applied with liquid nitrogen to the top of the dolphins’ dorsal fins.

“Every dolphin will get a different logo, and the branding lasts just over a year,” American dolphin expert and program team member Lincoln O’Barry said.

He remarked that since these dolphins would be staying around the area, people would be coming across them and this was an easy way for reporting their sightings. GPS transmitters would also be used to track released dolphins.

“We only have one boat, but there are hundreds of fishermen in the area, so when we distribute pictures of the logos to the fishermen, and when they are out there, they’ll be our eyes and ears out on the water, and they can say ‘Yeah, we saw ‘the star’ [dolphin] over here or ‘the moon’ over there’, and that’s an easy way to identify them.”

He said they had briefed all the fishermen and organized them into groups of 30 with one person appointed in the groups for everyone to report their sightings to.

The importance and popularity of ecotourism has been highlighted during dolphin awareness presentations to community members as one of the benefits for having the cetaceans returned to the area.

Team member Femke den Haas, also one of the founders of JAAN, called ecotourism a positive activity when there was no negative impact on the dolphins while having a positive impact on the local economy.

“The only way the infrastructure on this island is going to get better is if there is more tourism. If more tourists come, the phone service will get better and the power will stay on all the time, and the roads will get better, people will go out to restaurants, rent cars and stay in hotels — that’s supporting the whole community,” O’Barry said.

Den Haas said other immediate plans include bringing the Trash and Carry project from the Thousands Islands to Karimun Jawa, so locals could start recycling tossed plastic packaging into useful products, such as pencil cases, aprons, and school satchels.

“We’ve done two workshops on recycling [for locals] and brought over sewing machines, which people are trying out now,” she said.

Beach cleanups were ongoing in the area as well as transplanting coral fragments to restore damaged reefs, which is carried out by the team and National Park staff.

Most dolphins that end up in fishermen’s nets or are captured for the entertainment trade in Indonesia have come from Karimun Jawa where there is a resident pod. The problem of widespread dolphin captures from the Karimun Jawa area caught the attention of the directorate general of forest protection and nature conservation of the forestry ministry (PHPA) last year, and JAAN was approached for help in returning them to the wild. As JAAN is a small organization, den Haas said they turned to Earth Island Institute (EII) for their expertise and resources.

The site for the center was selected based on its close proximity to the captured dolphins’ original habitat after JAAN and the National Park staff conducted a survey of the area.

“We’re only returning the dolphins that were captured from here — we are not adding dolphins to the population here,” explained Den Haas, who is originally from Holland.

Since construction was completed on the sea pen at the end of February, Den Haas noted that temporary permits would be extremely difficult to get for dolphins that in the past would have ended up in the entertainment trade after a rescue loophole was used to get them from fishermen who would say the marine mammals had been caught in their nets.

“If any dolphins are accidentally caught and are wounded they would have to be brought to the sea pen, because it’s the official rehabilitation pen for dolphins, so by having the sea pen here, nobody can take in dolphins under the guise of ‘rescue’ again,” she said.

Although den Haas said the team had encountered more opposition to this program than the raptor and macaque monkey rehabilitation and release programs JAAN runs in the Thousand Islands, she said that “staying dedicated and knowing that we are doing the right thing”, was helping her cope when obstacles appeared.

“The hardest part of all this work is the ‘before’ work, because the actual work with dolphins is the easy part — they know what to do,” O’Barry said. “The hard part is the red tape in the beginning and the fighting to get the dolphins. Always, no matter where it is in the world, because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry when you add it up,” O’Barry said.

He pointed out some of the parks had been identified where almost all their dolphins are illegally caught and the people involved had spent large amounts of money building pools, filtration systems and feeding them, so they didn’t want to lose their money.

“They should have thought about that before they started a business based on an illegal action — maybe they can turn their pool into
a waterslide park, and nobody would have any objection to that,” O’Barry said.

His remarks were made in reference to a recent visit to locals by owners of dolphins in the entertainment trade who threatened to protest the program should their dolphins be brought back to the center for release.

Although there is a lack of data on the number of dolphins in Indonesia’s waters, endemic species include the Bottlenose and Striped Dolphins and transient species include the Long-Beaked Common Dolphin. All dolphins in Indonesia are protected.

Den Haas said this five-year program would provide an opportunity to work with universities to survey and document data on the dolphin species that pass through there.

Many locals recognize the benefits of their involvement in the program. Ali Muarif, who helped build the sea pen for the dolphins in the program, called its month-long construction period an interesting learning time for him, saying that he had to make it strong and of good quality for its purpose.

Ali was appointed by the National Park to represent the park on the team as full-time help. Since March, he has been maintaining the sea pen daily, ensuring no debris is caught in the netting and it is safe and secure for when the first dolphins finally arrive.

Originally from the Kemujan area of the island, Ali has grown up often seeing dolphins in the local waters, and said his mind would be more at ease if the friendly marine mammals taken from Karimun Jawa could be returned home.

“I still come across them often [in the open water]. It’s important to have them here to draw tourists to our area. Dolphins are beautiful and good creatures that deserve to be in the wild and I’d rather see them in the ocean than locked up in some enclosure,” Ali said.

Caught in net of delays
Maria Kegel Jakarta Post 20 Jun 11;

Every day, team members of the Dolphin Rehabilitation Center in Karimunjawa wait for news of when the first marine mammal participants will be brought to the center.

But no word has come, and the 30 meter-by-30 meter sea pen built for the rehabilitation program remains empty.

“We finished the facilities and got the needed equipment three months ago, so we’ve been ready to accept dolphins that were illegally captured from the area to readapt them to the wild and hopefully reunite them with their families,” said Femke den Haas, a team member and one of the founders of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), which was named the official partner of the Forestry Ministry in running the program.

“There’s no reason to keep them suffering in captivity any longer. It’s up to the forestry department to take the next step and enforce the law.”

Although the reasons for the delays have not been made clear, team member Lincoln O’Barry believes things will fall into place.

“I think once we have dolphins in the sea pen, and the government sees the benefit and the positive publicity they’ll get, things will start to snowball a lot quicker, but we just need to get over that first push,” said O’Barry, who has assisted in the rehabilitation and release of dolphins in a dozen other countries.

The center in Karimunjawa is the first permanent facility in the world to rehabilitate and release dolphins back into the wild. O’Barry said the other sea pens constructed abroad were only temporary and were dismantled after the dolphins’ release due to their low numbers.

“Since dozens of dolphins are kept illegally in captivity [here], which is also stated clearly in the MOU signed between JAAN and the Forestry Ministry, there is a need for permanent rehabilitation facilities here,” den Haas said.

A five-year MOU to protect dolphins was signed in November 2010 between Forestry Ministry officials and the JAAN team.

The sea pen, which stands about 50 meters from shore, is made with imported polyester netting fastened securely to the sea floor 3.5 meters deep, and is intended for long-term use.

“It can hold up to six to 10 dolphins, although we want to select dolphins that we can let go as a group,” said O’Barry, who helped build the pen.

“Nothing has ever been attempted anywhere like this where a permanent facility is built for so many dolphins on such a big scale and it will be a constant revolving door for dolphins released back into the wild,” he said.

The design is based on well-known dolphin advocate Ric O’Barry’s 45 years of experience in rehabilitating dolphins before their release.

Biologist and JAAN wildlife rehabilitation specialist, Benvika, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name, said there were important reasons why the rehabilitation process provides captive animals with a fair chance to survive back in the wild.

“The dolphins need time to readapt to life in the sea after spending more than a year and a half in a tiny pool. They need to regain their hunting skills and echolocation (biosonar) capabilities; these all need to be developed and brought back up to normal levels again,” Benvika said.

The rehabilitation center in Karimunjawa follows the protocols for rehabilitation, and tossing dolphins straight back into the sea is against international standards and against their welfare and well-being, said den Haas.

The center’s team comprises American dolphin expert and filmmaker Lincoln O’Barry and his father, former dolphin trainer turned activist Ric O’Barry, who last year won an Academy Award for Best Documentary with his movie, The Cove, members of the JAAN team and its volunteers, a local support network, as well as two veterinarians and two biologists.

The dolphin rehabilitation and release program at the center is under the jurisdiction of the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry (PHKA) and is run by their official partners, JAAN, the National Park of Karimunjawa (Balai Taman Nasional Karimun Jawa BTN) and program sponsors, the Earth Island Institute (EII).

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Melting Arctic Ice Marks Possible Sea Change in Marine Ecosystems

Wynne Parry Yahoo News 26 Jun 11;

A single-celled alga that went extinct in the North Atlantic Ocean about 800,000 years ago has returned after drifting from the Pacific through the Arctic thanks to melting polar ice. And while its appearance marks the first trans-Arctic migration in modern times, scientists say it signals something potentially bigger.

"It is an indicator of rapid change and what might come if the Arctic continues to melt," said Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in the United Kingdom.

Arctic sea ice has been in decline for roughly three decades, and in several more recent summers, a passage has opened up between the Pacific and Atlantic. In as little as 30 years, Arctic summers are projected to become nearly ice free. [Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points]

The findings, first reported in 2007, are among the 300 European Union-funded research papers being synthesized by a collaborative project dubbed CLAMER for Climate Change & European Marine Ecosystem Research. All of this work explores the effects of climate change on marine environments, documenting evidence of major transitions under way in the waters around Europe and the North Atlantic.

Many shifts

The alga, called Neodenticula seminae, belongs to a group of organisms with glasslike walls known as diatoms. The diatom is not the only living thing that may have taken advantage of retreating Arctic sea ice to travel.

In 2010, a gray whale appeared in the Mediterranean Sea. This species was thought to be confined to the Pacific Ocean, disappearing from the North Atlantic in the 1700s. This whale's voyage was most likely made possible by shrinking Arctic sea ice, concluded researchers writing in the journal Marine Biodiversity Research.

Work compiled so far by CLAMER contains evidence of many changes within European waters. Species are moving northward — for example, fish diversity is increasing in the North Sea as it warms. Warming water is also causing problems by interfering with organisms' timing. For instance, Baltic clam spawning is timed to allow larvae to take advantage of the bloom in tiny plants while avoiding predatory juvenile shrimp. However, warming water interferes with this sequence and hurts the clam's reproduction. Yet other research documented shifts in the population of copepods, tiny crustaceans, with potentially serious consequences for fisheries, including cod, which depend on the critters for food.

"The major thing about this climate change is the rate at which things are happening at this moment. … We had change, we had warming, we had cooling, we had ice ages, but it was always slower than things are going now," said Katja Philippart, a marine biologist with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and a coordinator for CLAMER. "The rate is unprecedented."

Life in the modern seas faces added stresses — pollution, habitat loss, acidification and heavy fishing — that did not exist during prior shifts in climate not caused by humans, Philippart said.

No welcome back

The diatom that Reid and colleagues discovered in the North Atlantic disappeared from this part of the globe long ago, according to evidence found in sediment on the seafloor, Reid said.

Until recently, it remained in the more favorable conditions of the Pacific Ocean before reappearing in large numbers in a plankton survey in May 1999 in the Labrador Sea. The diatom most likely traversed the Arctic thanks to melting sea ice, according to Reid and colleagues.

Declining Arctic sea ice reached a milestone in the summer of 1998 when the ice pulled back completely from the Arctic coasts of Alaska and Canada, opening up the Northwest passage through which the diatom may have passed, Reid and colleagues write in their report of the diatom's return published in the journal Global Change Biology in 2007.

"The diatom could act in competition with other species of diatoms or other species of algae (and) could theoretically lead to the extinctions, but I think that is highly unlikely," Reid told LiveScience.

Like most introduced or returning species, it will likely settle into a niche, he said.

However, its arrival is likely a precursor to others, such as fish from the Pacific, with potentially greater impacts on life in the North Atlantic, he said.

"Because of the unusual nature of the event, it appears that a threshold has been passed, marking a change in the circulation between the North Pacific and the North Atlantic Oceans via the Arctic," Reid and colleagues concluded in 2007.

CLAMER's work is scheduled to conclude withan international conference at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium, Sept. 14-15.

Whales, plankton migrate across Northwest Passage
Arthur Max Associated Press Yahoo News 26 Jun 11;

AMSTERDAM – When a 43-foot (13-meter) gray whale was spotted off the Israeli town of Herzliya last year, scientists came to a startling conclusion: it must have wandered across the normally icebound route above Canada, where warm weather had briefly opened a clear channel three years earlier.

On a microscopic level, scientists also have found plankton in the North Atlantic where it had not existed for at least 800,000 years.

The whale's odyssey and the surprising appearance of the plankton indicates a migration of species through the Northwest Passage, a worrying sign of how global warming is affecting animals and plants in the oceans as well as on land.

"The implications are enormous. It's a threshold that has been crossed," said Philip C. Reid, of the Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.

"It's an indication of the speed of change that is taking place in our world in the present day because of climate change," he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Reid said the last time the world witnessed such a major incursion from the Pacific was 2 million years ago, which had "a huge impact on the North Atlantic," driving some species to extinction as the newcomers dominated the competition for food.

Reid's study of plankton and the research on the whale, co-authored by Aviad Scheinin of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center, are among nearly 300 scientific papers written over the last 13 years that are being synthesized and published this year by Project Clamer, a collaboration of 17 institutes on climate change and the oceans.

Changes in the oceans' chemistry and temperature could have implications for fisheries, as species migrate northward to cooler waters, said Katja Philippart, of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research who is coordinating the project funded by the European Union.

"We try to put the information on the table for people who have to make decisions. We don't say whether it's bad or good. We say there is a high potential for change," she said.

The Northwest Passage, the route through the frigid archipelago from Alaska across northern Canada, has been ice-free from one end to the other only twice in recorded history, in 1998 and 2007. But the ice pack is retreating farther and more frequently during the summers.

Plankton that had previously been found only in Atlantic sea bed cores from 800,000 years ago appeared in the Labrador Sea in 1999 — and then in massive numbers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence two years later. Now it has established itself as far south as the New York coast, Reid said.

The highly endangered gray whale sighted off the Israeli coast in May 2010 belonged to a species that was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic by the mid-1700s. The same animal — identified by unique markings on its fluke, or tail fin — appeared off the Spanish coast 22 days later, and has not been reported seen since.

Though it was difficult to draw conclusions from one whale, the researchers said its presence in the Mediterranean "coincides with a shrinking of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change and suggests that climate change may allow gray whales to re-colonize the North Atlantic."

That may be good for the whales, but other aspects of the ice melt could be harmful to the oceans' biosystems, the scientists warn.

Plankton is normally the bottom of the marine food chain, but some are more nutritious than others. Plankton changes have been blamed for the collapse of some fish stocks and threats to fish-eating birds in the North Sea, the studies show.

The migration of a solitary whale and two species of plankton is not of much concern so far, Reid said. "It's the potential for further ones to come through if the Arctic opens. That's the key message."

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