Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 11

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

White-bellied Sea Eagle mobbing Grey Herons
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Passers-by distracted by swinging monkey near Woodleigh MRT station from Lazy Lizard's Tales and 'Goondu' snake gets head stuck in drink can at Marsiling Drive

Octopuses mating at Terumbu Bemban?
from wonderful creation

Shufen shares about our mangroves
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly Hunting@USR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Nangka in the Rain
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Nangka Trail, durian Loop
from Singapore Nature and MacRitchie Lornie trail

Malayan Water Monitor
from Monday Morgue

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Public service and civil society: The lines are starting to blur

The public service and civil society are beginning to collaborate more - and that can only be good for all
Eugene K B Tan Today Online 25 Jul 11;

Earlier this month, there were two contrasting stories about how Singaporeans and ministries and government agencies were engaging each other on matters that they are concerned with.

First, the Ministry of National Development (MND) announced on July 11 that it would form an inter-agency task force to review pet ownership and stray animal management policies. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will collaborate with the Cat Welfare Society and three town councils in piloting the Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme as an alternative means of managing stray cats.

The MND explained that the review of pet ownership and stray animal management policies occurs against the backdrop of "growing public awareness and concern for animals". Different stakeholders will be engaged to address their problems and concerns.

The review is ultimate objective is "to create a conducive shared living environment for everyone". This presumably includes animals as well as residents regardless of whether they were animal lovers or not. This tentative shift of a long-standing policy followed an extended period of engagement by animal welfare groups on the issue.

The MND's approach is an attempt at what has been termed "service co-creation". In essence, it is about a Government and civil society partnership, with collaboration and cooperation being the hallmarks in the delivery of public services or in the formulation of policies at the municipal and national level.

It is very much about tapping the social capital, local knowledge and domain expertise within a community to benefit the community, while enhancing the stock of social capital in the process. Co-creation also acknowledges the limitations of the Government in delivering public services, and that money alone is inadequate in the effective and efficacious delivery of public services with a human touch.

Grassroots expertise can be a force multiplier in service delivery. Service co-creation can also lower the "transaction costs" of delivering public services because it seeks to tap local knowledge and work with the local community which has a vested interest in the outcomes.


Driving this trend is the desire of citizens to be involved and not be a mere digit in policy-making and policy implementation.

As a society matures, post-material considerations become more important. People increasingly seek self-fulfillment, self-actualisation and to be consulted on issues that concern them or affect their communities. This sense of involvement and engagement is an important manifestation of active citizenry.

In Singapore's context, service co-creation is not a wholly new idea - the "many helping hands" approach to social service is a good example. Yet beyond the social services sector, the question has been: How keen is the public service to reach out and collaborate in a substantive manner? If "collaboration" is more form than substance, this may put the brakes on service co-creation because community partners are likely to shy away from lip service.

The May General Election might just have been the catalyst for action. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, in a speech to public officers a week after the GE, noted that it was "neither effective nor sustainable" for the public service to try to solve problems on its own. The public service needed to "create an environment where public officers can work hand-in-glove with the people they serve to address the issues and create greater public value".

DPM Teo added that an engaged citizenry "will provide the foundation for a more resilient and cohesive society".

We can certainly expect more service co-creation; it may well be the next big thing in active citizenry. This year's HeritageFest and the SportsVision 2030 are examples of the larger effort of consultation, collaboration and engagement.

But the modalities of collaboration will have to be worked out, as there cannot be a one size fits all approach. Both Government and civil society must approach service co-creation with open minds, and realise it may not be suitable in all instances. There must be realistic expectations about what service co-creation can do - and what it cannot do.


In this regard, the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) engagement of a group of Maplewoods condominium residents who had been seeking to relocate a MRT launch shaft away from their property is insightful. The residents proposed that the launch shaft - needed to lower and launch tunnel boring machines for construction of the underground Downtown Line 2 - be located instead at Sixth Avenue, a few blocks away.

Regretfully, that proposal smacked of a "not in my backyard" mindset. The relocation proposal would require the acquisition and demolition of 10 shophouse units at Sixth Avenue, or for the occupants to move elsewhere while construction takes place with the shophouses to be rebuilt later.

Such a move apparently would delay the project by 38 months and add S$500 million to the projected total cost of S$12 billion. The LTA also responded in a 10-page letter detailing measures to minimise the adverse impact of the construction of the King Albert Park MRT Station. In the meantime, the LTA halted drilling work for a month as it consulted and engaged residents on their concerns.

In service co-creation, a key question that will have to be addressed is whether the relationship is one of equal partners. Certainly, each partner will bring its strengths to the table and it may not be helpful to talk in terms of who is in charge. But the reality is that the Government will ultimately be held responsible, especially if things turn out badly. So, cautiousness on the part of the public service is not surprising.

Yet, service co-creation is important for the public service and for Singapore. The public service does not have the monopoly on wisdom, and the public policies ultimately must serve the people and engender buy-in.

At the same time, service co-creation requires more than just volunteerism on the part of the community. It is about being involved, responsible and steadfast to the commitment undertaken. Volunteerism may lack the degree of accountability needed for a sustained delivery of high-quality public services.

When co-creation has taken root, we can look at such services as community generated, delivered and consumed. The distinction between what is public and what is people sector will be blurred.

Eugene K B Tan is assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law.

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Greening of Singapore still going strong

'Majulah! The Singapore Spirit' is the theme of this year's National Day Parade. In the third of a four-part series, The Straits Times is featuring one of four Singapore icons which embody this onward, progressive spirit
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 25 Jul 11;

HIGH on the summit of Mount Faber is a tree that turns 40 this year.

It is a rain tree, thick with a massive crown, indistinguishable from thousands that dot every part of Singapore.

It is the tree that helped give birth to a movement. It was Nov 7, 1971. The late Dr Goh Keng Swee, who was acting prime minister then, took up a spade, put the sapling into the ground and declared the first-ever Tree Planting Day under way.

What followed was a 'mass production of trees', said National Parks Board (NParks) chief executive Poon Hong Yuen, 41.

More than a million trees took root here, not just rain trees but also sea apple trees, acacias and pong pongs. There were also fruit trees - coconuts, pomelos, rambutans and mangosteens, each tempting the light-fingered and hungry.

They found their place in housing estates and along expressways, in Orchard Road and even Changi Airport.

It was a plan coming to fruition.

'After independence, I searched for some dramatic way to distinguish ourselves from other Third World countries,' former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew wrote in his 2000 memoir, From Third World To First. 'I settled for a clean and green Singapore.'

The trees not only provided food but also offered shade, lowered the temperature of the country in the tropics and boosted the morale of Singaporeans who took pride in the verdant city.

Some even fell in love.

Mr Abdul Harim, 51, has worked for NParks for more than 25 years. He leads a group of specialists who inspect damaged trees in Singapore.

'I grew up in a kampung surrounded by trees,' he said. 'You learn that trees are like humans, each one is unique.'

Following his calling, he went to the National University of Singapore (NUS), graduated with a degree in science with honours in botany and joined NParks.

Tree Planting Day lasted 20 years, replaced in 1990 by Good Environment Week. The new name reflected an expansion to include waste, noise and ozone pollution control, but trees remained at the heart of it.

'Nature reserves are a natural heritage of Singapore that have not been cared for in a manner that they should have been,' said then NParks chief Tan Wee Kiat a year into the new programme.

Seeds from Bukit Timah Nature Reserve were planted in Upper Peirce to reforest it. The Ministry of National Development launched a census to keep track of plant biodiversity here.

The repair work continues today.

Next Sunday, work will start on a green bridge to connect two parts of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which was bisected in 1987 by an expressway. Under a plan to link green spaces, there will be 300km of park connectors built by 2015.

'We did a lot of damage in the name of progress,' said Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the NUS science faculty. He co-edited the first encyclo-paedia on Singapore's biodiversity which was launched last week.

A joint study by NUS and the University of Adelaide last year found that Singapore had destroyed 90 per cent of its forests in the past three decades. It named the Republic the worst environmental offender out of 179 countries surveyed.

There have been other naysayers. Earlier this year, Dr Geh Min, the former president of the Nature Society (Singapore) and a former Nominated MP, told The Straits Times that the Government's 'top-down' approach to greenery does not convey respect for nature.

'Instead, it's the feeling that you can create anything if you have the money,' she said.

Mr Poon disagreed then. 'Almost half of our country is green. We increased the number of trees and shrubs at a time when the population exploded by 60 per cent. Rather than 'artificial', I would say it's 'extraordinary', the product of sheer will and hard work.'

And it continues. About 10,000 saplings are planted each year by NParks alone. Last year, Sembcorp Industries sponsored the Sembcorp Forest of Giants at Telok Blangah Hill Park. Families adopt trees for their children as gifts or wedding presents. Gardens by the Bay, Singapore's billion-dollar ode to greenery, will open its doors next year.

In 2009, the United Nations praised Singapore's efforts over the years: 'Greenery can be found here in every nook and cranny.'

For Mr Harim, the love endures.

He said he will check on the trees here as long as he can, with his plain screw-driver and more advanced tools.

He said: 'You love it, you put your heart into it. That's all there is to it.'

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Consider other sources of dinosaur fossils

Straits Times Forum 25 Jul 11;

THE Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is a little-known but fantastic nature museum.

When my children were younger, I took them there a few times. They, especially my elder son, were very intrigued by the wide range of life-sized specimens, some of which belonged to rare or endangered species

I am sure that the visits helped to inspire my son's love for science.

A few years back, my children and I visited a dinosaur museum in China's Hubei province. After viewing the indoor exhibits - we were wowed by the huge, complete fossils - we were led to a hilly area to see many other dinosaur and dinosaur egg fossils still buried there.

Yes, Singapore should have dinosaur fossils in its own museum. No matter how many dinosaur books a child reads or how many dinosaur shows he watches, the experience can never be the same as seeing fossils with his own eyes.

Raffles Museum should look into alternative ways to acquire dinosaur fossils. Look to China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan or even some African countries. Don't just pay and get the bones back, but have Singaporean scientists and students work with the locals to do the excavation, reconstruction and preservation work.

With a fraction of the $12 million cited, we would not only have a large number of Singaporeans experiencing the process at first hand, but also have them helping the local community to preserve their history.

Chen Bin

Is spending $12m on bones the best option?
Straits Times Forum 25 Jul 11;

THE main focus of any museum is to attract as many visitors as possible, educate them and create interest in disciplines such as science, culture, history and the arts.

The question, as Ms Ong Sor Fern ("What have dinosaurs got to do with S'pore?"; July 16) rightly pointed out, is whether spending such a significant portion of the budget is the best choice or not.

If we give $1 to each visitor to encourage participation and interest from the public, the $12m or much less would go a long way.

I am not suggesting that should be the way to spend the money, but it surely beats a set of imported bones.

Lo Chung

Alternative ways to inspire and awe
Straits Times Forum 25 Jul 11;

WHILE I have no doubt that dinosaur fossils would awe and draw crowds, I wonder if that is all we are expecting from the natural history museum ("Museum's $12m race for dino family"; July 10).

The museum is not simply an institution that educates the next generation about matters of zoological and evolutionary importance. It has a responsibility to maintain its position as the guardian of one of the largest collections of South-east Asian fauna in the region.

Surprisingly missing from the discussion thus far is what alternative we can have to inspire and awe.

What about the whale bone so entrenched in the collective memories of the older generation? Why has there been no discussion to bring this memorable exhibit back to Singapore?

The natural history museum needs to look beyond nature and insert history into its agenda. That might be one way it can remain relevant to Singaporeans as a guardian of our common history and collective memories.

Fiona Tan (Ms)

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Malaysia: Firefly conservation in the mangroves

Group takes a shine to fireflies
New Straits Times 24 Jul 11;

TAIPING: A team of firefly conservationists is going all out to bring the 'light' back to the mangroves.

The team calls itself KECAP, or "Pertubuhan Kelip-kelip Cahaya Alam Perak", which is working with the Malaysian Nature Society to educate and rope in the locals of Kampung Dew, near here, in firefly conservation efforts right in their backyard.

Kampung Dew is among several known areas with a thriving colony of fireflies.

Here, fireflies can be found flitting along the riverbank of the Matang Mangrove Forest and live in harmony with the locals, including fishermen and plantation workers, who depend on the mangrove habitat for their livelihood.

KECAP consists of 19 members, including patron Datuk Rosli Husin, the state assemblyman for Trong and Bukit Gantang Umno division chief. It was formed in February.

MNS president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed told the New Straits Times yesterday that MNS, KECAP and the state government were cooperating in promoting Kampung Dew's firefly colony. The parties had now embarked on a programme called "Pesta Kelip-Kelip 2011" (Firefly Festival).

The main objective of the festival, which was launched here yesterday, is to raise awareness on the importance of the fireflies and their habitats.

Maketab said there was great concern for the rapid loss of mangroves, fresh water and peat swamps along the river systems in the country and its effect on the fireflies.

A thriving firefly colony would also provide a means for the locals of Kampung Dew to promote the village to nature lovers.

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Malaysia: First satellite tagging of proboscis monkey in Borneo

The Star 24 Jul 11;

SANDAKAN: The Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre have fitted a satellite tag on a proboscis monkey in the Kinabatangan region as part of its conservation initiative for the primate endemic in Borneo.

The department's director Dr Laurentius Ambu said this was the first time in Borneo that a proboscis monkey was tagged with a satellite device.

"It is the start of a long-term research and conservation programme initiated by our department and the Danau Girang Field Centre and funded by Sime Darby Foundation," he said in a statement here Sunday.

Ambu said the programme was extremely important for the conservation of the proboscis monkey, an endangered species in Borneo.

He said one of the outputs would be the presentation of results at an international workshop on the conservation of proboscis monkeys in Borneo that would be organised in Kota Kinabalu at the end of the programme.

"We fully appreciate the support of Sime Darby Foundation for this programme as well as the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort which support our Wildlife Rescue Unit involved in fieldwork," added Ambu.

The department's Chief Wildlife Veterinarian Dr Senthilvel Nathan said the 24kg male was caught by members of the Wildlife Rescue Unit and Danau Girang Field Centre personnel during the course of a proboscis monkey programme last week.

The programme was a collaboration between the department, the field centre and Cardiff University.

"We will catch proboscis monkeys in the whole state to collect blood for genetic analyses and parasite identification, saliva for viruses and bacteria, ectoparasites and morphometric data.

"We will also fit 10 individuals with satellite tags in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary," added Nathan.

Meanwhile, the field centre's director, Dr Benoit Goossens, said the satellite tagging was to fully understand the ranging patterns of proboscis monkeys and the "stressors impacting their movements and density."

This was to determine the adequate amount of habitat available in order to sustain a continuous viable population in the Kinabatangan region, he added.

One of the objectives is to identify the effectiveness of conservation corridors versus simple river buffer and to produce a model that can be used in conjunction with other projects.

It is also to report on the effective conservation development of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. - Bernama

Monkey gets a satellite collar
Roy Goh New Straits Times 24 Jul 11;

KINABATANGAN: Sabah's wildlife preservation programme marked another milestone when a proboscis monkey was the first of its species to be tagged with a satellite device.

It was the eighth animal tagged, either with a satellite device or a radio collar this year in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary here and the Danum Valley Research Centre in Lahad Datu.

A state Wildlife Department team coordinated the operation, which was jointly carried out with the Danau Girang Field Centre with funding from Sime Darby Foundation, in an effort to learn more about the species and find better ways to preserve it in the wild.

The other species tagged were a slow loris, a tarsier, a crocodile, a clouded leopard, a sun bear and an elephant.

Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said it was the first time a proboscis monkey was tagged on the island of Borneo, the only place where the species is found.

"This programme is vital for the conservation of the proboscis monkey in Sabah, an endemic and endangered species in Borneo."

Its chief veterinarian Dr Senthilvel Nathan said the tagged monkey was a healthy 24kg male.

"We will catch more proboscis monkeys to collect samples of blood for genetic analysis and parasite identification, saliva for viruses and bacteria, ectoparasites and morphometric data.

"We plan to tag 10 animals in the sanctuary."

Danau Girang director Dr Benoit Goosens said the satellite tagging would allow them to track the ranging patterns of the wildlife and its movements.

"This could help determine the adequate size of the habitat available to sustain a continuous viable population in the Kinabatangan region.

"We also want to identify the effectiveness of conservation corridors versus a simple river buffer and to produce a model which can be used in conjunction with other projects."

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New Guide: When to Move Species Struggling with Climate Change

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Yahoo News 25 Jul 11;

As climate changes make native habitats unlivable to plants and animals, these species have two choices: Leave or go extinct. Now, researchers are offering guidance on when conservationists should undertake the last-ditch strategy of transplanting struggling species to new habitats.

Rats, fire ants, Asian carp, kudzu vines — humans have created a great deal of trouble for ourselves by transporting living things, intentionally or not, outside their native ranges, where they become invasive. So, the idea of intentionally relocating other species, even to save them, naturally raises concerns.

However, that hasn't stopped some from testing the idea. In England, for example, researchers transported marbled white butterflies and small skipper butterflies to new habitat well beyond the northern boundary of their native range, to a location climate change models suggested would make a good habitat. Over the following eight years, both species thrived, and, writing in the journal Conservation Letters in 2009, the British biologists concluded that the butterflies flourished in places they could not reach on their own.

The newest work, which appears Sunday (July 24) online in the journal Nature Climate Change, outlines a framework for conservationists deciding when, and if, to attempt assisted migration, as it is called.

If conservationists are certain how climate change will harm an organism's habitat, the best time to relocate is strongly affected by the suitability of the destination relative to the home site, the species' survival rate expected in their new digs, and the maximum growth rate. However, if the population in question is below a certain size, it should never be relocated, write the authors, led by Eve McDonald-Madden of the University of Queensland and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, part of Australia's national science agency. [Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming]

The team also came up with a model for determining the timing of relocation for a species living in an environment where the effects of climate change are uncertain.

"The decision to move a species to a new area given the impact of climactic change is far from simple," they write.

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