Best of our wild blogs: 3 Aug 11

5-20 August: Green Screen 2011
from Green Drinks Singapore

Saga of the Seacil
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Monkey spotted at Choa Chu Kang Ave 3

Magnificent part of Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

bullfrogs @ West Coast Park canal 31July2011
from sgbeachbum

Dance of the juvenile Little Terns
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A Checklist of the Algae of Singapore
from Raffles Museum News

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New projects may spell end of floating oil storage off Johor

Ronnie Lim Business Times 3 Aug 11;

(SINGAPORE) The tide has turned against allowing floating oil storage in Johor. This is the signal emerging from the latest Malaysian move to order out VLCCs anchored off Pasir Gudang, with the tankers used largely by Singapore-based international traders to store oil, industry sources here say.

One reason behind this is the new, on-shore storage terminals being built on both Johor's east and west coasts, 'with some lobbying apparently underway to get the floating storage users to start thinking about heading for shore', an industry official reckons.

Another is pollution of the waters, an industry analyst said, citing previous instances of fines meted out to oil traders using such floating storage.

They were commenting on reports yesterday which cited an unnamed senior Malaysian official confirming that a directive had been issued for seven very large crude carriers to leave Pasir Gudang waters by the end of this month. Together, the seven have the capacity to store about 1.9 million tonnes of crude or fuel oil.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg as 'there are as many as 15 to 18 VLCCs off Johor at this time', the industry official told BT. Oil traders who have made use of such floating storage previously include players like Titan, Glencore and Vitol, just to name a few.

'The reason for this is that the Singapore storage terminals are all 100 per cent full, and this has been the case for the last decade,' he said. This is despite new independent tankfarms built here recently including Hin Leong-PetroChina's Universal Terminal, Emirates National Oil Company's Horizon Terminal and Chemoil's Helios Terminal.

There is no more land available at Jurong Island for more above-ground oil storage, so JTC Corporation is now preparing to call construction tenders for very large floating structures off Pulau Sebarok by the year-end.

The shortage of storage capacity in Singapore's oil trading hub had led international traders here to either make use of VLCCs anchored off Johor, or start on-shore tankfarms there.

On the eastern coast of Johor, there are three terminal projects. The oldest is Far East Oil Terminal at Pasir Gudang with 230,000 cubic metres of storage, which is operated by Feoso and Cosco.

The second is Langsat Terminal at Tanjung Langsat operated by Dialog Group, Malaysia's MISC and oil trader Trafigura. The first two phases - offering 400,000 cu m for storage of naphtha, middle distillates, diesel and fuel oil - are in operation and recent reports say it is planning to add a 80,000 cu m third phase.

'But both suffer from shallow drafts of about 12 metres, and this restricts the size of tankers that can go in,' one source said. This is probably another reason why the VLCCs off Pasir Gudang have been ordered away, so as to enable some dredging works to improve access to the terminals, as well as to the upcoming Petronas refinery.

Vopak, one of Singapore's biggest independent tankfarm operators, together with Dialog, is also building a huge 1.3 million cu m oil storage costing US$1 billion at Pengerang, which is expected to be ready in 2014.

On Johor's western coast, oil trader Vitol and MISC are also building the 841,000 cu m Tanjung Bin terminal to store fuel oil and middle and light distillates. This is scheduled for completion in March next year.

Industry sources reckon that while the Malaysian move to drive out floating storage from its waters has started, it will likely not be done all at one go, given vested interests (like licences held for the floating storage) of some local parties.

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Beware of 'silicone' geckos

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 3 Aug 11;

KOTA BARU: Dishonest animal traders have resorted to injecting silicone into geckos to enhance the size of the reptiles for bigger profits.

Geckos, a lucrative business in Kelantan and the southern Thailand provinces, are being injected with silicone so that traders can put a much bigger price tag on the reptiles.

In Kelantan, rumours have spread like wildfire that the gecko is a cure for major diseases such as HIV/AIDS and this has caused prices for the reptile to shoot up.

A gecko trader who wanted to be known only as Azli said the silicone injections ploy had been uncovered only recently after a number of geckos bought from suppliers across the border died a few days after being purchased.

"I took a dead gecko to an animal expert who discovered that its head did not match the oversized body," said Azli, adding he had paid RM40,000 for the lizard.

Upon further checks, he said it was found that the gecko had been injected with silicone and salt powder to make it big before the sale.

"The expert also suspected that the gecko had died of an overdose of silicone," said Azli, 45, from Rantau Panjang.

He said he had bought the "fake" gecko after receiving photographs from a supplier via an email in November.

"I went to Sungai Golok to take delivery of the lizard and paid the high price as the gecko was big. A buyer was already waiting to buy it from me later. But, the gecko died a few days after I brought it back home," he said.

Azli said he believed there were 10 gecko suppliers across the border taking advantage of Malaysians' interest in the reptiles.

He said locals should not simply pay if they were offered large-sized geckos, especially if the price was unreasonably high.

Meanwhile, state Wildlife Department director Rahmat Topani confirmed that syndicates were involved in producing the unusually big geckos through artificial means.

"I have been told that some victims were cheated of up to RM100,000 by a syndicate, which targets rich buyers. As far as I know, the geckos have no medical benefit at all and it does not cure illnesses," he said.

A recent report had quoted a medical practitioner in the Philippines, Dr Ofelia Monzon as saying that the lizard -- which he had referred to as the tuko (Philippine gecko) -- had not been proven to cure serious ailments like cancer, HIV and AIDS.

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South Thailand Hit By More Haze From Indonesia

Bernama 2 Aug 11;

SONGKHLA, Aug 2 (Bernama) -- Forest fire smoke from Indonesia has covered many provinces in the southern part of Thailand by a new round of haze, according to Thai News Agency on Tuesday.

Chief of Thailand's Meteorological Office on the east-south coast here Wanchai Sakudomchai said that smoke from the forest fires has covered Songkhla province on Tuesday morning.

This has affected many fishing boats as they have to navigate slowly in order to prevent possible accidents due to poor visibility, he said.

The Thai News Agency reported that smaller fishing vessels have also been warned not to go out to the sea for safety reasons.

"Satellite images had shown rising spots of wildfire on the Sumatra Island and a southwest monsoon could have brought the haze to blanket Songkhla and other areas in south of Thai," he said.

The air quality index in Songkhla's Hat Yai District had stood within its standard range (58.0), he said, adding that the mild smog has not yet posed any health risk to the locals.


Indonesia: Thick smog causes flights transfer at Dumai Airport
Antara 2 Aug 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Operational chief of Pinang Kampai airport at Dumai Riau Irvan said that thick smog has caused flights to be transferred to nearby airports.

The smog that covers Dumai airport was very thick and the worst ever, especially after it caused flights transfer, Irvan said here Tuesday.

Irvan said that the airport will be reopen for flights when the smog is thinning or until more than 200 meters visibility range achieved.

Meanwhile, there is a flight transferred to airport in Pekanbaru which then be resumed to Dumai airport, a chartered Fokker 100 Pelita Air departed from Jakarta`s Halim Perdana Kusuma at 09.00 am.

The heavy smog is expected to clear out on the afternoon considering the strong wind that blows the smog wisp, and flights resumed, said Irvan.

"Fortunately the chartered Pelita Air was the only flight schedule for today, there is no schedule for any commercial flight such as Sky Aviation and Merpati," he said.

On separate occasion, Head of Forestry Department of Agriculture, Plantation and Forestry Hadiono said that the institution had received reports on peat land burn and bushfire which led the thick smog occurred on Tuesday.

"The local forest and land fires management team has also been deployed to track the hotspots locations," he said.

The team is focusing on Medang Kampai and Sungai Sembilan districts known as land and forest fire prone areas.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Fires Causing Haze in Riau May Close Airport
Nurfika Osman Jakarta Globe 4 Aug 11;

Thick haze from forest and ground fires has once again blanketed parts of Riau, especially the city of Dumai, drastically reducing visibility, an official said Wednesday.

The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency or BMKG said on Wednesday that a total of 131 “hotspots”— areas in satellite images indicating high temperature and most likely the presence of fire — were found in the province, reducing visibility to as little as 800 meters.

Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bambang Ervan, said there was a possibility notification would soon have to be issued to pilots warning of impaired visibility.

He said that if visibility weaken to below 1 kilometer, the Sultan Syarif Qasim II International Airport in the Riau capital, Pekanbaru, will be temporarily shut down.

However, he said that so far no flights have been canceled or delayed even though the haze had also now drifted to neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

“We hope conditions will improve. We need related parties such as local governments and forest rangers to help reduce the hotspots,” he said.

BMKG official said that there were 298 hotspots for the whole of Sumatra on Wednesday, with Riau accounting for more than 44 percent.

However, BMKG said there was a good chance the number of hotspots could decrease in coming days since the weather is forecast to be cloudy with a small chance of light rain.

Experts have said that the haze occurs each year because people and companies continue to burn forests, a cheap method of clearing land.

The practice is illegal but enforcement has been poor because of the shortage of law enforcers and the wide area of forested land involved.

Since the 1990s, Indonesia has been criticized internationally for the large amount of smoke it generates each dry season from deliberate burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The resulting haze sometimes spreads to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and is estimated to annually cause $9 billion in losses to tourism, transportation and agriculture across the region.

An agreement among Southeast Asian nations was drawn up in 2002 to jointly tackle the haze problem, but ironically, Indonesia is the only nation that has yet to ratify it.

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Gulf Dead Zone Smaller Than Forecast

Wynne Parry Yahoo News 2 Aug 11;

Predictions of a record-size dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico did not come to fruition today (Aug. 1) when the results of the annual survey were released.

Instead, scientists charted a large, but not unprecedented, expanse — 6,765 square miles (17,521 square kilometers) — within the gulf where water was low on oxygen. The dead zone, which peaks in summer, creates suffocating conditions for animals living within it and threatens the fishing industry in the region.

This expanse is above average, but not as large as predicted, according to Nancy Rabalais, executive director, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

Earlier this year, scientists predicted the dead zone would meet or exceed its record from 2002 — more than 8,400 square miles (21,756 square km) — because of spring flooding along the Mississippi River. This flooding carried more nitrogen pollution, much of it from fertilizer used in agriculture, into the gulf.

Once in the gulf, this nitrogen causes algae blooms, which die and sink. These are broken down by bacteria that, as part of the decomposition process, suck oxygen out of the water. The influx of fresh water into the Gulf of Mexico also contributes to the dead zone. Because it is lighter, the fresh water creates a layer above the heavier salt water. This prevents the mixing that carries oxygen from surface waters down into deeper ones, Rabalais explained. [Top 5 Mightiest Floods of the Mississippi River]

Storms can whip up waters, and so disrupt this two-layer system. Tropical Storm Don, which made landfall in Texas on Friday (July 29), appears to have done just that, reducing the size of this year's dead zone, according to Rabalais, who spoke to reporters during a conference call today.

There's evidence that the dead zone actually covered more area than this summer's survey captured, according to Don Scavia, the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. The storm, which coincided with the survey cruise, would have disrupted hypoxic, or low-oxygen, conditions, but after the storm and the cruise passed, the dead zone would have reformed. This is the risk of having a limited window to collect data all along the continental shelf, Scavia said.

"It can't be any smaller than what they measure, but it can easily be larger," he said.

There was other bad news as well. In places, conditions appear to have become quite extreme along the seafloor this summer, resulting in the release of hydrogen sulfide and a rotten-egg smell, she said.

"Hydrogen sulfide is also toxic to organisms. They can be killed by low oxygen or something that can survive low oxygen will be killed by hydrogen sulfide, so it's a double jeopardy situation for animals that live in the sediments and can't escape," she said.

During the survey, which is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers saw animals that normally live on the seafloor, including foot-long eels, swimming near the surface in an attempt to escape low oxygen levels farther down, Rabalais said.

There is also evidence that the Gulf of Mexico is becoming more vulnerable over time.

"There is also some indication that the gulf is becoming less resilient to nitrogen pollution, which means we now get a larger low-oxygen area for less nitrogen than we did in the past," she said.

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Kyoto on the line as S. Africa preps UN climate talks

Joshua Howat Berger AFP Yahoo News 2 Aug 11;

South African ministers hosting UN climate talks at the end of the year said Tuesday the meeting must focus on keeping alive the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding global deal to cut greenhouse gases.

Environmentalists have criticised the country for dragging its feet ahead of the high-level meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), widely seen as a last-ditch chance to renew the emissions reduction targets agreed to in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.

But environment minister Edna Molewa said organisers are committed to extending the Kyoto agreement at the November 28 to December 9 talks in the eastern port city of Durban.

"We don't want South Africa to be the death of the Kyoto Protocol," she told journalists in Pretoria.

"We would like to have some mechanism agreed upon which will ensure that we retain the architecture."

Kyoto is the only international agreement with binding targets for curbing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world's top two polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

A first five-year commitment period covering 37 industrialised countries expires at the end of 2012.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations -- including emerging giants like China and India, which do not have binding targets and have so far rejected them -- beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

The international head of environmental group Greenpeace, South African activist Kumi Naidoo, criticised organisers in his home country Tuesday for getting off to a slow start.

"We are worried that there's less than six months left before we get to Durban. There has to be much stronger leadership and guidance being offered in terms of setting up the ambition levels for the negotiations," he told AFP.

But South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is charged with organising the complex talks, said her country's preparations were on track.

"South Africa is very much on schedule, if not ahead of schedule," she said, calling Durban "the last stop" to extend the Kyoto commitments.

South Africa has scaled down its expectations for the meeting, and now acknowledges that a global deal to beat back the threat of climate change may not be in the cards for this year.

"While we might not get a legally-binding agreement in Durban, voices are saying, 'Let's start a discussion on the legal framework of the future, of how we should together sign on some long-term commitment to make sure that we don't fold our arms and do nothing about the reality that has become climate change," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

But she also said it is too early to predict what will come out of the talks.

"We can't sit here on the second day of August and prophesy what will be the outcome on December 9. What we can commit to is that we will continue to listen to all voices," she said.

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