Best of our wild blogs: 7 Aug 11

A family of Blue-throated Bee-eaters
from Bird Ecology Study Group

What Can You Find @ Tampines Eco Green Park?
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Sharing Cyrene with CEOs NParks and URA
from Cyrene Reef Exposed!

110802 Semakau new shore
from Singapore Nature

Ghost Month in Ubin
from Ubin.sgkopi

National Day cleanup sixty four clear 133 bags of trash from Lim Chu Kang beach and mangrove from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

MAD for Reptiles, 21 Jul
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

七月华语导游Madarin guide walk@SBWR,July(XXI)
from PurpleMangrove

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Due South: Visiting Singapore's Southern Islands

When you are short of time but want a beach vacation, look no farther than the Southern Islands of Singapore, a quick boat ride away
Jane Ng Sunday Times 6 Aug 11;

Picture an idyllic getaway with sandy beaches, crystal clear water and waves lapping gently at the shore.

Or a rustic island with lagoons to swim in, huge starfish to admire and wild dolphins to see. No, it is not Phuket or Bali. If an affordable, laid-back day-trip or overnight island stay is your thing, you need look no farther than your own backyard - the Southern Islands.

Pulau Hantu, Sisters' Island, St John's Island and Kusu Island, which are open to the public, dot the south of Singapore, just a ferry ride away from Marina South Pier. A return ticket to St John's, for example, is just $15. The island is just 8km from Marina South and the ferry ride is 20 minutes.

The islands receive a steady stream of visitors - including tourists and foreigners working in Singapore, as well as divers and fishing enthusiasts - but tend to be overlooked by many Singaporeans.

Every month, about 3,000 to 4,500 people visit Kusu and St John's. Fewer than 300 visitors go to Sisters' Island and Pulau Hantu, which require chartered boat services to get there.

These four islands are among 10 managed by tourist attraction operator Sentosa Leisure Group.

While many people take day-trips, those who are game for more can apply for a permit to camp overnight or spend a night in a rented bungalow (see other stories).

One of them is Madam Mei Puah, 45, a director, who spent a night in a bungalow on St John's Island last weekend with her husband and toddler, Annabelle.

Madam Puah wanted to go somewhere nearby with unpolluted waters and a beach for 21/2-year-old Annabelle and decided to head to St John's which she once visited when she was young. Apart from swimming in the lagoon, picking up sea shells and building sandcastles, Annabelle was also fascinated by the peacocks, cats, hens and chicks she saw on the island.

'We were awakened by the rooster in the morning and she asked me what animal that was,' said Madam Puah. She brought along pre-cooked chicken, salad and pasta for their meals and is planning to have a barbecue on her next trip.

Also a repeat visitor was Indonesian expatriate Agus Retmono, who was at Kusu and St John's Islands for a day-trip with his wife and three children aged 12 to 19.

Daughter Gustirani, 18, who is sitting her A level examinations soon, said it was a relaxing break away from the books.

'It's very windy, the beach is clean and it's not crowded,' said Gustirani who lazed on the beach while waiting for the tide to recede at Kusu in order to catch a sight of starfish.

Another islandgoer was amateur fisherman Januri Midong, 53, a supervisor at a florist, who camped out at St John's last weekend.

'It's very congested at Bedok Jetty on Saturdays. Over here, you have all the space you want. It's very relaxing after a stressful week at work,' he said.

He returned after his overnight trip last Sunday with a haul of 25 fish - and a renewed sense of well-being to see him through the work week.



In 1874, St John's Island was a quarantine point for cholera-stricken Chinese immigrants.

It later became the world's largest quarantine centre in the 1930s, screening both Asian immigrants and Malay pilgrims from Mecca. In the 1950s, it was a holding place for political detainees and, later, a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.

About the island

Since 1975, part of St John's has been redeveloped as a beach destination. There are lagoons, picnic grounds, beach shelters and barbecue pits.

The rest of the island houses two research and development units - the Marine Aquaculture Centre, which is under the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, and the Tropical Marine Science Institute under the National University of Singapore.

Regular visitors tell of rare dolphin sightings.

What you can do

Soak up the sun, swim in the lagoons or have a picnic by the beach. Explore the island's winding tracks and look for the peacocks, cats and chickens on the island.

Bring your own equipment and food and have a barbecue.

For overnight stays, there are holiday camps for big groups and a holiday bungalow which holds up to 10 people.

The bungalow costs $107 for the entire stay from Friday to Monday and $53.50 for Tuesday to Friday. Rates double during school holidays. For booking enquiries, call 1800-736-8672.


Basketball court, beach shelters, barbecue pits, camping grounds and public toilets.


Caretaker Supar Saman, 62, has lived on the island since 1955. His wife visits him every week - she lives with their grown-up daughter in a three-room flat in Chai Chee.

He is due to retire but wants to continue working. 'Living here is like living in a kampung. There is also fresh air and sunshine. I don't fall sick or take MC,' he said.

What visitors say

Software engineer Rahul Verma, 36, visited St John's Island for the first time last week with his wife and five-year-old son.

'It's less commercialised here. We're here for the beach, nature photography and family time,' he said.



Kusu is also known as Tortoise Island in Chinese and in Malay, it is called Pulau Tembaku.

It has a Chinese temple and three Malay shrines. In 1923, a wealthy businessman, Chia Cheng Ho, donated money to build the temple in honour of Da Bo Gong, or the god of prosperity.

There are also three kramats, or holy shrines, of Malay saints atop a hillock. The shrines commemorate a pious man, Syed Abdul Rahman, and his mother and sister, who lived in the 19th century.

Before ferry services started in 1975, devotees made their way there in sampans.

About the island

Thousands of devotees throng the island in the ninth lunar month to pray for good health, peace, happiness and prosperity. It has ornate pavilions, beach shelters, a wishing well and turtle pond.

What you can do

Climb the 152 steps to visit the shrines, which are popular with childless couples who pray for children. Swim in the lagoon, have a barbecue or visit the wishing well and turtle pavilion. Overnight stays are not allowed.


Beach shelters, barbecue pits and public toilets. Drinks are sold at the temple.


Mr Sharul Bai Shamsudin, 47, who works at the Malay shrines, speaks fluent Hokkien to the devotees, blessing them with phrases such as peace and prosperity.

He sees a range of people, including childless couples praying for a baby and punters hoping for a lucky windfall.

'I also speak Thai and Filipino. We meet so many people every day, we have to learn their language so they understand the blessing,' he said.

What visitors say

Ms Zin Thwe Mon, 28, an account executive from Myanmar who works in Singapore, visited with her family and friends.

'I heard the view is nice so we organised an outing. Singapore is very crowded and noisy. Over here, it is quiet and not crowded,' she said.



Two great warriors fought in the sea, disturbing a spirit called Jinn, who sucked them into a whirlpool to their deaths. The gods were angry with Jinn for interfering in mortal affairs. Remorseful, he converted two boats into the island.

About the island

This tranquil, well-kept island is the farthest of the four, being about 45 minutes by ferry from Marina South Pier. Coconut, sea almond, casuarina and yellow flame trees line footpaths on the island, making it shady and picturesque.

It actually consists of two islands - Hantu Besar and Hantu Kecil - separated by a lagoon. At low tide, you can walk from one to the other.

What you can do

Explore its swamp and spot hermit crabs. It has two swimming lagoons and, depending on the tide, you can wade or swim in them. Divers like the clear water and marine life around the island.

Overnight camping is allowed. For approval, e-mail or fax 6275-0161 with your name, contact number, camping dates and number of campers.

Regular visitors tell of businessmen who moor their yachts there on Sundays to picnic and play mahjong.


Beach shelters, barbecue pits and toilets with showers attached. There is no power supply on the island.


An assistant manager from Sentosa's Southern Island management unit, Mr Goh Soon Huat, in his 50s, has been tending to the island for 30 years. He visits it twice a week as part of his job and has enjoyed watching the trees grow over the decades.

He says: 'I love my job. The lagoons look different depending on the tide. It's never boring and you won't get sick of it.'

What visitors say

Businessman Davy Ong, 37, was out on a friend's fishing boat last week and took a lunch break on Pulau Hantu, barbecuing the fish his party had caught.

'We caught more than 80 sagai that day but released most of them. We just wanted to get away from city life for a day,' said Mr Ong, who goes fishing near the Southern Islands at least twice a month.



A girl called Lina caught the attention of an orang laut chief. When she was forced aboard a boat, her sister, Minah, ran into the waves while Lina flung herself overboard. A storm began. Two islands stand where the sisters perished.

About the islands

Really two islands separated by a narrow but deep channel, they are unspoilt and house a group of monkeys which feed on fruit and leaves from trees including sea almond and jambu. There are also casuarina and sea hibiscus trees. Beach huts by the shore provide a shady, scenic view.

There are four lagoons for swimming and the waters are clear for snorkelling. There is a nice view of the Singapore skyline at night.

What you can do

Swim in the lagoons, laze on the clean beaches or have a barbecue. Overnight camping is allowed. For approval, e-mail or fax 6275-0161 with your name, contact number, camping dates and number of campers.


Beach shelters, barbecue pits and toilets with showers attached. There is no power supply on the island.


Arborist, or tree doctor, Daniel Seah, takes care of the trees and plants on the islands. He visits the islands weekly, treats sick trees and follows up to make sure the treatment works.

'I feel happy looking at the trees and seeing how healthy they are. I'll fight with people who want to cut down trees for development,' he said.

What visitors say

Mr Francis Yeo, 32, who owns boat company Dolphin Explorer, went diving off Sisters' Island last year. 'The current there is strong but there are very nice corals and a good variety of fish such as grouper and snapper,' he said.

Getting to the islands

A regular ferry service runs from Marina South Pier to St John's Island and Kusu Island.

Singapore Island Cruise and Ferry Services is the official appointed operator for the Southern Islands. Its ferries loop round St John's and Kusu before returning to Marina South.

They run from 10am to 4pm on weekdays, 9am to 4.30pm on Saturdays and 9am to 6.15pm on weekends. Buy tickets - $15 for adults and $12 for children - at the pier. There are also individual boatmen who might take you there on an ad-hoc basis. Visitors to Sisters' Island and Pulau Hantu need to charter their own boats.

For details, call 6534-9339, e-mail or go to www.island

More about our wild shores on the wildsingapore website.

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Past reserves tapped on to fund land reclamation and Sers

Straits Times 7 Aug 11;

President S R Nathan's office has been approving the use of past reserves to fund land reclamation projects since 2001 and land acquisition for the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) since 2002.

Mr Nathan and his advisers have judged that these projects do not deplete the reserves because the resulting increases in land value ultimately add to the reserves.

According to the Constitution, all state land and buildings are considered part of past reserves.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Nathan revealed that, in general, projects resulting in the creation or enhancement of usage of land can be considered for funding from past reserves. Such projects include Sers and land reclamation.

Before 1999, such projects were funded out of current reserves, even though the government of the day would usually not benefit from them. Mr Nathan noted that infrastructure projects often span across terms of government, which may disincentivise the government of the day to undertake them using current reserves, even though they benefited Singapore in the long term.

Therefore, if a project enhances the value of land through intensification or redevelopment, there are merits in considering funding out of past reserves.

Acquisition cost for Sers and direct land reclamation cost fall in this category, he said.

The President has approved the use of past reserves for the acquisition of land in 27 Sers projects since 2002.

The approvals were given only when the gross plot ratio of the projects could be increased by at least 30 per cent after acquisition.

Land reclamation projects, such as the ones in Tuas and Jurong Island, have been approved since 2001.

Mr Nathan said the president's office and the relevant government departments have agreed upon a set of guidelines for processing all such cases of land development.

The latest disclosure highlights the efforts to set out working principles between the elected presidency, a 20-year-old institution, and the government of the day.

The previous milestone came in 1999, when the Government and then President Ong Teng Cheong agreed upon a White Paper that set out, among other things, procedures for a draw down on past reserves.

Elgin Toh

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Government portal for views on pet and stray management policies

Channel NewsAsia 6 Aug 11;

SINGAPORE: Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the government recognises that everyone would have different preferences to animals, and that public sentiment on these issues can be quite split.

He said it will be impossible to reach a situation where everyone is satisfied.

Nevertheless, the issues raised, such as concerns on noise, smell, wandering and fur allergies are very real.

He said the government will need to study them carefully before coming to any decision.

Brigadier-General Tan shared his thoughts in his Facebook page on Saturday, in the midst of a review of pet ownership and stray management policies.

He said the review is not about animals per se, but about finding workable solutions to actively manage the issues and concerns and create common space for everyone.

He said people must acknowledge that pets and strays are inevitably part of the living environment and should find ways to best live alongside them.

BG Tan said there must be shared ownership by all stakeholders, while pet owners must be responsible for their pets in this common space.

He said he has been receiving feedback and suggestions from many people.

Some expressed concerns about allowing cats in HDB flats and the problems associated with cats, while animal lovers are keen to see HDB allow cat ownership.

As part of the government's public engagement exercise, his ministry has launched an online portal for the public to give their views and suggestions from now till October.

He said he and his inter-agency taskforce will study and consider their views and suggestions.

BG Tan said that over the next few months, he and his taskforce will meet stakeholders to collect feedback and suggestions.

He added that they will take a step-by-step approach, and consider pilot projects such as the Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme (SCSP) in selected blocks at four town councils if need be.

Have your say on pet ownership
Sunday Times 7 Aug 11;

Don't just keep your views about pet ownership and the management of animal strays to yourself.

There is now an online form on the Ministry of National Development's website for you to provide ideas and feedback.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, who is overseeing a review of pet ownership and stray animal management policies, said the taskforce will study the feedback and take it into consideration for its review.

The review, announced last month by Brigadier-General (NS) Tan, will take four months and will relook policies such as cats not being allowed to be kept in HDB flats.

BG Tan said that since his announcement, he has been receiving feedback and suggestions.

He said that there are those who are concerned about noise and smell from animals and those who want cats to be allowed in flats.

Saying that it would be 'impossible to reach a situation where everyone is satisfied', he added: 'The review is... about finding workable solutions to actively manage the issues and concerns, so that we can create common spaces for everyone.'

The taskforce includes senior officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Housing Board. It will also gather feedback from residents, town councils and animal welfare groups.

BG Tan said he will spend the next few months meeting the various stakeholders.

The feedback portal,, will be open till October.

Ng Kai Ling


Only one dog - from an approved list of breeds - may be kept in each flat

Cats are not allowed because they are difficult to confine.

Pets that can be confined - such as hamsters, rabbits, fish and birds - are allowed

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'Killer' shrimps worst alien invader of UK waterways

BBC News 6 Aug 11;

'Killer' shrimp is the worst non-native invader of England and Wales' waterways, says the Environment Agency.

Known as Dikerogammarus villosus, it kills native shrimp and young fish.

The Environment Agency's worst 10 alien invaders include water primrose, giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed which can damage riverbanks and buildings.

The agency said invasive species cost the UK about £1.7bn a year and it will work with partner groups to manage the spread of damaging plants and animals.

Several species of pond plant which have escaped from gardens and parks are also on the list of non-native wildlife which pose the greatest threat to the country's rivers and lakes.

Increased damage to riverbanks and buildings can increase the risk of floods and hit native wildlife.

Tough EU targets

Invasive species can even become so prolific that anglers, fishermen and boaters cannot use the waterways.

Despite growing to just 30mm long, Dikerogammarus villosus has been identified as being the worst alien invader due to its voracious appetite which alters the make-up of habitats it invades.

Other creatures in the Environment Agency's most wanted list include the American signal crayfish which has endangered our native white-clawed species, the topmouth gudgeon fish which hits other species, and the mink, which eats water voles.

Water primrose, the floating pennywort and parrot's feather are pond plants which have caused problems after spreading into the environment, clogging up and damaging water habitats.

Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam are all taking their toll on riverbanks and other areas across the UK.

The hogweed contains a poisonous sap, the knotweed causes structural damage and all three suppress native plants and cause soil erosion.

The Environment Agency warned that the invasive species could hamper efforts to improve the quality of rivers to meet tough new EU targets.

It said it is already spending £2m a year controlling invasive species, and will be increasing its efforts with partners such as government conservation agency Natural England.

Trevor Renals, invasive species expert at the Environment Agency, said if invasive species are not controlled there is a risk of losing some native species and incurring even more clean-up costs, as well as "falling short of the strict EU targets for our rivers and lakes".

He said: "The Environment Agency will be working with other environment bodies as well as community and volunteer groups to manage the spread of these damaging plants and animals.

"We would urge everyone to help stop the spread of these species by making sure that garden and pond plants don't end up near rivers and parkland and thoroughly cleaning any fishing, boating and canoeing equipment when moving between waterways."

'Most wanted' invaders

1. Killer shrimp
2. Water primrose
3. Floating pennywort
4. American signal crayfish
5. Topmouth gudgeon
6. Giant hogweed
7. Japanese knotweed
8. Himalayan balsam
9. Mink
10. Parrot's feather

* Source: Environment Agency

Environment Agency's 'hit list' of ten most invasive species
A “hit list” of the ten invasive species which pose the biggest threat to native wildlife on Britain’s waterways and cost £1.7bn a year to tackle has been released by the Environment Agency.
Nick Collins The Telegraph 6 Aug 11;

Alien species erode buildings and river banks, raise the risk of flooding and put native wildlife at risk of extinction by colonising their natural habitat and killing competitors.

Some have even clogged up rivers and lakes so much that they can no longer be used by anglers and boaters.

Now members of the public are being urged to take up the fight and stop the spread of foreign plants and animals to new waterways.

Top of the list of threats is the killer shrimp, which despite measuring just 3cm in length has an insatiable appetite and feasts on a vast range of native species such as young fish and other species of shrimp.

This has a knock-on effect on the ecology of the rivers they inhabit, putting insects such as damselflies and waterboatmen under threat, along with any predators further up the food chain.

Other animals on the hit list include the American signal crayfish, which are seriously endangering the smaller and less aggressive white clawed crayfish; topmouth gudgeon, a rapidly reproducing Japanese fish; and mink, which hunt fish, birds and small mammals, especially the water vole.

The most threatening plant listed is water primrose, which covers entire waterways in France and has been found at sixteen sites in England and Wales.

Floating pennywort, giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and parrot’s feather complete the hit list.

Environment experts fear that rivers rife with invasive flora and fauna could fail to meet rigorous new EU targets on the ecological health of waterways.

Britain’s rivers are in their cleanest state in more than 20 years, with some species such as otters and salmon even returning for the first time since the industrial revolution.

But alien species risk damaging the ecology of waterways by crowding out and killing native species, which can seriously harm the health of the entire ecosystem.

Rivers which do not meet the EU’s targets, which include ecological health measures, by 2015 could attract fines running to millions of pounds.

The Environment Agency spends more than £2 million a year attempting to control invasive species, and a further £9 million of government funding has been dedicated to safeguarding waterways in England.

Trevor Renals, invasive species expert at the Environment Agency said: “River water quality is the best its been since before the industrial revolution. But if we don’t control invasive species, we risk losing some of our precious native species and incurring even more clean up costs.

“We would urge everyone to help stop the spread of these species by making sure that garden and pond plants don’t end up near rivers and parkland and thoroughly cleaning any fishing, boating and canoeing equipment when moving between waterways.”

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