Best of our wild blogs: 26 Sep 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [19 Sep - 25 Sep 2011]
from Green Business Times

Seminars this week: Ivory Trade, Tigers and Wildlife rescue in Cambodia
from Habitatnews

Another slow F1 weekend at Hantu
from Pulau Hantu

Hantu's looking great! (as always)
from Psychedelic Nature

Hopping on the BoSSIII reflection bandwagon!
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

What's it like being a terrestrial ecologist? - Ubin notes
from Psychedelic Nature

九月华语导游 Madarin guide walk@SBWR,September (XXIII)
from PurpleMangrove

Ubin Walk - Pulau Ubin Photo Walk - For iPhoneographers in Singapore
from Pulau Ubin Tour with Justin

Trapping Oriental White-eye
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Plant walk @ Bukit Brown
from Urban Forest

Mary the moon cake sun bear
from Bornean Sun Bear Conservation

American Cockroach
from Monday Morgue

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Less opacity on road to preserve green heritage

Straits Times Forum 26 Sep 11;

THE tug of priorities in building more transport arteries to relieve congestion to spur growth, and constructing a clean, green and eco-friendly garden city, requires compromises.

Take the fate of Arcadia Road, one of the five roads designated under the National Parks Board's (NParks) Heritage Roads scheme.

Launched in 2001, the scheme aimed to 'conserve the unique tree-scapes along some of the roads in Singapore'. The NParks website states that Arcadia Road offers residents and visitors 'a quiet, rustic atmosphere under the shady canopy of the rain trees'.

This is about to change. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is widening the Pan- Island Expressway (PIE) where it runs adjacent to the entire stretch of Arcadia Road.

A precious verge of forest vegetation protecting this heritage road will disappear when the expressway is widened. Without this buffer zone of greenery, Arcadia's

'quiet, rustic atmosphere' will succumb to pollution, and increasing heat and exposure to the sun.

The LTA generally does not explain in detail the reasons for widening roads other than stressing the need to reduce traffic congestion.

Certainly, one cannot argue about traffic congestion - it is indeed severe along the stretch of Adam Road turning onto the PIE, largely because of the Bukit Timah Expressway tailback.

But is a compromise possible? Shouldn't those interested in the preservation of our heritage - from individuals to the Singapore Heritage Society, Nature Society and the National Heritage Board - explore other possibilities?

Can the PIE be banked or a retaining wall built? How about creative planting to maximise the cover on the sliver of remaining verge? If indeed LTA and NParks have such plans in mind, interested Singaporeans should be informed.

Arcadia Road will change. But can it survive as a stretch of heritage?

Sharon Siddique (Ms)

No impact on greenery in Arcadia Road
Straits Times Forum 3 Oct 11;

WE THANK Ms Sharon Siddique for her feedback ('Less opacity on road to preserve green heritage'; Sept 26).

The Land Transport Authority works very closely with the National Parks Board to minimise the impact to the natural environment when carrying out any road development project.

In the case of the Pan-Island Expressway road-widening project, the construction work for the stretch fronting Arcadia Road does not require the removal of trees or plants. There will be no impact on the forested vegetation in front of Arcadia Road.

Helen Lim (Ms)

Acting Director, Media Relations

Land Transport Authority

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Number of monkey grouses climbing up

Park visitors say the macaques are bolder, more used to people
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 26 Sep 11;

THE monkey trouble here has worsened.

Last year, about 1,200 monkey-related complaints were filed, double the number in 2008; this year, as of last month, some 750 such complaints had been lodged.

Numbers aside, park-goers and people living near nature reserves here told The Straits Times that the macaques they have encountered have grown bolder; they steal not only food now, but also items such as cellphones.

IT security analyst Patrick Poon, 35, who jogs in MacRitchie Reservoir Park every week, said: 'They even sit in the middle of the trails and expect you to run around them.'

But the National Parks Board (NParks) said the number of complaints could have gone up simply because people are now more aware of which agencies to take their complaints to.

NParks added that some complaints among its number were not about the macaques themselves, but filed by those contesting fines for feeding these animals.

The agency, which handles macaques in parks and nature reserves, received 414 complaints last year. The rest of last year's complaints were received by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the agency which handles complaints about these monkeys in residential areas.

Dr Michael Gumert, a primate researcher at Nanyang Technological University, said the higher number of complaints could be the result of homes being built closer to forest fringes.

He said: 'The monkeys are not the drivers of change. They are being changed because every time a new condo opens on a forest border, they get 500 to 1,000 new people in their home.'

Park-goers told The Straits Times that the macaques in parks and nature reserves here are becoming more used to humans also because the rising popularity of outdoor activities has been bringing people right onto their turf.

NParks said efforts to combat the problem need to balance the needs of people against those of the macaques.

Last year, it launched a series of guided walks with the Jane Goodall Institute here to educate people about the primates. Six have been organised so far, for about 50 people.

Another move by NParks some years ago was the installing of rubbish bins with heavy lids in parks, to prevent the macaques from rummaging through them, but park-goers complained that children could not use the bins.

Two months ago, the agency introduced the fourth-generation, macaque-proof bin, with lids that open only part-way.

At Hindhede Road, which borders the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, complaints have dropped considerably after pavement railings were removed last year to prevent monkeys from perching on them. Pavements were also expanded so that residents and the macaques can share the space without frightening each other, said NParks assistant director Benjamin Lee.

But NParks stressed that the responsibility in this equation lies with people. Last year, more than 300 people were fined for feeding the macaques, twice that of previous years - despite the fine having been raised from $250 to $500 in 2008.

Ms Sharon Chan, the assistant director of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, once tasked with managing the macaques here, said the creatures do not naturally like human food, 'but if people keep feeding them, they'll develop a taste for it and that's when the trouble starts'.

Macaques repeatedly caught stealing food or being complained against are trapped and killed by the AVA, which culled 127 of them in 2009.

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Risk of fires higher as world gets hotter

The risk of more and bigger fires is increasing as the world gets hotter, and 'haze' pollution from fires could also worsen. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Michael Richardson, Straits Times 26 Sep 11;

ALTHOUGH Singapore and Malaysia have escaped the worst effects of the 2011 'haze' pollution from fires in Indonesia, this will not be the case in future if the average global temperature continues to rise as many scientists predict.

The annual dry period in Indonesia is ending. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta said recently that the rainy season has started in Aceh and North Sumatra, and will spread to other areas by the end of the year, dousing fires.

But this is likely to be just a short breather. As the world gets hotter, the risk of more and bigger fires is increasing.

2010 was the hottest year on record, with global temperatures 0.53 deg Celsius above the 1961-1990 average. This year has not been as hot so far. But serious drought has still gripped parts of the Americas and Africa.

Dr Blair Trewin, an Australian climatologist, says that warm extremes are increasingly outnumbering cold extremes as the influence of the background warming trend strengthens.

Dr David Bowman, professor of Environmental Change Biology at the University of Tasmania and lead author of a recent study on the global effects of fire, says this 'could lead to a dangerous feedback as more burning releases more carbon into the atmosphere, further driving climate change'.

He and his international team of researchers are concerned at the total impact of four kinds of fires, and the way they are combining to intensify climate impacts.

The four are: natural fires that occur apart from humans, for example, by lightning strikes; tame fires used by hunter-gatherers to manage landscapes for game and wild food production; agricultural fire to clear land cheaply and grow food and plantation crops - a widespread practice in Indonesia and other parts of South-east Asia; and industrial fire to power modern societies that have switched from using living to fossilised plants in the form of coal, oil and natural gas as the primary fuel.

Dr Bowman warns that the excessive combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity, power heavy industry and run modern transport is driving climate change and may completely overwhelm human capacities to control fire.

Fire has been around since shortly after plants colonised the surface of the Earth over 400 million years ago. Humans learnt how to use and control it.

However, a group of specialists commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported in May that in many parts of the world, the number of large wildfires has been increasing at an 'alarming' rate, causing ever-higher suppression costs, property losses and environmental damage. The biggest and most damaging, which the report calls 'megafires', overwhelm efforts to extinguish them, even in developed countries that have made major investments in fire-fighting capacity, better predictive systems, improved technology and cooperation, and larger fleets of aircraft to drop water and fire-retardent chemicals from the air.

Megafires exceed all efforts at control - at least until fire-fighters get a favourable change in weather or the fire runs out of combustible fuel to burn.

China's 1987 Great Black Dragon Fire may mark the start of the megafire phenomenon in the modern era. It killed over 200 people and burned about 1.2 million ha of virgin pine forest.

The specialists commissioned by the FAO focused on eight megafires since 1997, in Indonesia, Brazil, the United States, Greece, Botswana, Australia, Russia and Israel. They found that nearly all had human causes. They were either lit intentionally or by negligence.

The Indonesian fires in 1997-98 raged out of control for months, burning over 9.7 million ha and releasing approximately 700 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, making them one of the world's largest pollution sources. The smoke engulfed Singapore and other parts of South-east Asia, disrupting transport and acting as blanket that trapped other pollutants harmful to human health.

Wildfires release a range of chemicals into the atmosphere, similar to those from fossil fuel burning. They include the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, but also other air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, aerosols and fine particles of soot.

The gaseous pollutants also influence tropospheric ozone formation, a pollutant as well as a potent greenhouse gas.

Ms Gabriele Pfister, a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, has investigated how smoke from forest fires travels and its impact on air quality far from the fires. She says that about half the world's air pollution comes from wildfires and that a bad fire year can result in pollution from the fires circling the globe.

Dr Bowman says that managing flammable landscapes is one of the big climate change adaption challenges, equal to the challenge of sea level rise in densely populated, low-lying coastal zones in Asia and elsewhere.

This is a warning Asean countries should heed. They should work more closely together to improve land management and fire prevention.

The writer is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

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Malaysia: Fish traps found in Pulau Tioman Marine Park

New Straits Times 25 Sep 11;

ROMPIN: Some fishermen here have been setting fish traps in the Pulau Tioman Marine Park.

Pulau Tioman Marine Park director Mohamed Ridzuan Mohamed Ali said these contraptions, made from steel wire and rattan, were set in water about 30m deep.

Ridzuan said the park's enforcement unit found 18 of these traps near Pulau Tulai near the park on Friday.

"Fishermen would often encroach into the water in the area, knowing it is rich in marine life and home to various species of fish.

"No one is allowed into the water within two nautical miles from the marine park and all fishing should be done outside the area," Ridzuan said yesterday.

He said the traps would not only cause harm to the marine life but also destroy the physical structure of the coral reefs and pose a threat to divers.

Ridzuan said 173 people were arrested between 2003 and August for setting fish traps and also using fishing nets in the park area.

Read more: Fish traps found in sea park

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Malaysia: Porcupines saved from the cooking pot

Embun Majid The Star 26 Sep 11;

ALOR SETAR: Seven porcupines destined for the cooking pot were rescued from a farm at Padang Terap here.

A team from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) from the Federal Territory and Kedah raided the farm and detained two men in their 30s. Federal Territory Perhilitan officer Celescoriano Razond, who led the raid, said the two men tried to flee when the team raided the farm at about 9.15am yesterday.

He said the protected animals were believed to be heading to restaurants selling exotic dishes.

“We believe the animals had been kept in the farm during the past six months,” he said.

Razond said initial investigations showed that the porcupines were caught by illegal hunters in the state.

“We believe the animals were to be sold to restaurant operators either in Kedah or elsewhere,” he said.

He added that the animals would be sent to the department headquarters in Putrajaya to determine their gender.

Razond said if the porcupines were males, the men could be charged under Section 60(1)(a) of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010, which carries a fine up to RM50,000 or jail up to two years or both.

He said if the animals were female, the duo could be charged under Section 62 of the same act which carries a fine up to RM100,000 or jail up to five years or both.

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British mammals alarm: red squirrel 'could be extinct within next 20 years'

Oxford University wildlife unit finds biodiversity action plans failing to halt steep decline in dormice, hedgehogs and wildcats
Robert Booth 25 Sep 11;

Efforts over the past decade to save British mammals from extinction have failed to halt population declines in red squirrels, hedgehogs, harvest mice and Scottish wildcats.

Red squirrels could be extinct within 20 years, while the UK hedgehog population has dipped to about 1.5m individuals compared with 30m in the 1950s, according to a report by Oxford University's wildlife conservation unit for the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

The common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) and mountain hare are also under threat despite efforts to arrest their decline through nationwide biodiversity action plans.

Seven species of mammals whose conservation was given priority status, including some of the most endangered, were still declining last year, says the report – State of Britain's Mammals 2011.

But there was good news with regard to otters, bats and water voles, whose populations have increased. After conservation efforts "akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic", say the report's authors, there was hope that approaches to conservation were improving.

"Although many of Britain's mammals apparently declined significantly in the past 25 years, some appear to have stabilised or even increased in the last decade," the report states.

"Of the 25 monitored mammal species native to Britain, half are stable (not necessarily in a good state) or increasing."

Otters have benefited from cleaner rivers in Britain, following a ban on chemicals used in sheep dip in the late 1990s. But hedgehog numbers have fallen due to fragmentation of their habitats, pesticides killing their prey, and hedgerow loss.

Red squirrel populations have dropped more than 50% in 50 years, and, with the discovery in Scotland in 2005 of the first case of squirrel pox virus, which is carried by grey squirrels, "the omens for the red squirrel in the UK" were "bleak", state the report's authors, Dawn Burnham and David MacDonald.

"The last 15 years have seen some successes, particularly recovery of some rare species," they said. "However, with the ongoing decline of once common species, like hedgehogs, it is widely accepted that targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity, for 2010, were missed.

"In general, progress has been better for species restricted in range that could benefit from targeted, site-based, conservation efforts. There's been less progress on targets for habitats and many widespread species."

Water voles are declining, but brown hare and polecat populations are rising. Greater and lesser horseshoe bat populations have risen 32% and 41% respectively over the past 10 years.

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