Best of our wild blogs: 7 Oct 11

What’s Hiding in the Seabed?
from Pulau Hantu

Whimbrel foraging on mudflat
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Conservation Conferences, Amphibian Workshop and seminars in October from Habitatnews

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Are porous roads the way to deal with floods in Singapore?

Esther Ng Today Online 7 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - Porous roads and using basements to store storm water are some ideas being bounced about by an expert panel formed to improve Singapore's flood protection measures.

Other recommendations include combining predictions on rainfall intensity and trajectory with rain gauges and water level sensors installed in canals, which will result in a real-time flood alert system that would "allow the agencies to give a better lead time to the community", said Professor Chan Eng Soon, who chairs the panel. He was giving an update yesterday on the panel's work since it was formed in July.

Among its preliminary recommendations, the panel said: "PUB should move to a process of new generation drainage systems models that can adequately replicate systems performance, evaluate potential interventions and provide flood-risk mapping."

Meeting for five days from Sept 26 to 30, the panel also proposed holistic flood control measures such as tapping and reusing storm water to flush toilets.

"The question is not just on collection, but the infrastructure that goes with it," Prof Chan said. For example, households will need separate pipes connected to a storm water tank and that would incur cost.

As for porous roads, there is the question of cost of building infrastructure of pipelines.

"In the past, perhaps there was more emphasis on conveyance, (but now), the solution is not just a canal, but a system of canals and ponds and other things you can put in place to manage storm water," Prof Chan said, adding that the PUB was familiar with these various approaches.

Asked what constraints national water agency PUB faced in implementing these ideas, Prof Chan, who is also the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the National University of Singapore, pointed that PUB had done much to reduce flooding "drastically" with the Bukit Timah "bypasses" and that the recent floods only happened in the last two years. "So all along (the measures) seemed to work very well," he said.

In addition, the PUB has proposed an increase in design standards through the revised Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage, and in terms of storm drainage, Singapore compares well to other metropolitan cities, he added.

Going forward, the panel recommends that the agencies take a "risk-based approach" of quantifying of the options and the cost of infrastructure, guided by potential implications of climate change and the use of comprehensive modeling and scenario analysis.

The panel will conclude its review and submit a final report in January.

Better storm data needed to prevent floods
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

MAKING Singapore less flood-prone is not simply a matter of building bigger canals.

The Government needs to study weather patterns and collect better information about rain - before it falls, and even as it is falling.

It should then use this data to design canals that can better handle the occurrence of freak storms.

These are among the first recommendations made by a panel of local and international experts set up in June to look into recent floods.

'It's no longer enough to just think about canals and drains in terms of how much water they can hold,' said the chairman of the panel, Professor Chan Eng Soon, at a press conference to announce its findings yesterday.

'We need data so we can use computer models to test different types of storm patterns.'

The collection of better data would involve the installation of equipment such as rainfall radar, flow meters, rain gauges and water sensors, added Prof Chan, who is the dean of the engineering faculty at the National University of Singapore.

This is necessary because rainfall patterns seem to have changed. The panel said there is evidence that the maximum intensities have increased over the past 30 years.

Such data would let engineers decide whether future canals and drains can handle freak storm patterns such as the rain that flooded Orchard Road in June last year, Prof Chan said.

That storm had come in two short but intense bursts, overwhelming the Stamford Canal's ability to cope with the volume of water.

'Conventional design approach and standards are not sufficient to secure an adequate drainage system for the future,' concluded the panel.

It noted that national water agency PUB had already started on improving the system and that measures under way to address the Bukit Timah floods 'appear to be sound', but added that more can be done.

In the long run, the agency should also expand its programme to add ponds and vegetation at canals to slow and retain more rainwater, said Prof Chan.

He added the panel is also considering other long-term solutions such as porous roads which can soak up rainwater.

The panel, made up of 12 local and foreign experts, was set up by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources after intense rain caused a flood at Orchard Road for the second year in a row.

Members include Professor Toshio Koike from the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Tokyo, and Mr Kan Yim-fai, chief engineer of the Land Drainage Division at Hong Kong's Drainage Services Department.

The panel met last week and will convene again in January next year to finalise its report, which will be submitted to the ministry.

Prof Chan declined to comment on the effect of increased urbanisation in Orchard Road, which was also fingered for the floods there.

'We are still looking into that,' he said.

Mr Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association, hopes the panel will consult building owners and businesses along Orchard Road before submitting its final report.

Among the association's ideas is a 'green lung' behind Ngee Ann City which can help absorb rainwater.

'We are the people on the ground, so we will be able to contribute valuable information,' he said.

Not Marina Barrage's fault, say experts
Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

THE Marina Barrage was not responsible for the floods in Orchard Road. That was the conclusion of the panel of experts set up in June to tackle the flood problem.

The barrage was built in 2008 to reduce flash floods in low-lying regions of Singapore.

But all of the country's major floods have happened after its construction, leading many to blame it. They said the barrage was slowing down the flow of rainwater into the open sea.

The panel's chair, Professor Chan Eng Soon, said it used a computer program to recreate the storm conditions during the Orchard Road floods but removed the barrage from the picture. It found that the floods would still have occurred even without the barrage.

Flood experts urge PUB to relook drainage system
Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 6 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: An expert panel looking at flood protection measures has called on national water agency PUB, to look at a new drainage system for Singapore.

The panel, headed by Professor Chan Eng Soon, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the National University of Singapore, said the model must adequately replicate systems performance, evaluate potential interventions and provide flood-risk mapping.

The panel also urge PUB to increase monitoring of systems performance, such as collecting more real-time information on rainfall.

Professor Chan said: "It's not just modelling. At the frontiers, it's a combination of sensing and modelling. We thought that coupling the two, monitoring and sensing, would allow PUB to do a lot more and moving also towards a real-time system.

"If you look at the integration of say weather radar, rain gauges, water level metres and the flow metres in canals, you can combine all this together with the models and then turn them to predictive systems."

The panel also noted that canals and drains were no longer enough to handle rainfall here.

It said ponds and porous roads could be added to the drainage system.

Porous roads will allow rainwater to seep through the roads, as opposed to flooding the sides.

Another suggestion is to collect storm water at basements of buildings, which could then be reused for various purposes, such as flushing toilets.

The panel added that the current conventional design standards are not sufficient to secure an adequate drainage system for the future and this could be attributed to the rising maximum rainfall intensities in Singapore in the past 30 years.

The panel also ruled out Marina Barrage as the cause of massive floods in the last two years which hit parts of Singapore's shopping belt, Orchard Road.

The panel will submit a final report in January 2012.

- CNA/fa

Expert panel: Singapore drains can't cope with more rainfall
Reico Wong my paper AsiaOne 7 Oct 11;

The current design and network system of canals and drains in Singapore are no longer adequate to handle the higher rainfall levels here, said the Expert Panel on Enhancing Flood Protection yesterday.

So, more "robust" ways are needed to slow down the flow of storm water and increase its drainage, said the panel's chairman, Professor Chan Eng Soon.

Possible ways include building porous roads to soak up storm water and adding greenery at the top of buildings to help capture and retain rain.

Singapore's drainage infrastructure could also be enhanced, such that rainwater in a particular area is drained out through a network of canals, instead of just one, Prof Chan said.

He revealed that those were some of the preli- minary suggestions raised at a meeting of the expert panel at the end of last month. It is studying the feasibility of the suggestions.

The panel, comprising 12 Singapore and foreign experts, was set up in June by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, after repeated serious flooding incidents across the country in the last two years.

The panel is expected to conclude its review of Singapore's flood-protection measures and submit a final report in January.

At a press conference held at the National University of Singapore, Prof Chan noted that Singapore's storm water-drainage system compares well to those of other metropolitan cities, adding that all drainage systems have a finite capacity.

"Conventional design approach and standards are not sufficient to secure an adequate drainage system for the future, especially given global climate changes," he said.

"PUB needs to consider a wider range of measures that mitigates the effects of urbanisation. I think it could look at solutions in a more holistic way."

Such an approach would not just focus on storm- water drainage - which is what PUB, the national water agency, has done in the past - but would also consider other issues like storing and retaining rainwater.

The design of a new drainage system should also take into account other unpredictable risks, such as the possibility that rainfall could be even heavier in the future. Prof Chan noted that the system has to factor in the drainage standards the country wants to achieve, as well.

Singapore ultimately needs to move to a better, "new-generation" drainage model, with enhanced systems-performance monitoring and better capabi- lities to map out areas prone to flooding, he said.

This will provide more accurate operational infor- mation to water agencies, so that they can warn the public earlier about impending floods.

Another recommendation by the panel was for the PUB to find better ways to use storm water to meet Singapore's water needs.

For instance, rainwater could be sent through separate pipes to homes and be used for flushing toilets and gardening, pointed out Prof Chan.

He added that the panel has ruled out the Marina Barrage as a cause of the recent floods here, after conducting relevant tests. A technical study found that the floods would have occurred, even without the existence of the barrage, he explained.

The Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures convened its second meeting from 26 to 30 September 2011.
MEWR undated;

2 The Panel was briefed on national water agency, PUB’s drainage planning and design process and the operations of Marina Barrage. The Panel was also briefed by the Meteorological Service Singapore on historical rainfall trends. A site visit was also made to the ABC Waters project at Kallang River-Bishan Park. At an earlier session, the expert panel also visit the Marina Barrage, the Stamford and Bukit Timah Catchments.

3 The Panel had a good discussion and arrived at some preliminary findings and recommendations on PUB’s drainage design and flood protection measures. The Panel will further deliberate on these recommendations before submitting a final report to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

4 In essence, the Expert Panel recognises that any drainage system, whatever the standards, has a finite capacity. From time to time, intense rainfall will overwhelm the system, and there will be residual risks that need to be managed. This applies to all cities in the world as it is part of a natural process.

5 The Expert Panel’s preliminary findings are:

a) Much good work has been done by PUB. In terms of storm drainage, Singapore compares well to other metropolitan cities.

b) There is evidence (from Meteorological Service Singapore’s analysis of a study of rainfall intensity) that the maximum rainfall intensities in Singapore have increased in the recent past 30 years (from 1980 to 2010).

c) Based on the evidence provided (from modelling simulations by PUB), Marina Barrage was not the cause of the flood incidents in 2010 and 2011.

d) Measures being undertaken to address the Bukit Timah floods appear to be sound and should alleviate the flooding problem in the area.
[These measures include the widening and deepening of Bukit Timah Canal at the stretch from Jalan Kampong Chantek to Maple Ave, and the upgrading of the Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal from Maple Ave to Clementi Road]

e) Conventional design approach and standards are not sufficient to secure an adequate drainage system for the future. The Panel acknowledges that PUB has recognised this and has proposed an increase in design standards through the revised Code of Practice (COP) on Surface Water Drainage.

6 The Panel also proposes the following preliminary recommendations:

a) PUB should move to a process of new generation drainage systems models that can adequately replicate systems performance, evaluate potential interventions and provide flood-risk mapping.

b) There should be increased monitoring of systems performance (rainfall radar, flow meters, rain gauges and water level sensors) to provide better operational information, help validate models and facilitate early warning.

c) PUB to consider a wider range of measures that mitigates the effects of urbanisation (e.g. compensatory storage for new developments and redevelopments). A wider range of measures may be more appropriate for the management of flood risk in the future.

d) PUB to consider added benefits of drainage in the context of the wider future needs of Singapore (e.g. storm water reuse, improved water quality, biodiversity, amenities)

e) PUB to consider further revisions to the current Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage based on:-

Systems approach
Use of Risk-based approach, guided by trends in rainfall intensities and potential implications of climate change and standards
Use of comprehensive modelling and scenario analysis

The Expert Panel will conclude its review and submit a final report in January 2012.

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Forest walk at HortPark: Attacks spark hunt for monkey

Big alpha male believed to be responsible
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

THE search is on for a monkey that is believed to have attacked three people over the past three weeks.

The large alpha male macaque is thought to have bitten and scratched three people at the Forest Walk in Hort Park, forcing its closure since Tuesday last week.

Hort Park and Southern Ridges assistant director Wendy Seah said the search has been unsuccessful so far, despite being expanded to include the nearby Kent Ridge Park.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it is monitoring the situation and will decide by Sunday whether it needs to extend Forest Walk's closure.

In an interview with The Straits Times on Wednesday, Ms Seah said reports of monkey harassment at the park had increased significantly in the past two months. The spike in activity and the attacks were probably caused by a band of six macaques led by an aggressive alpha male.

NParks assistant director and macaque expert Benjamin Lee said the band was distinctive because macaques usually travel in packs of 20 or more.

Ms Seah said the recent attacks were the first to result in physical injury at Hort Park since it opened in 2007.

People The Straits Times spoke to said the creatures have become bolder in recent years, often foraging for food close to bus stops and playgrounds in parks and sometimes harassing people holding food, drinks or plastic bags.

Ms Seah and Mr Lee declined to comment on why the alpha male macaque at Hort Park may have turned violent, but noted that most of the recent attacks involved people carrying food and drinks.

They acknowledged that the monkey feeding problem at the park and other nature spots here has existed since long before the attacks at Hort Park.

'But it's possible that the situation just reached a tipping point,' said Mr Lee.

Ms Seah also noted that 'sometimes animals just go crazy'.

'Just look at Siegfried and Roy,' she said, referring to Las Vegas stage entertainer Roy Horn, who was attacked by his pet tiger in 2003.

Mr Lee added that the Hort Park macaque may have attacked if it felt its personal space had been invaded.

But Ms Tang Mae Lynn, 37, a marketing executive who was scratched and bitten by the animal at Hort Park, said she was not carrying food on Sept 18 and had stayed as far away from the macaques as possible.

'The baby monkey came towards me and my boyfriend because it was curious. It kept going around my feet and then it squealed and attracted the adult monkey. What was I supposed to do?' she said.

Ms Seah said officers at Hort Park have put up more signs advising people not to feed the animals.

Following the attack on Ms Tang, officers with sticks were also stationed at the Forest Walk to scare the macaques away.

Ms Seah said park officers had tried catching the macaques with baited traps when the number of harassment reports increased, but had been unsuccessful.

She acknowledged that the park officers' actions were 'reactive' but said: 'We can't go after the monkeys just because they might attack people. They belong here as much as we do.'

Macaque experts such as Dr Michael Gumert at Nanyang Technological University suggested widening the trails to create more space between the animals and people.

Dr Gumert added that people should move away from baby monkeys when they approach because the parents are invariably nearby and primed to attack to defend their young, even against innocent gestures.

'But the most important thing is to set up a macaque agency here to observe the creatures so attacks can be prevented,' he said. He also said NParks should have ground patrols that make sure people in parks behave properly around the macaques, by not carrying food or going too close to them.

Ms Seah asked that visitors keep the attacks in perspective when considering the animals.

'Every family has a black sheep. You wouldn't kill the entire family because of that,' she said.

Related links
More about why we should not feed monkeys on wildsingapore.

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Effects of Shell fire 'will extend to other firms'

Aaron Low Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

ACCOUNTANTS at oil giant Shell are probably still tallying the costs of last week's fire at the Pulau Bukom refinery, but a research company said the effects, good and bad, will also extend to other companies.

DMG and Partners Research said the fire that raged for a day and a half has already caused a short-term squeeze on the supply of petrochemical items, as the plant was Shell's biggest regional refinery.

Singapore refining margins have surged 40 per cent to US$7 to US$8 a barrel, from US$5, said DMG.

Engineering and construction companies in the oil and gas sector may benefit from the inferno, as orders to repair and rebuild the refinery come in, it added.

'Although the extent of rebuilding the Shell refinery is not known as yet, we think this incident may bring new business opportunities to companies providing civil engineering, construction, equipment rental and/or structural steel works services to the oil majors,' said DMG.

Hai Leck Holdings, Hiap Seng Engineering, Mun Siong Engineering, OKP Holdings, Rotary Engineering and Yongnam Holdings are locally listed companies that provide maintenance services to the oil and gas sector in Singapore, and may thus benefit.

For example, Hai Leck is an integrated service provider of scaffolding, corrosion prevention, thermal insulation, fireproofing and general civil engineering services. It also provides related maintenance services.

Hiap Seng Engineering provides mechanical engineering, plant fabrication, and installation and plant maintenance services.

But the positive effect of the rebuilding effort may be offset by less maintenance work for these same energy companies, as the refinery shuts down.

Shell has shut down its refinery as a safety precaution. Six people suffered superficial wounds and three fire engines were damaged in the fire. At the same time, it appears that maintenance work caused the fire to start.

DMG noted: 'However, it is not known which companies were the ones providing maintenance services for the units affected by the fire/shutdown, or the company that was performing the maintenance job that allegedly sparked the fire.'

DMG said it had contacted some companies to find out more, but they refused to comment any further.

Bukom order flows to contractors expected
But maintenance contractors are hit by refinery's temporary shutdown
Ronnie Lim Business Times 7 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE contractors like Rotary, PEC, OKP, Hai Leck and Tiong Woon, to name just a few, will likely see some order flows following the Shell Bukom mishap, although in the short term, those doing maintenance work there will be affected by the refinery's shutdown, says DMG & Partners Research yesterday.

'In the next few months, the contractors providing civil engineering, construction, equipment rental and structural steel works services will likely see some order flows... however, in the near term those doing maintenance works for the oil major will be affected with the shutdown, which will likely last at least a month,' the research firm said.

'The party found responsible may face more dire consequences... we contacted some companies to obtain more insights but they have refused to comment,' said Selena Leong and Terence Wong, the authors of the research paper.

The 34-hour fire at Shell which started at a pumphouse there last Wednesday afternoon was believed to be accidental and caused by a maintenance job.

'But the company performing the maintenance job that potentially sparked off the fire may suffer loss of status as Shell's qualified contractor, in addition to a blemished safety track record and reputational loss,' DMG said.

'This may result in loss of future business opportunities with the oil majors.'

DMG said that as there are only a handful of listed players providing maintenance services to the oil and gas sector here, it believed that most of the contractors cited, including others like Hiap Seng Engineering, Mun Siong Engineering, Tat Hong Holdings, TTJ Holdings and Yongnam Holdings, 'have some exposure to Shell'.

There will be some short-term pain in that 'companies providing maintenance services to the affected units of the Bukom refinery would likely suffer a reduction in their maintenance revenue, until the refinery is up and operating normally'.

But in the longer term, there will be a positive impact from rebuilding the affected units, DMG said.

'Although the extent of rebuilding ... is not known as yet, we think this incident may bring new business opportunities to companies providing civil engineering, construction, equipment rental and structural steel works services to the oil majors,' it said.

'Some of the beneficiaries of the rebuilding effort may include Hai Leck, Hiap Seng Engineering, Mun Siong Engineering, OKP, PEC, Rotary, Tat Hong, Tiong Woon, TTJ Holdings and Yongnam Holdings,' DMG added.

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Sail through a typhoon at maritime museum

Typhoon Theatre among main attractions
Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

VISITORS to Singapore's first maritime museum can experience a violent storm out at sea and going down with a sinking ship.

The Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (Mema), set to open on Saturday next week at Resorts World Sentosa, features a Typhoon Theatre which can simulate such scenarios.

Designed to look like a ship's deck, the 150-seat theatre boasts a 360-degree screen. Vents and jets emit 'wind' and 'rain' to conjure a storm out at sea.

As the 'ship' hits a wall of water, the platform on which guests are seated descends 6m as the vessel 'sinks' to the bottom, with its 'crew' surrounded by corals and jellyfish.

In the museum, visitors can view 130 artefacts recovered from the oldest- known Chinese shipwreck in South-east Asia.

They are part of some 1,600 pieces salvaged from a site near the Indonesian island of Bakau, east of Sumatra. The items include pots, coins from Chinese dynasties and firearms.

Associate Professor John Miksic, who heads Mema's research and exploration centre, said the Bakau wreck is a very important one that not many had heard of.

'South-east Asia has not been properly explored. Singapore's maritime history goes back beyond Admiral Zheng He. It was a major stopover point on the Silk Route,' said the academic from the National University of Singapore.

Zheng He is considered one of the greatest explorers in Chinese history, sailing as far as Africa in the 15th century.

Besides the Bakau collection, Mema also has on loan pieces from two other shipwreck collections. These may be used to rotate and refresh the exhibits in future.

Another anchor piece is the Jewel of Muscat, a replica of a 9th century Arab ship found in 1998 off Indonesia's Belitung island. It is a gift from the Sultanate of Oman.

Five other life-size replica ships - a Chinese junk, an Indian dhow, a Javanese jong, an Indonesian borobudur and a South China Sea trading vessel - are berthed outside the museum and on-board tours will be provided.

At a media preview yesterday, Mr Jason Horkin, director of operations for RWS' central zone, said the primary focus of the museum is not just to showcase exhibits but also to educate the public about history.

'We are working closely with the Ministry of Education to develop programmes for schools,' he added, noting that the museum plans to launch programmes aligned with subjects such as social studies taught in primary schools and history in secondary schools.

Admission to the museum and Typhoon Theatre is $5 and $6 respectively for adults. The rates for children, aged between four and 12, are $2 and $4.

The aquarium will open next year.

Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium to open on Oct 15
Zhao Quanyin Channel NewsAsia 6 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: Singapore will soon have its first maritime museum dedicated to the exploration of the maritime Silk Route.

The Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium will open at Resorts World Sentosa on October 15.

Visitors will be taken back in time to one of the greatest eras in history, where tales of sea adventurers and the growth of sea trade between Asia and the Middle East are told.

Among the things on display is the "Bao Chuan", a life-size replica of the bow of a treasure ship used by the greatest explorer in Chinese history, Admiral Zheng He.

There is also the Jewel of Muscat, a replica of a 9th century Arab dhow given to Singapore by the Sultanate of Oman. Visitors can also learn about its construction and historic voyage from Oman to Singapore.

The museum is also working with schools to tailor programmes which tie in with their curriculum needs.

Soo Hui Wah, head of education & audience development at the museum, said: "We want to integrate with the Ministry of Education's curriculum and we want to tailor make and customise our programmes to all levels, from pre-schools to tertiary (level). That will actually help us promote the awareness of heritage to people."


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Indonesia: Poacher Fined Rp 3m for Rp 25m Tiger Skin

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 6 Oct 11;

Environmental activists have derided the justice system as ineffectual in protecting the country’s most recognizable threatened species, the Sumatran tiger, after prosecutors demanded just Rp 3 million ($340) in fines in a poaching case.

In a rare case of an endangered species trader actually ending up before a judge, the suspect was caught red-handed with a Sumatran tiger skin in Payakumbuh, West Sumatra, in March.

The trader is thought to be a “big fish” in the illegal trade, buying skins from poachers and selling them on to wealthy buyers, possibly overseas.

Sumatran tigers are considered a subspecies, genetically distinct from mainland tiger populations due to around 12,000 years of isolation after the Holocene sea level rose. There are estimated to be less than 400 individuals surviving in the wild, while two more subspecies have already become extinct, the Bali tiger in the 1950s and the Javan tiger in the 1970s.

Activists say a larger fine is needed to provide a deterrent against poaching of the endangered species.

“In the Payakumbuh case, the trader purchased the tiger skin for Rp 25 million in cash, while the sentencing demand was just Rp 3 million. Meanwhile, he was planning to sell the skin on for Rp 150 million. A fine of just Rp 3 million is a joke for someone like him,” said Retno Setiyaningrum, a legal and policy officer for conservation organization WWF Indonesia.

Retno asked whether the justice system was serious about defending the interests of wildlife in Indonesia.

“The issue is seen only from a human perspective. For example, ‘This man is old and has to provide a living for his family, so don’t sentence him very hard.’ Meanwhile, the speed at which the Sumatran tiger is headed for extinction isn’t taken into account, so there’s no deterrent effect,” she said on Thursday.

Retno added that the law allowed for fines of up to Rp 100 million and prison sentences of up to five years. The prosecution in the Payakumbuh case requested a prison term of three years.

“Concern for tigers does not mean disregard for people. That’s a misunderstanding,” WWF species specialist Sunarto said.

“Everything is interconnected. Protecting tigers means caring about the sustainability of humanity as well,” said Sunarto, who has been studying Sumatran tigers since 2004.

Another WWF staffer, Osmantri, gave examples from Riau, which contains much of the remaining tiger habitat.

“From 2001 to 2011, there were five arrests made for trade in Sumatran tigers in Riau province, but only one made it to court,” Osmantri said.

From 2005 to 2010, at least 40 tigers were known to have been killed in the province.

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Tropical storm in Thailand to affect weather in Riau

Antara 6 Oct 11;

Pekanbaru, Riau Province (ANTARA News) - A tropical storm in Thailand is predicted to create extreme weather conditions in parts of Sumatra, including Riau province, according to Pekanbaru`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

"Parts of Riau province at present have entered the rainy season and passed the transitional period, but the tropical storm in Thailand is likely to create extreme weather conditions in Riau because of a change in the winds` direction," the agency`s spokesman, Warih Budi Lestari, said here Thursday.

He said extreme weather conditions were already happening coastal areas of Riau and would probably spread to other parts of the province.

"Therefore we call on the local community to remain on guard because the extreme weather can also create whirlwinds," Warih said, adding that the extreme weather was due to a lowering of the air`s temperature.

BMKG also predicted that rain would fall evenly with mild and moderate intensity in the afternoon and on until late at night.

"Although rain will fall with mild and moderate intensity, it will be accompanied with thunder and strong winds blowing from the southeast to the southwest," he said.

Warih added that the winds would blow at normal speed namely 5-25 kilometers per hour but it would tend to increase to 50 kilometers per hour if the day time air temperature rose.

"Uncertain weather conditions are predicted to continue over l the next few days, and therefore people should be wary of whirlwinds that can happen anytime and anywhere," Warih added.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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South East Asia's rice bowls under water

Huge areas of padi fields damaged or at risk from flooding in region
Nirmal Ghosh Straits Times 7 Oct 11;

BANGKOK: The governments of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are stepping up efforts to tackle the region's worst flooding in decades, even as a new tropical storm threatens to worsen the crisis.

About 1.5 million ha of padi fields - about the size of 21 Singapores - have been damaged or are at risk from floods exacerbated by consecutive tropical storms and a typhoon since Sept 26.

Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, has seen around 1 million ha of padi fields submerged.

In Vietnam, the No. 2 rice producer in the world, 11 people have been reported killed and more than 20,000 houses and some 5,000ha of rice fields flooded since Monday.

State-controlled media in Laos reported that 23 people have died and some 60,000ha of rice crops destroyed since June.

Cambodia is as badly hit as its neighbours, with 167 deaths reported and more than 215,000 families affected. Some 100,000ha of rice crops have been destroyed.

'Meteorologists have indicated that flooding in some of these countries is the worst in 50 years,' a bulletin from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha) said yesterday.

Thailand's Commerce Minister Kittirat Na Ranong has said that the floods since July could cost the country up to 30 billion baht (S$1.3 billion). The nationwide death toll hit 244 yesterday.

In central Ayutthaya province, floods hit the 500-year-old Chaiwatthanaram temple - a World Heritage site - and about 43 factories, most of them Japanese ventures, in an industrial estate.

Mr Ishii Nobuyuki, secretary-general of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, said four or five of its members had been affected and also several other Japanese firms that were not its members.

The affected factories have suspended operations because of the flooding and disruptions to the supply chain, he said.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra inspected the flood-ravaged province by helicopter yesterday.

A main highway to the north was cut off by flood waters and all bus services were suspended. The army has deployed helicopters to carry relief supplies to affected communities, including in central and northern Thailand.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakhdi said there had been no appeal for international aid, though any aid from friendly countries was welcome.

The Unocha bulletin said that food, drinking water and basic medication are the most needed.

Cambodia made at least one direct appeal for aid to Singapore-based Mercy Relief.

'The current state of calamity has greatly stretched our resources,' wrote Mr Ly Thuch, a senior minister and head of the country's national committee for disaster management, in a letter to the agency.

Mercy Relief said a five-man team will leave for Cambodia this morning with 10 bicycle-powered water filtration systems. It also said it bought 20 tonnes of rice in Cambodia to be distributed to affected communities.

Following a 45-minute video conference with the Cambodian minister, Mercy Relief's chief executive officer Hassan Ahmad said: 'The current floods are larger in scale compared with the major ones in 2000. We need to get to the victims as soon as possible to cater to their survival needs and prevent further exposure to the natural elements or loss of lives.'

The agency would deliver $56,000 worth of relief supplies in its first tranche of aid, he said.

Speaking to The Straits Times in a phone interview, Mr Ly Thuch said: 'More than 1,000 schools are closed and the start of the new school year has had to be postponed. Roads and bridges are washed out.

'It has now been two months of floods and we fear a lot of this rice crop has been lost, and it will be difficult for poor people to recover.'

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Thirsty Pacific Island Nations Declare Drought Emergency

Environment News Service 5 Oct 11;

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, October 5, 2011 (ENS) (ENS) - A joint New Zealand and United States operation is underway to provide emergency water supplies to the drought-stricken Pacific islands of Tokelau, a New Zealand territory with 1,500 inhabitants.

Surrounded by rising seas due to climate change and entirely dependent on rain for drinking water, a severe La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific region has resulted in very low rainfall on many islands. On the weekend the Tokelau government joined the island nation of Tuvalu in declaring a state of drought emergency.

"Tokelau is entirely reliant on rainwater collection and is therefore severely impacted when drought conditions occur. Current information suggests there's less than a week's supply," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said today.

An aircraft will leave Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Ohakea early tomorrow carrying supplies and personnel to Pago Pago, American Samoa. The supplies being flown up include 12 large, empty military water storage containers.

In Pago Pago, the New Zealand team will rendezvous with the US Coastguard cutter Walnut. It has an on-board water desalination plant, which has filled its water tanks providing approximately 136,000 liters (35,930 gallons) of water.

The Coast Guard vessel will travel to Tokelau's three main atolls to deliver the water. New Zealand estimates that this, plus current stocks, will be a sufficient supply in the short term.

"The situation in Tokelau is very serious and this immediate action is required to ensure the safe supply of drinking water for the 1,500 residents - all of whom are New Zealand citizens," said McCully.

Tokelau consists of three tiny coral atolls located about 483 kilometers (300 miles) north of Samoa. Each atoll, lying three to five meters above sea level, is made up of a number of reef-bound islets encircling a lagoon - a total of 127 islets in all.

Each atoll contains one village spread across one or two islets. Remote Tokelau has no airport; visitors must fly to Apia, Samoa and then travel by boat to Tokelau.

The Apia-based general manager for the Tokelau government, Jo Suveinakama, told Radio New Zealand Tuesday that there is only about a week's supply of drinking water on the three atolls.

Suveinakama said freight deliveries from Samoa have brought bottled water and some supplies to top up community water tanks, enough to last a week. Schools are still operating though pupils have to use toilets in private homes because of the lack of water, he said, most government services are on hold.

McCully said, "We thank our American friends for their willingness to assist and the speed at which the Walnut is able to be deployed. This operation demonstrates the importance of New Zealand and U.S. cooperation in the Pacific region."

New Zealand also is responding to the ongoing water shortage emergency in Tuvalu, a New Zealand-administered territory with fewer than 11,000 residents.

"Repairs are underway to the main desalination plant on Funafuti, and a desalination plant and Red Cross personnel arrived on the worst affected island of Nukulaelae this morning," said McCully today.

Two days ago Nukulaelae had just 60 liters of drinking water left for 330 people.

"Early this morning the Tuvalu naval vessel landed the Red Cross and their desalination plant and they were up and running and providing water to the people in the most desperate need," said Gareth Smith, New Zealand High Commissioner to Tuvalu.

New Zealand is considering more aid to Nukulaelae as the island is also experiencing a food shortage.

In Samoa, officials at the Samoa Water Authority said last week that streams and rivers across the country have dried up and serious problems will arise if the drought in Samoa continues.

Samoans are advised to conserve water until the situation returns to normal, but the drought could mean the disruption of activities on plantations and cattle ranches

Most of the islands' water catchments are less than a quarter full and rationing is now part of daily life. In August, the government in Samoa began drilling new boreholes for drinking water while trucking bottled water to thirsty villages.

McCully said, "New Zealand continues to monitor the Pacific drought situation closely and stands ready to provide further assistance if required."

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Biologists fish for reasons behind endangered grouper's comeback

Florida State University EurekAlert 6 Oct 11;

In the waters along Florida's east and west coasts, Florida State University marine biologists are collecting new data on the once severely overfished Atlantic goliath grouper, a native species that is making a comeback in the southeastern United States after a 21-year moratorium on its capture while remaining critically endangered everywhere else in the world.

The three-year study will determine what specific conditions and fishy behaviors are supporting the goliath grouper's population recovery in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico around the Sunshine State.

Findings from the research could help to answer several high-stakes questions: Is there a sustainable fishing level for this species? Or are there better economic uses of this marine resource?

The answers will be crucial to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. They set policy on the management and conservation of the slow-moving, inquisitive giants, some of which grow to lengths of 9 feet and weights of 400 to 800 pounds.

Meanwhile, the new study will be unique in two key ways.

"First, while in the past scientists had to sacrifice the fish to gather age, reproductive and predatory information, at FSU we've developed a non-destructive means of obtaining the data that spares its life," said Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory scientist Christopher C. Koenig, who will lead the project with colleagues at the University of South Florida and the University of Florida.

"Second, those new, non-lethal data-gathering methods allow us to actively engage commercial and recreational fishermen in the scientific process," Koenig said. "We will train the fisherman to obtain scientific samples, and to tag and release the fish."

Among other revealing things, those samples will help Koenig and his colleagues assess the ages of individual Atlantic goliath grouper, which can live for up to 50 years. Learning the average age of the fish in the region should make clearer just how reproductively successful the species has been in the aftermath of the extreme overfishing that occurred in Florida coastal areas during the 1980s –– which triggered the fishing moratorium on goliath grouper that has been in effect since 1990.

The scientists also will investigate predatory behaviors and migration patterns that could be contributing to population recovery.

What they learn may guide future conservation and fishery management decisions on a wide range of specific issues.

"For example," said Koenig, "a recreational catch-and-release enterprise, the scope and impact of which are currently unknown, has developed despite the moratorium on goliath grouper harvest. There also is considerable recreational interest in harvesting for science and in allowing restricted recreational harvest on a regular basis.

"Another relatively unstudied group with an economic stake in this species is the diving community," he said. "Interest in underwater viewing of unexploited marine populations, especially including large animals such as goliath grouper, is on the rise."

With competing interests to either reopen the goliath grouper fishery at some level or declare the species endangered, Koenig said "the management arena has become politically charged and begs for better scientific knowledge."

Koenig and marine ecologist Felicia Coleman, director of the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, have studied goliath grouper life history and behavior for nearly 18 years and published a number of papers on the species' biology, ecology and population dynamics. Their findings have demonstrated the importance of protecting mangrove habitat because of its critical value as nursery habitat for juvenile goliath grouper, whose nearshore survival rate affects the abundance of adults in the offshore environment. Koenig and Coleman have worked closely with commercial and recreational fishermen in many aspects of their research.

"While we'd like to be optimistic about their recovery, the reality is that goliath grouper are exceptionally vulnerable to fishing pressure," Coleman said. "They also are vulnerable to habitat loss, which in the South Florida ecosystem has been altered to such a high degree over the last 100 years that suitable mangrove nursery habitat in all probability presents a serious bottleneck to production of this species.

Koenig points to a misperception that the goliath grouper is an invasive, nuisance species –- though the fish is a native that evolved for millions of years on Florida and Caribbean reefs.

"Fisherman may perceive that all other species they target, such as snapper, now are at an all-time low, and since the protected goliath grouper is on its way to recovery, they may assume the goliath grouper is to blame for the decline in the other species," Koenig said. "But many of those other target species are themselves heavily overfished and still undergoing overfishing, and current data show that goliath groupers eat mostly crabs and slow-moving spiny fish and have a positive effect on the ecosystem because of the type of habitat they create by digging."

"Clearly we must do a better job as scientists and fishery managers to educate the public about marine systems," Coleman said.

Funding for the current Atlantic goliath grouper study comes from a $481,664 grant awarded to Koenig and Coleman by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries Initiative. The research team also includes USF Assistant Professor Christopher Stallings and UF Associate Professor Debra Murie.

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Slew of whale deaths mystifies scientists

New theories are emerging: is global warming, shipping traffic, or the Earth's magnetic field to blame?
Philip Hoare 6 Oct 11;

Wednesday's stranding and sad death of a 60-ft fin whale in the Outer Hebrides comes all too swiftly after what seems to be an unusually high number of unexplained whale mortalities this year – enough to puzzle any whale CSI forensics team. On 8 September a stranded fin whale died off Cleethorpes beach; on 23 September another fin whale died on the Humber, followed on 29 September by a rare sei whale in the same estuary (although my own research shows this was by no means unique. In 1888, a sei whale was harpooned and killed in the Solent, after following the Isle of Wight ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde). This year, two separate pods of pilot whales stranded in the Western Isles.

Faced with yet another slumped and slowly expiring cetacean on the strand, scientists continue to be mystified by the cause for this run of whale casualties. But slowly, some new clues and possible culprits are emerging. Could global warming be to blame? The food sources on which whales subsist prefer cooler waters, being better able to hold oxygen. Noticeably warming waters may be driving whales, and their food, further north.

Other possible causes for whale strandings – suspected in the pilot whale strandings this year - include parasitical infection of the brain with trematodes, and morbillivirus infection, which has the same kind of effect as canine distemper. Illness or other effects may cause the animals to become disorientated in their navigation. Some scientists speculate that cetaceans set their "travel clocks" by detecting minute changes in the geomagnetic field. Others hypothesise that the anomalies which may lead to strandings could even be created by solar activity known to affect the Earth's magnetic field – most visibly in the aurora borealis and australis. Bad weather may also play its part: strandings increase during and immediately after storms.

Man-made problems may be to blame. Noise from boats, ever louder shipping traffic, seismic surveys for oil and military sonar are known to have sometimes fatal effects on animals that rely so heavily on their sense of sound. More insidiously, heavy metals, PCBs, DDTs and other organochlorines are entering the marine environment. Whales, at the top of the ocean food chain, are the final repository for this toxic cocktail.

Sometimes they become the hapless victims of extraordinary combinations of all of these factors. In one recent instance in the Mediterranean, a group of seven sperm whales were panicked, possibly by the use of military sonar in exercises, into entering waters too shallow for them to feed. Weakened by thirst – whales get their water from what they eat, and so may die of thirst as they starve – the animals' internal systems began to break down their adipose fat in which these toxins were stored, relatively safely. By releasing these toxins into their own blood stream, they were in effect poisoning themselves. Finally the whales ran aground off Italy, where, like the fin whale yesterday, they succumbed to the sheer weight of their own bodies which crushed their internal organs.

Is this what is happening around Britain's shores? As ever with whales, it is difficult to tell. Cetaceans spend all their lives in an environment which is alien to us. Ironically, however, whale strandings can be remarkably helpful. These deaths provide us with invaluable clues to the living animals about which we know so little. A fin whale stranded in Denmark last year, for instance, was thought to be about 15-20 years old, a juvenile. The results of its necropsy, released this summer, show that it was blind, arthritic, and 140 years old – thereby doubling, at a stroke, the known longevity of these animals.

Given that it is believed humpback whales may live to 150 years old, and bowhead and North Atlantic whales up to 200-300 years, their very lifespans defeat our scrutiny. It is a salutary notion: whales may be simply too long-lived for us to study within our limited, human lives.

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Climate talks eye revenue from shipping

Shaun Tandon (AFP) Google News 6 Oct 11;

PANAMA CITY — With nations facing gaping shortfalls meeting pledges on climate change, several governments and activist groups are pushing to put a price on shipping emissions to fund aid to poor countries.

Commercial ships virtually always run on fossil fuels and produce nearly three percent of the world's carbon emissions blamed for climate change -- twice as much as Australia -- but are unregulated under the Kyoto Protocol.

Shipping has come under renewed focus in UN-led talks on a post-Kyoto framework which are coincidentally being held in Panama, whose flag flies on 20 percent of the world's merchant vessels and is home to the vital canal.

Germany has spearheaded the idea of setting a price on shipping emissions and devoting proceeds to the new Green Climate Fund, which aims to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in aid to low-lying islands and other poor nations seen as most vulnerable to climate change.

The money has been in question with top donors Japan, the European Union and the United States all facing internal challenges. Experts say the world is also far off from the UN-enshrined target of limiting warming to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent climate change's worst consequences.

"We fully recognize that shipping is one of the most efficient forms of transporting goods, but we can't get away from the sheer scale of emissions if we're serious about meeting the 2.0-degree target," said Tim Gore of aid group Oxfam.

The revenue "would be generated independently of any economic problems that developed countries might be facing and they would come year-on-year in predictable fashion and can easily be scaled up over time," he said.

How the carbon proposal would work remains under discussion. France has supported the idea and called for a market trading system in maritime carbon emissions rather than an outright tax.

Activists hope that France will push forward the idea when it leads the Group of 20 major economies' summit next month and that the year-end UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa would put it in writing, allowing talks to start to make it a reality.

The World Bank and IMF, in a research paper submitted last month to Group of 20 finance ministers and obtained by AFP, said that setting a $25 charge per ton of carbon dioxide from aviation and maritime bunker fuels would generate $250 billion in 2020 and reduce each sector's emissions by five to 10 percent.

For political reasons, activists have sought to separate the shipping and aviation issues. Airlines, backed by governments including the United States and China, have fiercely fought a European Union proposal to tax air emissions.

Concerns from the shipping sector have been more muted. The International Maritime Organization in July adopted energy efficiency standards to reduce emissions and has been studying the levy idea.

The UN agency said that its move marked the first time that an international industry sector has mandated reductions in greenhouse gases, though environmentalists say that the effort will only make a dent.

But the idea of putting a price on shipping emissions has drawn fire from major emerging economies such as China and India, which are concerned that it would treat vessels from rich and developing nations in the same way.

International maritime rules have traditionally applied to all ships regardless of origin due to fears that vessels could easily skirt more complex regulations.

But successive accords of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have recognized that advanced economies bear more historic responsibility for global warming and should do more.

As a solution, Gore of Oxfam proposed that part of the carbon revenue would be directed to developing countries to ensure that their industries are not put at a disadvantage.

Shaun Goh, a transport ministry official from Singapore, said that any levy needed to consider that some countries -- such as his own -- are more dependent on shipping and also ensure that the industry as a whole does not suffer.

"We don't deny that shipping, as well as probably aviation, has a role to play in climate finance. But the question is what role they would play and to what degree," he said.

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