Best of our wild blogs: 3 Dec 11

MORE biodiversity happenings for kids for the holidays!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Shore birds: Terek Sandpiper
from Life's Indulgences

EduCampSG – my annual immersion amongst inspiring educators
from Otterman speaks

The Power of Youth Voice
from Nature rambles

The Turtle Extinction Crisis – Seminar by Dr Brian D. Home
from Raffles Museum News

Raffles Museum Toddycats’ “Wild Carnivores at Geylang East Public Library” Sat 10 Dec 2011 from Otterman speaks

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Hard for Resorts World Sentosa to advise on dolphin protection

Letter from Christina Lee Campaigns Officer, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society
Today Online 3 Dec 11;

I REFER to the report "Dolphins 'to play vital role in public education'" (Dec 1). The Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) is fully supportive of the education programmes that Resorts World Sentosa will be rolling out.

But these should not be at the expense of animal welfare and the survival of wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.

We recognise the benefits of exposing students to marine research projects, but these can be achieved without having dolphins at the Marine Life Park. ACRES is in principle not against animal captivity, but we must keep animals who can cope with captivity.

RWS could follow the example of Monterey Bay Aquarium (in California), which draws 1.8 million visitors annually without housing dolphins. Instead, information about dolphins and whales is imparted through life-sized models and signs.

Ultimately, it is difficult for RWS to urge students to help in dolphin protection efforts, since it did not walk the talk.

The issue is not only about how the dolphins are housed and cared for but, most importantly, whether they were acquired ethically and responsibly.

RWS has the opportunity, though, to show the world that it truly embraces the marine conservation spirit by making a moral decision to rehabilitate and return the dolphins to the wild.

How educational is unnatural dolphin behaviour?
Letter from Audrey Tan Ruiping
Today Online 2 Dec 11;

I refer to the article "Dolphins 'to play vital role in public education'" (Dec 1).

Dolphins in the wild display different behaviours from dolphins in captivity. Apart from recognising how a dolphin looks and how they have to exhibit desired behaviours upon command, children will gain nothing from the experience.

It defeats the purpose of learning to expose children to unnatural behaviour and pass it off as education.

Kept in concrete walls, a dolphin's sonar sensory system is deprived. Unlike in their home in the wild, where dolphins play with their pods, they will now play with basketballs and hula-hoops.

It is ironic that Resorts World Sentosa claims it has to train dolphins to perform natural behaviour.

RWS is sending a wrong message about conservation. Bottlenose dolphins are not in danger of extinction, so why do they have to be "conserved"?

A true conservation message should inform people about what they can do in their capacity to conserve marine life and not by keeping dolphins in enclosures that are only a fraction of the space they are used to.

I hope that RWS reconsiders its decision to bring in the dolphins and uses its clout to truly preach the conservation message by releasing them.

Work has begun on marine curriculum for schools
Letter from Krist Boo Senior Vice-President, Communications, Resorts World Sentosa
Today Online 7 Dec 11;

THANK you for the letters "How educational is unnatural dolphin behaviour?" (Dec 2, online) and "Hard for RWS to advise on dolphin protection" (Dec 3), on the Marine Life Park's (MLP) school programme.

Following our presentation to educators in Singapore, we have begun to tailor curriculum for schools.

Getting close to marine life is an enriching experience. Personal and interactive encounters with marine animals have left deep and far-reaching influence on attitudes toward marine conservation among the millions of visitors to zoological facilities each year.

Our animals, including our dolphins, will be integral in this mission. Our dolphins have been with us for over three years. They are well taken care of by an experienced team of marine mammal specialists and veterinarians in a well-established facility.

All aspects of our park, including the collection of our animals, abide strictly with international regulations.

Over the past four years, the MLP has walked the talk on conservation: We conducted shark's fin education, coral conservation and funded anti-poaching patrol boats in the Galapagos Islands.

In 2008, we established the MLP Conservation Fund to support students, researchers and non-government organisations in marine conservation and research.

Zoological organisations have long played a role in wildlife conservation by providing hands-on expertise, funding and research capabilities.

We invite readers to visit to know the MLP and the marine species under our care.

Related links
Save the World's Saddest Dolphins

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Malaysia: Research on how to save Johor mangrove forests, NGO urged

Mohd Farhaan Shah The Star 2 Dec 11;

JOHOR BARU: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) urged proper studies to be conducted to save mangrove forests especially in Tanjung Piai and Pulau Kukup in Pontian.

Malaysian Nature Society Johor branch chairman Vincent Chow said that the situation of mangrove forests especially in Tanjung Piai are quite worryingly.

He explained that it is never too late to save the mangrove forests and the state government should conduct proper studies that would benefit the rehabilitation of mangrove forests in the long run.

“The new method by the state national parks of mixing mangrove seedlings with sawdust onto soil could prove successful in a short term.

“However, the area along the coastline is widely used by vessels where the shipping waves and sea waves have destroyed the mangroves,” he said adding that such method may not be the smart way to save the mangroves forest.

Chow also urged the state government to look back into the proposal to create a man-made island as a barrier to the strong waves.

“Besides becoming a barrier, the man-made island could also help improve the livelihood of the local fishermen and its ecosystem.

“Due to oil spills and constant pollution in the area, it has caused the numbers of fish and prawns to decrease,” he said adding that the man-made island could also help reclaim some lands lost due to the depleting numbers of mangroves.

It was recently reported that the state’s mangrove forests are being depleted at a rate of 5,000 trees a year due to pollution and oil spills.

The poor state of mangrove forests in Tanjung Piai had been identified and highlighted in the 2010 Auditor-General’s report.

The report also identified that sawdust which was acidic and contained heavy metals had caused the mangroves to die.

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Bangkok: Tunnelling toward a city with no more flood woes

Engineer says B200bn project the only way to stop capital being swamped again
Supoj Wancharoen Bangkok Post 3 Dec 11;

A 100-kilometre tunnel linking Ayutthaya and Samut Prakan has been suggested as the latest solution to tackling floods in Bangkok to better direct water and avoid conflicts among residents.

Although the huge tunnel, 10 metres high and 24 metres wide, would cost an enormous 200 billion baht, engineer Suchatchawi Suwannasawat, who suggested the idea, believed the project "suits Bangkok better than other alternatives".

The super tunnel has won early backing from Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's deputy governor Teerachon Manomaiphibul, who has urged the government also to get behind the project.

Advocates of the tunnel idea say conventional methods for directing water fail to do the job. Many networks of canals are illegally blocked by houses, which limits their effectiveness. Draining water from land which is densely occupied by communities can also lead to conflicts.

The varying topography of the city, with some areas higher than others, makes it difficult for officials to drain and direct water to the routes they want.

But these problems can be avoided if the tunnel is built and "its construction has nothing to do with the expropriation of vast tracts of land as required by the construction of a floodway", said Mr Suchatchawi. He chairs the Thailand Underground and Tunnelling Group under the Engineering Institute of Thailand, which will take part in the 2012 World Tunnel Congress in Bangkok between May 18 and 23 next year.

The tunnel would be built near the Bang Pa-in-Samut Prakan outer ring road, extending 100km from Ayutthaya's Bang Pa-in district to Samut Prakan, which is the exit of the tunnel to the Gulf of Thailand. The tunnel will be divided into two storeys. Its upper half of 5m would be a six-lane road while its lower half would serve as a sewer to drain 130 million cu/m a day of storm water.

But in case Bangkok suffers such a large flood again, Mr Suchatchawi said, the upper half of the tunnel could be turned into a floodway to boost drainage to 260 million cu/m a day.

Bangkok can also earn "added value" as floodwater will be used to produce between 400 and 600 megawatts of electricity with a vertical tunnel called a "Power Generation Shaft" built as part of the project. Construction should take two years if the project is joined by many construction firms building different sections, Mr Suchatchawi said.

"We must have the government implement this tunnel project. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration alone can't do it. It needs a huge investment," said deputy BMA governor Teerachon. "But I agree with the project."

City Hall has built its own giant tunnel linking Rama IX and Ramkhamhaeng roads. The 5km tunnel, 5m in diameter, which opened in February this year, can drain water at 60 cu/m a second.

The city also plans to build another three tunnels, mostly 5m in diameter, as part of its flood prevention measures.

The Ratchada-Suthisan tunnel, construction of which began in the middle of this year, will run 6km from Ratchada-Sutthisan intersection to the Chao Phraya River. Others are the 13.5km Don Muang tunnel which will help drain water in Dong Muang, Chatuchak, Bang Khen districts and parts of the Sai Mai area and the 9.5km Suan Luang Ro 9 tunnel whose drainage will cover 85 square kilometres, including Phra Khanong.

Thailand is not the only country that is troubled by floods, Mr Suchatchawi said. Others countries face the same problem, but they have tunnels to drain water.

The US has a 174km tunnel in Chicago, and Japan a 64km tunnel to drain stormwater.

Kuala Lumpur has also approved a new 9.7km tunnel divided into levels - a motorway on the upper stretch and a sewer on the other.

Mr Suchatchawi said he was especially upset comparing Bangkok's tunnels with Singapore's 300km tunnel network.
International body goes underground

The World Tunnel Congress is an international conference supported by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.

Civil and mining engineers meet at the conference each year to present and exchange views on technologies and projects relating to underground constructions.

Thailand is among the association's 280 members, which include individuals, organisations, companies and 58 entire countries.

Bangkok will host the World Tunnel Congress on May 18-23, after Canada and Finland held the meeting in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

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India: Olive Ridley turtles fall prey to trawlers

Sib Kumar Das The Hindu 3 Dec 11;

In an alarming development, carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles have started appearing in large numbers close to the coastline of the Rushikulya rookery in Ganjam district of Odisha.

Fishermen from the Gokharkuda and Nulia Nuagoan villages attributed the phenomenon to unchecked activity of fishing trawlers in the area.

On Friday morning, around 100 carcasses of the endangered species were found on the beach near Gokharkuda and Nulia Nuagaon.

The Rushikulya rookery coast is one of the major nesting sites for the Olive Ridley turtles. And with their mating season about to start, they have started reaching the shore there, according to Rabindranath Sahu of the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC), an organisation of local villagers involved in conservation of turtles. This year, the Olive Ridley turtles had arrived slightly ahead of schedule.

According to Mr. Sahu, the turtles were falling prey to fishing trawlers that were coming too close to the coastline.

As the trawlers were allegedly not using the Turtle Excluder Device (TED), their gill nets throttled the turtles to death, according to Mangaraj Panda, a social activist working with the fishermen community.

Last week, four traditional fishermen were injured in an altercation that broke out over some trawlers found fishing too close to the coast. These trawlers had destroyed the nets of the fishermen. Trawlers had to keep a distance of 10 km from the coastline, but they were fishing as close as 1 km, according to Mr. Panda.

Despite the restrictions in place since November 1 and owing to lack of patrolling in the region, trawlers from Andhra Pradesh and other areas of Odisha were indulging in fishing, killing turtles, say fishermen.

Mr. Panda and Mr. Sahu said they had never seen such a large number of carcasses of Olive Ridleys on the rookery coast.

The activists demanded strict action against the erring trawlers, and sought intensified patrolling near the rookery coast to check the entry of trawlers there.

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Oil Spills Harm Marine Life Long After Cleanup

Environment News Wire 1 Dec 11;

OSLO, Norway, December 1, 2011 (ENS) - After an oil spill at sea, toxic substances in the spilled oil can continue to damage marine life for a long time, even though the oil appears to be cleaned up, according to a new study by researchers from Norway, the UK, Spain and France.

To help define a European strategy for risk assessment of accidental marine pollution, the two-year research project Toxprof examined the impacts of oil discharges along the coasts of Europe. The researchers studied the effects of several types of oil, including common Arabian light crude and oil from the Norwegian Ekofisk field, in addition to the diesel fuel commonly burned by ships.

"We found that the oil can become more toxic and harmful during the breakdown process," said Toxprof researcher Ketil Hylland, a professor of toxicology at the University of Oslo's Department of Biology.

The experiments were carried out at the University of Oslo's marine biological station at Drobak, located on the Oslo Fjord. Seawater was pumped through coarse sand containing oil that was partially broken down by ultraviolet radiation. The oil then floated into aquariums containing cod, mussels or spotted goby.

In this way, the researchers controlled the concentrations of the oil's environmentally hazardous components.

"We tested how the broken down oils affected cod, mussels and spotted goby," said Hylland. "From the experiments we were able to work out clear profiles for the impacts of the selected oils, yielding some important answers as to which substances are most toxic."

"The project is realistic, simulating what occurs in the natural environment in the wake of an oil spill, where the oil ends up in sand and gravel and eventually seeps into the water masses," Hylland explained. "We measured a variety of biomarkers in the gills and liver of the cod and the digestive glands and gills of the mussels."

"The trials showed that the effects changed over time and lasted more than three weeks," he said.

Each oil type had a different profile in the fish and mussels investigated.

"Using different methods, the project participants observed effects that clearly demonstrated that the contaminants in oil can potentially lead to DNA damage and cause oxidative stress in the experimental organisms," said Hylland.

"The research clearly indicates that even though the oil disappears from the seawater surface and beaches after a spill, the toxic substances in oil can still cause adverse effects long afterwards," he said.

Major oil discharges such as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill of nearly five million barrels in the spring and summer of 2010, or the 2009 grounding of the Panama-registered cargo ship Full City off Langesund, Norway, have "wrought havoc on the natural environment," the researchers said.

"Many sites may experience negative impacts for 15 to 20 years following a large-scale oil spill, as was the case with the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989," Hylland said. "Oil can entail major ecological consequences while breaking down, so the seriousness of oil spills must not be downplayed just because the damage is no longer visible to the naked eye."

The study shows that oil components have widespread long-term impacts that could extend to several generations of fish if exposure to these toxic substances changes the timing of their spawning.

The research originated in 2006, when the Oslo and Paris, OSPAR, Commission requested that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, through the Working Group on the Biological Effects of Contaminants, consider and assess the long term impact of oil spills on marine and coastal life and provide a guidance document on the use of biological techniques to remediate oil spills.

The working group concluded that research was needed on the toxicity profiling of the major oil types transported within EU waters. Four oils were selected: Ekofisk (North Sea), Angolan Dalia, Russian Export Blend, and Arabian Light from Saudi Arabia. Heavy fuel oil and diesel also were studied within the project.

The effects of all these oils were examined using the suite of bioassays and biomarkers recommended by the ICES working group.

This research is closely aligned with the RAMOCS project on Implementation of Risk Assessment Methodologies for Oil and Chemical spills in the European Marine Environment, that is developing fingerprinting tools for heavy oils and new products and assessing their risk in spills in different European regional seas scenarios.

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EU launches new 6.5-bln fund to slash over-fishing

AFP Yahoo News 2 Dec 11;

The European Commission unveiled a new 6.5-billion-euro fund Friday to help fishermen move towards sustainable fishing as part of an effort to save fish stocks.

"This new fund will increase economic growth and create jobs in the sector. No more money will be spent to build big vessels," said the EU's fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki.

"Small scale fisheries and aquaculture will benefit from this budgetary greening of the Common Fisheries Policy," she said.

But environmentalists said the seven-year fund does not go far enough to cut down on over-fishing off Europe's coasts.

It will replace the existing European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which has been criticised by wildlife groups.

"After the poor performance of the EFF, subsidies are only justifiable if they help to end overfishing and stimulate the sustainable management of fisheries," said WWF fisheries expert Louize Hill.

"Unfortunately, the EMFF proposal lacks the ambition to help transform Europe's fisheries management and lay a solid basis for healthy and profitable fisheries in the future," she said.

The new fund notably will help fishermen replace nets with more selective gear in a bid to reduce discards, develop "green" aquaculture and support partnerships between the sector and scientists.

Funds will also be available to spouses of fishermen for training or other economic activities related to fishing.

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Arctic changing 'at record pace': study

AFP Yahoo News 2 Dec 11;

An international team of 121 scientists has found "record-setting" change in the Arctic linked to global warming, including melting ice, warming waters and changing wind patterns.

The 2011 Arctic Report Card, compiled by scientists from 14 countries, "shows that record-setting changes are occurring throughout the Arctic environmental system.

"Given the projection of continued global warming, it is very likely that major Arctic changes will continue in years to come, with increasing climatic, biological and social impacts," the report said.

The authors of the annual report -- first released in 2006 -- said there is now sufficient data to indicate a "persistent decline in the thickness and summer extent of the sea ice cover, and a warmer, fresher upper ocean."

Average temperatures over much of the Arctic have risen some 2.5 degrees F (1.5 degrees C) from a 1981-2010 baseline, and the minimum area of sea ice recorded this year, in September 2011, was the second lowest since 1979.

The "profound and continuing" changes have had an uneven impact on Arctic wildlife, threatening the icy habitats of polar bears and walruses but giving whales greater access to northern feeding areas, the report said.

The warming has also caused new vegetation to sprout in many areas, and has led to a 20 percent increase in phytoplankton, microscopic organisms that are the basis of the oceanic food chain.

The report also found that changes in Arctic winter wind patterns first detected in 2010 have continued.

"The Arctic region continues to warm, with less sea ice and greater green vegetation," said Monica Medina, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Reports like this one help us to prepare for increasing demands on Arctic resources so that better decisions can be made about how to manage and protect these more valuable and increasingly available resources."

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