Best of our wild blogs: 29 Feb 12

Ovipositing Wasps
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Job: Lab Tech @ Duke-NUS, Mar 2012 – Feb 2013: bats, birds, small mammals
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Job: 1-year, Full-time Research Assistant opportunity, coral and sediment analysis
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Singapore road length rises 1.7% in 2011

Rise was due to handover of roads from other agencies, private developers
Samuel Ee Business Times 29 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE's road lane-kilometres increased 151 lane-km last year to 9,046 lane-km, or up 1.7 per cent from 8,895 lane-km as at end 2010, as total road length climbed 35 km or one per cent.

According to Land Transport Authority statistics, the increase was mainly due to handover of roads from other agencies and private developers to the authority.

'There was an increase from 2010 to 2011 as some new roads are now being maintained by LTA,' said an LTA spokeswoman. 'These roads were previously taken care of by agencies such as JTC, HDB or by private developers.'

She said that one example is the road network that JTC handed over from their new industrial park development in Tuas South in 2011.

Total road length is calculated by adding up expressways, arterial roads, collector roads and local access roads.

In 2011, it was mainly arterial roads and collector roads which contributed to the 1.7 per cent increase.

While the expansion last year may sound small, it was still significantly higher than in 2010, when total road length had risen 48 lane-km from 2009's 8,847 lane-km, or a mere 0.5 per cent (see table).

But the 2011 hike is likely to be a one-off increase although the LTA spokeswoman said it is difficult to forecast how many roads exactly will be handed over to the authority in future.

The climb in 2011's total road length comes at a time when vehicle population growth is set to be reduced further in a few months' time. From August 2012, the vehicle growth rate will be cut to 0.5 per cent from the current 1.5 per cent.

The 1.5 per cent rate itself was cut from 3 per cent three years ago after then transport minister Raymond Lim explained in his land transport review in January 2008 that the '3 per cent growth rate is not sustainable with a base of 850,000 vehicles, and with road growth at 0.5 per cent'.

Mr Lim said: 'While we will continue to build roads like the North-South Expressway (NSE), going ahead, the pace of road expansion will have to slow down, from one per cent a year over the last 15 years, to 0.5 per cent a year over the next 15 years.'

The vehicle population has shot up by more than 100,000 units since Mr Lim's remarks.

Based on LTA data, there were 956,704 vehicles plying Singapore roads at end-2011, up 1.15 per cent from end-2010's 945,829 vehicles.

Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world and roads take up 12 per cent of our land area. Only Monaco is more densely populated, with 35,000 people living in less than two square kilometres.

For FY2011, the government set aside $1,615.99 million to extend the road network, down slightly from $1,629 million in FY2010.

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$5m for observatory to break new ground in earth sciences

Kezia Toh Straits Times 29 Feb 12;

THE Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), an earth sciences research body at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), has big plans for a $5 million endowment it has just received.

Its proposed ideas for researching and teaching of earth sciences were picked for support by the AXA Research Fund, the philanthropic arm of insurance company AXA.

EOS director Kerry Sieh said the money will fund research into five natural hazards particularly troublesome to South-east Asia.

These are tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, rising sea levels and climate change.

For example, studies will be done on earthquake-generating faults, active volcanoes and the nature of rising sea levels.

Professor Sieh, a geologist by training, also wants to take the teaching of earth sciences further: 'I want to develop a new way of teaching earth science that uses examples from South-east Asia rather than something that is California- or European-centric.'

In fact, he wants the teaching of the subject done so well that a Singaporean brand name will be established, the same way the Singapore method of teaching mathematics is now recognised abroad.

He added that one important thrust in the EOS' plans is connecting with policymakers, businesses and educators, and giving them information on natural hazards so that they may better plan ahead, make decisions or teach more effectively.

Data on the amount of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, for example, would be relevant to aviation.

The EOS will also collaborate with other NTU institutes, he said. These include the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, the Nanyang Business School and the National Institute of Education.

The endowment from AXA, announced yesterday, also makes Prof Sieh the AXA-Nanyang Chair in Natural Hazards.

This is the first such AXA position in Asia. AXA funds 12 other chairs in countries such as Britain, Italy and Spain.

Prof Sieh will head a team of 20, which includes National Research Foundation research fellow Emma Mary Hill and volcano specialist Fidel Costa.

Mr Godefroy Beauvallet, who heads the AXA Research Fund, said of the fund's choice of the EOS: 'We look at the partners who have the potential to do great research and focus on capacity-building - helping them develop bigger teams, acquire new equipment and liaise with new partners - that is the way we do great research.'

Set up in 2008, the AXA Research Fund has received 3,000 research proposals, but has chosen to back fewer than 300.

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Malaysia: Hunting party to kill menacing wild boars

Hamdan Raja Abdullah The Star 29 Feb 12;

MUAR: Villagers in Air Hitam here have decided to launch a hunting party to shoot wild boars responsible for four deaths, damaging crops and for eating their chickens.

Air Hitam penghulu Ariffpuddin Abdul Latif said four villagers had been killed since last year when the wild boars smashed into their motorcycles or bicycles at night.

He said two of the deaths occurred along the Muar – Air Hitam road while the other two, took place along plantation roads between Kampung Seri Sempadan and Kampung Parit Haji Anuar.

“There are at least 200 wild boars roaming in the plantations of these villages and they also forage for food near the houses.

“Since they have caused fear, we decided to organise a hunting party to shoot them,” he said after presenting some RM2,400 worth of shells to Muar Shooting Club president Sia Tiong Ming recently.

Ariffpuddin said the shells were donated by Bukit Naning assemblyman Datuk Abdullah Ali, who had asked the club and the Wildlife Department for help.

He said the club had decided to send some 80 members along with hunting dogs and they had teamed up with Wildlife Department officers to enter the villages on Sunday.

He said before the hunt took off, villagers in five areas in Air Hitam were advised not to enter their plots to avoid any unwanted incidents.

He said the hunters entered the plots at 8am and by 3pm, they had managed to shoot 18 wild boars, adding that, the hunt would continue until the villages were free from wild boar menace.

Meanwhile, Sia said many areas in the district now had wild boars and advised the residents to be on the alert when entering areas with thick undergrowth.

“We may not be able to shoot all the wild boars here but we can at least reduce their number,” he added.

Wild boar attacks two
Farik Zolkepli The Star 1 Mar 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Two orang asli women searching for herbs and firewood in Kampung Sungai Berua, Hulu Terengganu, were injured after being attacked by a 70kg wild boar.

Dajang, 62, was bitten on her arms and legs while her daughter Sallek Bakar, in her 30s, had injuries all over her body.

Both women have been warded at the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital.

Sallek’s sister was unharmed during the savage attack at 10am yesterday.

Dajang said they would often go to the jungle some 5km away from Kampung Sungai Berua to look for firewood.

“I was collecting wood when I saw the wild boar walking in front of us. We didn’t have time to flee as it came charging at us.

“The animal bit me on my arms and legs before attacking my daughter,” she said, adding that Sallek had tried to beat the boar off with a stick but this only sent it into a frenzy.

Dajang said she started shouting for help when the wild boar set upon Sallek. However, no one came.

The boar ran off after attacking the women.

“We managed to make our way to the village and seek help. This is the first time we have been attacked like this. I am still shocked,” she said.

A fellow villager who declined to be named said wild boars were a common sight in the jungle.

Rangers on the hunt for rogue wild boar
The Star 2 Mar 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The hunt is on for the wild boar that attacked two orang asli women in the jungle near Kampung Sungai Berua, Hulu Terengganu.

The Terengganu Wildlife and National Parks Department has dispatched four rangers, led by its Hulu Terengganu chief Wan Harmizi Wan Jusoh, to catch the animal which has been described as dangerous.

Department director Yusoff Shariff said it was the first time that such attacks had occurred in the area.

“We believe the two women had ventured near the animal's lair.

“It is extremely dangerous and we hope people will not venture into the jungle near the village until we catch the animal,” he said yesterday.

“The department has cordoned off the area. We will hunt down the animal and put it down as soon as possible,” he said.

The two women Sallek Bakar, in her 30s, and her mother Dajang, 62 were reportedly searching for herbs and firewood when they were attacked by the wild boar, said to weigh around 70kg, on Wednesday.

Dajang was bitten on her arms and legs while her daughter had injuries all over her body.

Both women have been warded at Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital.

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E. Kalimantan’s Green Turtle Population Rapidly Dying Off

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 28 Feb 12;

Berau, East Kalimantan. The green turtle population in the Berau marine conservation area off East Kalimantan has declined by about 70 percent in the past decade as a result of human activity, a wildlife activist revealed on Monday.

Rusli Andar, coordinator for World Wildlife Fund Indonesia’s East Kalimantan marine program, said that there were an estimated 100,0000 to 150,000 turtles in the conservation area in 2002 but that by 2010 the numbers had dropped to between 30,000 and 50,000.

“There are a lot of factors for this, including the illegal trade in turtles and turtle eggs, the killing of turtles for their shells and the continued use of trawl nets by fishermen in which the turtles get tangled up and die,” he said.

But the biggest threat, Rusli said, is the development of beach resorts on some of the 12 islands within the conservation zone, including Derawan and Sangalaki islands, whose beaches are important nesting grounds for turtles that lay their eggs there.

Rusli said the Berau administration had allowed a spate of development in recent years in order to cater to the growing number of tourists in the area.

What is ironic, he pointed out, is that the turtles are one of the main reasons tourists come to Berau. So by destroying their nesting grounds, the administration is killing off a key source of income.

“Why would tourists still come here if there were no turtles?” Rusli said .

He also bemoaned the lack of enforcement against the trade in turtles and their eggs.

Under the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, the green turtle is a protected species and anyone caught trading it faces up to five years in prison and Rp 100 million ($11,000) in fines.

“It’s clear that the trade in turtles, whether live or dead, is prohibited by law, yet the fact remains that the practice is thriving,” Rusli said.

“Law enforcement on this issue is still weak.”

Spanning 1.32 million hectares, the Berau marine conservation area, established in 2005, is the largest green turtle refuge in Indonesian waters.

It is also home to the second-highest coral reef biodiversity in Indonesia after West Papua’s Raja Ampat Islands, and the third-highest in the world.

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Nowhere to Hide: Sumatran Tigers Threatened by Human Destruction of Groundcover

ScienceDaily 28 Feb 12;

The elimination of ground-level vegetation is bringing another of the world's tiger subspecies to the brink of extinction, according to Virginia Tech and World Wildlife Fund researchers.

The Sumatran tiger, native to Indonesia, could be the fourth type of tiger to disappear from the wild. This is due, in part, because of deforestation and the loss of thick groundcover, also known as understory cover, said Sunarto, lead scientist on a study that is the first to systematically investigate the use of both forests and plantation areas for tiger habitat.

Although tiger's prefer forest to plantation areas, the study found that the most important factor was that availability of thick ground-level vegetation which apparently serves as an environmental necessity for tiger habitat, regardless of location.

"As ambush hunters, tigers would find it hard to capture their prey without adequate understory cover," said Sunarto, who earned his doctorate at Virginia Tech and now is a tiger expert for the World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia (WWF-Indonesia). "The lack of cover also leaves tigers vulnerable to persecution by humans, who generally perceive them as dangerous."

Within forest areas, tigers also strongly prefer sites that have low levels of human disturbance as indicated by their preference for areas closer to forest centers and farther from human activity centers such as bodies of water and areas bordering plantations and towns.

Tigers occupy only around 7 percent of their historic range. Estimates place the current wild tiger populations at as few as 3,200 tigers, including only about 400 Sumatran tigers, which are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

"These study results indicate that to thrive, tigers depend on the existence of large contiguous forest blocks," said study co-author Marcella Kelly, an associate professor in Virginia Tech's Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Sunarto's graduate advisor.

The Indonesian government has set aside many areas and national parks for the conservation of endangered species but about 70 percent of tiger habitat in Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia, remains outside these protected areas. The preservation of such habitats, which requires support from government, landowners, and concession holders, is critical for conservation of the species, the study authors emphasize.

A recently published Indonesian presidential decree on land use in Sumatra points out the importance of building wildlife corridors between critical areas, where commitments from concession owners are key to successful implementation.

"Even with current legal protection for the species, tigers are not doing well in many places, especially those outside protected areas," Sunarto said. "As long as forest conversion continues, tigers will require active protection or they will quickly disappear from our planet."

The study concludes that in order to protect tigers, it is critical to stop clearing Indonesia's remaining natural forests for plantations. With adjustments in management practices on existing plantations to include more understory and riparian forest corridors, tigers could use a mosaic of forest patches across fragmented landscapes.

"We hope that plantation managers and concession owners can use the recommendations of this report to apply best management practices to further protect Sumatran tigers from extinction," said Anwar Purwoto, director of the Forest, Freshwater, and Species Program at WWF¬Indonesia.

"Ensuring that tigers are able to roam freely in natural forests and restored habitat is crucial to their survival," said co-author Sybille Klenzendorf, head of WWF's species program, who earned her master's and doctorate degrees in wildlife science from Virginia Tech. "This study is a reminder of just how important it is for us to protect the natural forests that tigers and other animals rely on."

The report was published in the Public Library of Science's online journal PLoS ONE on Jan. 23, and was a collaboration between the university and WWF, with support from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry.

Journal Reference:

Sunarto Sunarto, Marcella J. Kelly, Karmila Parakkasi, Sybille Klenzendorf, Eka Septayuda, Harry Kurniawan. Tigers Need Cover: Multi-Scale Occupancy Study of the Big Cat in Sumatran Forest and Plantation Landscapes. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (1): e30859 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030859

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Global campaign to take dugong off the menu

Vesela Todorova The National 29 Feb 12;

Saving the dugong from extinction has as much to do with tackling poverty as it does conservation work, scientists say.

A programme to help developing nations to protect and not eat the shy marine mammal, also known as the sea cow, was launched yesterday in the capital.

"The problem for dugongs is that most live offshore from developing tropical countries," said Professor Helene Marsh, the technical adviser for the Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative.

"In those countries, people are often hungry and dugongs are worth much more dead than alive.

"They are long-lived and slow-breeding, very accessible to people and delicious to eat. If I gave you some dugong meat, which would be highly illegal, you would probably say it was veal."

The programme, organised by the office of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Their branch in Abu Dhabi services the Dugong Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by 21 of the 40 states where dugongs live.

The Abu Dhabi office is funded and hosted by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (Ead).

It aims to start community projects in Mozambique, Papua New Guinea and the Gulf of Mannar, between India from Sri Lanka. The idea is to help to improve the livelihoods of traditional communities, offering incentives to protect dugongs.

Dr Donna Kwan, the programme officer for the joint effort, said the initiative was looking for funding of about US$5 million (Dh18.3m) in the first three years.

Dr Kwan said that of the three projects, the one in Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago is closest to completion and could be running within a year.

While Abu Dhabi's dugong population is stable, the number of recorded deaths rose last year, said Thabit Al Abdessalaam, the executive director of the Marine and Terrestrial Biodiversity Sector at Ead.

The annual average is seven or eight, but last year 13 deaths were recorded, Mr Al Abdessalaam said.

"It is still within the safe limits but it something we need to monitor and watch closely," he said.

Most of the deaths were recorded in the Western Region, and drowning in nets is the most common cause.

Dugongs can live for more than 70 years but if food is scarce they may not start breeding until they are 17.

Their metabolism is so slow it is comparable to that of the three-toed sloth.

That unique biology and dependence of sensitive seagrass beds mean only 13 in a population of 1,000 can be lost in a year if their numbers are to remain healthy.

With almost 3,000 dugongs, Abu Dhabi has the world's second-largest population. Australia has the largest.

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Madagascar Gets 'Roadmap' To Conserving Marine Life Yahoo News 29 Feb 12;

A "roadmap" for preserving marine life around the famously biologically rich island of Madagascar has been proposed in a new study released last week.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on Earth yet has proposed to create more than 1 million hectares (3,861 square miles) of protected areas to provide for the long-term conservation of its marine resources, including coral reefs and mangroves.

The new study, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, the Wildlife Conservation Society and others used what is called (borrowing from the financial world) a "diversified portfolio" approach, to identify what areas need protection and use a variety of strategies to protect them. These options include implementing strict no-take zones (where fishing is completely banned) to areas that would allow fishing.

"It behooves countries, in the face of impending fisheries and climate crises, to plan and implement intelligent management that will increase the resilience of their natural marine resources," said study co-author Tim McClanahan of the WCS. "This paper will provide a roadmap for Madagascar to plan and manage these resources and the methods should prove affordable and useful for the poorest countries where adaptation to climate change will make marine spatial planning a critical part of a successful response."

The method looked at existing information on the country's climate, along with dependence on fisheries and marine resources, and applies three different planning approaches to establish priorities for management along Madagascar's entire west coast.

The study authors said the process provides a more efficient and comprehensive way to plan on a large scale and they found that several marine areas in Madagascar are conservation priorities across all methods.

These conservation priorities included coral reefs in the vicinity of the Barren Islands, the large shallow banks to the northwest and southwest, and the reefs of Juan de Nova.

The study also found endangered regions due to heavy human pressure in the south, and areas of high climate variability intermixed with lower vulnerability but high biodiversity in the northwest. Areas of particularly high biodiversity value include the islands, reefs and bays of the northwest; the fringing reefs of the southwest; and the barrier reefs and islands of the central west coast.

The study was published in the Feb. 16 issue of the journal PLoS One.

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New flu virus is found in bats

AFP Yahoo News 28 Feb 12;

A new strain of influenza A has been found in fruit bats, indicating for the first time that bats, like birds, can be carriers of the virus, though it is not believed risky to humans, according to US health authorities.

"This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue," said Suxiang Tong, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pathogen discovery program.

"The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses."

The influenza A virus was detected in a sample of three of 316 live little yellow-shouldered bats captured at two different sites in Guatemala.

That type of bat is not known to bite humans but feeds on fruit, and is native to Central and South America.

Previous flu pandemics, such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which came to the public's attention as "swine flu," have been known to originate in animals and eventually transform so that they gain the ability to infect people.

"Fortunately, initial laboratory testing suggests the new virus would need to undergo significant changes to become capable of infecting and spreading easily among humans," said Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in CDC's Influenza Division.

"A different animal -- such as a pig, horse or dog -- would need to be capable of being infected with both this new bat influenza virus and human influenza viruses for reassortment to occur."

More details about the findings are published in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Malaysians protest against rare earths plant

Melissa Goh Channel NewsAsia 27 Feb 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Protests over the controversial rare earths processing plant in Malaysia appear to be gaining momentum despite safety assurances from Prime Minister Najib Razak.

He says scientific evidence shows the Pahang plant is "harmless" to residents living in its vicinity.

Anti-Lynas protesters say they are disappointed with Mr Najib's statement, adding that "a clean environment needs a clean government".

They are planning to tie up with Bersih, the electoral reform group for joint protests.

Located in the Gebeng industrial zone, some 20 kilometres north of Pahang's state capital Kuantan, stands what would be the world's largest rare earths refinery.

The Lynas advanced materials processing plant is built over 100 hectares of land, at a whopping US$373 million.

And the Australian miner says the plant is 91 percent ready.

But over the weekend, thousands of Malaysians voiced their opposition against the plant.

And even though security was tightened ahead of Himpunan Hijau 2.0, it was the largest anti-Lynas gathering so far.

More than 10,000 people turned up, some even from far-off areas.

Foo How and his friends were among protesters who drove 260 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur to join the rally.

He says Malaysia has nothing to gain from Lynas.

"It's tax free, with 12 years tax free, we are not earning anything or charging environmental tax," he said.

Local residents urged the authorities not to gamble with their children's future.

"I have two kids, this thing is very dangerous for us, we must stop Lynas and save Malaysia."

"I don't think we need to take this sort of risk."

Others were more realistic - they want Lynas to commit to a long-term waste disposal plan.

"If they take back their waste, they comply with all environmental needs, they can operate here, BASF is here, Amoco is here, that's how they do it, they pick up their waste and do it properly."

There are some 30,000 people living within a three-kilometre radius of the plant, and despite safety assurances from the prime minister, many are not convinced.

"Don't talk about tourists, even our local people are also now planning to move out from the place. After 20 years, our children our great grandchildren, they said nothing is going to happen but we are not sure. There's no point getting angry, it's already done, even if we are angry what else can we do but protest?"

While some local residents are contemplating moving out of the state to avoid the risk of possible radiation, others are worried about tourist arrivals if the plant is allowed to fire up and begin operation.

The concern has even spread to Kuantan's renowned salted fish business.

Villagers worry that the rising fear of contamination and all the negative publicity surrounding Lynas may take a toll on their businesses.

- CNA/de

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Tsunami debris spreads halfway across Pacific

Audrey McAvoy Associated Press Yahoo News 29 Feb 12;

HONOLULU (AP) — Lumber, boats and other debris ripped from Japanese coastal towns by tsunamis last year have spread across some 3,000 miles of the North Pacific, where they could wash ashore on remote islands north of Hawaii this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the first bits of tsunami debris will make landfall soon on small atolls northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands.

NOAA's tsunami marine debris coordinator, Ruth Yender, told an online news conference Tuesday that agency workers were boarding Coast Guard flights that patrol the archipelago. NOAA also asked scientists stationed at Midway and other atolls to look for the debris.

Debris initially collected in a thick mass in the ocean after tsunamis dragged homes, boats, cars and other parts of daily life from coastal towns out to sea. Most likely sank not far from Japan's eastern coast.

In September, a Russian training ship spotted a refrigerator, a television set and other appliances west of Hawaii. By now, the debris has likely drifted so far apart that only one object can be seen at a time, said Nikolai Maximenko, a University of Hawaii researcher and ocean currents expert.

One to 2 million tons of debris remain in the ocean, but only one to 5 percent of that could reach Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington state and Canada's British Columbia, Maximenko said. The tsunamis generated a total of 20 million to 25 million tons of debris, including what was left on land.

Yender said that so far, no debris confirmed to be from the tsunamis has landed on American shores, including large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms found in Alaska last year. The buoys would have had to travel faster than currents to get to Alaska at that time if they were set loose by the March 11 tsunamis.

Similar buoys have washed ashore in Alaska and the U.S. West Coast before the tsunami, she said.

Nicholas Mallos, a conservation biologist and marine debris specialist for the Ocean Conservancy, said many of the objects in the debris were expected to be from Japan's fishing industry. That could pose a risk for wildlife, such as endangered Hawaiian monk seals, if fishing gear washes up on coral reefs or beaches.

"The major question is how much of that material has sank since last year, and how much of that remains afloat or still in the water column," Mallos said.

Maximenko said the dispersion of the debris makes it more difficult to track but no less hazardous.

"In many cases it's not density that matters, it's total amount," he said. "For example, if there's a current flowing around Midway island, that island would collect debris like a trawl moving across the ocean. It will collect all the debris on its way."

Ultimately, Maximenko said, tsunami debris will join garbage floating in a gyre north of Hawaii produced by swirling Pacific currents. Much of that trash in a wide area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bits of plastic, which slowly breaks down into smaller pieces but doesn't completely disappear.

It was unclear whether large items like refrigerators will make it across the ocean because there has been little precedent for such an event.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Feb 12

Send in the Clowns!
from Butterflies of Singapore

from The annotated budak and Paradise on earth

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Two road projects to benefit motorists in the north

Faster trips, smoother connection to three expressways by 2015
Royston Sim Straits Times 28 Feb 12;

MOTORISTS driving to and from Yishun or Seletar Aerospace Park will enjoy faster journeys and a smoother connection to three expressways by 2015.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has rolled out two new road projects to improve accessibility and road capacity in the northern part of Singapore, in anticipation of upcoming developments there.

Once these are completed, motorists travelling from Yishun to the Central Expressway (CTE) can expect to save up to 10 minutes on their journeys, it said.

Yesterday, the LTA awarded a $75million contract to civil engineering firm OKP Holdings to expand the interchange connecting the CTE, Seletar Expressway (SLE) and Tampines Expressway (TPE).

The LTA also announced that it would soon call for tenders to construct a new road link between Yishun Avenue 6 and the TPE. This is expected to ease traffic flow along the busy Lentor Avenue and Yishun Avenue 2.

As part of the interchange expansion, OKP will build four new flyovers to connect Seletar West Link with the CTE, the TPE and Yio Chu Kang Road.

It will also widen the Yio Chu Kang flyover and a portion of the SLE and TPE. Work is scheduled to start next month.

OKP was previously involved in the CTE widening project, building two new flyovers between Braddell Road and the Pan-Island Expressway that were completed last year.

Its group managing director, Mr Or Toh Wat, said it aims to minimise disruption to motorists. The construction work will be carried out mostly during off-peak hours or at night, particularly if there are temporary lane closures involved, he said.

Advance notices and signs will also be put up at least a week before a road is closed, he added.

Besides the interchange expansion, the LTA will build a new road link between Yishun Avenue 6 and the TPE.

A new dual two-lane road will be constructed between Yishun Avenue 1 and Avenue 6, while the existing Seletar West Link will be widened from a dual one-lane to a dual three-lane carriageway.

Tenders for this new road link will be called soon, and construction is expected to start in the third quarter of this year.

Like the interchange expansion, this project is expected to be ready by 2015.

By then, motorists can look forward to better connectivity and faster journeys between Yishun, Seletar Aerospace Park and the three expressways, said the LTA.

Two new road projects to improve connectivity in northern S'pore
Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority has announced two new road projects to improve overall road connectivity and capacity in the northern part of Singapore.

The first, costing S$75 million, will involve expanding the existing interchange that connects the Central, Tampines and Seletar Expressways.

As part of the expansion project, four new flyovers will be built.

Five new road connections will also be created to improve the connectivity between the expressway and the road network.

The CTE/SLE/TPE interchange expansion project has been awarded to Or Kim Peow Contractors (Private) Limited.

The five new road connections will be from Seletar West Link to CTE; from CTE to Seletar West Link; from Seletar West Link to Yio Chu Kang Road; from Yio Chu Kang Road to Seletar West Link; and from TPE (westbound) to Seletar West Link.

The second project will involve building a new road between the TPE and Yishun Avenue 6.

Tenders for the new road link will be called shortly.

When completed by 2015, motorists can look forward to better connectivity and faster travelling time between the three connecting expressways, Yishun Town and the new Seletar Aerospace Park.

For example, motorists travelling from Yishun Town to CTE can expect time savings of up to 10 minutes.

- CNA/cc

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Malaysia: Nubbins attract fishes and invertebrates to build healthy reefs

Ivan Loh The Star 28 Feb 12;

THE pilot project to conserve corals on Mentangor Island, near Pangkor Island, has proven to be successful.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) general manager Julian Hyde said a visit to the site in January showed that the survival rate of the coral nubbins is a 100%.

Hyde said a frame measuring three square metres with Acropora corals were transplanted onto the seabed near Mentangor from a nursery last year.

It is starting to build a healthy ecosystem, with a large number of fishes and invertebrates taking up residence.

“We visited the site in November last year and found that the transplanted corals to be in very good condition, with a 100% survival rate and signs of further growth.

“This is an early indication that the site is suitable for rehabilitation,” Hyde told The Star.

“With the success of the project, we will expand by adding more frames with corals on it onto the seabed this year,” he added.

Hyde also pointed out that snorkelling guides too have come to a consensus to limit snorkelling activities by visitors at Mentangor for at least a year to allow the area to rehabilitate without external disturbances.

In October last year, RCM had laid the frame with the corals onto the seabed off Mentangor with the help of local snorkelling guides.

The island, chosen because it is rarely visited, was then established as a safe snorkelling zone for the rehabilitation of corals.

Hyde explained that the snorkelling guides and boat operators, fearing that the bleaching of the corals could affect their livelihood, had sought the expertise and assistance of RCM to revive the dwindling coral reefs on Pangkor and its surrounding islands.

“The snorkelling guides and boat operators understand that without corals, there will be no marine life hence, fewer visitors would want to snorkel there.

“Initial studies by RCM and coral reef ecologist Kee Alfian Abd Aziz from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia show that rehabilitation of the corals can be done,” he said, adding that the project was financed by YTL Corporation Bhd as part of their corporate social responsibility.

However, he declined to disclose the cost of the project.

He said the nursery for the corals that is situated near YTL’s Pangkor Laut Resort, was started in November 2010 to find out if it is viable to cultivate corals at Pangkor and ultimately to increase the number of corals in the sea.

Hyde said they first conducted the coral transplant project in Pulau Tioman with support from the Department of Marine Parks in July 2011 before the starting one at Mentangor.

Hyde said RCM would continue its efforts to educate the public on the coral conservation project.

“We have planned to include a school education programme with students from SK Seri Pangkor under RCM’s Rainforest to Reef programme,” he said.

“We want to educate the children about the importance of corals and its role in the marine ecosystem,” he added.

RCM is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs.

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Malaysia: Gaharu wood trade needs to be controlled

Tracking tree thefts
Natalie Heng The Star 28 Feb 12;

The gaharu trade needs to be controlled if it is to be sustained.

THE TRAIL of dead trees littering our forests are traces of an illegal smuggling ring that has spread from southern Thailand down to Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, over the past 30 years or so. Today, these poachers are well-entrenched within the forests for one very lucrative reason: gaharu.

Syndicated gangs, often of Thai, Vietnamese or Myanmarese origins, scour the jungle for months in search of Aquilaria malaccensis and the fragrant resin sometimes infused within the heartwood of this tree species. The presence of the resin is, however, unpredictable as it occurs only as an immune response to injury or pathogenic infection.

There are many names for it – gaharu, agarwood or oudh. Its etymology can be traced back to ancient times when gaharu, thought to be derived from the Sanskrit word agaru, was found in and traded from India. It was one of the most sought-after substances in China during the tenth century, and direct exports to the Middle East began sometime in the ninth century.

Rarity makes the commodity highly valuable today. The fragrant resin is generally found only in one out of 10 A. malaccensis trees or karas, as the tree is known locally. Unfortunately, unlike the indigenous communities who have been collecting the wood for centuries, most syndicate-hires lack the skill to distinguish a karas containing gaharu from one that does not. So the poachers hack down every agarwood tree, leaving a trail of unnecessary devastation in their wake.

Decades of relentless harvesting have caused the tree to become increasingly difficult to find. Perhaps, that is why poachers are more brazen now. Earlier this month, a 30m-high karas tree was felled close to the Penang Botanic Gardens. The pillaging of gaharu raises wide-ranging issues: illegal collectors armed with axes and M16 rifles not only endanger wildlife but put unarmed wildlife enforcement officers at risk. The illegal trade also bleeds profit from our gross domestic product – exactly how much is lost from royalties and export tax remains unknown.

Woody scents

Once upon a time, things were very different. Records from the 17th century described “dense groves” of A. malaccensis growing in the hinterlands of Malacca. Spanish reports described agarwood as one of the primary commodities traded by merchants, alongside diamonds, camphor, and wine in Cerava (Sarawak) way back in the 1530s.

Documents dating from the 1900s recounted that gaharu was burned by locals as incense before prayers, or taken to Mecca. Malays used it as medicine, poured it to the ground as libation at grave sides, and prized attractively-shaped pieces as talismans.

The uses were cross-cultural. Just 50 years ago, Malaysia’s Chinese populace used gaharu dust in joss sticks. Today, it is only found in premium products.

Gaharu must have actually been quite affordable for a period of time, but by the mid-1970s, prices shot up as a Middle Eastern oil boom led to newfound wealth and an insatiable appetite for oudh, driving supply down and prices, up.

Scientists, private companies and government agencies have responded by refining inoculation techniques in commercial gaharu plantations. However, the efforts are not yet capable of producing the same types of high-grade gaharu found in the wild. Generally, the darker, denser and more fragrant the wood, the better. A 1kg bag of A-grade wood chips can fetch up to RM20,000. These high-grade wood chips are often used as incense, whist the distilled oil is used as a body fragrance. It takes about 15kg of wood chips to produce one tola (about 11.6g).

According to The Trade and Use of Agarwood (Oudh) In The United Arab Emirates, a 2010 report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a wealthy Emirati household would not think twice about paying 1,000 Emirati Dirham (RM846) for one tola of good quality oil. That seems to be the going rate for Malaysian gaharu oil, which makes up 50% of the world’s legally-traded gaharu.

Indian gaharu fetches up to RM5,000 a tola as the gaharu trees there are incredibly scarce due to over-harvesting. A. malaccensis is currently classified as “vulnerable to extinction” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, whilst all Aquilaria species (and the related genus Gyrinops) are now listed under CITES Appendix II – which means trade is only permitted with an appropriate export permit and certificate of origin.

No legal mandate

Malaysia is a long way from India’s situation but there is much to be improved in the administration of the gaharu trade. One area of concern is misdeclarations of exports, which might undermine CITES and lead to a loss of taxes due to the under-valuation of the commodity. The first point was raised in a 2010 CITES report Wood For The Trees: A Review Of The Agarwood (Gaharu) Trade In Malaysia. The CITES management authority is the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB). Part of its duty is to ensure all Appendix II CITES export and import permits are in order, but it currently does not have enforcement powers to cover customs-controlled items such as wood chips for perfumery, medicine, oil and perfume – categories under which gaharu products predominantly fall. The result seems to be a lack of any applicable Malaysian law which allows MTIB to enforce the requirements of CITES.

Even after the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 came into force (it lists any customs officer as a CITES enforcement officer), it is still not clear if this jurisdiction covers what was not specified under the Customs Act 1967 as controlled items.

However, efforts are under way to resolve this, with a plan to include an additional schedule specific to CITES species in regulations governing prohibited import and export items. MTIB director of licensing and enforcement, Norchahaya Hashim, says this means that Aquilaria timber, along with various gaharu-derived plant parts and products (including gaharu oil), will be listed as controlled items, hopefully by the end of next year.

The misdeclarations stems partly from the lack of a standard grading system for exporters. Norchahaya says MTIB is addressing this by drafting a set of visual grading guidelines, expected to be ready by mid-2012. To obtain a CITES export or import permit, the gaharu wood products must be graded to determine that the declared value is consistent with the quality and grade of the product.

These developments, though a step forward, are just one piece of the jigsaw. President of the Association of Bumiputra Gaharu Entrepreneurs, Datuk Dahlan Taha, fears such grading efforts might not take into account buyer subjectivity. As tastes vary across markets, he says the perceived value for a product might be inconsistent with the value on which excise duties are based. The grading system being devised also does not work for non-wood products, such as gaharu oil.

Another issue is that legally and illegally sourced gaharu sometimes get mixed up in the supply chain as unlicensed collectors sell their products to licensed ones. A common trader’s gripe is that legal procedures for harvesting gaharu within different Malaysian states have been somewhat obscure over the years. Aside from Kelantan which has issued the highest number of gaharu collection licences, most states have been slow to adopt the Forestry Department’s directive to streamline licensing procedures.

Dawend Jiwan, a former senior researcher with Sarawak Forestry Corporation specialising in habitat management for endangered species, makes an interesting point: gaharu collectors must be licensed but many live and work far away from the offices of the State Forestry Department. With these logistical challenges, how can we ensure collectors abide by harvesting guidelines?

Dahlan has a suggestion to resolve this: make the collectors sit for and pass an examination on harvesting guidelines before they can be issued licences. “Employers (gaharu traders) could be made responsible for ensuring the logistics are in place for the collectors to learn, take, and pass the test.”

Safeguarding the trade
Natalie Heng The Star 28 Feb 12;

GAHARU poachers are not only chopping down agarwood trees from our forests but wiping out the wildlife too. Accounts of poachers carrying tiger claws, bear paws, porcupines and even rhino horns alongside sacks of gaharu hint at the impact of opportunistic hunting. Locals have also been known to participate in illegal harvesting activities but they are no match for the work of international crime rings.

“Foreigners take everything. They specifically go in for gaharu but set up traps for food and high-value species for the wildlife trade,” says Taman Negara Pahang superintendent, Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.

“Most of the locals harvest the gaharu in small quantities and sell it to middlemen.”

President of the Association of Bumiputra Gaharu Entrepreneurs (Pengharum) Datuk Dahlan Taha sees the poachers as a hindrance to Malaysia’s efforts to establish itself as an international trading centre. “Illegal gaharu collection eats into the share of licensed gaharu traders and deprives the Malaysian public of a large amount of tax on the commodity.”

Tackling the issue is a challenge, however. The Forestry Department has declined to give the number of arrests related to gaharu poaching. In any case, convictions rates might only reveal a small portion of the theft as most arrests result in immigration charges relating to visa overstays or illegal entry into the country or forest reserve. Illegal removal of produce from permanent reserved forests or stateland forests carries a jail sentence of up to 20 years and a fine not exceeding RM500,000 under Section 15 of the Forestry Act 1984 but it appears that incentives for the crime outweigh the potential costs.

Two Thai poachers arrested in Kelantan in 2005 revealed to researcher Noorainie Awang Anak (who co-authored the CITES report Wood For The Trees: A Review Of The Agarwood (Gaharu) Trade In Malaysia) that they would consider repeating the offence. The men’s families were supported by syndicates which employed them and they said that if caught, life in prison would be less strenuous than spending months searching for gaharu in the jungle. The men, aged 17 and 28, said they would not dare venture the same thing back home as harsher methods were used in dealing with such crimes.

Gaharu estates

With promises of lucrative profits from the “liquid gold”, many are investing in gaharu plantations. Also, there is a scuffle to come up with the best and most cost-effective inoculation technique to induce karas trees to produce gaharu. Worries that smallholders might fall victim to the empty promises of fly-by-night investment schemes prompted the formation of Pengharum.

Dahlan says commercial gaharu plantations are largely still in their infancy but it is important that Malaysia nurtures this growing industry as relying on wild gaharu collections is unsustainable.

The former Forestry Department deputy director-general says inoculation techniques might not produce the same kind of high-grade gaharu found in the forest but they can be used to cater to certain market demands or specification.

He says some Pengharum members are developing the method called SGT3 (Serapan Gubal Teras 3) which allows the harvesting of different types and grades of wood from live trees, a step forward from most current methods which require the felling of the entire tree.

There are three variations of the SGT3 method. The first produces Kayu C gaharu, currently sold to Taiwan and Dubai for US$7 to US$10 (RM21 to RM31) per kg, where it is distilled into oil or used as incense. This method requires an application of a liquid formula over the bark. An outer layer of bark is then harvested after six months, after which the process can be repeated.

Harvesting wood chips after one to three years produces Kaler Gazi which is sold to Vietnam and India for US$7 to US$100 per kg (RM21 to RM310). A slightly modified technique whereby harvesting occurs after three to six years produces Gubal. Sold locally and to India, this type is mainly used as incense and priced between US$800 and US$1,200 (RM2,480 and RM3,720) per kg.

Dahlan thinks that in the future, there will be a market for even lower grade gaharu as the younger generation prefers perfumes that use the oil as a component; the oil can be distilled from lower grades of gaharu.

“It would also be helpful to see a more streamlined policy for gaharu, which falls under both the purview of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry (karas trees) and the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry (gaharu and plantations).”

Read more!

19 Paper Giants disclose their ecological footprint

WWF 27 Feb 12;

Gland, Switzerland - WWF is launching the second WWF Environmental Paper Company Index, a rating of paper producers on their global ecological footprint.

In this round of the Index, 19 globally significant producers of fine paper, tissue and packaging have allowed WWF to scrutinize their global paper production on key environmental criteria, such as fibre coming from well-managed forests, clean production and public reporting.

“WWF applauds the transparency of participating producers. By allowing evaluation of their environmental performance these companies are showing that they take environmental and social responsibility seriously,” said Emmanuelle Neyroumande, Manager of WWF International´s global pulp and paper work.

The producers participating in this year´s Index are:
Fine paper category: Arjowiggins Graphic, Burgo, Cascades, Domtar, Fedrigoni, Mondi, M-real, Stora Enso, Suzano, UPM;
Packaging category: Cascades, Korsnäs, Mondi, SCA Containerboard;
Tissue paper category: Arjowiggins Graphic, Metsä Tissue, Renova, SCA Tissue, Sofidel

The best scores on environmental footprint overall were achieved by companies in the packaging sector: SCA Container board with 85.55% and Mondi with 75.45% of achievable scores. In the Fine Paper category, the best scores were achieved by Arjowiggins Graphic with 73.86%, and in the Tissue category by SCA Tissue with 65.13% of achievable scores.

More scores for the best performing producers reaching at least 60% of achievable scores can be found on

“At SCA Containerboard we are extremely proud to be named among the best scoring companies in the Environmental Paper Index of WWF International! For a long time we have devoted relentless energies to offering environmentally-sound products. This achievement will generate additional enthusiasm to fuel our environmental performance,” said Stefano Rossi, Vice President & Managing Director, SCA Containerboard.

"Arjowiggins Graphic class leading score in the WWF Environmental Paper Company Index - Fine paper category, confirms the importance of leadership in the usage of recycled fibre, for graphic papers, as part of an economically successful sustainability strategy,” said Jean Charles Monange, Sales and Marketing Director, Arjowiggins Graphic.

“The willingness of companies to participate in WWF’s Environmental Paper Company Index is a positive reflection on our industry and Mondi is delighted to once again be recognised as one of the top performing paper and packaging companies. Our approach to product responsibility incorporates transparent disclosure of our environmental footprint and allows responsible buyers to choose our products,” said John Lindahl, Group Technical Director, Mondi.

Paper is a renewable, recyclable material, with a potentially lower footprint than substitute materials, if managed responsibly. However, the sector's size and impacts are expanding, leaving an unacceptably large ecological footprint on the planet unless the industry makes significant improvements.

“WWF encourages buyers of paper, shareholders and investors to minimize their environmental risks by responding positively to the transparency and examples of improved performance shown by producers participating in the WWF Environmental Paper Company Index,” said Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme. “We invite more major paper producers from around the world to disclose their ecological footprint in the next Environmental Paper Company Index assessment in two years’ time.”

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 27 Feb 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [20 - 26 Feb 2012]
from Green Business Times

Mangrovey and seagrassy surprises at Semakau
from wonderful creation

What Critters Around the NIE Pond?
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

red-breasted parakeet @ seletar link mangrove
from sgbeachbum and brown shrike and spotted dove

Feeding Spotted Dove: 21. Javan Myna aggression
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Injured baby civet rescued in Kuala Lumpur
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Animal welfare and legislation in Singapore
from Nature rambles

House Shrew
from Monday Morgue

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Hong Kong airline criticised over dolphin cargo

AFP Yahoo News 27 Feb 12;

Hong Kong Airlines was under pressure Sunday to stop its live dolphin cargo business after an internal memo describing a recent delivery from Japan to Vietnam was leaked to Chinese media.

More than 2,800 people have signed an online petition at calling for an end to the flights, citing a China Daily newspaper report about a January 16 delivery of five dolphins from Osaka to Hanoi.

The dolphins are believed to have come from the Japanese town of Taiji, the scene of an annual dolphin slaughter depicted in Oscar Award winning documentary "The Cove", the report said.

"Five Taiji dolphins were transported via cargo flight in 'flying coffins' on January 16, 2012. They spent at least seven hours in this cruel confinement," the petition reads.

"Dolphins are neither cargo, nor commerce, nor entertainment."

An internal memo to airline staff made no mention of the animal welfare considerations but described the flight as a success that earned HK$850,000 ($110,000) in cargo revenue.

"The smooth handling of such special cargo which is time sensitive and vulnerable demonstrates that Hong Kong Airlines cargo handling capability has further improved," says the memo cited by the China Daily.

"Based on the experience we have obtained this time, Hong Kong Airlines cargo will develop the business onwards."

It included a photograph of the dolphins lying in shallow, narrow containers inside the belly of a Boeing 733F cargo plane.

Hong Kong Airlines said it adhered to government rules and International Air Transport Association regulations on live animal transportation.

"Hong Kong Airlines is fully committed to the protection of animal welfare," it said in a statement.

"No dolphin suffered or (was) injured during this shipment."

It added that it was "totally unaware of the complexities" surrounding the "dark side of the dolphin story", and thanked animal welfare groups for their input.

Read more!

Dangerous haze in six Thai provinces

The Nation/Asia News Network AsiaOne 26 Feb 12;

Six province in the Upper North were covered by unsafe levels of haze, the Pollution Control Department reported yesterday.

Air in the provinces contained fine particles beyond the acceptable level of 120 micrograms per cubic metre (mg/m3).

The latest reading of particulate matter of up to 10 micrometres (PM10) in the province of Phayao was as high as 237 mg/m3, the agency warned.

Lampang had poor visibility of just 800 metres yesterday morning due to dust levels of 200 mg/m3.

This caused the air traffic control tower there to order a Bangkok Airways Bangkok-Lampang flight to circle the airport until visibility improved to 1,000 metres before landing, creating a one-hour delay.

The air-quality testing point at Yupparaj School in downtown Chiang Mai reported a level of 128 mg/m3.

A level of 173 was reported at Lampang's city shrine; while a station at Tambon Tha Si Health Promotion Hospital reported 207; and Mae Moh waterworks authority office reported 210.

Chiang Rai reported 152 mg/m3, Nan reported 152 and Phrae reported 233. In the region, only Mae Hong Son reported a safe level of 112.

Chief of Chiang Mai's environmental office 1 Apiwat Kunarak said the overall fine-particle dust situation was bad this year and might prove to be worse than 2007 for eight northern provinces in the long term.

Some places had already endured seven or eight days of unsafe fine-particle dust - compared to two or three days of unsafe readings at most places in 2007.

Apiwat said the situation was the result of people continuing to disregard authorities' request to stop outdoor burning, especially farmers clearing fields.

Chiang Mai Public Health deputy official Dr Surasing Wisarutrat said officials had asked schools not to make students line up outdoors for the morning flag-raising routine and would issue a formal letter tomorrow seeking their cooperation.

Some 50,000 facemasks were also dispatched to 25 district hospitals for distribution to respiratory patients, he said.

Chiang Rai Governor Thanin Supasaen invoked the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act 2007's Article 15, concerning forest-fire control and prevention, to require farmers near forests to ask permission from their kamnan, or village headman, before burning grass or farm waste and to build firebreaks. Lamphun Governor Surachai Khan-arsa instructed officials and local administrative bodies in Li, Thung Hua Chang, Ban Hong, Pa Sang, Mae Tha, Ban Thi, Wiang Nong Long and Muang districts to send 200 water trucks to spray all roads up to 10 times a day.

Lamphun was recording 2,500-3,000 respiratory patients a day.

Tak's Mae Sot and other border districts were covered with fine-particle dust created by outdoor burning in Thailand and Burma, causing eye irritation for some people, while motorists had to drive cautiously due to poor visibility.

Flights operated as normal, although some planes had to circle several times before landing due to poor visibility.

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 26 Feb 12

First time Naked at Pasir Ris with Pitta!
from wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - February 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Pied Hornbills sighted
from Bird Ecology Study Group

It Has Been Months Since ...
from colourful clouds

Cyrene in a brief...
from Psychedelic Nature

120224 Dairy Farm
from Singapore Nature and Mandai Track 15 and Rifle Range Road and Lower Peirce

Launch of North Eastern Riverine Loop
from Coolest Insights

On echinoderms, orthopterans and work in NBC
from Nature rambles

S'pore getting more polluted? Discharge turns Mountbatten drain bright blue
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Read more!

NParks to develop 150-km recreational route

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans will be able to stroll, jog and cycle around the entire island in the near future, with the development of a 150-kilometre Round Island Route.

Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Chee Hean shared plans for the new island route on Saturday.

The Round Island Route (RIR) will be a seamless green corridor that goes all round Singapore, linking up many major natural, cultural and historical attractions to our parks, park connectors, and intra-town cycling networks.

The Round Island Route will not only add a new recreation option for our citizens but also enhance the experience of our park users and tourists.

The route was proposed in 2008 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Last August, NParks sought public feedback on the idea.

Mr Kong Yit San, assistant chief executive officer of Parks Management and Lifestyle at NParks, said: "We have about more than 3,000 feedback to date.

"Some of them are related to how convenient it is to get from place to place, how much shade there can be, and how comfortable the route can be.

"So in general, we can actually group them into certain aspect of how people think RIR will provide a certain experience. For example, they asked for nature trails, more biodiversity, more convenience, or more exciting routes.

The public engagement exercise will end in June and NParks will hold focus groups to develop the suggestions further.

NParks on Saturday officially opened the 26-kilometre North Eastern Riverine Loop, which connects Buangkok, Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang towns.

It's the fourth loop of seven park connectors in Singapore to be ready and has been touted as the most scenic one - with 80 per cent of it running along the Punggol waterways, Sungei Pinang, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon.

The loop connects six existing park connectors - Punggol Park Connector, Punggol Promenade, Serangoon Park Connector, Sungei Serangoon Park Connector, Buangkok Park Connector and Punggol Waterway, and links four parks together Punggol Park, Punggol Waterway Park, Punggol Point Park and Sengkang Riverside Park.

One-third of the loop was developed by NParks, while portions of the loop were developed by the Housing Development Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Developed at a cost of S$57 million, the loop along the northeast coastline is part of the City in a Garden vision announced by the government last year.

So far, NParks has already completed 200 kilometres of park connectors islandwide.

Over the next five years, it intends to build 100 kilometres of park connectors.

They will be part of the Park Connector Network that links up open spaces around major residential areas to bring nature closer to the people.

Kartini Omar-hor, general manager (Parks), National Parks Board, said: "Optimising urban spaces as well as urban infrastructure for greenery and recreation forms an important part of our City in a Garden vision.

"So we are always exploring and seeking ways to provide residents with new leisure dimension, therefore creating new experiences, sights for residents to enjoy, all over the island."

- CNA/ck

New 26km loop connects parks in Sengkang and Punggol
AsiaOne 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE - A new 26km nature loop which links up four parks in Sengkang and Punggol was officially opened today.

The North Eastern Riverine Loop will encompass the towns of Buangkok, Punggol, Hougang and Sengkang and offer residents new commuting and recreational possibilities.

Its park connectors will link up Sengkang Riverside Park, Punggol Park, Punggol Waterway Park and Punggol Point Park.

The loop promises breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline of northeast Singapore, with 80 per cent of it running along the waterways of Sungei Pinang, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon.

Nature lovers can also look forward to the rich biodiversity found at the park connectors, such as water birds like the Grey Heron or the White-throated Kingfisher.

During the launch on Saturday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also announced plans to develop a Round Island Route (RIR) in Singapore.

"With a length of about 150 km, or more than three times the length of Singapore, the Round Island Route will connect more than 3.5 million residents along the route to become a recreational destination on a national scale," Mr Teo said.

In the next few months, NParks will be organising exhibitions around Singapore for the
public to give their views on RIR.

The public is also welcomed to give their ideas and suggestions online at

Island-wide green link in the works
Route will connect parks, existing cycling paths and heritage spots around S'pore
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

A seamless green corridor spanning 150km that links up heritage areas in the city, coastal spots in the east and rustic greenery in the north and west will be Singapore's next big green project.

The Round Island Route, which is more than three times the length of Singapore, will connect more than 3.5 million residents.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced this yesterday at the launch of the North Eastern Riverine Loop at the Sungei Serangoon park connector.

'The Round Island Route will allow us to embark on journeys to look at Singapore in new and wonderful ways, as it passes through popular recreation nodes and also the less seen and explored corners of our island,' said DPM Teo, who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which oversees the Riverine Loop area.

NParks is seeking the public's views on areas where the route would pass through. The route will also link some parts of the existing network of park connectors, which now spans 200km.

The route could also host larger community and sporting events, such as marathons, said DPM Teo.

He added: 'Perhaps one could enjoy a two-day cycling tour round the island using this route, and include an overnight camp at one of our parks.'

The project, one of the National Parks Board's (NParks) biggest infrastructural undertakings to date, is still on the drawing board. NParks could not say when it will embark on construction works or when the project could be completed.

It is now seeking public feedback through its online portal (, as part of its City in a Garden (CIAG) engagement exercise.

The feedback is for ideas to optimise urban spaces for greenery and recreation, and rejuvenating urban parks, for example.

The online exercise has received more than 3,000 ideas to date.

NParks will also seek views from the public during roving exhibitions to key parks, housing estates and shopping centres.

It will then set up focus groups to evaluate these ideas.

The idea to build the route was first mooted in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's island-wide Leisure Plan in 2008.

One of the plans was to build a 150km round-island route for people to stroll, jog or cycle around Singapore.

During its ongoing CIAG consultation exercise, NParks also received suggestions in favour of a continuous green corridor.

Cycling club Love Cycling SG's co-founder, Mr Woon Taiwoon, 37, is excited about the round-island route, as it offers a more complete biking experience.

But a key factor to its success would be how it links to park connectors.

He told The Sunday Times: 'Park connectors need to be linked in a relevant way such that you connect paths where people will use them, like in areas with high traffic, for example.'

Waterfront loop a biodiversity haven
It hugs waterways for much of its route and is home to water birds and a family of otters
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Water birds such as the grey heron and the white-throated kingfisher caught the eye of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean when he took a stroll along the Sungei Serangoon park connector yesterday.

'NParks also told me there is a family of otters which makes guest appearances at some points along the loop,' he said.

DPM Teo, who is an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, was in the area to launch the 26km North Eastern Riverine Loop.

He was impressed by the biodiversity found along the loop, saying that it is important to enhance this amid Singapore's dense urban landscape.

'Such biodiversity is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, and provides opportunities for recreational activities like bird-watching,' he said.

Built at a cost of $57 million, the project was undertaken by three agencies - the National Parks Board, or NParks, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Housing Board.

This latest loop links park connectors and parks within the Sengkang and Punggol areas for greater accessibility.

It is the fourth of seven loops completed, and also the most scenic to date.

For example, 80 per cent of the route hugs waterways, linking up waterside developments such as the Lorong Halus Wetland and the Sengkang Floating Wetland.

The array of flora - large clumps of lemon grass, Spanish reed and firecracker plants - scattered along the loop also performs double duty. Besides making the area more attractive, it is well-placed to treat storm water, help prevent soil erosion and to act as a flood-prevention measure.

The new loop also links up with the Punggol Waterway and the Punggol Promenade - a 4.9km stretch that links Punggol Point and Punggol East - opening up previously inaccessible stretches along the coast.

A new feature is the 2.4km Nature Walk, which has been left as rustic as possible, with existing trees and vegetation retained.

The promenade was also the site of a charity bike ride yesterday, which raised more than $55,000 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF).

More than 100 cyclists took part in the event, organised for the fourth time by Mr Han Jok Kwang, 57, an avid cyclist who last year became a SPMF Trustee.

Read more!

Coney Island: Nature park amid various projects

Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Last Sunday's article, 'Coney Island set to become nature park', may have given the impression that the whole island is to be developed as a nature park.

Coney Island will not just be a park but we plan to also have a nature park in the island amid various developments.

In the immediate term, we have decided to leave the park on Coney Island as rustic as possible and to let it be enjoyed as a nature park with a minimum of built structures.

For example, we will install basic park furniture, non-concrete footpaths and minimum lights to avoid disturbing wildlife at night.

The tender exercise for the project will take place in the middle of this year and the project will be completed in the next two years. Details will be shared when ready.

Yeo Meng Tong
Director, Parks Development
National Parks Board

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Government sets up workgroup to review animal welfare policies

Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: The Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development is setting up a work-group to review animal welfare policies in Singapore.

GPC member Yeo Guat Kwang said this on the sidelines of an animal welfare forum on Saturday.

One forum in Chong Pang estate is becoming an annual affair for animal lovers.

It started in 2011 when the constituency announced a sterilisation programme for stray cats.

It's part of the growing feedback on animal issues that's moved the parliamentary committee into action.

Mr Yeo said: "Even as MPs, (we can see that for example) in HDB housing estates, we also receive feedback from residents where they have dispute with neighbours because of some noise nuisance created by the pet owners. Some actually have issues with stray cats. It's good that now we get relevant agencies together with animal welfare groups to come together and see what we can do to address these concerns residents have.

"In the community, it's important that we look at the whole thing in full perspective so it's important that we involve all stakeholders, not just only the animal welfare groups."

Mr Yeo said town councils and pet traders should be included in the discussion to effectively address pet abandonment and strays, for example.

He said: "It's also important that we now review some of the regulations and legislation to see how we can update it and make it more relevant. At GPC level, we're able to do better coordination, bring in all the relevant agencies and stakeholders together for a more constructive discussion moving forward."

Local groups said the animal protection movement has come a long way in the past two years.

They see progress in ongoing discussions with the National Development Ministry and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

One of the proposals under discussion right now is to build a national adoption centre for stray dogs and cats and to make it easier for Singaporeans to adopt them.

Animal welfare group ACRES Executive Director Louis Ng, said: "We've looked into it and we realise there is a bottleneck at the current shelters in Singapore. We've all heard about the Punggol strays and there were a lot of efforts to re-home them but we realised that the shelters were full."

Apart from relieving the space crunch, animal groups said a dedicated centre will also push adoption rates up for Singapore's stray dogs and cats.

- CNA/fa

A national adoption centre for stray cats & dogs?
Qiuyi Tan Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Animal welfare group - ACRES - said discussions are underway for a national adoption centre in Singapore that will shelter and re-home stray cats and dogs.

Making the announcement at an animal welfare forum, ACRES Executive Director Louis Ng said details of the proposals from animal welfare groups are currently being reviewed by the National Development Ministry.

Channel NewsAsia understands the centre is expected to be run by Action for Singapore Dogs and the Animal Lovers League if it gets the go ahead.

A national adoption centre is expected to relieve the space crunch that animal rescue and welfare groups are facing, and push adoption rates up.

Mr Ng said all animal shelters in Singapore are currently full.

- CNA/ck

A national pet adoption centre?
Also in the works, a workgroup to review animal welfare policies here
Lin Yanqin Today Online 26 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE - As animal lovers and Government agencies gathered yesterday at a public forum to discuss animal welfare, several proposals were revealed to be under consideration by the Government to better safeguard animal welfare.

Among them is the setting up a National Adoption Centre for animals, a recommendation the Government is "supportive" of, to be managed by the Animal Lovers League (ALL) and Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD).

Speaking at the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium held yesterday - which drew some 600 participants and guest-of-honour Law Minister K Shanmugam - Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) executive director Louis Ng said such a dedicated community facility would "support and encourage adoption in a way that benefits the animals and the community".

"Many animal shelters at the moment are full," Mr Ng said. "We hope this shelter can expand capacity, and also allow various groups to come together and share resources more efficiently."

Parliamentarians too are getting into the act, with Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development member Yeo Guat Kwang announcing on the sidelines of the forum that the GPC will be setting up a work-group to review and update animal welfare policies in Singapore.

This has been prompted by the growing wave of feedback on animal issues."As MPs ... we receive feedback from (HDB) residents where they have disputes with neighbours because of some noise nuisance created by pet owners," Mr Yeo told Channel NewsAsia.

"It's good that now we get relevant agencies and animal welfare groups to come together and see what we can do to address these concerns residents have." He added that it was important to include all other stakeholders, such as town councils and pet traders, to effectively address the issues of pet abandonment and strays.


Other proposals cited yesterday include the AVA looking into mandating all pet shops and farms to license dogs at the point of sale. "This will make it easier to track down errant owners when we find abandoned dogs," said Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo, speaking to Today.

A national microchip database will be established to enable better tracking of information and owners of abandoned pets.

Also being considered by the AVA is a licensing requirement for individual commercial breeders instead of the current blanket license to the main farm owner, to address the issue of "puppy mills". And in response to recommendations from animal welfare groups, the AVA is looking into arrangements for such groups to accompany AVA officers during inspections of dog farms.

ACRES is also calling for more feedback on possible amendments for AVA's review of the Animals and Birds Act to further strengthen animal protection legislation.

ASD's Mr Yeo said the idea of a National Adoption Centre was mooted in hopes of easing the cost burden of non-profits. "Operating costs are high because we pay commercial rentals," he said. "The centre allows some of us to pool resources and facilities, while also providing a platform for public education on responsible pet ownership."

Ms Lee Siew Ying, who shelters some 100 cats and a few dogs at her refuge MettaCats, said such a centre might be useful for some, but felt it was unnecessary for all shelters to move towards consolidation. "I get to be very hands-on with my shelter ... I can be very strict with every person who comes in wanting to adopt a cat. I require a home visit for every adoption.

"With my own facilities, I'm not in a hurry to find the cats a home." ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY QIUYI TAN

Other issues addressed


On concerns over the fate of Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force service dogs, ACRES' Louis Ng said military dogs not adopted after retirement will be cared for at the SAF kennels for the rest of their lives, and not be put to sleep as thought by many. The SPF too holds adoption drives and works closely with groups like Gentle Paws to ensure that all dogs suitable for adoption are rehomed.


The National Parks Board is working with the AVA to consider alternative population management control measures for macaques in parks besides culling, such as sterilisation, said Mr Ng. Concerns arose after media reports of attacks by macaques on park visitors quoted some members of the public calling for culling.


The AVA is not using the services of dog catcher Francis Lee, who was last year fined for the death of a dog that was strangled after being caught in a noose trap, Mr Ng clarified. Mr Lee's had dog-catching methods come under fire from animal lovers. Mr Ng noted that the AVA, with the SPCA, has set out guidelines on the humane capture of strays, which the animal control firms it engages must comply with. The guidelines will be published on its website.

Government to tackle pet welfare
Task force to be set up to push for more responsible ownership of dogs and cats
Judith Tan Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

A task force will be set up to look into the matter of responsible pet ownership, and how the well-being of cats and dogs can be further improved.

The team will come under the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development.

Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, GPC member Yeo Guat Kwang said the task force will study the situation and come up with 'concrete recommendations, hopefully to change policies and regulations on the issues by the end of this year'.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and Public Forum on Animal Welfare Policies, held at Chong Pang Community Club.

The event, attended by more than 400 people, is the second such public forum on animal welfare. The first was held in June last year.

Giving a report card on what the outcomes of the inaugural meeting were, Mr Louis Ng, founder and executive director of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), announced the setting up of a national adoption centre, where people can adopt strays and rescued animals.

The Ministry for National Development is currently reviewing the setting up of this centre, to be managed by ASD (Action for Singapore Dogs) and ALL (Animal Lovers' League), he said.

Suggestions made at the first conference also threw up long-term solutions such as the licensing of individual dog breeders instead of the current blanket licence to the main pet farm owners.

'This will guarantee responsibility and more humane treatment of breeding dogs,' Mr Ng said.

He said the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will be making it mandatory for pet shops to license dogs at the point of sale.

'That is, at the puppy's second vaccination and microchipping... the licence is transferred to the owner when the dog is sold,' he said.

A national microchip database will be established, where pets are registered in an integrated database to enable tracking and easy identification of owners of abandoned pets, he said, adding that the details will need to be worked out.

Mr Yeo said one key concern to be looked at by the GPC task force will be the HDB ruling on allowing only small breeds of dogs in its flats.

But Mr Yeo, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, pointed out that small breeds like the Jack Russell terrier are unsuitable for small homes.

He said it is important that some of the regulations and legislation are reviewed from time to time to see how they can be updated and made more relevant.

Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who was at the forum in his capacity as the MP for the area, said: 'Any responsible society, any civilised society, should be judged by how it treats its animals.'

But he also felt a balance had to be struck between pet lovers and those who may not be keen on animals.

He said the number of people who asked him why he spent time and energy on animal issues 'is not insignificant'. Citing the example of the cat welfare programme in Chong Pang, he said he had to overcome much resistance.

'Even today, I would not say that the majority of the people openly support the programme. They may not be opposed to it but it does not mean they fully support it. As an elected representative, I have to balance these competing interests,' he said.

National microchip database for dogs to be set up
Angelina Dass AsiaOne 25 Feb 12;

In a bid to curb the abandonment of pet dogs in Singapore, a national microchip database will soon be set up.

Announced at the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and Public Forum on Animal Welfare Polices today, the database will allow the tracking of pet dogs, and facilitate the identification of owners who abandon their animals.

Commending the move as absolutely essential, Nee Soon GRC MP Mr K. Shanmugam, who delivered the keynote speech at the event, said it is testimony that Singapore is progressing in the animal protection movement.

Held at Chong Pang Community Club, the one-day forum saw 500 members of the public and 100 members of animal welfare groups turn up.

The forum served as an opportunity to enhance animal welfare in Singapore. Issues like animal protection legislation, humane domestic animal management, wildlife crime and zoo animal welfare concerns were discussed.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said the move for a national database comes after receiving feedback from local animal welfare groups from the first forum which was held in June last year.

Many abandoned dogs which were rescued were micro-chipped but the information was not uploaded into any registry. As a result, the owners were not tracked down.

Mr Ricky Yeo, President of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) said there are currently at least four existing registries including those owned by ASD, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals', Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Pet-call.

Together with the national microchip database, the AVA will also implement licensing all dogs at the point of sale and during the second vaccination procedure and micro-chipping.

This means that once the pet is sold the license will be transferred from AVA to the owners.

"What we are going to do is nationalise it and make one integrated database, from now on, all of them will be registered in one database rather than different databases," said Mr Ng. "If you abandon, with one database we will track you down", he added. Singapore's current penalty for pet abandonment is up to $10,000, 12 months jail or both.

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Road accidents: But what about cats ...and other mammals?

Under the Road Traffic Act, only eight animals with farm value are protected - a ruling from a bygone era
Kezia Toh Straits Times 26 Feb 12;

Cast a wider net of protection for animals under the Road Traffic Act, animal welfare groups are urging.

The law states that any motorist involved in an accident where a person or an animal is injured must stop to help the victim.

However, as now defined, an animal is any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

This leaves out many others, such as cats.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has approached the Law Ministry about reworking the legislation, said its executive director Corinne Fong.

Other groups, such as animal advocacy group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Cat Welfare Society, are also calling for the Act to cast a wider net to extend to all mammals.

They hope to see it in line with the wider Wild Animals and Birds Act, which states that it is an offence to trap, keep or kill wild animals and birds (except those in the Schedule such as crows, mynahs and pigeons) without a licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Ms Veron Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society, said: 'The Act, as it stands, is a relic from a bygone era as it covers only animals with farm value.'

'Society has progressed since, to the point when we do not care about animals just for their economic value, and letting any animal suffer without rendering help is considered by many to be callous and anti-social,' she added.

The furore emerged after national bowler Remy Ong was involved in an alleged hit-and-run on Sunday. He was driving along Changi Coast Road when his car allegedly hit a stray dog which later died.

A backlash from netizens ensued. They blasted the athlete after news of the incident went viral online.

Eight puppies were later found in the area by different people, who called the SPCA for help. Five of the puppies have been fostered out, while the remaining three are being treated for a mild skin condition.

They will then be fostered out.

The incident has also prompted netizens to call for Mr Ong to adopt these puppies to 'take responsibility'.

But fosterers should have the right intentions and know how to care for them, said Ms Fong.

The groups were at a public forum yesterday to lobby for enhancements to the existing animal-cruelty laws. Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam was there.

The forum comes as hit-and-run cases are getting more common. SPCA, for example, sees nearly 30 animals in road accident cases each month.

The society runs an emergency hotline, where a rescue officer will be dispatched to an accident scene as soon as possible.

Another group, the Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), sees one to two hit-and-run cases involving dogs every other month.

Out of every 10 dogs rescued, about three are hit-and-run victims.

Some dogs may also be dead on the scene or die enroute to the vet, said its president, Mr Ricky Yeo.

Meanwhile, Acres gets an average of 150 calls to its 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline a month, of which one or two cases are hit-and-run involving wild animals, said executive director Louis Ng.

The callers are usually people reporting wild animals such as monitor lizards, turtles, civets and pythons.

But it is not all the fault of the driver - letters to this newspaper's Forum Page have argued that a stray dashing across the road can also result in a serious traffic accident when drivers swerve to avoid the animal.

There were also calls to nip the problem by reducing the number of strays.

Meanwhile, lawyers say there is no hard- and-fast rule when a driver hits an animal. Drivers who fail to stop and help after an accident can be fined up to $3,000 or jailed for up to a year. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to two years.

Criminal lawyer Chia Boon Teck asked: 'Should you stop the car, move the dog to the side of the road and drive off, or drive the dog to the nearest vet?'

It is good enough to stop the vehicle and call for help, said criminal lawyer Josephus Tan. 'But to play safe, carry the injured animal to the side of the road,' he said.

But the rules of engagement are still fuzzy.

Mr Chia said: 'There is no end to it - but the more you do, the less likely you will be accused of infringing the law.'



Call the Acres Wildlife Rescue Hotline for advice on 9783-7782. It operates 24 hours.

Do not pick animals up with your hands, even if you are wearing gloves.

If the animal is severely injured or immobile, place a container over it, slide the lid or a thin board underneath, gently turn the container so the animal ends up at the bottom, then cap it.

Make sure that there are breathing holes.

To treat for mild shock, keep the animal warm, quiet, and in a dark container.


Call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on 6287-5355. It operates 24 hours.

Place a distress cone or triangle to cordon off the space.

Check if the animal is moving or breathing. If it is still conscious or breathing, prepare to move it to the side of the road.

Use a strip of cloth to wrap the muzzle tightly and tie it behind its neck, to prevent the animal from snapping defensively.

Use a piece of cardboard and slide it under the animal.

Avoid carrying the animal as the spine or bones may be fractured, but use the cardboard to slide the animal safely to the side of the road.

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