Best of our wild blogs: 31 May 12

If you missed the actual event
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

Trying to piece everything together
from Nature rambles

Bioluminescence in Mushrooms.. Walking Through Pandora
from Macro Photography in Singapore

From Belukar Track To Lornie Trail Part 2
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

from The annotated budak

The Busy, Busy Dragonflies
from Macro Photography in Singapore

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Pasir Ris forest may soon disappear

Eunice Toh The New Paper 31 May 12;

It may just be the size of two football fields.

But for some time now, this small sliver of land has been home to jungle chickens, wild boars, sea eagles and other wildlife.

For how much longer, though?

That is the question some residents are asking about the forested area behind Pasir Ris Heights.

The area is understood to be earmarked for development.

It is sandwiched by two other plots of land, which are also forested.

All three have been gazetted for residential use.

On April 12, The New Paper reported that the plot of land, at the intersection of Elias Road and Pasir Ris Drive 3, had been sold to Elitist Development.

Four days later, URA issued a press release, saying that the land parcel, at the intersection of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and 10, was up for tender.

It is the sliver of land in between whose fate is still unknown.

According to URA's Master Plan 2008, the woodland has been labelled as "subject to detailed planning".

A Pasir Ris grassroots leader said there has been talk of the area being turned into an international school, but no plans have been finalised.

Said grassroots senior for Pasir Ris West Division, Mr Ng Cher Pheng, 58: "All we know is that the area is reserved for (the school)."

To the residents who live in the terraced houses beside it, the area is a welcome jungle in their backyard, providing some relief from the concrete all around.

Naturally, they are sad to hear that this may disappear.

Fresh air

Said a retiree in her 60s, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lee: "I like the nature. It's great, especially in the morning. The air is very fresh."

Three months ago, she had a memorable encounter with a wild boar.

She was driving her car into her driveway when the animal appeared.

It banged into her side wheel and dropped unmoving for several seconds.

Then, it shot up and went straight back into the woods.

Joked Madam Lee: "The first time I see a wild boar, and I almost run it over."

She has lived there for 30 years and remembers when there were still attap houses around.

She said: "Chickens and pigs roamed everywhere. It was like a kampung."

The houses are long gone, but some of the wildlife remain.

Madam Lee's neighbour, businessman Sydney Ong, who is in his 50s, has also had his fair share of wildlife encounters.

Five years ago,when fruits in his garden were in season and ripe, monkeys would come and steal their mangoes.

He said: "It's always been a quiet estate. If what they're saying is true, there'll be construction work, and it'll be a lot noisier. I would rather things stay the same."

Another long-time Pasir Ris resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Pang, 62, was just as disappointed to hear that the wooded area might be gone.

The retiree, who has visited the place four times in the last couple of weeks, enjoys taking photos of the wildlife there.

He said: "There is a family of white-bellied sea eagles nesting in the woodland. The only other place in the east I've seen this species is at Changi.

"The trees here are one of the oldest in Pasir Ris and the area of this place is so small. I don't understand why they are considering selling it."

But the residents do not have any plans of their own to save the area.

Said Mr Pang: "I don't think writing petitions or having campaigns will help."

His sentiment was shared by Mr Lim Khay Teg, 63 the chairman of the Pasir Ris Beach Park Neighbourhood Committee (NC).

He said: "It's a pity, but sometimes, people's interests will be infringed."

For wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 49, the news is not something that surprises him.

He said: "That land has a good variety of birds, but it has never been a reserve or a park. It has always been temporary."

A member of the Nature Society (Singapore), MrRajathurai is afraid that if they were to push hard to conserve this area, another area with greater bio-diversity might be taken away.

He said: "I would like to see this area being kept. But land is scarce and development is unavoidable. Unfortunately, we cannot save everything."

But, he added, it is important to retain some of the agriculture of the area.

He said: "A green corridor would be a good compromise, as it ensures that bio-diversity will continue to exist in the area."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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Largest green alliance shifts Asian HQ to Singapore

Jose Hong Straits Times 31 May 12;

A LEADING environmental conservation organisation has relocated its Asian headquarters from Japan to Singapore with the aim of working more closely with its regional partners.

BirdLife International is the world's largest alliance of conservation groups with operations in six continents and more than 2.7 million members.

Its move is expected to bring additional firepower to the conservation cause in the region.

For one thing, the organisation plans to launch a US$60 million (S$75 million) Forests of Hope fund by the end of the year. The fund is dedicated to the conservation of tropical rainforests throughout the region, and already has US$5 million in the kitty.

Ms Cristi Nozawa, regional director of BirdLife International's Asia division, said that the group's decision to move to Singapore was based on two reasons: First, as most of its Asian partners are located in South and South-east Asia, relocating to Singapore would allow for closer collaboration with them. Second, Singapore presents opportunities for forging new partnerships with corporate organisations.

'Singapore is trying to achieve a balance between development and being a city-state that takes nature into consideration, and we'd like to contribute to that,' Ms Nozawa said, adding that the group would develop conservation programmes in the region.

Planning the move to Singapore took several years, and since 2008 involved various players, including the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Nature Society (Singapore), and law firm Drew and Napier.

Mr Kelvin Wong, executive director of EDB's International Organisations Programme Office, said BirdLife International would help make Singapore 'a hub for international non-profit organisations to advance their social, economic and developmental efforts in Asia and beyond'.

Nature Society president Shawn Lum said BirdLife International's move will likely result in other conservation groups here holding more meetings and workshops to further the environmental cause.

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Malaysia: Calls to punish perpetrator posting about illegal hunting on the Internet

Wong Pek Mei The Star 31 May 12;

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic has lodged a police report, urging stern action be taken against the perpetrator posting about his illegal hunting activities on an online forum.

Traffic South-East Asia legal officer Shenaaz Khan, who lodged the report on May 22, said a forum member, who goes by the username “Marker November”, made several entries discussing his hunting activities on the forum.

“He repeatedly mentions hunting wildlife including sambar deer, barking deer, mousedeer and serow. He explains in detail how to find, track and hunt these animals including the weapons he uses,” said Shenaaz, who lodged the report at the Kelana Jaya police station.

The user has an avatar of a man posing with a weapon and an animal that appears to be a deer.

Shenaaz said there was a complete ban on the hunting of sambar deer and barking deer.

“The Wildlife and Natural Parks Department (Perhilitan) does not issue any hunting licence for these animals.

“Serow is a totally protected species and can only be hunted with a special permit,” she said.

She noted that Marker November acknowledged the serow's protected status and that hunting it was illegal, yet he had killed a serow.

In the online conversation, the user says: “Serow is an animal that is very protected and hunting this species is illegal. But when I see it crossing before my eyes, I can't just watch it go by. Even though it is illegal to shoot (it), it is halal for it to be eaten.”

Marker November also indicated in his postings that Gerik, Perak and Sg Tiang in Perak's Temenggor area were among his hunting sites.

“The illegal hunting of these animals is punishable by law under the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 and carries a mandatory prison term,” said Shenaaz.

She claimed that the website was a forum created by present and former army personnel.

“In the discussions, members talk about various issues pertaining to army procedures and practices,” she said.

Petaling Jaya deputy OCPD Supt Meor Hamdan Meor Mohamad confirmed the report.

Perhilitan: Don’t discuss wildlife hunting techniques online
The Star 2 Jun 12;

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife hunting techniques should not be discussed online because it will only encourage illegal hunting and poaching by irresponsible individuals, warned the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

It condemned discussions on how to hunt, find and track animals, saying it could endanger wildlife protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Perhilitan confirmed that it had received a report from wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic, about an online user who posted his hunting activities on a forum.

He had allegedly written in detail how to trap and hunt protected animals such as the sambar deer and barking deer.

“We are very concerned with this development and are monitoring the forum,” Perhilitan said in a statement.

“We are also monitoring the hotspots mentioned in the forum and will not hesitate to take stern action against parties or individuals who commit offences under the Act.”

Traffic has also lodged a police report on the online user.

Perhilitan reminded the public that a five-year moratorium on deer hunting had been imposed. That means no hunting licence will be issued to hunt sambar deer and barking deer.

Illegal hunting of wildlife is punishable by up to RM500,000 fine or five years’ jail.

Perhilitan urged the public to come forward with any information on illegal wildlife-related activities in their area.

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Best of our wild blogs: 30 May 12

Sea Tigers, Horses, Snakes, Slugs, Cats – How’s that for Biodiversity?! from Pulau Hantu

The Festival on the Internet
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

2 Jun (Sat): FREE Pasir Ris Mangrove boardwalk tour with the Naked Hermit Crabs from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Subsongs – Asian Glossy Starling & Olive-winged Bulbul
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Biggest environment challenge is "improving social responsibility"

Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 29 May 12;

SINGAPORE: Key contributors to Singapore's environment said the biggest challenge the country faces is improving its social responsibility. This was raised as part of a discussion between a panel of environment pioneers held by the Centre for Liveable Cities.

Over the years Singapore has built up a reputation as having a clean environment. But Singapore's environment pioneers said that more can be done on the individual level.

Daniel Wang, a former Director-General for Public Health with the National Environment Agency, said: "I have not been successful in getting people to clear up the tables after a meal at hawker centres.

"The reason why people are still reluctant is because they feel there are cleaners around, so there's no need for them to clear up, which I say is a sign of not being self reliant. You want to see people clear up tables in hawker centres today, then unfortunately you need to have a law."

These environment pioneers are hoping that won't be the case, and that eventually Singaporeans will inculcate a sense of social responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. This means more public education.

Joseph Hui, Deputy CEO of the National Environment Agency, said: "We will have to continue to do this until the day when Singaporeans are like a first world nation, where they are able to take ownership of the environment and do what is right, not because there is a law but because they believe that is the right thing to do."

Besides developing social responsibility further, panellists also raised other factors that contribute to environmental sustainability. These include inter-agency cooperation, technology, infrastructure, and a strong political will.


Etiquette 'not on pace with progress'
Singaporeans need to work on social responsibility, say environmental pioneers
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 30 May 12;

SINGAPORE - Despite Singapore's state-of-the-art skyscrapers and reputation as a clean city-state, it appears social etiquette has not kept pace with the country's rapid advancement.

This was the consensus reached by a panel of environmental pioneers during a dialogue session yesterday, in response to a question by a member of the audience, Mr Eugene Heng, who heads the Waterways Watch Society.

Addressing the three panellists - former National Environment Agency (NEA) director general for public health Daniel Wang, former NEA deputy chief executive officer Loh Ah Tuan and NEA deputy chief executive Joseph Hui - Mr Heng wanted their views on his observation that Singaporeans are littering and foreigners, hired by cleaning services, are tidying up after them.

Mr Loh said Singaporeans' "social responsibility is not there yet" despite the Government's efforts to educate people.

"We also engaged and empowered them. We tell them that Singapore is yours, and you should not be littering and dirtying the environment ...

"This is an issue about heart-ware, and not hardware," he said.

Added Mr Wang: "Singaporeans are very compliant, but only when there is a law in place ... It's very difficult for Singaporeans to do things from the heart, to think about community and not of self."

The panellists said it would take time for Singapore to reach the standards of Korea and Japan, where social responsibility has been successfully inculcated into the people.

During the session, organised by the Centre for Liveable Cities, a member of the audience asked how sustainable it is to throw rubbish inside plastic bags.

In response, Mr Wang said: "There's nothing wrong with plastic bags, so long as we reuse them.

"Any proposals to ban plastic bags irks me. In Singapore, we burn our rubbish, so whether it's bio-degradable or not, it doesn't make a difference; and secondly, because we encourage residents to bag their rubbish, so sanitation is maintained."

Speaking to reporters after the event, Mr Wang lashed out against supermarkets that charge extra for plastic bags.

"I don't think (they should do that), because the cost is already built into their overheads," he said.

"The question is: Do you need these bags at home? I need the plastic bags at home because I need to bag my food waste. If you don't give it to me, I have to go and buy them, right? Do I need the bags? Can I use them at home? If your answer is yes, then, by all means, take it."

Small acts of kindness do add up; they could even have national impact
from William Wan General Secretary, Singapore Kindness Movement
Today Online 2 Jun 12;

I refer to the comments about Singapore's progress towards social responsibility, made during the Centre for Liveable Cities' dialogue session and reported in "Etiquette 'not on pace with progress'" (May 30).

The panel of environmental pioneers made salient points about the need for Singaporeans to progress in social etiquette, even as our society progresses in material success.

This can come about only when the vision of a liveable society encompasses the element of practical social graces, which includes consideration for others. Leaving a space cleaner than when we found it is one such example, in the use of common spaces.

We all have a responsibility to one another, the community and the environment to ensure that our streets are litter-free. Many of us are house-proud, and we do not rely on our guests to clean up our home.

Singapore is our home, where we grow up, live and work. In the same manner, we should be city-proud and make it a personal responsibility to help clean up our city by not littering.

It is important for us all to be aware that it takes effort from everyone to inculcate values pertaining to social responsibility.

The Singapore Kindness Movement has been reaching out constantly to remind fellow citizens and residents that the road to a more gracious society begins with small acts of kindness. Collectively, gracious acts performed by a critical mass of concerned individuals would have a national impact.

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Indonesia: Coastal erosion threatens Bali shorelines

Luh De Suriyani Jakarta Post 29 May 12;

Regional administrations face the gigantic task of tackling the continuing erosion that threatens the island’s already damaged shorelines and coastal areas.

I Wayan Geredeg, regent of Karangasem, complained that his administration is running out of funds to solve the critical coastal erosion problem, which has eroded an 87-kilometer length of shoreline along Candidasa, Ujung and Amed beaches.

The three beaches have become favored tourist attractions attracting thousands of water sports lovers from around the world.

Data at the provincial environment agency showed that in 2010, erosion had affected all of the shorelines of Denpasar, Gianyar, Karangasem and Jembrana. Out of the island’s total 437-kilometer shoreline, 102 kilometers have been damaged by sea erosion.

A Public Works Ministry survey showed that the island has lost up to 30 percent of its coastline due to environmental degradation and sea erosion. From Tabanan’s 26-kilometer coastline, 10 kilometers had been severely damaged by sea erosion.

Sea erosion is the wearing away of land and the removal of beach or dune sediments by wave action, tidal currents, wave currents, or drainage. Waves, generated by storms, winds or fast-moving motor craft, have caused coastal erosion. “We are going to request emergency funds to prevent further erosion of coastal areas,” added Geredeg.

Every year, the provincial government allocates Rp 40 billion (US$4.28 million), taken from the state budget, for coastal rehabilitation programs along Bali’s beaches.

I Gusti Ngurah Raka, an official at the Bali Public Works Office, said that the requested funds for coastal rehabilitation in Bali increased every year.

“In 2012, we are rehabilitating 2,045 meters of coastline,” said Raka.

Funding for Kuta coastal rehabilitation in 2008 reached Rp 335 billion, provided by the provincial government and a Japanese agency.

Jembrana and Gianyar regencies have also asked for more emergency funds for coastal rehabilitation.

The impact of the sea erosion is most visible along the 18-kilometer stretch of shoreline from Ketewel Beach to Lebih Beach in Gianyar regency, both of which used to be popular tourist attractions.

The erosion there has all but destroyed the sandy beaches and has begun to engulf the surrounding private properties, food stalls, houses and rice fields.

AA Alit Sastrawan, head of the Bali Environment Office, said that development projects along coastal areas had become the most dangerous threat to the island’s beaches.

Investors were now hunting land fronting the beach to build villas, hotels and resorts.

“It’s one of the primary factors destroying the island’s coastlines,” Sastrawan said.

Data from the Bali Environment Office said that Bali’s 48 beaches have undergone acute erosion, so much so that 181.7 kilometers of land has been lost this last decade, which amounts to 41.5 percent of the island’s total shoreline.

In one year alone, in 2008, the satellite data showed that Bali had lost 88.6 kilometers of its beaches, caused mainly by massive disregard of the zoning and coastline laws.

Data from the Bali Environment Office said that Bali’s 48 beaches have undergone acute erosion, so much so that 181.7 kilometers of land has been lost this last decade, which amounts to 41.5 percent of the island’s total shoreline.

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 May

Singapore’s Sea Cucumbers: A Dichotomous Key
from Urban Forest

The Singapore Trilobite Larva
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Do you know your Singapore?
from Nature rambles

Final day of the Festival!
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

Exciting happenings at the Festival of Biodiversity 2012
from Peiyan.Photography

Mega Marine Survey at the Festival of Biodiversity (26-27 May)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

The Crabs at the Festival of Biodiversity (26-27 May)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

TeamSeagrass at the Festival of Biodiversity (26-27 May 2012)
from teamseagrass

2012 Guide to Singapore Government Funding and Incentives for the Environment from Green Business Times

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Bidadari works begin by year end

First launch of build-to-order flats at new town may take place by 2015
Esther Teo Straits Times 29 May 12;

WORK on the latest new town, Bidadari, will start by the end of the year, paving the way for 12,000 new homes to be built in central Singapore.

The site is slated for both private as well as Housing Board (HDB) homes.

Depending on demand, the first HDB build-to-order launch may take place as early as 2015, a National Development Ministry (MND) spokesman said.

This could mean HDB flats completed by 2018 or so, consultants said.

The move to develop Bidadari is part of a twin-pronged strategy to meet ongoing strong housing demand. The other is to use land in existing estates more intensively, the MND spokesman said yesterday in response to queries.

Bidadari, near Potong Pasir, is a former cemetery whose graves were exhumed in 2001 to make way for housing.

It is currently a park, slightly smaller than Punggol estate.

Consultants say interest in homes at Bidadari is likely to be strong as it is relatively close to the city centre. They say Bidadari could be the next Bishan, also a former cemetery, yet one of the choicest HDB estates now.

Bidadari is served by two MRT stations: Woodleigh on the North-east line and Bartley on the Circle line.

In response to queries, the MND spokesman told The Straits Times that infrastructure work there will start by the year end. Site preparation and earthworks for Bidadari will be followed by the building of major roads, drains and sewers.

Mr Tan Kok Keong, OrangeTee's research and consultancy head, brushed aside worries over superstition, given the site's history. The Government's development plans are typically driven by housing demand alone, he said.

'There is no real stigma for fully exhumed sites anyway... But since Bidadari is quite a large site, it will take some time to be fully built,' he added.

Another new town further along the pipeline is Tengah, near Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Batok, which will yield about 56,000 homes over the next decade or so.

There are more than 900,000 HDB flats in Singapore currently.

'We will build infrastructure ahead of demand and start to prepare for new towns at Bidadari and Tengah,' the MND spokesman said in response to queries.

'How fast they are built up depends on the overall demand for housing in Singapore, but we are planning ahead for flexibility.'

Tengah is a large forested area about the size of Choa Chu Kang. Basic infrastructure and land preparation works will take longer.

Another new town down the track is Simpang, though details are not available yet as it will be developed much later, MND said.

Simpang town will be on the coast, bounded by the Strait of Johor to the north, Sembawang town to the west, Yishun town to the south and the mouth of the former Sungei Seletar to the east.

MND said that it is working out the detailed planning for Tengah and Simpang and will make specific announcements when ready.

The ministry also pointed to the need to use existing land in mature estates more intensively.

'Specifically for residential needs, while we can expect to open up relatively undeveloped areas such as Tengah and Bidadari, we will also need to intensify the use of existing land within more mature housing estates.'

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Trees used as gauge for climate shift

Volunteers put plastic bands around 500 trunks to measure their growth
Siau Ming En Straits Times 29 May 12;

EVERY Saturday for the past 18 months, a team of 10 volunteers and researchers has been trekking through the Bukit Kalang forest, armed with plastic strips, springs and crimping tools.

The volunteers - staff from HSBC Bank and researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Centre for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) - then proceed to wrap trees with the plastic bands.

Last weekend, they marked a milestone by banding their 500th tree.

This tree-banding exercise is a joint effort by the CTFS and HSBC. The objective: To study tree growth in response to climate changes.

'It turns out that measuring tree growth enables us to also calculate carbon uptake because roughly one-half of the mass of a tree is made up of carbon,' explained Dr Shawn Lum, 49, principal investigator of the research team, who is also a lecturer at the National Institute of Education, a partner of the CTFS.

Dr Lum is also president of the Nature Society Singapore.

The volunteers have been working on a 2ha site - the size of two football fields - and can band 15 to 25 trees in a span of four hours each time.

The plastic strips that go around the girth of the trees come with inserted springs to take in the trees' expansion, which indicates carbon uptake over a six-month period.

Typically, the trees are measured at the 1.3m height, but volunteers have to ensure the point of measurement is not at a malformed or bumpy part of the trunk. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, they are able to offset the population's carbon footprint - the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from people's urban lifestyles.

Dr Lum said a longer-term use of these tree-banding results is that it can 'help us determine which species and type of trees can help us efficiently offset our carbon footprint'.

This is not the first time a tree-banding survey has been conducted here.

In 2008, a similar project of 1,000 trees was carried out at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The team studied Bukit Kalang this time because it needed to compare the carbon uptake by the coastal hill land in Bukit Timah with the low-lying land in Bukit Kalang.

While the Bukit Kalang project is still in its early stages, preliminary findings are similar to those from the Bukit Timah study.

That study had shown that primary forests can store more carbon than secondary forests.

Trees in primary forests are bigger and taller, have a lower propensity to regenerate, and take a longer time to grow.

Tree-banding has been carried out by researchers in some 20 countries under the respective CTFS internationally, said Dr Lum.

There are plans to extend the project to a new area - either to another patch of forest or to study the existing site in greater detail.

'Or we can do both, which is what we currently aim to do,' added Dr Lum.

Read more!

Malaysia: 46 pangolins rescued from car boot

The Star 29 May 12;

ALOR SETAR: An attempt to smuggle 46 pangolins out of the country by hiding them inside a car boot was foiled by the Kedah Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

The pangolins worth RM43,000 were found in a car in Simpang Empat, Changlun, said its director Rahim Ahmad.

Authorities released the animals in a protected area in Kedah.

“A Kedah Perhilitan team, assisted by our counterparts from Penang, trailed the car for about 30km from the North-South Expressway Hutan Kampung toll plaza until Simpang Empat,” Rahim said.

“We stopped the car but the driver escaped,” he said yesterday.

Saved from the cooking pot
New Straits Times 29 May 12;

ALOR STAR: Forty-six pangolins, worth RM43,000, were saved from the cooking pot yesterday.

The animals, which were bound for exotic food restaurants in a neighbouring country, were found in the boot of a Toyota Camry at a traffic light in Changlun near here at 8.30am.

Kedah and Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) officers had trailed the car for about 30km from the Hutan Kampung Toll Plaza near here.

The car driver pushed the officers away and fled the scene on foot when the Perhilitan team approached his vehicle.

State Perhilitan director Rahim Ahmad said four of the pangolins were juveniles.

Rahim said he believed that the pangolins were to be supplied to Thailand.

"Prior to the discovery, we conducted an investigation to locate the poacher following a tip-off from the public."

Rahim said the department had lodged a report to seek the police's help in locating the suspect.

Pangolins are much sought after as exotic meat and it is believed the consignment was being smuggled to Thailand.

Rahim said the pangolins would be released in the forest reserves of Pedu, Padang Terap and Ulu Muda.

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Malaysia: Saving Sungai Klang

Tan Cheng Li The Star 29 May 12;

Long treated like a sewer rather than a river, can Sungai Klang be revived?

BY NOW, many people would have noticed that something is up in several rivers within the Klang Valley. In Ulu Klang, shady trees that line Sungai Klang have been sacrificed for slope protection works. Where Sungai Kerayong flows through Cheras, a water treatment plant is under construction. In Selayang, the banks of Sungai Gombak have been beautified.

We are cleaning up Sungai Klang – again. These works are all part of the mega River of Life (ROL) project to mop up Sungai Klang in its upper reaches and where it passes through Kuala Lumpur. Once the river runs clear, beautification schemes and commercial development will come up along 10.7km of the river in the city centre, in areas like Titiwangsa, Masjid Jamek and the Putra World Trade Centre.

It is a bid to emulate successful riverfront developments seen in cities the world over. However, one question persists in the minds of many: Will the river rehabilitation work this time?

The past 30 years have seen billions of ringgit spent on numerous projects to revive Sungai Klang.

Yet, the river remains as murky as ever. Needless to say, scepticism is rife that the latest project will be like its predecessors – so-called clean-ups which focused on river beautification rather than the crucial task of improving water quality.

Department of Drainage and Irrigation (DID) director Datuk Lim Chow Hock, however, brushes aside such doubts, asserting that things are being done differently this time around.

“In the past, most of the attempts to clean up the Klang River systems have been in an ad hoc manner by different agencies and municipalities. There was a lack of high-level (ministerial level) co-ordination and no regular follow-up monitoring. Previous projects were not on such a big scale. We’re looking at a wider area now, and not just one stream,” says the head of the river basin and coastal zone management division.

The ROL project area covers Sungai Klang from its upstream until its confluence with Sungai Kerayong, as well as its tributaries, the Gombak, Batu, Bunus, Jinjang and Kerayong rivers – altogether totalling 110km. The clean-up effort will target pollution sources in Kuala Lumpur and the municipalities of Selayang and Ampang Jaya.

Early, proper planning also sets the latest river clean-up endeavour apart from past schemes, adds Lim. “We identified what the pollutants are and where they’re from, and zero down to the agencies responsible. That’s how we came out with the 12 initiatives to clean up the rivers.”

The main culprits which are fouling Sungai Klang are: effluent from sewerage treatment plants (80%); commercial and residential centres (9%); industries and workshops (5%); food industries, restaurants and wet markets (4.2%); and squatters and others (1.8%).

The clean-up initiatives aim to tackle the problem at the source – that is, curb pollution from entering the river in the first place.

So, the plan is to: better-treat sewage; handle wastewater from wet markets; install gross pollutant traps in main drains; treat the water in flood retention ponds before releasing downstream; build facilities to filter and treat river water; trap greasy waste in food courts; reduce pollution from squatters; prevent industrial discharges; upgrade drainage and stormwater systems; check erosion from urban development; improve rubbish disposal; and study on other pollutants.

The Government has allocated RM3bil for the task of raising the river water quality from the current Class III and Class IV (not suitable for body contact) to Class IIb (suitable for body contact and recreational usage) by 2020. The project kicked off a year ago and different parcels are in various stages of completion.

“When completed, the bulk of the contaminants in Sungai Klang will be captured. The river will be transformed into a vibrant and liveable waterfront with high economic value,” says Lim.

He says some 77,000 tonnes of rubbish end up in Sungai Klang annually and currently, only a third of that is trapped. Under the ROL project, more trash rakes, trash screens and floating booms are being placed along rivers and in flood detention ponds. Also, gross pollutant traps (GPT) will be installed in major drains to prevent trash, silt and grease from ending up in rivers.

While only a few drains had GPTs in previous clean-ups, the ROL project will have some 300 units. Lim, however, hopes to see less of such devices in future. “They will not be necessary if people stop littering. We would have failed if we need to add GPTs.”

To improve the city’s drainage and stormwater management system, river banks are being shored up to prevent erosion, which clouds up waterways. To maintain a natural riverine habitat, DID is moving away from concrete linings of river banks. At Kampung Sungai Mulia in Gombak, stacks of Green Terramesh (which are made from coconut husk fibres sandwiched between layers of wire mesh) protect the banks of Sungai Gombak.

“These slow down the water flow and allow natural filtration,” explains Anita Ainan, chief assistant director at DID Kuala Lumpur.

Along Sungai Kerayong, the “soft rock” is used. These are heavy-duty geo-textile bags filled with sand to a weight of two tonnes each. Arranged in stacks along the riverside, they protect the waterway and offer a substrate for vegetation to take root. Anita says the choice of river bank protection technique depends on the flow velocity and availability of riverside land.

“We are going towards more eco-friendly methods but for areas with space constrain, we still have to use concrete walls,” says Anita.

Filtering the dirt

As raw or partially treated sewage is a major culprit, the ROL project emphasises the upgrading of sewage treatment plants (see story on P4). It will also see an approach to river clean-up that is new to Malaysia – treatment of raw river water. Fourteen river water treatment plants will be built to cleanse the Gombak, Batu, Klang and Kerayong rivers.

One RM10mil plant is under construction for Sungai Kerayong in Taman Yu Lik, Cheras Baru.

Nazri Yasmin, chief assistant director at DID Kuala Lumpur, says river water will be diverted to the plant and run through filters consisting of various microbe-enriched media, to remove pollutants.

The cleansed water is then released back into the river. The type of filtration system will depend on how badly polluted the river is. DID is also planning such water treatment facilities for the Puah and Benteng flood detention ponds.

Most of the foul waste of wet markets end up in streams. The newer ones of Kuala Lumpur’s 28 wet markets are connected to public sewers but not the older ones. Under the ROL project, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) will build wastewater treatment plants at markets in Selayang, Old Klang Road, Air Panas, Sentul and Pudu.

Hew See Seng, senior deputy director (drainage) at DBKL, says there are no sewer lines near enough to the five markets. Furthermore, Indah Water Konsortium prefers not to have raw effluent flowing into public sewers as this will burden sewage treatment plants.

“Laying long sewer lines and upgrading treatment plants might end up being more costly and time-consuming (than building the treatment plants),” says Hew.

DBKL deputy director-general (project implementation and maintenance) Mohd Najib Mohd says construction will start within the next two months for the plants in the Selayang and Old Klang Road markets, with completion due for early next year. He says due to space constrains, DBKL has chosen a membrane bio-reactor which is a compact treatment system. The plant in Selayang market along Jalan Ipoh, for instance, will sit on a 100sqm space. The Korean technology is being provided by Buditranz Consult.

Hew says designing the plant for the Pudu market, however, will be challenging as the over 1,000 stalls there are spread all over, and there is hardly any space for a treatment plant.

DBKL has received RM3.5mil this year alone for the plants but with one costing between RM2mil and RM4mil, Najib fears that funds might run short.

Not widespread enough

The ROL project might have zeroed in on many pollution sources but many others have been omitted. Communal oil and grease traps have been installed in 26 food courts in Kuala Lumpur and 20 each in Ampang Jaya and Selayang but there are thousands of other restaurants and hawker centres that still discharge waste straight into drains.

Off the Middle Ring Road II in Ulu Klang, scores of polluting businesses such as car workshops line the banks of Sungai Klang. These premises have drains that discharge directly into the river. By right, these businesses have no place sitting on the river reserve – but do the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council or Selangor Government have plans to relocate them?

Likewise, riverine squatter settlements often foul up streams with trash and raw sewage but the ROL project only has plans for stormwater treatment plants at Taman Melawati and Kampung Fajar in Ulu Klang. Lim says this is an interim measure to handle the pollution as relocation of squatters will be a long-term effort.

Each time it rains, Sungai Klang turns the colour of teh tarik because of land-clearing for residential development in the upstream areas such as Taman Melawati, Kemensah and Ukay Perdana. The siltation not only starves the river of oxygen but makes the river shallow, raising the possibility of flooding. The ROL project will only upgrade two sediment ponds, in Taman Bukit Mulia, Bukit Antarabangsa and Bukit Botak, Selayang – which does little to stop eroded soil from fouling up Sungai Klang,

There are concerns that the ROL project focuses too strongly on hard engineering measures – such as treatment plants for river water and wet markets effluent and GPTs – which are costly and work only with proper operation and maintenance. And treating river water is an “end-of-pipeline” solution. It does nothing to prevent pollution. Also, GPTs need regular removal of the trapped trash and silt if they are to perform their role. Same goes for oil and grease traps.

Lim asserts that the structural measures are necessary, but have to be completed by non-structural measures such as beefing up enforcement and raising public awareness.

“We can’t be cleaning the river and on the other hand, people continue throwing rubbish into the river.” To prevent river siltation, he says municipal councils will have to enforce earthworks bylaws requiring development sites to have sediment ponds.

To ensure smooth implementation, he says the ROL projects are being closely monitored by three committees right from the planning stage to the implementation, operation and maintenance stages, according to Key Performance Indexes.

But one contentious point remains: the ROL’s scope of only the upper catchment tributaries and the stretch of Sungai Klang which flows through Kuala Lumpur, which is where the lucrative riverfront development will be sited. So beyond the city centre, Sungai Klang will again be fouled by nasty discharges as it passes through other highly developed areas of Selangor.

Lim says clean-up of the rest of the Klang river basin will be in future phases but there have been no official announcements on this. Without similar efforts, Sungai Klang will never be truly clean. So now, we are cleaning up the river – only to mess it up again downstream.

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Indonesia: Dugongs in Balikpapan gulf face extinction

Nurni Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post 28 May 12;

The endangered dugong (Dugong dugon), or seacow, which is found in the Balikpapan gulf, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, is at risk of extinction as its numbers have continued to decrease due to industrial expansion, a researcher says.

Stanislav Lhota, a researcher from the Czech Republic, said “Massive industrial expansion, which includes waste and land expansions, has caused sedimentation in Balikpapan gulf waters. Heavy metals and other pollutants, such as those from vessels’ lubricants, also threaten seagrass — the seacows’ food,” Lhota said recently.

Lhota cited noise pollution from vessels traveling in and out of the harbor as another factor worsening the dugongs’ habitat.

“[The busy traffic] is scaring the dugongs and forcing them to go far away,” he said.

The downstream area of Balikpapan gulf has witnessed rapid industrial expansion; the Balikpapan administration plans to broaden the expansion to the upstream area also.

“If this happens, sea grass along the Balikpapan coastline will disappear due to sedimentation and chemical pollution from industrial activities,” he said, adding that if the local administration turns the west side of the city into an industrial area, “Balikpapan will no longer have a healthy coast”.

In the long run, the planned expansion will also affect the habitats of coral, green turtles and irrawaddy dolphins, he added.

Dugong, one of the rarest animals in Indonesia, can be found from Madagascar and East Africa to India and Australia.

An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 dugongs survive in Indonesian waters; however, that number is believed to have decreased significantly over the past few years.

In Kalimantan, dugongs can be found in five locations: Balikpapan gulf; Berau regency, East Kalimantan; Derawan island; Karimata island, West Kalimantan; Kotawaringin, South Kalimantan; and Kumai gulf in Central Kalimantan.

Dugongs were declared extinct in 1996, but the Indonesia Rare Aquatic Species (RASI) spotted dugongs in 2000 in Balikpapan gulf. (swd)

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Warming may wipe out seagrass

The University of Western Australia Science Alert 29 May 12;

A study involving the collaboration between researchers at The University of Western Australia and the Spanish National Research Council has shown that warming of Mediterranean seawater over this century, under a moderately optimistic scenario of greenhouse gas emissions, is likely to cause the functional extinction of these seagrass meadows.

The international study examined the trajectory of the density of seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) meadows in the western Mediterranean during the 21st century under estimated warming based on ten global climate models and two regional models. Researchers used the relationships between the annual mortality rate of P. oceanica and the maximum annual temperature to predict annual seagrass mortality rates. The result was a decrease in shoot density by 90 per cent at mid-century.

All models predict a rapid warming of surface seawater along the 21st century, leading to an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves. The models predict the average surface temperature of seawater during the summer would be 3.4 °C warmer by the end of this century compared to now. The models predict that from 2050 onwards, seawater temperature will exceed 28 °C, the threshold temperature triggering mortality of P. oceanica, every summer.

Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean are in decline not only because of higher temperatures but also due to local disturbances, such as pollution and destruction of the prairie for anchors.

Co-author and Director of the UWA Oceans Institute Winthrop Professor Carlos Duarte says that the paper, Mediterranean seagrass vulnerable to regional climate warming, published online in the journal Nature Climate Change, reveals actions to mitigate local impacts, while beneficial, are not enough to increase seagrass resistance to warming.

"To assess whether local disturbances could increase the vulnerability of P. oceanica to warming, the researchers examined the trajectory of the abundance of P. oceanica under three scenarios of mitigation of local stresses; the immediate removal of local stresses, the mitigation of local perturbations by 2030, and ‘business as usual.'

"The most swift action - the mitigation of local disturbances by 2010 - delayed the functional extinction of the meadow by a decade, but only two years if mitigation of local stresses is only achieved by 2030.

"Therefore, measures to mitigate local stresses, while beneficial, increase the resistance of P. oceanica to ocean warming only modestly," Winthrop Professor Duarte said.

The researchers concluded the study demonstrates that rapid international action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at levels well below those considered in this study is the only solution capable of ensuring that this ancient ecosystem persists throughout the twenty-first century.

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Radioactive bluefin tuna crossed the Pacific to US

Alicia Chang Associated Press Yahoo News 29 May 12;

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan's crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

"We were frankly kind of startled," said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that's still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

But scientists did not expect the nuclear fallout to linger in huge fish that sail the world because such fish can metabolize and shed radioactive substances.

One of the largest and speediest fish, Pacific bluefin tuna can grow to 10 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. They spawn off the Japan coast and swim east at breakneck speed to school in waters off California and the tip of Baja California, Mexico.

Five months after the Fukushima disaster, Fisher of Stony Brook University in New York and a team decided to test Pacific bluefin that were caught off the coast of San Diego. To their surprise, tissue samples from all 15 tuna captured contained levels of two radioactive substances — ceisum-134 and cesium-137 — that were higher than in previous catches.

To rule out the possibility that the radiation was carried by ocean currents or deposited in the sea through the atmosphere, the team also analyzed yellowfin tuna, found in the eastern Pacific, and bluefin that migrated to Southern California before the nuclear crisis. They found no trace of cesium-134 and only background levels of cesium-137 left over from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s.

The results "are unequivocal. Fukushima was the source," said Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who had no role in the research.

Bluefin tuna absorbed radioactive cesium from swimming in contaminated waters and feeding on contaminated prey such as krill and squid, the scientists said. As the predators made the journey east, they shed some of the radiation through metabolism and as they grew larger. Even so, they weren't able to completely flush out all the contamination from their system.

"That's a big ocean. To swim across it and still retain these radionuclides is pretty amazing," Fisher said.

Pacific bluefin tuna are prized in Japan where a thin slice of the tender red meat prepared as sushi can fetch $24 per piece at top Tokyo restaurants. Japanese consume 80 percent of the world's Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

Now that scientists know that bluefin tuna can transport radiation, they also want to track the movements of other migratory species including sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.


Fukushima Radiation Seen In Tuna Off California
Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 29 May 12;

Low levels of nuclear radiation from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima power plant have turned up in bluefin tuna off the California coast, suggesting that these fish carried radioactive compounds across the Pacific Ocean faster than wind or water can.

Small amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were detected in 15 tuna caught near San Diego in August 2011, about four months after these chemicals were released into the water off Japan's east coast, scientists reported on Monday.

That is months earlier than wind and water currents brought debris from the plant to waters off Alaska and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The amount of radioactive cesium in the fish is not thought to be damaging to people if consumed, the researchers said in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Without making a definitive judgment on the safety of the fish, lead author Daniel Madigan of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station noted that the amount of radioactive material detected was far less than the Japanese safety limit.

"I wouldn't tell anyone what's safe to eat or what's not safe to eat," Madigan said in a telephone interview. "It's become clear that some people feel that any amount of radioactivity, in their minds, is bad and they'd like to avoid it. But compared to what's there naturally ... and what's established as safety limits, it's not a large amount at all."

He said the scientists found elevated levels of two radioactive isotopes of the element cesium: cesium 137, which was present in the eastern Pacific before the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in the spring of 2011; and cesium 134, which is produced only by human activities and was not present before the earthquake and tsunami hit the Japanese plant.

Because cesium 134 is generated only by human activities - nuclear power plants and weapons - and there was none in the Pacific for several years before the Fukushima accident, they reckoned that any cesium 134 they found in tuna off California had to come from Fukushima.


There was about five times the background amount of cesium 137 in the bluefin tuna they tested, but that is still a tiny quantity, Madigan said: 5 becquerels instead of 1 becquerel. (It takes 37 billion becquerels to equal 1 curie; for context, a pound of uranium-238 has 0.00015 curies of radioactivity, so one becquerel would be a truly miniscule proportion.)

The researchers figured that the elevated levels of cesium 137 and all of the cesium 134 they detected came from Fukushima because of the way bluefin tuna migrate across the Pacific.

Bluefin tuna spawn only in the western Pacific, off the coasts of Japan and the Philippines. As young fish, some migrate east to the California coast, where upwelling ocean water brings lots of food for them and their prey. They get to these waters as juveniles or adolescents, and remain there, fattening up.

Judging by the size of the bluefin tuna they sampled - they averaged about 15 pounds (6 kg) - the researchers knew these were young fish that had left Japanese water about a month after the accident.

Most of the radiation was released over a few days in April 2011, and unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium does not quickly sink to the sea bottom but remains dispersed in the water column, from the surface to the ocean floor.

Fish can swim right through it, ingesting it through their gills, by taking in seawater or by eating organisms that have already taken it in, Madigan said.

Bluefin tuna typically have low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material, such as potassium 40, which was present in the world's oceans long before human beings walked the Earth.

Compared to these natural levels of radioactivity, the amount contributed by Fukushima raised the level about 3 percent, Madigan said.

He said there were probably much higher levels of cesium 134 present in bluefin tuna off Japan soon after the accident, as much as 40 to 50 percent higher than normal. Cesium 134 decays quickly, with a half-life of two years. Bluefin tuna excrete it on a daily basis and it also gets diluted in their bodies as they grow.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [21 - 27 May 2012]
from Green Business Times

Fri 08 Jun 2012: 4pm @ NUS LT20 – Richard Corlett on “Climate change in the tropics: the end of the world as we know it?” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Fabulous Marine Exhibition at the Festival of Biodiversity
from wild shores of singapore and Volunteers at the Festival of Biodiversity

Singapore got wildlife meh? ABUDEN?!
from Pulau Hantu

Malayan Water Monitor
from Monday Morgue and Vote Monday Morgue!

From Belukar Track To Lornie Trail Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Oriental Honey-Buzzard in Action
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysians demonstrate against Taiwan-invested petrochemical projects in Johor

Focus Taiwan 27 May 12;

Kuala Lumpur, May 27 (CNA) Hundreds of residents of Pengerang, Malaysia defied a downpour Saturday to stage a demonstration against a planned petrochemical project to be built with investment from Taiwan's Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology.

Led by six self-help groups, over 500 villagers in the small town in southern Malaysia chanted slogans in the protest over the controversial project that was scrapped in Taiwan due to environmental concerns.

Taiwan's minister of economic affairs confirmed earlier this month the the naphtha cracker plant project, in which state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp. has a large stake, might be moved to Malaysia. CPC later said the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. will complete a feasibility assessment by May next year.

Saturday's demonstrators opposed a proposed relocation of residents, a Mandarin school in the coastal town, graveyards containing nearly 3,000 tombs and land seizures.

During the event, activists took turns to address the crowd, while others held banners reading "stop the project; save Pengerang" and "grave pollution of ocean and air."

The president of an alliance formed by six groups of activists said they are not against any development project but are asking the government to take the residents' basic rights more seriously.

(By Kuay Chau-churh and Kendra Lin)

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Hong Kong plan to create 25 islands threatens wildlife, say protesters

Creation of 1,500 hectares of land in the region is flawed on environmental and demographic grounds, say experts
Vaudine England 27 May 12;

Green hillsides stretch out behind Ruy Barretto's stone house and trains to China slip under the hill in the designated conservation area where his family home has stood for generations. Down by the waterfront, Tolo harbour is teeming with visitors. Behind it, a narrow, neglected road crawls up the Sha Lo Tung hillside through dense trees, birdsong, wild rushes, ferns and fresh air.

But if Hong Kong's planners have their way, tonnes of construction waste will be dumped in and around Tolo harbour, disfiguring shorelines, despoiling uninhabited islands and wrecking a rare recreational resource.

The plan is part of a broader aim to create 1,500 hectares of land to provide homes and land space for millions more people. The planners talk of creating 25 islands and waterfront extensions of hundreds of hectares each. They would dump concrete in the sea to join up islands where weekend sailors see porpoises and turtles, and wipe out natural pebble and sand beaches.

Thousands have signed petitions against the plans. Experts on population, environment, urban design and sustainability say that instead of creating new lifestyles for residents, the plans will allow the government to save the cost of shipping waste to China and garner huge profits from land sales.

"They are trying to kill two birds with one profitable stone," says Barretto, a barrister. The WWF says the environmental cost of the redevelopment is too high. Among the sites targeted for reclamation, Po Toi island is home to Romer's tree frog; Hei Ling Chau island is home to a special burrowing lizard; and the waters around Beaufort island support more than 30 species of coral. Porpoises, mangroves and spawning grounds for fish would all be put at risk.

However, the 25-location plan will create land in one of the planet's most heavily populated places. The authorities are also thinking about creating new land for a third runway at the international airport.

The government's civil engineering and development department (Cedd), which refused to be interviewed, says it is merely seeking public opinion on the best way to meet future development needs. It issued a brochure suggesting that new land could be created at 25 locations outside Hong Kong's central harbour area, which is protected from development by law. It embarked on a "public engagement process", in which the plan was outlined at seminars and exhibitions. Responses are being analysed with a view to shortening the list of 25 sites down to 10.

The trouble, says a range of experts, is that the department's assumptions are wrong, its reasoning faulty, and the process flawed. Take the Cedd's claim that Hong Kong's population (of 6.9 million) will reach 8.9 million by 2039. "I don't believe it," said Prof Paul Yip, Hong Kong's top demographer, from the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration.

Hong Kong has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, at 1.04%, and a rapidly ageing population. The daily quota for 150 new migrants from mainland China is rarely full. Without a massive inward migration programme it is hard to see how it could produce such significant population growth.

As for the need for new land, the countryside is already scarred by storage of shipping containers and old factory areas are left to rot. The government has admitted that 200,000 flats are standing empty; more than 5,000 hectares of other land has also been identified for rezoning.

"Reclamation should be the last resort," said Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chairman of environmental pressure group Green Sense. The Hong Kong Institute of Planners says that reclamation "at an appropriate scale and level of overall sustainability is a possible option" but warns that study of a large number of criteria, including environmental and ecological, is necessary.

"The identification of 25 sites, prematurely released and belatedly presented, is confusing … 'island' sites in particular are extremely unlikely to be viable," it said in a submission to the government.

Government sources the Cedd's plan was a surprise to policy units usually involved in such significant planning processes. A 2007 government study called Hong Kong 2030 stressed the need for a more sustainable quality of life and warned against rampant reclamation.

"We're suffering from a lack of decision-making," said Peter Cookson Smith, architect, urban planner and president of the Institute of Planners.

Some allege a broader lack of vision, saying Hong Kong's land needs depend on its future relationship to the mainland. The border between the two different jurisdictions is becoming more porous, which is partly why mainland Chinese feel less need to live in more expensive Hong Kong. It also raises questions about why Hong Kong should build more land, when there is the huge space of China next door. For Barretto, the most disturbing aspect of the 25-site plan is that the government appears to have forgotten, or thrown out, the most basic principles of international practice for sustainable planning.

After researching the figures, local commentator Tom Holland said: "It's hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government's huge fiscal reserves, and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects. They need to be stopped."
Hong Kong's reclamation tradition

When British and other foreign traders' ships first sought safe harbour in Hong Kong in the 1840s, the island offered a mere strip of flat land which rose precipitously to the 550-metre peak. Reclamation - taking land from the sea – was envisaged from the start.

Begun in 1889, the first major project added almost 4.5 hectares of new land, creating what is now called Central, the primary business district A subsequent reclamation of what is now called Wanchai added another 4.8 hectares.

Since then, Hong Kong has grown exponentially. The government has been creating 500-700 hectares of land every five years, until 2005 when new environmental awareness and legal sanction cut the growth back to under 100 hectares over five years.

As of early 2011, about 6% of land in Hong Kong (6,824 hectares) has come from reclamation, the government says.

Traditionally, reclamation has been done by dredging, using rock and sand fill and taking out mud that could not be built upon. New techniques involve the use of large concrete blocks. This involves less dumping of mud, and makes better use of existing construction waste. Engineers say it also provides more stable land.

Hong Kong's international airport was built on new land made by taking marine mud away. If a third runway is agreed, the new land it will require will almost certainly involve the use of construction waste.

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Indonesia: Illegal Logging in Kalimantan ‘Cost State $35b in 2011’

Jakarta Globe 24 May 12;

Illegal forest clearing in Kalimantan potentially cost the state Rp 321 trillion ($34.6 billion) in losses last year, largely because law enforcement efforts on the ground remain weak, activists claimed on Wednesday.

Citing data from the Forestry Ministry, Indonesia Corruption Watch and the environmental group Save Our Borneo, the activists said in a joint statement that the province of Central Kalimantan accounted for nearly half the losses because of the large number of firms there operating with “flawed permits.”

The groups said some 282 plantation firms and 629 mining firms were responsible for the deforestation of at least seven million hectares in the province.

“The Forestry Ministry’s investigating team calculates that based on the assumption that one hectare of forest can yield 100 cubic meters of timber, and with a reforestation fee and levy of $16 and Rp 60,000 per cubic meter, the total amount of revenue that the state should have received was Rp 158 trillion,” the statement said.

The groups identified similar potential losses of Rp 121.4 trillion in West Kalimantan, Rp 31.5 trillion in East Kalimantan and Rp 9.6 trillion in South Kalimantan.

What makes Central Kalimantan’s case particularly egregious, the statement says, is that some 200,000 hectares of forest that have been cleared there fall inside concessions for 15 companies owned by the head of one the province’s districts and his family and cronies.

The groups said the district head had dished out concessions to a host of sham companies owned by people including his siblings and his driver.

“Save Our Borneo and ICW reported this matter in 2011 to the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission],” the statement said, adding that the groups would report similar allegations about forest concessions in East Kotawaringin district.

The problem, it went on, is that despite the number of reports filed to law enforcement officials, very little action has been taken.

“Enforcement efforts are not yet optimal because they are still based on using sectoral legislation such as the Forestry Law, the Environmental Law and the Plantations Law,” it said.

“If things remain on this tack, then it is almost certain forestry crimes, specifically the illegal granting of concessions, will be difficult to uncover.”

The groups called instead for the Anti-Corruption Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Law to be used to charge suspects. Among the advantages it cited was the possibility of prosecuting officials who issued illegal permits and stiffer minimum sentences and fines than those prescribed by the other laws.

“The Anti-Corruption Law can also be used against both individuals and companies, it can help in seizures and asset recovery, and it can be used against those who hamper the investigation process,” ICW said.

The groups said although the KPK and the Attorney General’s Office were already using these laws in illegal forestry cases, the number of prosecutions was still very low. The KPK has prosecuted just six such cases, for which 21 people were tried and convicted.

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Indonesia Defies Critics, Says Deforestation Has Declined

Jakarta Globe 24 May 12;

The Indonesian government reiterated its claim on Thursday that the country’s deforestation rate has drastically declined over the past two years, defying critics and environmental activists who say otherwise.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said Indonesia’s forests declined as much as 3.5 million hectares per year between 1996 and 2003, compared to 450,000 hectares per year between 2009 and 2011.

“This means that the moratorium on forest cutting has had an impact, and it’s proven to effectively reduce forest destruction,” Zulkifli said in Jakarta, as he briefed journalists on a map of forests protected under the moratorium. He added, nevertheless, that the moratorium did not affect investments in sectors such as plantations and industrial forests.

“A well protected forests doesn’t necessarily mean a declining economy. Industry can grow along with forests,” Zulkifli said.

The Indonesian government has come under fire after Greenpeace Indonesia released a report earlier this month saying the country may have lost five million hectares of forest since the moratorium on deforestation came into effect in May last year.

Greenpeace said such a loss occurred because the areas overlapped with existing coal and logging concessions, with Kalimantan and Papua hit hardest.

The moratorium is set to last for two years, and was enacted after Norway pledged $1 billion in aid to Indonesia as part of a larger UN-backed plan to reduce emissions produced by deforestation.

Norwegian environment minister Bard Vegar Solhjell told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that Indonesia’s progress in reforming its forestry sector would be insufficient to meet its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.


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Thousands of shellfish found dead in Peru

AFP Yahoo News 25 May 12;

Thousands of crustaceans were found dead off the coast of Lima following the mystery mass death of dolphins and pelicans, the Peruvian Navy said Friday.

The cause of death is under investigation, said Industry and Fishing Minister Gladys Triveno, warning that "it would be premature to give a reason for this phenomenon."

The Navy said it presented a report on the find to the Agency of Environmental Evaluation and Control to determine the cause.

Biologist Yuri Hooker of Cayetano Heredia University said the species found on Pucusana Beach, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Lima, was a type of red krill about three centimeters (1.2 inches) long.

"They live mostly along the coast of Chile up to the coast of northern Peru. What is happening is that these crustaceans are being affected by the warming of Pacific waters in the north of the country," he said, adding that the phenomenon occurs "with some frequency."

Hooker explained that the warmer temperatures led the shrimp-like creatures that usually live far away from the coast to move in closer to land, where they died.

Nearly 900 dolphins washed up along Peru's northern coast between February and April. A government study said the marine mammals died of natural causes, while environmental groups insist the massive toll was linked to offshore oil exploration in the area.

Peruvian officials have suggested that the dolphins, along with 5,000 dead sea birds -- mostly pelicans -- died due to the effects of rising temperatures in Pacific waters, including the southern migration of fish eaten by the birds.

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Slow progress since Earth Summit 20 years ago

Mariette le Roux AFP Yahoo News 27 May 12

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio pledged to save the environment for future generations, observers and policy makers agree swifter action is required to avert climate catastrophe.

But even as new warnings were issued this week of impending disaster -- more severe droughts, disease spread and land-effacing sea level rises -- climate negotiators gathered in Bonn continued to bicker over procedure.

"Let's consider climate change like you are in a car trying to stop before reaching a ledge. We are applying the brakes but we are still far away from decelerating enough not to fall from the ledge," Wael Hmaidan, director of activist group Climate Action Network, told AFP on the sidelines of the talks which ended Friday.

On Thursday, climate researchers said the planet could warm by more than 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 if countries do not raise their game.

The UN's target is a 2 C (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) limit on warming from pre-industrial levels for manageable climate change.

Paul Hare from German policy research group Climate Analytics said the gap between countries' promised interventions and the reality was "getting bigger."

And the International Energy Agency said CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached a new high last year, providing "further evidence that the door to a 2 deg C trajectory is about to close."

The Earth Summit had yielded the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol binding 37 rich nations to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"I would say that the climate negotiations at their twentieth anniversary are definitely moving in the right direction, but not at the speed and not at the scale" required, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said in Bonn.

Scientists who monitor progress under the name Climate Action Tracker (CAT) say warming of 3.5 deg C could cause many plant and animal species to die out, deserts to expand and agricultural production to plummet.

They say the scenario can be avoided if governments raise their commitments considerably, and fast -- cutting fossil fuel subsidies and boosting renewable energy production.

"The only thing that is creating the gap is a lack of political will," said Hmaidan.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said climate change posed the greatest threat to the well-being of people and ecosystems 20 years after the Rio conference.

"It is not too late to address this threat, but scientists tell us the window for effective action is rapidly closing. Without much more ambitious action now, we will be condemning our children and grandchildren to suffer the consequences of truly dangerous levels of climate change."

Countries agreed at UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa last December to draft a new climate pact by 2015.

Due to take effect from 2020, it should bind all countries to greenhouse gas emission cuts.

But gathered in Bonn for the past 11 days, negotiators tasked with laying the groundwork for the new deal got stuck in procedural bickering as battle lines were redrawn between rich nations and some in the developing world over apportioning responsibility for tackling global warming.

"The now-predictable drama and upheavals at the United Nations climate treaty talks underscored the precarious state of multilateral efforts to reach a new agreement to protect the world's climate," observed the Environmental Defense Fund.

Fast-growing economies like China and India, fearing emission cuts may slow their development engines, insist the developed world, which polluted more for longer, should bear a greater mitigation burden.

But the West and small countries most threatened by climate change are eager for the emerging polluters to step up to the plate.

Even as countries hurled accusations at one another in Bonn, all agreed on one thing: "it is getting very late", in the words of EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Some progress has been made as the world prepares for the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development next month and the next round of UN climate talks in Qatar in December.

Twenty years ago, when United States climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing attended the Earth Summit "we met in a room for the entire world that was the size of the room here", he said -- gesturing at a press conference room in Bonn.

"The most recent meeting than we had in Durban, we had 10,000 people and we had global coverage and we had heads of state."

Every major economy in the world has now made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Pershing pointed out.

"I think the world is recognising how much damage could be caused but also the importance of acting."

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 May 12

Great start to the Festival of Biodiversity!
from Festival of Biodiversity 2012

Laced Woodpecker foraging on the ground
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterfly of the Month - May 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Can we cope with 8 million on the island?

Much depends on how we plan - and provide - services to meet growing needs
Warren Fernandez Straits Times 27 May 12;

Xenophobia is alive and well around the world, including in some corners of this island.

Just look at the vitriol being spewed on the Internet against foreigners in the wake of the tragic accident on Rochor Road involving a speed demon from Sichuan.

A foreign observer might be forgiven for concluding that Singapore is not far off from spawning a nationalist party, whose rallying cry might be the mantra now being spouted by politicians of every stripe: 'Singaporeans first.'

This seems ironic in a nation where most people are second- or third-generation offspring of immigrants themselves. How has it come to this? What explains the visceral reactions to those who have arrived here more recently?

Sure, some new immigrants may be arrogant and uncouth. But when I hear venom being heaped collectively on 'foreigners', I can't help but wonder if those speaking realise that our forefathers too hailed from similar sources, probably spoke little English and had social graces that might not sit so comfortably in modern Singapore. They were probably looked down on, discriminated against, perhaps even abused, by their colonial masters.

Have we forgotten?

More importantly, what are the implications if Singapore turns inwards and spurns new additions to its ranks? Can a small city-state, ageing more rapidly than most other societies, really afford for immigration to become politically toxic?

Immigration and integration look set to dominate discussion, with several think-tanks and policy units releasing population projections and scenarios on dependency ratios recently. The Government also has a White Paper on the subject due later this year.

The anxiety in official circles is warranted, given that on current trends, there will be far fewer young people to support the elderly in future. The burden - financial, social, emotional - will be heavy. In response, many have begun asking what more might be done to boost Singaporeans' productivity, not just in the boardrooms but also the bedrooms.

But this debate begs wider questions - just how many people do we need, or want, on this island? How many can we cope with? The answers are crucial, for on them turn how we plan and prepare for the immigrants we allow in.

The trouble, though, is that because the issue is so highly charged, it is one that has often been sidestepped.

For a long time, Singaporeans were told that there might be 6.5 million people on the island 'by Year X'. But few seemed to know, or were willing to say, just when Year X was.

When asked, policymakers would hum, haw and assert that this was 'not a target' but a 'planning parameter' - whatever that meant. Presumably, it was believed that greater clarity would make it harder to achieve a happy outcome, socially and politically.

One day, however, Singaporeans awoke to read in The Straits Times that Singapore had close to five million citizens and residents. Year X was suddenly closer than we imagined.

We all know the result. Crowding, complaints, costs rising, as well as a mounting sense that things had gone too far, too fast, culminating in the voter backlash last May.

Given the time needed to ramp up infrastructure projects, it will be some years before the situation can be put right and social tensions are eased.

With immigration now an even more 'sensitive subject', my concern is that we might make the same mistake and seek to sugarcoat any discussion about just how many people this island can accommodate, physically, socially, and yes, politically.

Yet, there is just no running away from it. Going by population projections from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), even if Singapore has as many as one foreigner for every two residents in the next 40 years, the population will continue to age and the labour force growth rate will decline.

The result: The number of working-age people to take care of each elderly person will keep shrinking.

The IPS study shows that with the most aggressive intake of foreigners, when one-third of the people are non-residents, Singapore's total population is likely to grow to 7.3 million by 2050. If the intake is lowered to one-quarter or one-fifth, we might have 6.1 million people on the island.

How many people can Singapore cope with: 6.1 million? 7.3 million? 8 million?

Many will baulk at these numbers. Urban planners are already sounding the alarm that more open spaces might have to be converted to high-density housing. They point to congestion on MRT trains, on the road, in malls and our housing estates.

Veteran statistician Paul Cheung sees it differently. He argues that the MRT network is overcrowded because it was not designed for today's population. So, Singapore should plan and build for 8 million in the future, he says.

In other words, it is not the lack of space or facilities that is the main constraint on future population growth as much as the failure to plan - and deliver - the infrastructure required.

Clearly, any discussion on an optimal population cannot be conducted in isolation, but in tandem with plans for housing, hospitals, schools, jobs, transport and leisure options for more people. Otherwise, present realities will constrain thinking about the future.

So, for example, more details are needed on development plans for areas such as Dempsey, the old Turf Club, the waterfront areas and former KTM railway land around Tanjong Pagar, as well as Bukit Brown and Bidadari, or even offshore islands like Tekong. How will these be built up, and when?

Such reviews are done periodically when urban planners unveil the long-term master plans for the island. The next review is due next year. But that might be a year too late.

Without putting the population debate into this wider context, it will be difficult to get minds around the idea of boosting the population to 6 million, let alone 8 million, while keeping the doors open to immigrants.

Ironically, rather than physical limitations, politics might then prove the ultimate constraint to population growth.

This could do Singapore a grave disservice. After all, experience in recent years has shown the benefits of a larger population - not only has it helped boost economic growth, it has also led to a wider range of lifestyle options, from museums to music events, restaurants and retail outlets.

Most Singaporeans are not mean-spirited or xenophobic. In my view, the present angst and anxiety stem from a sense that the provision of essential services has not kept up with the population boom, and fears that this unhappy state of affairs will continue, and perhaps worsen, in future.

So when it comes to population planning, I say better to spell it out. Yes, it will mean more debate, perhaps more political heat, and even some controversy.

But the alternative is worse: A lack of a clear consensus on the way forward could give rise to divisive, perhaps unstoppable, political pressures that could turn us inwards, and ultimately, downwards.

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Bringing nature closer to residents

In the pipeline: 80ha park, viewing towers, 30km cycling loop at central catchment area
Amelia Tan Straits Times 27 May 12;

Nature buffs will have greater access to flora and fauna in Singapore with a 30km cycling loop to be completed by 2018.

The circuit will go around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve which covers the Upper Seletar, Upper and Lower Peirce, and MacRitchie reservoirs.

It will be formed by joining 10.5km of existing park connectors and biking trails that go around the northern and western borders of Central Catchment Nature Reserve to a new 19.5kmpark connector. This connector will encircle the reserve's southern and eastern borders.

The new cycling loop was announced yesterday by Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin at the launch of the Festival of Biodiversity at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

He also announced that the Government will be developing a new 80ha park, named the Chestnut Nature Park, just outside of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The park, which will be ready by 2015, will have forest trails, shelters and educational signs.

Two seven-storey towers will also be built to allow nature lovers to enjoy panoramic views of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

One tower will be located in the Chestnut Nature Park and the other will be built by 2018 in MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

Mr Tan said the developments are part of the Government's objective of bringing people closer to nature and noted that almost half of Singapore land's surface is covered by greenery.

He said: 'Our parks are easily accessed by residents, with most homes within a short walking distance of a park. That is something that we'll work towards.'

He said the Government will continue to engage Singaporeans on new ideas about adding diversity to the urban environment.

He added: 'There will be areas where we can't always agree on, but there is also so much more space that you have found that we can work on together.'

Commenting on the new developments, National Parks Board director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said: 'Some people say they have no time to enjoy the outdoors. Since you have no time, we will bring the outdoors to you. And if you have more time, we can help you to learn more with things like signages at the parks.'

The cost of the new developments is not confirmed.

Nature groups and the public welcomed the new plans.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society (Singapore), said: 'The Chestnut area is rich in biodiversity but is currently visited mostly by scientists or serious nature buffs. I think more people will be encouraged to visit the area in the future because of the park; it makes it more accessible.'

Teacher Germaine Foo, 46, said: 'I will consider getting my children to use the cycling loop in the future during their school holidays because part of it is near our home in Yio Chu Kang.'

Yesterday was the start of the two-day Festival of Biodiversity. The event, held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, features exhibitions, workshops and guided tours for the public.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam launched the festival yesterday.


Video cameras are to be installed to give people at home a glimpse of the animals and birds that live in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Four of them will be placed in the wild by the National Parks Board, and will stream live videos of wildlife to its website.

The videos can be watched from the middle of September by clicking on the link:

Animals that can be viewed include otters and migratory birds which feed at the wetlands.

Amelia Tan

Nature reserves made more accessible to public
Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 26 May 12;

SINGAPORE: Members of the public can look forward to several new amenities at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin says these developments aim to make nature more accessible to Singaporeans.

Chestnut Nature Park, an 80-hectare park, is ideal for hiking and mountain biking.

The park features two seven-storey observation towers, offering scenic views, and a 30-kilometre cycling loop allowing residents to cycle from the heartlands to the nature reserves by 2018.

The loop will be built around the perimeters of the forests to safeguard the biodiversity cores of the reserve.

NParks says these new features aim to make nature reserves more accessible.

Wong Tuan Wah, Conservation Director of NParks, said: "The intention is to bring nature closer to people and people closer to nature. Very often, people say they have no time to see nature, so these initiatives allow people the opportunity to experience nature at their homes."

These developments, NParks says, are part of Singapore's transformation into a City in a Garden. They are also aim at enriching biodiversity.

Dr Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society of Singapore, said: "So what do we have in Singapore? We have eating, shopping, it's world-class. We have nature which is equally world-class and it just takes getting to know it a little bit better. There's just so much variety but the difficult part is that it's sometimes inaccessible."

And for those who rather appreciate nature from the comforts of their own home, there's good news.

NParks plans to install four cameras around the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve from mid-September.

Viewers can catch "live" footage of otters frolicking in a pond via their computers or mobile phones.

The park will be completed by early 2015, while both the towers and cycling loop are expected to be completed by 2018.

- CNA/de

New trail around Singapore's green heart
Today Online 27 May 12;

SINGAPORE - Come 2018, nature lovers, joggers and cyclists will have a verdant new trail to explore in the green heart of Singapore.

The 30km loop around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve will be linked to the Western Adventure Park Connector Loop and other park connectors, and join up with the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and the Dairy Farm Nature Park, among other areas.

The loop will be built around the forest perimeters "to safeguard the high biodiversity cores of the reserve", said the National Parks Board (NParks).

The plan was one of several announced by Minister of State (National Development and Manpower) Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday to bring Singaporeans closer to nature - and vice versa.

Speaking at the inaugural Festival of Biodiversity, Mr Tan also revealed that an 80ha plot outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve will be developed into Chestnut Nature Park.

The new park will feature amenities for nature walks, hiking and mountain biking. It hosts a rich biodiversity of wildlife, including the mousedeer, pangolin, monitor lizard and birds. There will be panoramic views of the nature reserve to be enjoyed at a new seven-storey tower - which will also facilitate research on animals that live among the tree canopies.

The development of the park - due to be finished by early 2015 - will involve the community in planting native plants and trees.

Another seven-storey tower will be built at MacRitchie Reservoir Park by 2018, to offer visitors more scenic views.

NParks will also work with nature groups to infuse more biodiversity into the urban landscape.

Noting the success of efforts to re-introduce the Oriental Pied Hornbill - which was locally extinct for more than 100 years, until artificial nesting boxes were set up in recent years - Mr Tan said NParks aims next to attract more species such as the Crimson Sunbird, Common Birdwing Butterfly and Lesser Whistling Duck into Singapore's urban green spaces.

"In 10 years' time, perhaps Singaporeans can have pleasant encounters with biodiversity on a daily basis," he said. "This is where I have to encourage all of you who are happy to see the birdlife returning back to Singapore, to encourage your neighbours and friends, who may sometimes complain about the birds' droppings ... It's a happy problem to have."

The Festival of Biodiversity is also on today at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. There are free activities for the public, such as exhibitions, workshops and guided walks.

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