Best of our wild blogs: 3 Jan 12

120101 Dairy Farm
from Singapore Nature

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Alternatives to Stamford Canal needed

Today Online 3 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - Alternatives to the Stamford Canal to drain away rain water in the Orchard Road area are needed quickly, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged yesterday.

And Dr Balakrishnan assured that the authorities will act to rectify the issue, although the solution - of building "reserve capacity" for the canal - will not be in place overnight.

"Clearly, more needs to be done. The fact that Stamford Canal at that section has reached 100 per cent capacity means that we don't have enough reserve capacity to deal with more intense rainfall and further variability in the weather, which I anticipate will occur in the future. So, we will have to accelerate our plans for alternatives to Stamford Canal," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by charity Focus on Family Singapore. His comments came after PUB had said last week that the flooding at Liat Towers on Dec 23 was due to some parts of Stamford Canal being quickly filled up from heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Dr Balakrishnan said he will address the issue in Parliament next week. He added: "It's not something which can be solved overnight ... these are very expensive projects ... we will have to approach this methodically and carefully. But what I'm making a commitment to is that we will make things better."

When contacted, Members of Parliament told Today that as the issue was highly technical, they would wait until more complete information was available before considering if more alternatives should be considered.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, added that she was "waiting eagerly" for the expert panel's recommendations for a "total solution to the problem, which has affected businesses".

In the meantime, Liat Towers and PUB are constructing a 60cm-tall perimeter wall along the internal drain to prevent water from flowing back into the basement.

Since Orchard Road was hit by flash floods in 2010, there have been several projects carried out to prevent flooding, including the raising of some roads in the area which were completed in June last year.

In August last year, PUB also started a feasibility study on the construction of a detention pond and diversion canal for the Stamford catchment. The study is expected to be completed in May. CHANNEL NEWSASIA, WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TEO XUANWEI

Build in reserve capacity for Stamford Canal: minister
Channel NewsAsia 2 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said a "reserve capacity" has to be built in to reduce the loading for Stamford Canal.

This follows national water agency PUB's assessment that the flooding at Liat Towers on 23 December 2011 was due to some parts of Stamford Canal being quickly filled up from heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Because the canal - which runs in front of Liat Towers - was full, rainwater could not flow into it any more. As such, rainwater draining off from the roof and the back area of Liat Towers into an internal drain overflowed into the building's basement area, adding to the pooling of water there.

Dr Balakrishnan said he will address the issue in Parliament next week.

"Clearly, more needs to be done. The fact that Stamford Canal at that section has reached 100 per cent capacity means that we don't have enough reserve capacity to deal with more intense rainfall and further variability in the weather, which I anticipate will occur in the future. So, we will have to accelerate our plans for alternatives to Stamford Canal," he said on Monday.

He also gave assurances that the authorities will act to fix the problem.

He said: "Clearly, there still needs to be a reserve capacity built in and that's something we are going to have to work on. It's not something which can be solved overnight...these are very expensive projects...we will have to approach this methodically and carefully. But what I'm making a commitment to is that we will make things better."

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by local charity, Focus on Family Singapore.

Over 1,000 people gathered at a movie theatre to watch the premiere of "Courageous" - a fatherhood-themed film that touches on family issues.

Other guests included MPs Teo Ser Luck and Seah Kian Peng, as well as film director Jack Neo, and their families.

Focus on Family Singapore hopes the event will raise about S$100,000, which will be channelled towards helping over 50,000 people at various stages of family life.

- CNA/cc/ac

'Accelerate plans for Stamford Canal alternative'
Amanda Tan Straits Times 3 Jan 12;

PLANS to put in place alternatives to Stamford Canal, which runs along Orchard Road, must be 'accelerated', said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

The fact that some parts of the canal were full during heavy rainfall more than a week ago shows that there is not enough 'reserve capacity' to deal with such situations.

Because the canal was full, rainwater could not flow into it any more - a factor which caused the basement of Liat Towers to be flooded.

In his first comments since the flooding, Mr Balakrishnan said: 'We will have to accelerate our plans for alternatives to Stamford Canal or even retention point upstream in order to reduce the loading on that section of the canal.

'We need to buy ourselves a larger margin for error.'

But it will take time for some of the measures to be implemented, he added.

'It's not something which can be solved overnight because these are very expensive projects. It will take major infrastructure so we will have to approach this methodically and carefully.'

The minister said he will give a full update in Parliament next week.

He was speaking to reporters yesterday on the sidelines of a movie screening organised by charity Focus on the Family.

Faced with the constraints of expanding the canal given its urban location, national water agency PUB is looking at other alternatives.

It is studying, for instance, the feasibility of building a detention pond and a diversion canal for the Stamford catchment for the longer term.

The study is expected to be completed in May.

Other measures that have been implemented so far include floodgates, which were installed at Liat Towers in 2010. The shopping mall is also building a 60cm-high wall which will be ready this week.

In June last year, a $26 million project to raise a 1.4km stretch of road from Tanglin Road to Cairnhill Road by an average of 30cm was completed.

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Animal welfare: Response good so far, says Shanmugam

Vimita Mohandas and Olivia Siong Today Online 3 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - One of the reasons for having several pilot animal welfare programmes in his constituency was to showcase the possibilities and, after six months, the response "has been good so far", Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday.

More people are coming forward to help in these programmes on pet ownership and management of strays in Chong Pang.

And following its first public forum held in June last year, attended by animal welfare groups and more than 400 animal lovers, a second one is now being planned for the first half of this year.

Mr Shanmugam, a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, told reporters on the sidelines of a community event that the first forum was "fairly substantial".

"A lot of feedback has been taken up, and we've crystalised the issues. Some have been dealt with," he said and added that others are being looked into, while more will be discussed at the next forum.

The constituency has halted the culling of strays and since rolled out cat feeding stations for responsible ownership of community cats. A pilot project to allow registered cats in public flats is also in the mix.

And Mr Shanmugam believes that more can be done, with the combined effort of society, government and people. But even as Chong Pang is showing the possibilities for other constituencies, he acknowledged that there has been both positive and negative feedback.

"People are asking us, 'Why are you spending so much time with cats and dogs'. But it's not a zero-sum game. There are people who are interested in coming forward to help and we can work with them," he said.

"It doesn't mean it detracts us from doing other things. But we have to bear in mind that, in society, there are different interest groups, and animal lovers have said: 'Well you're not moving fast enough.' So we'll do the best that we can."

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), for one, will be pushing this year for a law to ensure responsible pet ownership. This includes getting those under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent before they buy a pet.

This, as the Year of the Rabbit is about to end, and animal shelters having seen a 30-per-cent increase in the number of abandoned rabbits last year compared to 2010. The House Rabbit Society of Singapore, for instance, took in about 100 rabbits.

The SPCA takes in up to 600 unwanted or abandoned pets each month. Just on Christmas Eve, a Maltese dog was found abandoned in the SPCA's garden, one of many pets abandoned over the festive season. Another example was two cats found at a canal near the SPCA.

"Usually pet owners figure at (festive seasons) that they've had enough of the pet and they just want to get rid of the inconvenience," said SPCA executive director Corrine Fong.

The SPCA has also seen a 40-per-cent increase in the number of abandoned hamsters in the last six months. It says this is largely due to the easy availability of hamsters.

Besides ramping up its public education programmes, the SPCA wants pet shops to play a bigger role.

"Puppy mills need to microchip all their puppies and all their dogs, which they're not doing right now, and pet stores need to license their dogs at the point of sale, which many are also not doing," Ms Fong said.

"I'm hoping the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore will step up the pressure on them to do this, because under the pet shop licence conditions, pet stores must license their puppies at the point of sale."

Second forum on animal welfare policies
Straits Times 3 Jan 12;

A SECOND forum on animal-welfare policies will be held by the middle of this year, as a follow-up to the one held last June.

The forum will also pick up on the issues aired at the first forum, and examine the progress made since then.

Mr K. Shanmugam, a Member of Parliament of Nee Soon GRC, disclosed this on the sidelines of a dance competition held in Chong Pang Community Centre yesterday.

The MP, who is Minister for Law and for Foreign Affairs, had co-chaired the two-hour inaugural forum discussion with Mr Louis Ng, the executive director of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). About 400 people showed up.

Mr Shanmugam said the event had been organised in his constituency to showcase the possibilities of what can be done in a community.

Chong Pang is also where the first first community sterilisation programme for stray cats was launched.

Of the first forum, he said: 'We had a lot of feedback, very passionate. We took it up and we sliced the issues. Some of them I've dealt with and I've also organised meetings for Acres and the others.'

The response to the forum had been very good, he said, but negative feedback had also been received. Some quarters had asked why so much time was spent on cats and dogs, he said, but added that the event also uncovered many who were willing to help.

'It doesn't mean (dealing with animal-welfare policies) detracts us from doing other things, but we have to bear in mind that in society, there are different interest groups,' he said.

On the other hand, he also had animal groups chiming in to say that the Government was not moving fast enough on the issue, 'but we will do the best we can'.

Last year's forum covered domestic animals, wildlife and animals in the entertainment industry.

Mr Ng said the coming forum will give an update on suggestions made, and issues needing more work will be aired. 'Our main goal is to make members of the public who turned up feel that they have been engaged, and that their views have made a difference.'


SPCA continues push for pet ownership law
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 2 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) says it will continue to push for a law to ensure responsible pet ownership. This includes getting those under 16 to obtain parental consent before they buy a pet.

The continued push for legislation comes as SPCA expects to see people abandon their pet rabbits ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year. The organisation tends to see an increase in the number of pets abandoned during festive seasons.

The SPCA takes in up to 600 unwanted or abandoned pets each month. It saw 7,509 pets being abandoned from June 2010 to July 2011.

On Christmas Eve just past, a Maltese dog was found abandoned in SPCA's garden. CCTV footage showed a woman walking into SPCA with the Maltese at about 9.40am and leaving a few minutes later without it.

The SPCA is seeking the assistance of a woman to help with investigations.

The SPCA says it does not have records of a Maltese being surrendered to the organisation, and that those who wish to surrender their pets to the SPCA have to complete a form before leaving the animals with SPCA.

The dog, estimated to be between six and eight years old, has since been renamed Christmas, and is being treated for a skin condition.

"Christmas" was one of many pets abandoned over the festive season.

Two cats, nicknamed Mojo and Jojo, were also found abandoned at a canal near SPCA.

Corrine Fong, executive director of the SPCA, said: "We're expecting some abandonments during Chinese New Year, (and the other festive seasons as they come along.) Spring cleaning is one of them. Usually pet owners figure at that point in time that they've had enough of the pet and they just want to get rid of the inconvenience. They just dump it at the SPCA or any other animal shelter."

SPCA has also seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of abandoned hamsters in the last six months. SPCA says this is largely due to the easy availability of hamsters.

Besides ramping up its public education programmes on responsible pet ownership, SPCA also wants pet shops to play a bigger role.

Ms Fong said: "Pet stores and puppy mills need to step up their responsibilities. Puppy mills need to microchip all their puppies and all their dogs, which they're not doing right now, and pet stores need to license their dogs at the point of sale, which many are also not doing at this point in time.

"I'm hoping the AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore) will step up the pressure on them to do this, because under the pet shop licence conditions, pet stores must license their puppies at the point of sale."

Meantime, abandoned pets like "Christmas" which require medical attention will be nursed back to health under foster care before being put up for adoption.


More bunnies abandoned as Rabbit Year nears end
Lim Wee Leng Channel NewsAsia 2 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The fad to own a rabbit for good luck appears to be dying, as the Year of the Rabbit comes to an end in about three weeks.

Animal shelters saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of abandoned rabbits in 2011 compared to the year before.

One shelter - the House Rabbits Society of Singapore - took in about 100 rabbits.

The number of people buying or adopting rabbits as pets surged in 2011, as the Chinese believe that these furry animals will bring them good luck and prosperity.

Pets are also dumped as quickly as they are bought, partly because of online shopping.

Online forums advertise pets for sale, promising minimal hassle. But once the novelty is gone, the pets end up on the streets or at the shelters.


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Sumatran rhino's survival hopes ride on Puntung and Tam

Puntung's capture means she can be used in a breeding programme that could save her ancient kind from extinction
Robin McKie 31 Dec 11;

For Puntung and her mate Tam, this is set to be a momentous year. The nuptials of this pair of Sumatran rhinos are due to take place in 2012 and, according to wildlife officials in Malaysia, the coupling represents the last chance to save the species.

The two rhinos are members of Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, the smallest species of rhinoceros on the planet. Only 150 to 300 Sumatran rhinos are thought to exist. Most live in fragmented habitats in Borneo and the Malaysian peninsula, hunted by poachers for their horns, which are prized as a Chinese traditional medicine. As a result, the Sumatran rhino is now critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

But the capture in Borneo last week of Puntung, a female aged between 10 and 12, has raised hopes that it may be possible to pull the Sumatran rhino back from the brink of extinction. Puntung is to be paired with Tam, a lone captive male, at the Tabin wildlife reserve in Sabah, north Borneo. It is hoped that a relationship between the two Sumatran rhinos, a notoriously solitary species, will blossom and the couple will breed, thus helping to reinvigorate the animal's dwindling population. "This is now the very last chance to save this species, one of the most ancient forms of mammal," said Laurentius Ambu, director of the Sabah wildlife department.

The news of the efforts to try to restore Sumatran rhino numbers comes as wildlife officials in South Africa – the last main refuge of other species of rhino – revealed that in 2011 poachers there killed more rhinos than ever to supply the growing demand for horns in Asia. Last year, at least 443 animals, mostly southern white rhinos, were slaughtered in South Africa – in 2010 the figure was 333, while in 2007 it was 13 – as the street value of their horns soared to more than £40,000 per kilo. At this price, rhino horn is more expensive than gold, platinum or cocaine.

Rising affluence in Asia is thought to be pushing up the price of horn and poaching has increased as a result. In traditional Chinese medicine, rhino horn is shaved or ground into a powder and dissolved in boiling water, and then used to treat fever, rheumatism, gout and other disorders.

Wildlife officials are particularly alarmed because this year's record number of killings in South Africa happened despite great efforts to protect the rhino. Park rangers, police and defence forces were all conscripted into the war against the poacher. In Kruger national park, for example, a special unit of soldiers was deployed to patrol its 400km border with Mozambique, the main springboard for poaching sorties into South Africa. Nevertheless 244 rhinos were killed in the Kruger park alone, an indication of the immense pressure now being exerted on rhino populations.

The story of Puntung and Tam, and the bid to save the Sumatran rhino, will thereforebe watched closely by conservationists. Puntung was caught on 18 December in a joint operation by the Borneo Rhino Alliance and the Sabah wildlife department. She had been specifically targeted in 2010 as a mate for Tam, a 20-year-old, lone male rhino, who had been rescued from an oil palm plantation in August 2008.

"All of us in Sabah are relieved that we have been able to capture this rhino after almost a year and a half," said Borneo Rhino Alliance director Junaidi Payne. "It is an ideal age for breeding. Puntung and Tam are being kept in adjacent paddocks. They can see each other and there is some communication," Payne said.

The success of the breeding project is not guaranteed, for the Sumatran rhino is a mostly solitary animal except for courtship and rearing young. Previous attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to breed Sumatran rhinos in Borneo failed. Yet Payne said he was "cautiously optimistic" the latest captive breeding programme would succeed.

Payne added that the main threat to the species was their sparsity of numbers which meant they do not get a chance to meet in the wild. He blamed the recent dramatic loss of rhino numbers on poachers who can command higher and higher prices for horn on Asian markets. "My opinion is that palm oil plantations are not the main source of threat because there are significant potential rhino habitats in the natural forests in Borneo."

There are five species of rhinoceros, all of which have been pushed to the brink by loss of habitat and by poachers who kill them for their horns.


Exists as two sub-species: the southern white lives mostly in South Africa and numbers around 15,000; whereas only seven northern whites survive (including a calf born at a Czech zoo in 2000, pictured right) and may even be extinct in the wild.


In 1900, there were several hundred thousand black rhinos in east and central Africa. Now there are a few thousand and the species is critically endangered.


Lives in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. Poaching and habitat loss reduced numbers to fewer than 200 early in the 20th century. Now, thanks to a recovery programme, there are thought to be up to 2,600.


Once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses, the Javan is now critically endangered, with only 40 surviving in Ujung Kulon National Park on Java, and none in captivity. It is probably the rarest large mammal on earth.


Has two horns like the African species. It is the smallest of all rhino species and has a coat of reddish-brown hair. Fewer than 300 are thought to survive today and the species is critically endangered.

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Floods hit southern Thailand

Straits Times 3 Jan 12;

Residents wading through a flooded road in Hat Yai district of Songkhla province, southern Thailand yesterday. Heavy, continuous monsoonal rains have caused flash floods and overflooded canals in several provinces in Thailand's south, just weeks after the country suffered its worst floods in 50 years. -- PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

BANGKOK: Weeks after Thailand suffered its worst floods in 50 years, rising waters are now threatening several provinces in the south.

Alert levels have also been raised from yellow to red in some parts of Hat Yai in Songkhla province, where heavy, continuous monsoonal rains have caused flash floods and overflooded canals.

Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from their homes, and many others in low-lying areas told to prepare for immediate emergency evacuations.

Apart from Songkhla, provinces such as Narathiwat, Phatthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Yala have also been badly hit. At least one person has died, while tourists have been stranded in their hotels.

The local authorities expect the heavy rain and flooding to continue in some places till today, although provincial governor Dejrat Simsiri, citing a weather forecast, said the situation should ease by tomorrow if the heavy rain stops.

According to a Bangkok Post report yesterday, several Malaysian and Singaporean tourists who were celebrating the New Year in Hat Yai were stranded in their hotels when rising waters cut off roads and railways.

A road linking Hat Yai to Sadao, a district in Songkhla that borders northern Malaysia, was closed, while train services between the two towns were also disrupted.

The newspaper did not give any details on the stranded tourists or the hotels they were at.

Flood waters in the town reportedly reached 2m deep on Sunday, forcing residents to move to higher ground. A 54-year-old man drowned after failing to leave his flooded house.

In Phatthalung's Kong Ra district, eight hikers have gone missing after entering a forest to see the 'sea of mist' on Khao Lon mountain on Saturday. Friends staying at a village at the foot of the mountain said they have been unable to contact the group.


Flooding in Thai south still critical
Nine provinces affected; Nakhon Si Thammarat declared a disaster zone
Straits Times 5 Jan 12;

BANGKOK: The flood situation in nine provinces in southern Thailand remains critical, with roads submerged, train services halted, airports closed and many communities cut off, media reports here said yesterday.

Nakhon Si Thammarat province was declared a disaster zone yesterday, with more than 100,000 residents affected by floodwaters. The province lies to the south of the tourist island of Koh Samui.

While the rain stopped yesterday, some communities remained cut off by floods that submerged and damaged many roads and bridges and forced many schools to close, according to MCOT online news.

On Tuesday, bad weather forced the provincial airport authority to suspend all flights, stranding several hundred passengers. Some airports, such as Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport, reopened yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit is expected to visit the province today, the report said.

In neighbouring Surat Thani province, emergency workers were trying to reach more than 30 villagers in Kanchanadit district who were left stranded after a flash flood. A fisherman was reported missing after his boat was overturned by high waves.

Flooding in Lang Suan district in Chumphon province, north of Surat Thani, eased yesterday after a flash flood left it under 1.5m of water.

On Tuesday, the Route 4 and Route 41 sections in Lang Suan were submerged, prompting police to divert traffic and impose reversible lanes, The Nation newspaper reported yesterday.

A huge traffic jam built up as a huge number of holidaymakers headed back to Bangkok after the New Year holiday break, it said.

The local hospital moved some patients it had evacuated back to the ward. It was also repairing its water pumping system.

In Ranong province, dozens of villages faced the risk of mudslides, The Nation reported, with 21 of them located in high-risk areas in Muang, Kapoe, La-un, Suk Samran and Kra Buri districts.

Train services to and from Bangkok were suspended on Tuesday, with passengers forced to complete their journeys on chartered buses, according to officials.

The latest floods come just weeks after Thailand suffered its worst flooding in 50 years, which struck the country's industrial and agricultural heartland, as well as its political hub of Bangkok.

More than 600 people were killed and another 2.4 million affected by the deluge, which began in late July and did not end until late November.

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Indonesia: Riau Protest Against Paper Company Won’t End Until Decision, Activists Say

Ezra Sihite Jakarta Globe 2 Jan 12;

Thirteen days into their protest against paper firm Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper outside the House of Representatives, demonstrators say they will stay put until at least this week.

The protestors from Padang Island in Riau province claim RAPP’s forest concessions encroach on their customary forests, a charge the firm strenuously denies.

Many of the protestors who have camped out in front of the House since Dec. 19, sewed their mouths shut in a symbolic act of defiance.

Forestry Ministry officials are expected to meet with the head of Riau’s Meranti district and authorities from Padang Island to discuss the protests.

Protest coordinator Muhammad Ridwan said that the meeting had to reach a decision regarding RAPP’s exploration in the area before they would return home.

The demonstrators claim RAPP’s exploration activities in the forests are destroying the environment, as well as encroaching on traditional farmlands.

Ridwan said that earlier, around 6,000 residents marched to the Meranti administrative offices, while protestors in Jakarta spread their demonstration to the Forestry Ministry.

Twenty-seven of the 82 protestors camped at the House sewed their mouths shut, but doctors later removed the stitches over concerns for their health.

There are also concerns about the protestors’ depleted funds, their treasurer Nurhadi said.

The Rp 30 million ($3,300) they had collected to embark on the protest had all been spent more than a week ago.

They are now counting on assistance — in he form of packed meals, rice, eggs and other basic goods — from Jakartans and people from Padang Island working in the capital.

“We’re also getting help from people at the Meranti Center,” Nurhadi said, referring to an organization set up by a Meranti native in Jakarta. “We don’t get stuff every day,” Ridwan said. “But people always help out where they can.”

RAPP officials stated that if the protestors could prove that the company was clearing forests that the villagers had customary rights to, RAPP would abandon its plans to operate in the area.

The company has also questioned the motives of the protestors and implied that they may not all be Padang Island natives.

“For all we know, there are ex-cons among the protestors,” RAPP president commissioner Tony Wenas said on Dec. 23.

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Wildlife find path to safety under US roads

Robert MacPherson AFP Yahoo News 2 Jan 12;

So how did the chicken cross the road? Or the raccoon, Virginia opossum, woodchuck, red fox, white-tailed deer or great blue heron?

To find out, researchers in Maryland put motion-detection cameras in culverts throughout the mid-Atlantic US state to learn more about how wildlife of all kinds use culverts, or storm drains, to avoid motor traffic.

Culverts are intended to channel water under a highway. But it turns out that animals of all kinds have figured out how to exploit such man-made structures to avoid becoming roadkill.

"I was really surprised by the number of species actually using these culverts," professor J. Edward Gates of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science told AFP in a telephone interview.

"It was just about every mammal in Maryland, except for three species: bobcat, black bear and coyote."

Funding for the project came from the Maryland State Highway Administration, which like its counterparts across the United States is keen to find ways to lower the cost of roadkill for animals and humans alike.

Every year, vehicle-animal collisions kill more than 200 people as well as "millions" of animals, the federal Department of Transportation says.

Crashes involving deer alone add up to more than $4.6 billion in vehicle damage and health-care costs for injured persons, adds the Insurance Information Institute.

To assess how culverts can help, Gates' team put Moultrie Game Spy infrared cameras -- normally used by hunters to monitor game trails -- inside some 300 culverts in every county in the state.

Some of the culverts ran under Interstate 95, one of the most-traveled superhighways in North America. Others lay beneath sleepy country roads along the Chesapeake Bay and in the Appalachian mountains.

Then, over two years and eight seasons, until January this year, the researchers watched the critters come through.

Raccoons turned out to be the most frequent culvert users by far, turning up in 246 of the drain pipes on 24,800 occasions. (One of them, looking forlorn in chest-deep water, is something of a poster child for the project.)

Virginia opossums, famous for their ability to fake death when threatened, appeared 2,169 times in 103 culverts, woodchucks 822 times in 97 culverts, and red foxes 928 times in 66 culverts.

But a real surprise was the white-tailed deer, whose numbers have proliferated so much in North America that they now are more likely to be fatally hit by a car than shot by a hunter.

"We had deer using a range of culvert sizes, which we found just amazing," Gates said, with 1,093 sightings in 63 culverts.

"Most studies previously have said deer need a fairly large culvert, that they needed to be able to feel unconfined and to see through the culvert to the other side," he said.

"But we found them using culverts where their heads were nearly touching the ceiling -- so if they're motivated... they'll use a very small culvert."

Equally surprising was the great blue heron, photographed 545 times in 77 culverts, revealing that birds can be just as likely as earthbound wildlife to favor an underground route.

"All the culverts they used tended to be larger culverts, and they all contained deeper water," Gates said.

"Possibly they were on the outside catching fish or crayfish and foraging, and they just merely walked into the culvert (to go) after some additional food."

Other culvert-using species included the fox, grey squirrel, mallard duck, chipmunk, beaver, otter, Canada goose and skunk. Making one-off cameos were the starling, wren, canvasback duck, watersnake, snapping turtle and meadow mouse.

Domestic animals turned up, too, including cats, dogs, cattle (547 of them, albeit at the same one culvert) -- and that most domesticated animal of all, the human being (399 times in 66 culverts).

And chickens? "Everybody asks me that question," said Gates with a laugh. "No, we had no chickens."

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Developed world failing on climate funds pledge, says Bangladeshi minister

Dipu Moni criticises 'dismal' efforts to deliver billions of pounds in aid to help poorer countries cope with environmental change
Fiona Harvey 2 Jan 12;

Efforts by developed countries to redistribute promised funds to help poorer parts of the world avoid environmental disasters have been described as "dismal" by the foreign minister of Bangladesh.

Dipu Moni said wealthier nations must begin immediately delivering the billions of pounds' worth of aid they have earmarked for climate change projects. "Our achievements – social, economic, environmental – of the past decades will be reversed if [rich countries] take away the funds promised for adapting to climate change," she said in an interview. "The disbursement of the financing has been dismal so far. We are not seeing the funds."

A total of $30bn has been promised by the end of this year but, after three years of delays in channelling promised money, only $2.4bn has been made available.

Moni said the world's most vulnerable countries were being "marginalised", even while the danger of disasters related to global warming was increasing rapidly. Bangladesh is among the countries most at risk from climate change, and its low-lying lands and agriculture-dependent people are already frequently prey to devastating floods and storm surges.

She said it was essential for developed countries to make good on their funding promises if their commitments made at recent UN climate change talks in Durban were to be believed: "This is the litmus test for the big emitters, the developed countries, the test of whether they mean it."

Smaller developing countries, such as Bangladesh, could no longer be expected simply to follow the lead of China, India and other rapidly emerging big economies in the climate change negotiations. In a distinction that will reverberate through world capitals as leading nations discuss the next steps towards a legally binding global agreement on climate change, Moni insisted Bangladesh and similar nations would forge their own path, independently of the lead given by countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Her stance heralds the fracturing of the broad coalition of developing countries that China has spent more than a decade building up.

For 20 years of the talks, the main division within international climate negotiations has been between industrialised nations and developing countries. But in the last three years, culminating in a dramatic all-night session in Durban, it has become increasingly clear that the interests of major developing economies have been diverging rapidly from those of the least developed countries and other smaller poor nations.

Keeping up the impression of a united front among developing countries has been key to the strategy of China and, to a lesser extent, India in wringing concessions from richer nations. But Dr Moni made it clear that the interests of China in climate change talks would not be allowed to override the self-interest of smaller developing countries in the future. China is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases overall, and on course to take the European Union's place as the second biggest emitter per head of population within the next five to eight years.

"We have been lumped along with big emitters in the same category [as other developing countries that are much bigger economies]," Moni said. "But we and the most vulnerable countries and the least developed countries should be in a different category. India and China have their development challenges, but we are not big emitters so our challenges and demands are different."

The faultlines between China and India and most of the rest of the world's developing countries were evident at the Durban talks in early December. The fortnight-long talks were scheduled to end on a Friday night, but they entered a second unscheduled all-night session in the early hours of the Sunday morning. In the final hours, it became clear that the EU had the support of most developing countries in pushing for a mandate to start a negotiations that should lead to a new global climate change treaty. Such a treaty would bind both rich and poor countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 onwards, after current voluntary and non-binding commitments run out.

The only holdouts in the final minutes of the Durban talks were China and India, which vociferously opposed having to take on legally binding commitments on greenhouse gases, which in the past 20 years only historically industrialised countries have had to shoulder. In the end, the EU compromised on the wording of the legal commitment, and a deal was forged among all countries – rich and poor – to draw up by 2015 a new global agreement on cutting emissions that would come into force in 2020.

First, however, said Moni, rich countries must make good on their well-publicised commitments to provide finance to vulnerable nations. Unless the remainder of the promised $30bn is rapidly made available, poor countries could be severely disadvantaged and made more vulnerable to the impact of potential disasters such as storms and floods, she said.

"[Developing] countries are having to make all the difficult choices [about adapting their infrastructure to cope with climate change], and these are also very expensive choices. We are vulnerable countries, and we are being marginalised," she said.

Dr Moni emphasised that poor countries were already taking many steps to protect themselves, and investing in research and development that would help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to global warming. For instance, she pointed to Bangladesh's efforts to develop crops resistant to salinity, which could be vital in protecting agriculture from the increasing threat of rising sea levels.

But these efforts would be greatly boosted if the funds promised were released, she said. "We have to make these investments now," she said.

Green technologies such as solar power remained too expensive for small developing countries, Moni added. "For us, it's hugely expensive and that has to be understood by the west."

Under one of the schemes intended to help poor countries, called the clean development mechanism – the handing out of saleable carbon credits for projects that cut emissions – Dr Moni said that big developing countries such as China and India were "taking the money" available, while the most vulnerable countries were losing out because "they do not have the capacity to come up with attractive projects".

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