Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jan 12

New Mega Marine lab sessions for sign up: Jan-Jul 2012
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Berlayar Creek mangrove walkabout 02Jan2012
from sgbeachbum

Flooding on Christmas Eve
from Ubin.sgkopi

Sign up for PUB’s Volunteers Training Programme!
from Green Drinks Singapore

Meeting about the Tanah Merah Year-Round Coastal Cleanups
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Midges back at Bedok Reservoir

Kezia Toh Straits Times 4 Jan 12;

MIDGES are once again proving a nuisance at Bedok Reservoir - a year after they first 'bugged' residents there.

Since last week, residents and shopkeepers have once again had to swat away swarms of these tiny green and blue flies.

The insects, known scientifically as Chironomidae, do not bite or carry diseases but that is hardly a consolation for residents.

They told The Straits Times that the midges typically plague the vicinity in January and February, making daily activities inconvenient.

Mr Rahmat Ahmad, 59, an administrative executive who lives in a Housing Board block facing the reservoir, said: 'I have to run to my car, open the door and dash in very fast so the bugs don't get in.'

The problem usually lasts up to a month, but last year's infestation was more intense, said Mr George Yeo, then MP for the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward of Aljunied GRC.

The town council brought in pest-control contractors and the authorities traced the source of the infestation to the rocks and shrubs at the banks of the water catchment area.

The midges were breeding in the mud underneath the rocks, so the exterminators used a group of bacteria which produce toxins to kill the larvae.

Last February, it was reported that separate tests run by national water agency PUB and the National Environment Agency (NEA) revealed that the population of midge eggs and larvae in the area had fallen by 95 per cent.

But in the middle of last month, there were signs of midges making a comeback and fogging at Bedok Reservoir has been stepped up, a PUB spokesman said.

The agency has been monitoring the situation since last January's outbreak.

The water agency carried out a joint fogging operation with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council last Thursday and Friday evenings, and will be doing so again today.

Meanwhile, businesses have come up with ways to fend off the insects. Coffee shops are giving diners saucers to cover their drinks, for example.

Still, business has dipped by about 20 per cent, said Ms Jennifer Tan, 47, an assistant at a coffee shop.

'People think that it is dirty with all the flies and don't dare to sit and eat... Hopefully, this will pass by Chinese New Year because there is usually more business then,' she said.

A clothing store has placed an incense burner at its door. The strong smell wafts into the shop and the store hopes this will keep the bugs out.

As store assistant Tan Chong Yoi, 49, said: 'The smell of incense is better than having customers see insects on clothes - would they still buy them?'

NEA said it will continue to work with PUB and the town council to control the midges at Bedok Reservoir.

Daily fogging to fight midges in Bedok
Kezia Toh Straits Times 5 Jan 12;

IT IS now pest controllers versus midges, with daily fogging and spraying to eliminate the swarms plaguing residents in Bedok Reservoir.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has deployed pest-control firms to 35 affected blocks in the estate after the insect nuisance surfaced last week. The problem also made headlines last year.

Fogging of common areas such as void decks, carparks and drains is done daily, as is the spraying of roofs and walls, to kill adult midges.

A spokesman for the town council, which has received more than 100 complaints about the tiny green and blue flies, hopes the problem can be solved by the end of next week.

The town council is also working with water agency PUB, the National Environment Agency and National Parks Board to fight the bugs.

Pest-control practitioners said efforts are needed to get to the root of the problem. Entomologist Erica Lim of Alliance Pest Management said: 'Fogging will kill the adult midges and lower their numbers, but not the larvae which are the root cause.'

Since spraying insecticide into the reservoir is a no-go, she suggests habitat modification such as the introduction of predators like dragonflies to feed on the larvae.

The recurrent infestation also signals the need for more proactive action, said Mr David Santhana of pest-management firm Gecko International.

'Since it happened in previous years, perhaps the authorities could activate pest-control companies in December before the infestation starts, to do intensified searches to look for breeding sites and eliminate them first,' he added.

Last year, the authorities traced the source of the insects - which do not bite or carry diseases - to rocks and shrubs at the banks of the water catchment area. The midges were breeding in mud beneath the rocks so exterminators used a group of bacteria which produced toxins to kill the larvae.

Residents said fogging is only a temporary solution.

'The situation becomes bearable for a while when they fog the place because it keeps the swarm of insects from coming into your eyes and ears,' said Mr Adam Lee, 33, an accountant.

'But the swarms come back after a few hours and the smell of the fogging lingers in my area, which might be harmful to health,' he added.

Coordinated effort against midges
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 5 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The battle against the nuisance of midges from Bedok Reservoir is shaping into a multi-agency exercise.

The town council, national water agency PUB, National Environment Agency and NParks are coordinating the work - to fog, track and control all breeding areas.

PUB has also commissioned a study with insect experts from the National University of Singapore to find long-term solutions to the sudden boom in the population of midges.

The university will work with entomologists from the National Environment Agency's Environmental Health Institute.

The midges have led to residents having to eat in semi-darkness to avoid their company.

Stallholders lament that business has been down by 40 to 50 per cent as fewer people want to eat out.

Luo Qi, a chef at Uncle Chia Western Food, said: "The coffeeshop has been turning off the lights to prevent the flies from coming, but they're still around; just that you don't see them so much. But with the lights turned off, customers don't come in as well because they think that this place is closed."

It is the second time midges have returned to bug residents. The first was in January 2011.

The Aljunied and Hougang Town Council said it has received more than 100 complaints since last week.

Sarah Tan, a Bedok Reservoir Road resident, said: "I jog regularly at Bedok Reservoir, but since this started two weeks ago, we've stopped going to jog at the reservoir. And we try to somehow sleep earlier because they're somehow attracted to lights - so we try not to have the lights on for too long at night.

"We try to eat as fast as we can when we get home because we don't want midges to attack our food. I've started to dump away water that has been boiled because the midges get into the tumblers."

Another resident, Mike Tan, said: "When we sit down at night to watch TV, or when we have a cup of drink, we have all these flies flying around. It's very irritating."

Residents can only try to get rid of them.

Ms Tan said: "We tried insecticide first - spraying insecticide, using Baygon and stuff like that - but that doesn't really work; they come back after we've sprayed, like 10 minutes later.

"Those that are on the ceiling, we try to vacuum, but then they come back again in 10 minutes' time. So I have no idea what else can be done to solve this."

Experts blame the weather for the midges' unwelcome presence.

Xander Chia, sales manager at The Pestman, said: "Midges infestation may be due to warm temperature, perhaps. Sometimes it's due to poor maintenance of drainage or of the pump area, which causes growth of algae and also stagnant water which is the best location for midges to breed."

Professor Rudolf Meier of the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science at the National University of Singapore, said it could also be due to increased nutrients, like increased run-off from more developments in the area.

The increased nutrients contribute to more algae growth, increasing food supply for the midges to develop in large numbers. The larvae are mostly found on the interface between the water and rock embankment and on the algae attached to the rocks.

PUB says it has inspected the grounds around Bedok Reservoir, including the pump area.

It says it has started to remove the algae attached to the rocks and has used granular pellets to kill the larvae at these breeding areas. Fogging is also carried out on the reservoir grounds to kill the adult midges.

The town council says it has been working with various agencies, such as PUB, National Environment Agency and NParks to conduct coordinated fogging operations and monitor the area.

The town council is in charge of fogging the common areas and residual spraying of the roof and wall areas to kill and control adult midges, while PUB is in charge of fogging the reservoir, which is carried out twice a day.

However, experts say fogging may not be enough. Professor Meier says more needs to be done to address the ecological situation in the reservoirs to get rid of the pests.

- CNA/al

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Indonesia: New Year’s Day Flooding Across Java

Dessy Sagita & Hangga Brata Jakarta Globe 3 Jan 12;

At least 10 areas across Java were flooded as the country welcomed what is expected to be a wet and miserable January as the rainy season reaches its peak.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said swaths of four provinces had been flooded since late on Sunday and through most of Monday.

He said Solo, Bungo, Sragen, Klaten and Brebes in Central Java, East Java’s Nganjuk and Pasuruan, Yogyakarta’s Yogyakarta city and Sleman and West Java’s Banjar had all been affected.

“January is the height of the rainy season for most of Indonesia, so the threat of flooding will increase,” he said.

Heavy rains in Solo caused the Bengawan Solo River to burst its banks, flooding much of the city.

“The water entered our house so quickly I had to evacuate my family, bringing only the bare essentials,” said Wardiman, who lives on the banks of the river. “It was raining hard [on Sunday] and we were unprepared.”

Sumarni, another Solo resident, said people were wary every time they saw dark clouds, fearing more flooding could be on the way.

Authorities in Solo estimated at least 2,500 people were affected by Sunday’s flooding.

Neighboring Sukoharjo city was also flooded, with some 4,400 people being forced from their homes.

Several of the rivers that cross through the city of Sragen also overflowed, cutting off the main road linking Solo and Surabaya, the capital of East Java, with some areas under a meter of water.

Heavy rains in Sleman caused the Code River to overflow, flooding parts of Yogyakarta city.

Rains on Mount Merapi, which erupted in 2010, killing more than 300 people, sent torrents of volcanic mud into the river, causing damage to homes in Klaten.

The heavy rains overwhelmed dams containing the Ciapit, Bancang and Kabuyutan rivers, flooding a number of homes in Brebes district.

In Pasuruan, at least 2,600 homes in eight villages were inundated after heavy rains that started at about 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and lasted through Monday morning pounded the area.

Antara, the state-run news agency, reported that flooding also occurred in Banyumas, Central Java. The Serayu River overflowed and inundated hundreds of hectares of farmland in the district, with some areas under a meter of water. Sarwito, a Banyumas resident, said that the water began to rise on Sunday evening and started to breach the dikes early on Monday.

Antara also reported that heavy rains caused flooding and landslides in East Java’s Jember district. “At least 10 houses were heavily damaged in the landslides. Four bridges were damaged. One that linked Jalinan village and Sumberlanas village was completely destroyed,” the news agency quoted Eko Heru Sunarso, head of Silo subdistrict, one of the worst affected areas in Jember, as saying.

Floods were also reported in the West Malaka subdistrict of Belu, in East Nusa Tenggara, a few hour’s drive from the East Timor border. The head of the subdistrict, Anselmus Nahak, told Antara on Monday that at least five villages there had been affected by flooding since Sunday, after a dam on the Benanain River burst following heavy rains. “We are still trying to control the overflow by getting villages to build dikes,” he said.

In South Sumatra, where for the last five days at least 11 villages in Musi Rawas district have been flooded, waters began to recede on Monday. “We are urging people living along the Rawas and Musi rivers to stay vigilant considering that the intensity of rains is still high,” said the head of the district’s social affairs office, Faisol.

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World-first hybrid shark found off Australia

Amy Coopes AFP Yahoo News 3 Jan 12;

Scientists said on Tuesday that they had discovered the world's first hybrid sharks in Australian waters, a potential sign the predators were adapting to cope with climate change.

The mating of the local Australian black-tip shark with its global counterpart, the common black-tip, was an unprecedented discovery with implications for the entire shark world, said lead researcher Jess Morgan.

"It's very surprising because no one's ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination," Morgan, from the University of Queensland, told AFP.

"This is evolution in action."

Colin Simpfendorfer, a partner in Morgan's research from James Cook University, said initial studies suggested the hybrid species was relatively robust, with a number of generations discovered across 57 specimens.

The find was made during cataloguing work off Australia's east coast when Morgan said genetic testing showed certain sharks to be one species when physically they looked to be another.

The Australian black-tip is slightly smaller than its common cousin and can only live in tropical waters, but its hybrid offspring have been found 2,000 kilometres down the coast, in cooler seas.

It means the Australian black-tip could be adapting to ensure its survival as sea temperatures change because of global warming.

"If it hybridises with the common species it can effectively shift its range further south into cooler waters, so the effect of this hybridising is a range expansion," Morgan said.

"It's enabled a species restricted to the tropics to move into temperate waters."

Climate change and human fishing are some of the potential triggers being investigated by the team, with further genetic mapping also planned to examine whether it was an ancient process just discovered or a more recent phenomenon.

If the hybrid was found to be stronger than its parent species -- a literal survival of the fittest -- Simpfendorfer said it may eventually outlast its so-called pure-bred predecessors.

"We don't know whether that's the case here, but certainly we know that they are viable, they reproduce and that there are multiple generations of hybrids now that we can see from the genetic roadmap that we've generated from these animals," he said.

"Certainly it appears that they are fairly fit individuals."

The hybrids were extraorindarily abundant, accounting for up to 20 percent of black-tip populations in some areas, but Morgan said that didn't appear to be at the expense of their single-breed parents, adding to the mystery.

Simpfendorfer said the study, published late last month in Conservation Genetics, could challenge traditional ideas of how sharks had and were continuing to evolve.

"We thought we understood how species of sharks have separated, but what this is telling us is that in reality we probably don't fully understand the mechanisms that keep species of shark separate," he said.

"And in fact, this may be happening in more species than these two."

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Elephant Population In Tanzania Sanctuaries Drops

Fumbuka Ngw'anakilala PlanetArk 4 Jan 12;

The number of elephants in two wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania has fallen by nearly 42 percent in just three years, a census showed on Tuesday, as poachers increasingly killed the animals for their tusks.

The census at the Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park revealed elephant numbers had plunged to 43,552 in 2009 from 74,900 in 2006.

It was carried out by the east African country's wildlife authority, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, as part of a government plan to conserve wildlife.

The rapid fall prompted President Jakaya Kikwete to order an investigation, his office said Tuesday.

Conservationists estimate Tanzania has a total elephant population of between 110,000 and 140,000, making it one of the largest sanctuaries in Africa.

But in recent years, Tanzania and neighboring Kenya have suffered a steep rise in poaching as criminals killed elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns for sale in Asia.

TRAFFIC, a conservation group that tracks trends in wildlife trading, said in a statement last week that 2011 had been a record year for ivory seizure. It pointed to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks for use in jewelry and ornaments.

Elephants, the world's largest land mammals, are also under pressure in many parts of the continent from loss of habitat to humans, pollution and climate change. Their number has fallen to 470,000-685,000 from millions just decades ago, conservationists say.

Kikwete also ordered the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute to investigate the disappearance of the rare Roosevelt's sable antelope from national parks, and to look for ways of re-introducing the animal in at least in one of the parks, the statement said.

The last Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 agreed to a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory, after some 105 tonnes of elephant ivory had been sold from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to China and Japan.

(Editing by Duncan Miriri and Alessandra Rizzo)

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