Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jan 2012

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [16 - 29 Jan 2012]
from Green Business Times

Youth volunteers needed for Asian Green Youth Challenge!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Join us in our First Year-round Cleanup at Tanah Merah!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

4 Feb (Sat): Celebrate World Wetlands Day at Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

Giant Spider Season!
from Nature in a Concrete Jungle

Random Video Clips on Birds...
from Bird Ecology Study Group

caterpillar v ant horde @ rifle range trail - Jan2012
from sgbeachbum

Changeable Lizard
from Monday Morgue

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Marine study in Singapore digs up 100 species

Some are new to the island or to science; project one-third done
Grace Chua Straits Times 30 Jan 12;

BURROWED deep into the mudflats of Lim Chu Kang is a bumpy, warty sea anemone so new to science, it does not even have a scientific name yet.

Its finders have fondly nicknamed it Bill.

It is one of the new findings scientists have made, just a year into the most comprehensive study of marine life here.

In the first phase of the three-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey, researchers looking at coastal mudflat and intertidal areas have already found a hundred species, some of which are new for Singapore or new to science altogether.

Some never-before-seen finds include a nondescript, 2cm-long mangrove goby and a shore shrimp that looks just like its East Asian relatives, but is in fact genetically very different. Others, such as a mangrove stonefish and a hairy mangrove crab, have not been seen in Singapore before.

The next two years will involve two major expeditions and studying as much of Singapore's reefs and seabed as possible.

Past ad hoc studies have shown Singapore to be rich in marine life. For instance, the island nation has some 250 species of hard corals, a third of the world's known species.

Now, new finds are catalogued for a database to help conserve marine biodiversity amid development pressure.

Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world, and reclamation continues at industrial areas like Jurong Island and the Pasir Panjang container terminal, even as nearby offshore reefs cling to survival.

Dr Ng Heok Hee of the National University of Singapore explained the importance of knowing the species Singapore has.

'If you understand them, you can actually use them for ecological monitoring,' said Dr Ng, a fish expert who is part of the study.

If populations go out of balance, that could be an early warning of pollution, or that the ecosystem has changed, he said.

'But you need to know the baseline first.'

The survey is led by the National Parks Board (NParks), with the support of universities, non-governmental organisations and a small army of volunteers.

It also aims to get ordinary members of the public interested and engaged in marine science.

Some 400 volunteers have signed up with NParks to slog through mudflats, collect samples, take photos, and sort specimens in the lab.

Mr Edward Francis de Souza, 58, rediscovered his interest in nature this way.

The scheduler with Shell said: 'During my scouting days, we used to go to the Punggol river and improvise cooking ovens with mud... Once I started working, there was less time for all that and it was just forgotten until now.'

Now, he is also a volunteer with the Central Nature Reserve, and helps out at insect surveys and forest walks.

Companies are also doing their bit. For example, an initial $300,000 grant from Shell Singapore has helped fund programmes by international experts like the Brazilian Institute of Marine Science's Arthur Anker, who is helping to identify the new shore shrimp,

Thanks to the $250,000 from HSBC's Care-for-Nature trust, equipment needed for the study is also covered.

Dr Lena Chan, deputy director of the National Biodiversity Centre at NParks, said that even when the three-year survey is complete, more can still be done.

She said: 'We will continue to engage the community to help us in long-term monitoring of key marine habitats to keep track of biological trends and changes, and to raise awareness of our marine heritage.'

This relatively common intertidal rocky shore shrimp has generally been called Palaemon serrifer. Although it looks just like its East Asian relatives, it is genetically very different. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

This mangrove crab, found in two locations in Singapore, was previously reported being seen only in Malaysia and Australia. The first year of the three-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey has so far yielded 100 species. The next two years will involve two major expeditions and studying as much of Singapore's reefs and seabed as possible. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

This sea anemone was found in mudflats in Lim Chu Kang. It is so new to science that it does not have a scientific name yet and has been nicknamed Bill. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

Found on one of the beaches near Changi, this frog crab, measuring about 30mm, is notable because members of this family are rarely reported in continental South-east Asia. Most members are oceanic in habitat. Its presence shows that Singapore's waters are still relatively healthy and still hold many important discoveries. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

This mangrove stonefish (Leptosynanceia asteroblepa), a highly venomous fish, was never recorded in Singapore waters before. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

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Fate of humans closely tied to survival of sharks

Straits Times Forum 30 Jan 12;

WE REFER to the reports highlighting FairPrice, Carrefour and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts stopping the sale of shark's fin products ('Outrage over posting on supplier's webpage', Jan 6; 'Carrefour to stop selling shark's fin too', Jan 7; and 'Shangri-La stops selling shark's fin', Jan 18).

Sharks have existed for more than 400 million years but their population has been decimated in less than 100 years. The main threat to sharks worldwide is over-fishing which is threatening their survival.

We commend FairPrice, Carrefour and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts on their decision to curtail the threat.

Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Cites is an international agreement that regulates trade on endangered species based on government votes. While it offers protection for three shark species, it is not the determining body for species classification and population risks.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the organisation that classifies animal risk statuses, not Cites.

As of 2010, 181 shark and related species have been listed on the IUCN Red List - for example, smooth hammerhead and great white are classified as globally vulnerable to extinction.

Sharks are at the top of the food chain and they keep the populations of fish and other species in check.

Should sharks become extinct, it will eventually cause fish stocks that are essential to our survival to be depleted.

To cite an instance, over-fishing of sharks off Tasmania, Australia led to an increase in one of their main prey, the octopus, which in turn consumed more spiny lobster. This led to a decline in the spiny lobster fishery and impacted the livelihoods of those dependent on it.

The fate of humans is closely tied to the survival of sharks. We certainly do not want our current or future generations to experience the day when we can no longer benefit from seafood as a source of protein as a result of shark extinction.

Organisations like Cold Storage, FairPrice, Carrefour and Shangri-La are doing the responsible thing and we are glad that they share our view on shark conservation.

We look forward to more organisations following their environmentally responsible footsteps - to stop the sale and consumption of shark's fin until shark populations are once again thriving and harvested sustainably in the wild.

Louis Ng
Executive Director, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres)

Dr Juliana Chan
Editor-in-Chief, Asian Scientist

Jennifer Lee (Ms)
Founder, Project: FIN

Catherine Teng (Ms)
Volunteer leader, Shark Savers Singapore

Elaine Tan (Ms)
Chief Executive Director, WWF Singapore

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Don't be afraid to tell litter bugs off, says Public Hygiene Council

Wayne Chan Channel News Asia 29 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: Establishing a new social norm where people are not afraid to tell litter bugs off. That is what the Public Hygiene Council hopes to do in its upcoming outreach efforts to inculcate good hygiene practices.

According to a recent survey on littering, about six in 10 respondents say they "never litter".

But 36.2 per cent will do so if they don't get caught, and about one per cent say they litter "most of the time".

Liak Teng Lit, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, said: "I call these three groups of people the good, the bad and the ugly. The 60 over per cent of people who are good, great. We hope they continue to do so, and they probably will.

"But I think the good need to do a bit more. They need to advocate for it. In other words, when they see somebody litter, or when somebody make a mess in a public toilet, they should show their displeasure and sometimes perhaps, stick their neck out.

"Take a small risk, give a deep frown and say maybe that's not the right thing to do and put some pressure on the other two groups not to do it."

What saddens Mr Liak most is when people use planters to dispose of their litter, even when a bin is just within reach. He said more enforcement is needed in such places, but people's mindset about who is responsible for cleanliness also needs to change.

He said: "They are blaming the town council, they are blaming NParks (National Parks Board), not the people who litter, which I find rather amusing. Because at the end of the day, it's not about the cleaner. It is about who litters to begin with. So I think that social norm needs to change."

Mr Liak hopes to recruit the help of those who feel strongly about public hygiene.

The council has even contacted those who write regularly to forum pages to tap on their ideas. It also wants to identify more role models who can share their success story with others on how to keep their premises clean and litter-free.

Mr Liak said: "The idea is to increase the number of places that is of first-world standard. So that we can slowly get more and more of them and then eventually, we join them all up and then you will begin to see a much better place for all of us."

To do that, the council plans to organise a series of public forums to showcase these role models in the first quarter of this year. It also plans to work with schools and organisations to spread the message of good public hygiene to the community.


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Punggol not quite the beauty ...

Letter from Lim Ai Lee Today Online 25 Jan 12;

I had looked forward to experiencing and enjoying the beauty and serenity of Punggol Promenade (picture) on my recent trip.

However, I met with unpleasant sights: A wet and filthy toilet, rubbish floating on the two lily ponds, oily water at Punggol Beach Jetty.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the rubbish scattered under the trees, as I probably had walked 200m before a dustbin came into sight.

I do hope that Punggol Promenade - this latest stretch was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hian only on Nov 20 - will be a recreation destination that I can feel proud of on my next visit.

Keep our parks clean for all
Letter from Kartini Omar General Manager, Parks, National Parks Board
Today Online 30 Jan 12;

WE thank Ms Lim Ai Lee for her letter "Punggol not quite the beauty" (Jan 25). We are sorry to learn of her unpleasant experience at Punggol Jetty Park.

Since its opening, the park has been popular with many people enjoying recreational activities, especially on weekends and public holidays.

The toilet was wet and filthy because of extreme high usage over the long weekend and limited capacity of the sewer tank used. We have since increased the cleaning frequency of the toilets and will monitor usage closely. We apologise for this lapse.

Littering has been a concern at the park, including the lily ponds. We have stepped up cleansing and will place more dustbins nearer to activity cores.

We also wish to remind park users to dispose of litter properly and keep our parks clean for everyone to enjoy.

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Malaysia: Rhino lovers' dedication pays off

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 30 Jan 12;

THE capture of the elusive female rhino named Puntung at the Tabin Wildlife reserve last month, may have not happened had it not been for the dedication of the field staff under the non-governmental organisation, Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA).

For these field staff, working under the supervision of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), it is more than just work as they are willing to spend extended periods away from home in a remote rainforest.

BORA field staff Justine Segunting, 33, said it took them almost two years to find Puntung.

"I was one of the first to see her, and nothing can describe how I felt at that time.

"We worked around the clock from when Puntung was found on Dec 18 to when she was brought to the interim facility on Christmas Day. We sacrificed our Christmas leave as we could not go home to celebrate, but it did not matter," said Justin who is from Telupid, about 200km from here.

Rajimah Kasran, one of only two women involved in field work, said it was a relief that Puntung was not captured by poachers who prized rhino horn for traditional medicine.

"We were worried that poachers might get her. I am so glad that she is now with us and doing well in the interim facility," she said.

Rajimah, 26, who is also from here, only returns home about five times a year as she is very involved in her work in rhino conservation.

Last Friday, BORA organised a function to present 21 of its field staff with certificates of appreciation for their hard work.

BORA chairman Dr Abdul Hamid Ahmad said the successful capture of Puntung required various types of resources and effort.

"Most important of all was the hard work over months and years among people working on the ground. Our staff worked at all times in collaboration with SWD staff in Tabin," said Dr Hamid.

"At any one time, BORA had about 20 people involved in one way or another in the capture of Puntung, as well as taking care of rhinos Tam and Gelogob who were already at the interim facility."

The NGO is currently helping SWD in the development of the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, a Sabah government programme that kicked off in 2009, to prevent the extinction of rhinos in Sabah through captive breeding.

The BRS programme aims to bring rhinos from non-viable situations where the mammal exists but is not breeding, to a facility that will maximise chances for reproductive success.

Pending tests, Puntung is potentially a mate for Tam, a rhino that walked out of a forest in 2008.

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New Year fireworks leaves Beijing air smothering

China Daily 24 Jan 12;

BEIJING - China's New Year firework spree has not only left thousands of tonnes of scraps in Beijing but also driven up the city's air pollution data to "hazardous" level until winds blew them away Tuesday morning.

The Beijing Environment Protection Monitoring Center said its monitoring station at the city's second ring road detected 1,593 micrograms of PM (particular matter) 2.5 per cubic meter at 2 a.m. Monday, after hours of fireworks burning spree on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Beijing's environment authority only launched the PM2.5 measure of air quality one day ahead of the Spring Festival holiday, which starts on Sunday.

Monday's figure is 80 times higher than that recorded at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The PM2.5 gauge is considered stricter than Beijing's previous standard of PM10, as it monitors "fine" particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

Normally, 50 percent of the total PM2.5 particles in the air are contributed by automobile exhausts, and another 23 percent are brought by floating dust. However, Monday's air pollution was directly resulted from huge amounts of fireworks burning, according to environmental officials.

The municipal bureau of environmental protection said the concentration of sulfur dioxide in air, which is produced by firework powder burning, was as high as 1,318 micrograms per cubic meter of air at 1 a.m. Monday.

Cold currents helped blow away the pollution on Tuesday. The PM2.5 reading reached 29 micrograms per cubic meter of air at 8 a.m., suggesting the air quality is "good."

In Chinese tradition, fireworks were intended to scare away the "Nian" (year in Chinese), a mythical beast supposed to have preyed on people and livestock at the turn of the year. The monster, however, was afraid of bangs and the red color. Although few now believe the existence of the monster, Chinese families carry on the tradition of setting off fireworks.

Chinese big cities including Beijing had instituted bans on fireworks, as it polluted the air and led to injuries and even deaths.

However, the Beijing authorities lifted the ban in 2005 under public wishes that fireworks burning could create more festive atmosphere. But the government restricted setting off fireworks within certain areas during a 16-day period around the Spring Festival to reduce accidents and the impact on citizens' lives.

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