Best of our wild blogs: 12 Feb 12

Rhopalocera Singaporeana: A Tribute to 3 "Singapura" Butterflies
from Butterflies of Singapore

Green Imperial Pigeons Spotted at Pasir Ris Park
from Bird Ecology Study Group

First Naked trip to Chek Jawa in 2012
from wild shores of singapore

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What effect will the development of Bukit Brown have on flooding?

Letter from Chong Ja Ian Today Online 11 Feb 12;

The Environment and Water Resources Ministry recently released the "Report on Key Conclusions and Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Drainage Design and Flood Protection Measures".

The report states: "Urbanisation has undoubtedly led to an increase in storm water runoff in Singapore. There is therefore a strong argument for introducing measures to mitigate the effects of such urbanisation."

The report also indicates the importance of modelling and analysis in understanding and mitigating the effects of urbanisation on flooding.

In this regard, I ask the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Land Transport Authority and related agencies to share with the public their studies on the effects of road building and future development at Bukit Brown Cemetery on flooding.

It would also be helpful if the relevant bodies could specify their plans, based on this research, to address any flooding that may arise.

If such a study is not ready for release, it would be useful if the agencies could say when it would be and how they intend to act on its findings.

Such environmental impact studies are common to many large-scale construction and development projects around the world.

Making such information available would help members of the public who may be affected by plans to develop Bukit Brown.

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Malaysia: 'Sembilan Islands need to be conserved'

Reefs likely to vanish if action not taken
Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 11 Feb 12;

IPOH: THE Sembilan Islands, one of the last remaining significant coral reef area in west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, could 'vanish' if no efforts are taken to protect it.

Located some 20km from the coast of Perak (Lumut) and 15km south of Pulau Pangkor, the Sembilan Islands are currently facing a number of threats including damage by discarded fishing nets and land-based development.

The Sembilan Islands as the name suggests are a cluster of nine islands -- Pulau Agas, Pulau Payong, Pulau Nipis, Pulau Rumbia, Pulau Lalang, Pulau Saga, Pulau Buluh, Black Rock and White Rock.

The only structure on the uninhabited islands is a small rest area on Pulau Saga, constructed for the use of tourists and fishermen.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) general manager Julian Hyde said although a series of surveys conducted last month showed that the coral reefs were in 'fair' condition, they are in actual fact heavily impacted by a number of factors including development and shipping.

(RCM is part of the worldwide Reef Check network, working to conserve coral reefs.)

He also said the situation was further compounded by the absence of protected status for the islands.

The popularity of the islands, once a sought after destination for snorkelling, diving and recreational fishing, has declined as the quality of the coral reefs has dwindled.

"Continued development on Pulau Pangkor and the mainland nearby, if not well managed, will have serious implications for the future health of coral reefs around the islands, threatening their ecological value and economical potential.

"We recommend that the Sembilan Islands be gazetted as a Marine Protected Area ... this will show the world that Malaysia is serious when it comes to protecting its coral reefs," he said in an interview.

Hyde however said the current model in Malaysia for gazetting Marine Parks -- establishing a protected area two nautical miles from the shore at the lowest low tide, within which fishing, anchoring, collecting, extraction and construction are prohibited -- was not suitable for the Sembilan Islands for the following reasons:

The proximity of the islands -- the Sembilan Islands are a cluster of islands close to each other and the two nautical mile distance will mean that protected areas around each island will overlap one another. This will make it impossible for fishing vessels to travel around the islands without violating park rules, and will close off substantial parts of existing fishing grounds;

Vast area to patrol -- a two nautical mile barrier surrounding the Sembilan Islands will create an area too large for Marine Park officers to patrol effectively and enforcement will prove costly and time consuming;

Local compliance -- the Sembilan Islands have been an important commercial fishing ground for many generations of fisherman and a sudden 100 per cent restriction is likely to be ignored; and

Lack of suitable infrastructure -- there is no infrastructure in any of the Sembilan Islands to accommodate Marine Park officers. If officers are effectively to enforce Marine Park rules, they will need to be on the islands daily thus requiring accommodation and basic utilities.

"To overcome these drawbacks, we recommend adopting a more flexible approach which takes into account the needs of all local stakeholders.

"And one approach to the development of better coastal and marine policy and management is the concept of marine managed areas (MMA)."

A MMA is an area of ocean, or a combination of land and ocean, where all human activities are managed toward common goals.

Hyde said RCM therefore recommends the Sembilan Islands to designated as a MMA with a number of zones that could include:

Commercial fishing zones -- to allow current fisheries industry to continue operating, but with some restrictions on fishing areas to protect coral reefs and recreational areas;

Sport fishing zones -- to allow current small scale fishing to continue, but with restrictions on fishing area to protect coral reefs and recreational areas;

Recreational zones -- adjacent to beaches, to provide for tourism activities; and

No take zones -- areas in which no extraction activities are allowed.

These can also be areas in which reef rehabilitation activities are carried out.

Such a zoning system is expected to reduce immediate human activities on the coral reef areas.

"Key to the success of this approach is the participation from the local communities, government agencies, local tour operators, NGOs and universities."

Copies of the survey report are available on the Reef Check Malaysia website at

Coral reefs surrounding the Sembilan Islands growing despite pollution and other odds
Ivan Loh The Star 14 Mar 12;

CORAL reefs, which are scarce in number at the Sembilan Islands, about 15km south of Pangkor Island, have the potential to regenerate.

Reef Check Malaysia (RCM) general manager Julian Hyde said surveys carried out at the islands last month, showed that corals appear to be growing, despite the damage caused by human activities, pollution and silt sedimentation.

“The reefs are considered to be in relatively good condition.

“Corals at the islands appear to be growing and reproducing well despite the muddy waters and limited sunlight,” Hyde said.

“The corals have also adapted to its surrounding by altering its feeding habits, with most of them extending their tentacles to catch food during the day,” he said, adding that its resilience has been increased.

He said the islands’ remoteness had also helped preserve the corals and marine life.

Hyde said large surface of rocky areas were noted at the seabed near the islands that were conducive for new growth through settlement of young corals.

“Young corals require hard, sturdy surfaces to settle and grow.

“There were numerous locations within and outside the surveyed area with coral growth,” he said, adding that the Sembilan Islands was one of the last remaining significant coral reef areas in Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast.

Hyde said a relatively high amount of rubble, indicating physical disturbance to the corals, had been noted during the survey.

“We found abandoned anchors and some discarded fishing nets at several locations.

“These are likely to cause significant damage to the reefs,” he said.

RCM, a non-organisation dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs, had in October last year begun a pilot project to increase the population of corals at Mentangor Island, near Pangkor.

RCM had transplanted a three-square-metre frame with corals on it onto the seabed near Mentangor and it proved to be a success, with a 100% survival rate of the corals.

Hyde suggested the Sembilan Islands, which consists of Pulau Agas, Pulau Payong, Pulau Nipis, Pulau Rumbia, Pulau Lalang, Pulau Saga, Pulau Buluh, Black Rock and White Rock, be put under protection and conserved as a marine-managed area.

“The move will not only protect the biodiversity of the islands’ reefs, but also revive its tourism industry.

Hyde said the islands used to be a popular tourism destination, for snorkelling and diving as well as recreational fishing

“The popularity has nose-dived as the quality of the reefs has declined, impacted by development of tourism facilities on Pangkor and industrial facilities on the mainland nearby, as well as shipping in the Straits of Malacca,” he said.

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Malaysia: Giant grouper caught

Monster of a catch
Christina Chin, photo by Gary Chen The Star 12 Feb 12;

MARKETGOERS could hardly believe their eyes when they saw a whopping grouper at Cecil Street Market in Penang.

Fisherman Tan Kah Seng, 38, caught the grouper, or loong tan to the Chinese, off the Teluk Bahang coast early yesterday morning.

The fish weighs 165kg and is about 2m long.

It took six men at the market to hang up the giant fish and remove its scales.

The fish is among the biggest caught in Malaysian waters in recent years.

“It probably takes some 30 years for a grouper to grow to this size.

“Bigger groupers definitely taste better because the flesh is sweeter,” Tan said when met at the market yesterday.

The fish was sold to Kar Be Cafe operator Chew Kean Ghee, 40.

Chew, who runs the popular eatery at Weld Quay, paid more than RM8,500 for the fish.

“It’s a little pricier than the giant grouper I bought from Tan last year but my customers love it,” he said.

He added that the fish would be used to make more than 300 bowls of noodles.

This is not the first time Tan has landed a giant fish.

In August 2010, Tan caught a fish weighing a whopping 168kg.

He later landed a 203kg shark believed to be a nurse shark.

Seven-year-old Yannie Tham, who was at the market with her grandmother, said she had never seen a fish so big.

The largest catch in Malaysian waters was a 180kg fish caught in 2008 near Pulau Sembilan in the Straits of Malacca.

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Thailand: Andaman dive sites to remain closed so bleached coral may recover

Bangkok Post 12 Feb 12;

Seven popular dive sites in the Andaman Sea will be closed for at least six more months to allow coral damaged by bleaching to recover.

The National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department ordered the temporary closure of 18 diving sites at seven marine national parks in the Andaman Sea in January last year because of the coral bleaching phenomenon.

Bleaching, or the whitening of coral as it loses its natural pigment, is caused by a rise in sea temperatures, which has been linked to global climate change.

Eleven of the sites were reopened to tourists in November after inspections found the coral had recovered to a satisfactory degree.

However, the officials decided to extend the closure of seven sites at three marine national parks as the coral there remained in poor condition.

The closed sites are Koh Hin Ngam, Hat Sai Khao, eastern Koh Dong, southern Koh Dong and Koh Ta Kieng at Tarutao Marine National Park in Satun province; Koh Chuek at Hat Chao Mai National Park in Trang; and Hin Klang at Nopparat Tara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park in Krabi province.

Vithya Hongviengchan, chief of the National Park Office, said the department had tightened regulations at marine national parks to provide better protection of the coral and other marine species in areas affected by bleaching.

"We will cap tourist numbers at each dive site, install rope lines to prevent diving at sensitive spots, and will ask operators of dive shops to strictly follow the rules," he said.

In some areas, such as Koh Hin Ngam, diving would be allowed only during high tide to prevent divers from stepping on coral.

Mr Vithya said marine scientists had found a lot of young coral at certain dive sites, which is a good sign that the coral there is recovering.

The department will evaluate how coral is recovering at the diving sites every six months. If signs of degradation are found, the department can order them to be closed again, while those which remain closed could be opened if there is significant improvement, he said.

Meanwhile, Nipon Pongsuwan, acting director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, said the average recovery rate at all sites was less than 5% of the damaged coral.

However, the amount of young coral found suggested that recovery was going forward.

He added that if the coral's growth continues unhindered, it can recover within the next four years.

Mr Nipon said coral bleaching should not occur this year as the sea temperature was still at the normal level of 28 degrees.

"Normal sea temperatures are being seen around the Pacific and Indian oceans region," he said.

"Therefore, the coral should be safe from the bleaching phenomenon this year."

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Heart of Borneo beating strong on fifth anniversary

WWF 11 Feb 12;

Jakarta, Indonesia - A new report released by WWF to commemorate the Heart of Borneo (HoB) Declaration’s 5th anniversary shines a positive light on the environmental status of this iconic 220,000 km2 landscape.

The Heart of Borneo Declaration, signed five years ago on February 12, 2007, committed the governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to the conserve and sustainably develop the 22 Million hectare ‘Heart of Borneo’.

However until now, there was no baseline data from which to assess the environmental status of the region or monitor changes over time. That is about to change with a new report produced in consultation with a wide range of specialists and scientists who have been working on Borneo ecology for many years.

The new report: The Environmental Status of the Heart of Borneo, analyses the environmental health of the area via 13 key targets and more than 50 indicators. The targets include endangered animal species, such as the orang-utans, rhino and pygmy elephant and a selection of ecosystems such as lowland, heath and montane forests and river systems. Each key target has been given a rating of very good, good, fair or poor – depending on its current quality within the Heart of Borneo (HoB).

The good news
The good news overall, is that most forest types in the HoB are currently rated as good or very good. This is particularly important for lowland forest which is under severe threat across the rest of the island of Borneo. In fact, given that lowland forest is prime habitat for Pygmy elephant, orang-utan and Rhino, the HoB may be the last stronghold for the preservation of this type of forest on Borneo.

The bad news
The bad news is that the HoB still remains under serious threat from industrial conversion of natural forest to palm oil and other agricultural crops, as well as illegal logging and unsustainable rates of legal timber extraction. Forest fire, mining and over hunting of wildlife are also major threats which future versions of this report will serve to monitor.

The report was released by WWF’s Heart of Borneo Initiative. Its team leader, Adam Tomasek, highlighted the significance of the report.

“For the first time the environmental health of the HoB has been assessed using a series of scientifically derived biological and ecosystem indicators and the results have indicated the HoB is currently in good health,” he said.

“Just as importantly, now for the first time, the three HoB governments and key stakeholders will have a credible and easy to use tool to monitor progress in terms of improvements or degradation in key natural health measures for the HoB. It is a management tool which can be used to improve decision making on the sustainable use and conservation of this globally iconic landscape,” he said.

WWF encourages the three governments of Borneo to use the report to raise awareness of the high conservation values of the HoB and the major threats to its continued survival as an area of globally significant biodiversity.

The report was written by WWF Indonesia’s field biologist, Stephen Wulffraat with funding from the Sall Family Foundation via WWF US.

'Heart Of Borneo,' Last Stronghold Of Lowland Forest, Says Report
Bernama 11 Feb 12;

KUCHING, Feb 11 (Bernama) -- The Heart of Borneo (HoB), which straddles the transboundary highlands of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, may be the last stronghold for the preservation of lowland forest in Borneo, said a report released by World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia)'s Heart of Borneo Initiative.

Its team leader Adam Tomasek said today based on the the new report titled "The Environmental Status of the Heart of Borneo", the good news overall was that most forest types in the HoB were currently rated as good or very good.

"This is particularly important for lowland forest which is under severe threat across the rest of the island of Borneo, especially as it is prime habitat for the pygmy elephant, orang utan and rhino," he said in a statement here.

However, he said, the HoB still remained under serious threat from industrial conversion of natural forest for oil palm cultivation and other agricultural crops as well as illegal logging and unsustainable rates of legal timber extraction.

Forest fires, mining and over hunting of wildlife were also major threats which future versions of the report would serve to monitor, said Adam in highlighting the significance of the report, which analysed the environmental health of the area via 13 key targets and more than 50 scientifically derived biological and ecosystem indicators.

The targets included endangered animal species, such as the orang utan, rhino and pygmy elephant and a selection of ecosystems, including lowland, heath and montane forests and river systems, with each key target being given a rating of very good, good, fair or poor - depending on its current quality within the HoB.

The report was released by WWF to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the HoB's Declaration, which committed the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve and sustainably develop the iconic 22 million hectare or 220,000 km sq 'Heart of Borneo'.

It was written by WWF Indonesia's field biologist, Stephen Wulffraat with funding from the Sall Family Foundation via WWF United States in consultation with a wide range of specialists and scientists who have been working on Borneo ecology for many years.

Signed on February 12, 2007, the declaration is supported under important regional and international agreements such as Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).


Kalimantan’s forests are doing OK: NGO
Elly Burhaini Faizal,The Jakarta Post 17 Feb 12;

The Heart of Borneo is doing well, despite the usual threats from extractive activities and fires, according to environmental activists.

The famed forested area spans 22 million hectares in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia on Kalimantan Island, also known as Borneo.

Adam Tomasek, the leader of the Heart of Borneo Initiative, said on Thursday that deforestation and forest degradation remained a serious issue in Indonesia and Kalimantan.

“This is not at all to say that the threats from forest conversion, deforestation and forest degradation in the area have disappeared. They are still real threats,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

In a recently released report, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia said that most types of forest in the Heart of Borneo were in good or very good condition, although several areas were under threat from businesses.

Illegal logging, an excessive rate of legal timber extraction, forest fires, mining and excessive wildlife hunting posed additional threats, the report said.

However, Tomasek said that political commitments to conserve and to develop the area in a sustainable way had been made over the past five years, such as by the issuance of Presidential Regulation No. 3/2012 on Spatial Planning in Kalimantan.

“It was the first time that the government developed a special plan for the whole of Kalimantan, and not just for one province or district. This was one spatial plan for the entire island,” Tomasek said.

A working group comprising the Coordinating Economic Minister and the Agriculture, Defense, Environment, Foreign, Forestry, Home and Public Works Ministers was given a mandate to realize the Heart of Borneo Declaration, which Indonesia signed in 2007.

“With commitments at both the national and district level, we are starting to see that the issue of illegal logging in some parts, but not all parts, of the Heart of Borneo has disappeared,” Tomasek said before adding a somber assessment.

“Without provincial and district engagement, I don’t think we’ll see much progress.”

Under the spatial planning regulation signed on Jan. 5, the government will allocate 45 percent of Kalimantan to serve as the “lungs of the world”.

Separately, Indonesian Environmental Forum (Wahli) executive director Berry Nahdian Furqon warned that the spatial regulation might trigger new conflicts due to its centralized approach.

“The government did not make a comprehensive study. Neither did it consult with the local people,” Berry said, adding that regulation provided no specific information on the government’s proposed spatial plans or conservation programs.

Moreover, Berry said, many conservation areas in Kalimantan were no longer forested areas. “Only forests in the Meratus mountains in South Kalimantan are still well conserved while the rest have overlapping land use with industrial activities, such as palm oil plantations and mining,” he said.

Tomasek said the report analyzed the environmental health of the area by evaluating progress against 13 key targets using more than 50 indicators.

“What we found is that the Heart of Borneo is doing quite well,” he said.

“It’s a huge area, very remote, very diverse in terms of its forest types, fresh water ecosystem and peatlands and biodiversity,” he said.

The Heart of Borneo comprised some of Kalimantan’s best remaining lowland forests, Tomasek said. “The lowland tropical rain forest is extremely important, as it is a biodiverse area where you can find more species per meter than any other ecosystem,” he said.

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