Best of our wild blogs: 19 Feb 12

25 Feb (Sat): Evening at the Pasir Ris Mangrove boardwalk with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Crab scorpions
from The annotated budak

Life History of the Hoary Palmer
from Butterflies of Singapore

female jambu fruit dove @ berlayar creek
from sgbeachbum

Mangrove and coral updates and Berlayar Creek walk
from wild shores of singapore

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Coney Island set to become nature park

Kezia Toh Straits Times 19 Feb 12;

Coney Island, off Punggol in the north-west, will be home to Singapore's ninth nature park, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

The island, a popular spot for anglers and rich in natural biodiversity, will become a sprawling 50ha 'green lung'.

Thanks to its rich flora and fauna, Coney Island will be a stand-alone nature park. The other nature parks are typically buffers for nature reserves.

Lush vegetation covers nearly 90 per cent of the island. Wildlife species that have been spotted there include the white-bellied sea eagle, a large bird with a considerable soaring range.

The park is expected to be ready in two years and a tender will be called in the middle of this year.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2008, the island was to be a park and an open space.

The time is ripe for a park in the area, said NParks director of parks development Yeo Meng Tong.

'Now that Punggol is an up-and-coming town, it is the right time to develop a nature park there,' he added.

The island is linked by a bridge to Punggol.

NParks plans to leave the park as untouched as possible, just like its other nature parks, with minimal lights to avoid disturbing wildlife at night and non-concrete footpaths, for example.

Tampines Eco Green, the latest nature park in Singapore which was unveiled last year, is a possible design model for the Coney Island park.

The 36.5ha ecologically themed park is made up of marshland, ponds and secondary rainforest. Only 2.5ha of the land has park amenities, with the rest left untouched.

Meanwhile, two other projects will be coming up - smaller community parks less than 1ha in size.

The first, at the junction of Holland Avenue and Holland Road, is under construction at a cost of about $500,000. It is likely to be ready by the middle of this year.

The other is in the Springleaf private estate near Upper Thomson Road. It will feature two shelters, one of which is fashioned from a recycled roof of a community house. A footpath will lead to a nearby canal. The park is likely to be ready by the end of next year.

As announced by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament last month, there will be a total of 20 new parks over the next five years.

Mr Yeo from NParks said the creation of more green spaces comes with catering for a growing population.

For example, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development unveiled a blueprint for the country's sustainable development in 2009, detailing key initiatives for the next 10 to 20 years.

One of these was to reach a park provision of 0.8ha per 1,000 people, which means each person should enjoy 8 sq m of green space.

Meanwhile, the new parks are drawing compliments from environmentalists.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, vice-chairman of the Nature Society Singapore's conservation committee, lauded the idea of having a nature park on Coney Island to preserve its rich flora and fauna.

He said: 'This includes casuarina trees that harbour birds of prey such as the native grey-headed fish eagle, and jerdon's baza, a rare migratory bird.'

Leaving the land as untouched as possible is vital, he added.

'Just like Tampines Eco Green - it should be left more or less as it is, with woodland intact and a natural trail without concrete pavements.'

Coney Island set to become Singapore's 9th nature park
Lip Kwok Wai Channel NewsAsia 23 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Nature lovers can soon look forward to a new nature park on Coney Island, off Punggol.

It will be the ninth nature park in Singapore.

The park will be ready in two years, and is part of the government's plans to build 20 new parks over the next five years in the Northern, Eastern and Western parts of Singapore.

Coney Island is connected to Punggol Promenade by a bridge, but it is not open to the public yet.

The National Parks Board said it will preserve the island's wildlife and rustic nature during the development, to give the park a natural feel.

The park, which is the size of about 30 football fields, will take up half the island's space.

There are plans to develop the rest of the island for recreational and residential uses.

- AFP/fa

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From canal to lush waterway

Karen Ng Channel NewsAsia 18 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: In a first for Singapore, a canal in Bishan Park has been transformed into a lush waterway.

The S$76.7 million project by national water agency PUB and National Parks Board (NParks) made use of bioengineering techniques to create a natural river out of concrete.

The Kallang River now meanders through Bishan Park, and park users can enjoy recreational activities along the river banks.

Designed on a floodplain concept, the river can hold 40 per cent more water than before.

The river's meandering route will also slow down water flow during heavy rains.

An alert system is in place to warn park users of rising water levels.

PUB 3P Network director George Madhavan said: "When it rains, the warning sirens will go on, announcements will be made, blinker lights will also go on. The river is expected to rise quite slowly.

NParks said the river has resulted in more species of flora and fauna in the park.

NParks assistant CEO Kong Yit San said: "Birds like the water hen, the little egrets, the purple heron, the scaly-breasted muneers, they all have come and set up home at Bishan Park."

The rejuvenated park is expected to see more than three million visitors a year.

One park user said: "I think I'll come here more often. I will bring my kids, let them see the surroundings, the greenery and the river.

"With the changes in the park, I think I'll visit here more often," said another.

Bishan Park, which was closed since October 2009 for the improvement works, will officially reopen in March.

- CNA/wk

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Connecting volunteers with organisations

Straits Times 19 Feb 12;

Mr Keith Tan (left) and Mr Ivan Chang teamed up to create, a networking website designed to be a conduit between organisations with volunteering opportunities and people who want to help. -- ST PHOTO: TED CHEN

Find a non-profit organisation and you will find a mountain of paperwork: detailed donor and volunteer lists are kept on outdated spreadsheets in overlapping files often riddled with errors.

When student Ivan Chang, 23, spent a summer painfully coordinating these details at the Make-A-Wish foundation, where he is a senior wish granter, he figured that, with new technology, there must be a better way.

It led to him and architecture student Keith Tan, 22, creating the website

The site is a networking tool designed to be a conduit between volunteering opportunities and people who want to help.

Organisations can create a free profile with details about their goals, events and pictures to inform potential volunteers about their work. 'Understanding the cause is a very big part of what makes a volunteer,' said Mr Tan.

Consistent contact with the organisation also keeps volunteers coming back, he added.

Start Now created a one-click portal which allows organisations to upload and easily modify volunteer databases into groups and categories. With a click, they can mass e-mail volunteers about events, speeding up what is now a time-consuming process involving outdated spreadsheets and copy-and-paste e-mailing.

Start Now also helps organisations cut out guesswork by linking groups and volunteers via interests, event times and locations.

'Convenience is ingrained in the younger generation,' noted Mr Chang, as is social belonging.

When a volunteer joins an event, a link posted on his Facebook feed notifies friends of the event and allows them to join.

People want to volunteer with their friends, said Mr Chang. 'It's intimidating to go alone.'

Another inhibiting factor is the lack of long-term satisfaction volunteers may feel after the event. Without feedback or 'thank yous' from the organisation, volunteers might lack the motivation to return.

Start Now has tackled that problem by allowing volunteers' profiles to list events attended and hours dedicated, providing a benchmark of volunteer work that they can be proud of.

The site also provides a space where organisations can give feedback to volunteers. 'Consistent engagement is key,' said Mr Tan.

Start Now is designed to be useful for managing volunteers in schools and companies as well, allowing them to detail the events and hours worked.

A few clicks on the easy-to-use database generates stylised volunteer reports useful for year-end analyses and assessments.

The biggest challenge for Start Now was meeting the diverse needs of its users.

'A lot of time was spent debating how to arrange, classify and design information and features such that the site would be easy to use for users and easy to adopt for organisations. The last thing we wanted was for a platform to be a barrier,' said Mr Chang, an information systems major at Singapore Management University.

He designed its internal infrastructure and database while Mr Tan, a National University of Singapore (NUS) architecture major, designed the user interface. They started site development last July and have taken leave from their studies to focus on it full-time.

Last September, the pair were awarded Spring Singapore's YES! Start-ups grant, which gives $4 for every $1 raised. They pooled their savings to raise $12,500 and received $50,000 for their efforts.

While Start Now is a non-profit site, the pair are working on ways to monetise without compromising on its social objective.

Mr Tan explained: 'When you put a social objective before one of profit, there are instances in which operational decisions might not make financial sense.

'In the long run, however, the need for cost sustainability forces us to ensure that all our efforts and operations create value for society because our very survival depends on it,' he added.

Plans to generate revenue include selling sponsorship and advertising space and providing consulting services to institutions.

The website will be officially launched at NUS' Social Business Week, which starts tomorrow.

Lydia Vasko

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Indonesia: Orangutan hunting still continuing in E Kalimantan

Antara 18 Feb 12;

Samarinda, East Kalimnatan (ANTARA News) - The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) said orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus moria) continue to be targeted by hunters in East Kalimantan.

Arfiana Khairunnisa COP manager for Kalimantan, said here Saturday the discovery of a wounded orangutan in East Kutai district recently, was proof that the near-extinct and protected mammal was still being hunted and slaughtered.

"The finding of an orangutan with a bullet embedded in its head and a slash wound on its arm is proof the animals are still being hunted." Arfiana said.

COP deeply regretted that conflicts between orangutans and humans still occur, especially in forest areas that are the animal's habitat.

"We ask the law enforcing agencies to investigate how the orangutan came to be injured and who was responsible," he said.

"Almost all of East Kalimantan is orangutan habitat but the forested area is continuing to shrink and therefore we ask the government to stop issuing permits for the use of the existing forest areas," he said.

Meanwhile, Asep Sugiharto, curator of the Kutai National Park, said the park was also an orangutan habitat.

According to a survey conducted in 2009 by Yaya Rayadin, a researcher with Mulawarman University in Samarinda, the orangutan population in the Kutai National Park was about 2,000. But another survey was now underway to determine the present orangutan population in the park which was 198,629 hectares wide.


Editor: Ade Marboen

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Pakistan: Whale of an exhibit lands in Islamabad

Jamal Shahid 18 Feb 12;

ISLAMABAD: The whale shark found dead in the Arabian Sea by fishermen earlier this month landed at Pakistan Museum of National History (PMNH) Islamabad to be preserved and made part of its priceless collection, later to be exhibited as a real treat for the people.

Its skin and bones came in a truck and reached the museum Friday afternoon. The air around the dead fish, in some 20 to 30-foot radius, was filled with strong repelling stench.

However, the photographers braved the smell being unable to resist the temptation and gathered around in great numbers clicking their cameras while the museum staff made films using their cellphones to capture the memorable moment.

Hung upside down from a crane by its tail, nearly 42-foot long giant looked as huge as the museum building itself.

“It will take us at least four to five months to chemically process the skin and bones. It will take another two months to stuff the giant before being able to be displayed in the gallery for public viewing,” said Dr M. Rafique at the Zoological Science Division, PMNH who brought the whale shark to the federal capital.

The whale shark is considered the biggest fish in the world. It is a rare species declared vulnerable by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of its fast depleting population. It is commercially exploited because of its high value in international trade. It is called whale shark because of its enormous size and whale like feeding habits.

This particular fish weighed 16 tons (16,000kg). Its liver weighed about 800kg, stomach 600kg and was carrying as many as 1,500 eggs in its belly.

“Its cause of death will be ascertained once the test reports from labs are received in about two-week time. Apparently, it seems to be a case of natural death because in a random assessment this whale shark was about 50 to 60 years old and all its body organs, heart, liver and skin were intact. They usually have an average lifespan of 70 years,” said Dr M. Rafique.

Elaborating on the specimen’s natural habitat, the expert said the fish lives around coral reefs where marine life was rich, full of calcium deposits from Africa all the way down to South East Asia and around Australia where it breeds in spring season.

According to PMNH, the Karachi fish harbour authority and marine fisheries department realised the importance of the fish and swung into action after international community started making phone calls in reaction to photographs that spread worldwide when a local fisherman put the dead creature on display, charging a ticket of Rs20 per person.

“The immediate task was to save the specimen from being perished. The skin and bones will be processed in the museum for its long-term preservation,” said Director-General PMNH, Pakistan Science Foundation. Dr S. Azhar Hassan during the press conference called to announce the arrival of the fish.

He said all parts of the whale shark had been preserved for laboratory analysis and to determine its exact age.

The largest whale shark to drift into Pakistani waters and get caught was back on November 11, 1947. It measured 41.5 feet in length and weighed over 20 tons (20,000kg).

“Unfortunately the fish could not be preserved due to lack of knowledge and resources.

Opportunity knocked again and this time we were wiser enough to save the unique creature for the benefit of researchers, students and public,” said the director-general PMNH.

The museum, its new home, hosts specimens of some 45,000 fish and 1,000 sharks.

It also takes pride in having a prized collection of skeletons of two blue whales, one that was found from Balochistan in 1967. It was some 100-foot long, and weighed nearly 200 tons (200,000kg).

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Gardening turns out to be very eco un-friendly

Lawns, patios and even trees – nearly everything in your backyard comes at a carbon price
Roger Dobson , Jonathan Owen The Independent 19 Feb 12;

Gardening: surely few things could be more eco-friendly? Not so, it seems. Scientists have produced new research which suggests that, far from doing their bit to save the planet, Britain's green-fingered army may be damaging it.

The very staples of modern gardening, from mowing and watering the lawn to the use of peat and pesticides, have a harmful effect on the environment, claim experts from the University of Reading, the University of Sheffield, and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Their paper, The Domestic Garden: Its Contribution to Urban Green Infrastructure, questions the widespread assumption that gardening is eco-friendly.

The findings come as eco-gardeners are already trying to change their ways. Many are abandoning petrol lawnmowers – a move that can cut 36kg of CO2 every year. Lawn sprinklers can use up to 1,000 litres of water an hour – what a family of four would use in a day. Planting trees doesn't help either: they can take a decade to become "carbon neutral". Even patios have a carbon price – a paved area of 25sqm has a one ton carbon footprint. The rising trend for paving over parts of gardens also reduces natural drainage.

Garden chemicals are another problem. They are used by half of British households, but their production and use contributes "significantly to greenhouse gas emissions".

The study also blames the gardening industry for being "directly responsible for the introduction of invasive species" by importing plants that escape from gardens "with huge consequences for native biodiversity and the economics associated with eradication measures".

The widespread use of peat by gardeners is also identified as a problem. Peat dug to be used as compost in the UK releases almost half a million tons of CO2 a year – the emissions of 100,000 cars. "The use of peat... is controversial due to habitat destruction and carbon emissions linked with peat extraction," says the study.

Dr Tijana Blanusa, senior horticultural scientist at the RHS and one of the authors of the report, said: "With the findings of this report in mind, the RHS will continue to work closely with gardeners, horticultural trade and horticultural researchers to minimise potential negative impacts and ensure that gardeners get the most out of their gardens without 'costing the Earth'."

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