Best of our wild blogs: 20 Feb 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [6 - 19 Feb 2012]
from Green Business Times

Back to blogging! = Giant clam spawning on TMSI, SJI
from Psychedelic Nature

large-tailed nightjar @ bukit brown - Feb2012
from sgbeachbum and olive-winged bulbul

A Quiet Morning @ USR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Checking up on special plants at Pulau Semakau
from wild shores of singapore and teamseagrass

Asiatic Lesser Yellow Bat
from Monday Morgue

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Bishan Park revamp a hit with park lovers

Liew Wei Lin Straits Times 20 Feb 12;

Visitors to the Bishan Park recently were full of praise for its $76-million makeover.

'It is now less forested, more open and much airier than before,' says Ms Leah Francisco 40, a software engineer who travels every Saturday from Punggol where she lives to Bishan with her dogs for the dog run at the park.

The park was closed in October 2009 for an overhaul and has since re-opened to the public. It will be launched officially next month.

Among the new additions are wooden lounge chairs and benches scattered throughout the park for a relaxing place to take a rest after exercising.

A meandering 3km-long river, a key feature of the revamped park, has increased biodiversity by up to 30 per cent, according to Mr Kong Yit San, assistant chief executive of National Parks Board.

Such exciting changes have attracted marketing executive Serena Kwek, 37, and her family, to go to Bishan from their home in Bukit Merah.

'My children love exploring nature and Bishan Park has provided them with another natural environment in the heart of Singapore,' says Madam Kwek, who usually visits Changi beach and Pulau Ubin with her two pre-school children.

But some park visitors had laments. Some thought it was a pity the pavilions at the old park, which provided shelter when it rained, had disappeared,while dog owners were disappointed by the lack of a gate connecting the two dog runs, which facilitated movement of owners and their pets in the past.

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Sea of Biological Wealth in Indonesia, but No Database

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 19 Feb 12;

Indonesia might lay claim to being the country with the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world after Brazil, but the government has no database to catalogue that wealth, an official says.

Vidya S. Nalang, the head of the Environment Ministry’s Genetic Resources Management Program, said over the weekend that all the government had was a clearing house with limited information on resources such as plant and animal species.

“We used to have a database with the full data from 2005-10 on the medicinal properties [of plants],” she said. “But we had to take it down pending negotiations for the Nagoya Protocol.”

The protocol, part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which Indonesia has ratified, aims to regulate the use of genes from plants or animals that originate in other countries and ensure that all nations are compensated fairly for discoveries that are derived from their native species.

Vidya said that in the absence of a government agency to compile a database of the country’s biodiversity, the state had assigned the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to take over the task, given that it already had its own database and research.

Indonesia is ranked in the top 5 worldwide for its plant biodiversity, with 55 percent of that diversity endemic to Indonesia, according to the CBD.

In addition, the archipelago is home to 12 percent of the world’s mammals, 17 percent of its birds and 16 percent of reptiles, while its waters are home to 450 of the 700 coral species in the world.

The LIPI previously said that as of 2010, it had identified and catalogued at least 2.5 million specimens of fauna and 2 million specimens of plants but that efforts to build up a comprehensive database were held back by a lack of government attention and old, crashing computers.

“Because we have limited technology but plenty to upload, the computer crashed a few years ago,” Siti Nuramaliati Prijono, director of LIPI’s Center for Biology, said last March. “The scientists then got upset because when they tried to upload their data, it all disappeared. Now we have the system up and running, but not all the data can be accessed at the same time. Some of the data is hosted on the old system and the rest on the new one.”

Siti said another problem was that after all the trouble involved in uploading the data, the information was mostly left unused, even by experts in the country.

The government’s response at the time was that it would set up a working database prior to a key meeting on the Nagoya Protocol in New York last May. However, the site meant to host the data,, has been blank since last year.

Arief Yuwono, the deputy head for environmental damage control and climate change at the Environment Ministry, said last year that part of the problem was that biodiversity issues were being shunted aside in favor of more popular issues such as climate change.

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Malaysia: Totally protected, but tapir face extinction

Hanis Maketab and Akil Yunus New Straits Times 20 Feb 12;
They are often caught in traps placed by hunters for other wild animals

THE tapir has more reasons to be afraid of humans following poaching and habitat loss due to deforestation and encroachment, which have significantly diminished its numbers in recent years.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) say these mammals, which are only dangerous when threatened, have fallen victim to development, while an expected interest in tapir parts may make them more susceptible to illegal hunting in the future.

The recent case of a 200kg tapir, which had wandered into Kampung Tun Razak in Bukit Katil here, from suspected habitat loss is testament to the threat these mammals face.

The tapir later died of foot injuries, caused likely by wire snares.

State Perhilitan director Abdul Rahim Othman said tapirs were an unfortunate bunch as they were often caught in traps placed by hunters for other wild animals.

"Tapirs are not known for their meat, but they do get accidentally caught in traps meant for deers and wild boars."

Scientifically termed tapirus indicus, the Malayan tapir is the largest of the four tapir species and the only one native to Asia.

The current population of tapirs in Malaysia is between 2,000 and 2,500 and concentrated in protected areas, such as Taman Negara and wildlife reserves.

They are classified as a totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

As a protective measure, Perhilitan collaborated with Copenhagen Zoo in 2002 to set up the Malayan Tapir Conservation Project to study the ecological needs of these large herbivores.

Biologist Dr Carl Traeholt was tasked with overseeing the project's activities at its various sites, such as the Krau Wildlife Reserve, Taman Negara and Sungai Dusun Wildlife Reserve, which doubles as a captive breeding centre.

Traeholt told the New Straits Times that for the past 10 years, researchers had been able to learn quite a bit about this elusive animal from the project.

"The Malayan tapir is the only bi-coloured species of tapir, with a distinctive white patch that covers its body from the shoulders to the rump, as a form of camouflage."

He said Malaysia was the main bastion for this species, but they could also be found in Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.

He also said tapirs normally lived between 15 and 20 years in the wild and captivity.

"Female tapirs normally give birth to one calf every three to four years."

Traeholt and a team of four permanent staff monitor the tapirs using camera trapping and individual identification.

"Once we've caught one, we check to see if we have previously caught it by scanning its body for a microchip.

"If it is a new one, we will tag it with a microchip."

Traeholt and his team discovered that tapirs were browsers, meaning they foraged the forest for fruits, leaves and twigs with their trunks.

On tapir conservation, Traeholt said authorities needed to continue preserving the animal's natural habitats.

"As long as there is 40 per cent good forest cover, there will be ample habitat for the tapir population."

He, however, said there was a pressing concern in regard to conserving wildlife habitats.

"The more we develop and encroach into wild animals' habitats, the more there will be cases of animal displacement, where they will wander into housing areas, or be run over by cars."

Traeholt said building viaducts to allow the safe crossing of wild animals near areas with traffic was a good step.

He also said the authorities needed to look into adopting stricter measures in conserving the habitats of animals they aimed to protect.

Malaysian Nature Society communications head Andrew Sebastian agreed with Traeholt's sentiment.

"Besides putting a stop to poaching, the government must step up efforts to conserve the animals' habitats.

"It will defeat the purpose of protecting the animals if we do not protect their habitats."

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Malaysia: Have a holiday in an oil palm plantation

Hazlin Hassan Straits Times 20 Feb 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's largest oil palm plantation manager is hoping to harvest more profit from its vast tracts of land - by luring tourists to agro-based resorts sitting amid its plantations.

And it is not just quiet getaways tucked away in the middle of millions of oil palm trees: Felda's resorts offer access to a host of natural attractions, from caves and hot springs to beaches and islands.

One hot spring resort in Perak, located right in the middle of a plantation and durian orchard, boasts chalets with private hot spring pools and a spa, and views of the nearby Titiwangsa mountain range.

Another in Pahang allows visitors to explore 150 million-year-old caves at the nearby Kota Gelanggi.

Other resorts offer opportunities - especially for student groups - to try out activities such as rafting, canoeing and jungle trekking while on holiday.

And Felda is now targeting Singaporean tourists, offering specific promotions for the Singapore market, such as package discounts and room promotions.

Room rates are around RM200 to RM250 (S$80 to S$100) per night. The promotions were advertised in Singapore newspapers recently.

'Going by the numbers, we consider Singapore one of our prime markets,' said Mr Andrew Francis, the chief executive officer of Felda Travel, a subsidiary of Felda Holdings.

'The positive response and rave reviews received from our Singaporean visitors are perhaps also driven by the various side activities which give them a 'back to nature' experience.'

The outreach to Singaporeans is the latest effort by Felda to carve a bigger name for itself in the tourism industry.

Felda is short for the Federal Land Development Authority, which was set up by the Malaysian government in the 1950s to give poor rural folk land to grow cash crops such as oil palm and rubber.

It is now in charge of some 344,000ha of land, and is one of the world's largest managers of oil palm plantations, earning revenues of more than RM2 billion a year.

To maximise the use of its land, Felda entered the tourism industry in 1991, building agro-resorts to draw city dwellers looking for a getaway in the country. Last year, Felda Travel earned RM25 million in revenue.

Singaporeans currently make up about 70 per cent of the 10,000 or so foreigners who visit its resorts every year. The resorts have also seen tourists from Holland, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Middle East, Australia and China.

'Singapore is a strong market for us, especially students,' Mr Francis told The Straits Times. 'On average, about 3,000 students come to our resorts yearly, particularly to the Residences in Pahang, Perak and in Johor.'

Visitors who have stayed at Felda's resorts say they are well-run, clean and peaceful. Its hot spring resort in Sungai Klah, Perak, has been recognised as one of Malaysia's top five nature resorts, according to Felda. Its resort in Tekam, Pahang, is known for its nearby caves, while two others, in Johor and Sabah, are beach resorts. A fifth, also in Perak, targets corporate groups seeking to hold seminars and team-building sessions, while a sixth is a business hotel in Terengganu's state capital.

Said Mr Francis: 'We promote our resorts on the tagline 'Back to nature' which fits every segment of the market and is ideal for families.'

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Tiny shrimp leave giant carbon footprint: scientist

AFP 19 Feb 12;

VANCOUVER: Measured by environmental impact, a humble shrimp cocktail could be the most costly part of a typical restaurant meal, scientists said Friday.

If the seafood is produced on a typical Asian fish farm, a 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving “has an ecosystem carbon footprint of an astounding 198 kilograms (436 pounds) of CO2,” biologist J. Boone Kauffman said.

A one-pound (454-gram) bag of frozen shrimp produces one ton of carbon dioxide, said Kauffman, who is based at Oregon State University and conducts research in Indonesia.

He told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that he developed the comparison to help the public understand the environmental impact of land use decisions.

Kauffman said 50 to 60 percent of shrimp farms are located in tidal zones in Asian countries, mostly on cleared mangrove forests.

“The carbon footprint of the shrimp from this land use is about 10-fold greater than the land use carbon footprint of an equivalent amount of beef produced from a pasture formed from a tropical rainforest,” wrote Kauffman in a paper released to AFP, not including emissions from farm development, feeds, supplements, processing, storing and shipping.

The farms are inefficient, producing just one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of shrimp for 13.4 square meters (five square miles) of mangrove, while the ponds created are abandoned in just three to nine years because disease, soil acidification and contamination destroy them, he wrote.

After abandonment, the soil takes 35 to 40 years to recover, he said.

Emily Pidgeon of Conservation International said intact mangrove forests are of value in protecting the coastal ecosystems and communities against storms and tsunamis, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed some 230,000 people.

The problem, she said, is the value of intact mangroves is hard to measure, and most of the shrimp farms are in impoverished areas that cannot easily afford conservation.

“It’s difficult to find the financing to do it, or the political will,” she said, adding Kauffman’s carbon measurements provide another argument in favor of protection.

The catchy shrimp cocktail estimate is part of the relatively new field in science and economics called ecosystem services, which uses models to measure the value to human communities, in economic terms, of forests, grassland, waterways and even the air.
“To present how deforestation and land cover change contribute to global climate change in a comprehensible manner, we change the scale of greenhouse gas emissions from global to personal scales,” wrote Kauffman.

The Carbon Footprint of a Shrimp Cocktail
Erik Stokstad Science Now 17 Feb 12;

VANCOUVER, CANADA—In many parts of Latin America and Asia, large swaths of coastal mangrove forests have been cut down and turned into shrimp farms. Not only does this deforestation destroy habitat for birds and cause other ecological problems, but it also releases a large amount of the carbon stored in mangrove soil—so much, in fact, that the shrimp end up having a sizable carbon footprint, according to calculations presented here today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW).

To get a handle on how much carbon dioxide is represented by shrimp, ecologist Boone Kauffman of Oregon State University in Corvallis made some estimates based on typical shrimp farms in southeast Asia. He looked at farms that are relatively large and not particularly productive, with harvests yielding 50 to 500 kilograms of shrimp per hectare. These farms, which make up about half of those in the world, only last for 5 years or so before the buildup of sludge in the ponds and the acid sulfate soil renders them unfit for shrimp. “It's the equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture,” Kauffman said. (Other types of shrimp farms are more efficient and not located in mangrove forests.)

Drawing on other studies, Kauffman estimated that 401 metric tons of carbon are emitted to the atmosphere when a hectare of mangrove is converted to a shrimp farm, which is equivalent to 1472 tons of carbon dioxide. Over the average 5-year life span of a farm, a farmer will typically harvest about 1659 kilograms of shrimp. So a 100-gram shrimp cocktail represents an “astonishing” 198 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the loss of the mangrove, Kauffman said, the equivalent of burning 90 liters of gasoline. The carbon intensity of shrimp from deforested mangroves is 10 times greater than that of beef grown in deforested Amazonian rain forest, according to other unpublished calculations Kauffman has made. The calculations don't include the energy involved in feeding, processing, and transporting the shrimp.

“The shrimp cocktail is a good example of how carbon cost associated with mangrove degradation way outweighs the actual product that is produced,” Emily Pidgeon of Conservation International told the audience at a session entitled “Blue Carbon, Green Opportunities: Innovative Solutions To Protect Coastal Ecosystems.” So, how much would it cost to prevent mangroves from being turned into shrimp farms? Based on his calculations, Kauffman says that compensating farmers for not growing shrimp would mean that each ton of carbon kept intact in mangrove soil would cost about $4.50. “That's well within the range of carbon markets,” Kauffman said.

At the moment, these carbon markets only trade in credits for terrestrial ecosystems; for example, keeping a certain amount of forest intact in order to offset a ton of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels. At the session, Carolyn Ching of the VCS Association—a firm that creates accounting standards for carbon credits—described progress in devising the first carbon credit program for mangroves and other wetlands, which could provide funds for their conservation and restoration. Ching suggested the system could be finalized and running as early as September: “We see carbon finance as one of the potential mechanisms for addressing wetlands conservation.”

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