Best of our wild blogs: 15 Mar 12

Checking up Chek Jawa with Dr Dan
from wild shores of singapore

The Cross Breed…?
from My Itchy Fingers

Two sunda pygmy woodpeckers outside of our HDB flat 组屋区活动的褐頭斑啄木鳥
from PurpleMangrove

More photos of the First Marine Biodiversity Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

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Mixed reactions over illegal land use in Clementi

Lim Wee Leng, Karen Ng Channel NewsAsia 14 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE: There has been mixed reactions from residents to the illegal use of land at Clementi Avenue 4.

Some in the area said they are concerned about their health due to smoke from burning vegetation while others said they like the kampong feel.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said the area was previously under Malaysia's KTM Berhad but it has since reverted to the State when the Singapore-Malaysia land swap deal was concluded.

SLA said it issues about 100 encroachment notices a year.

These range from unauthorised outdoor refreshment areas, illegal cultivation and unauthorised shrines, among others.

Other encroachments included illegal dumping and parts of building structures extending into State land such as boundary wall and chain link fence.

- CNA/fa

Only 3 'farmers' have come forward
Joy Fang my paper AsiaOne 14 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE - A plot of land in Clementi Avenue 4 is home to lush vegetation bearing melons, bittergourd and jackfruit.

One can also find ponds and makeshift bridges fashioned out of wooden planks going over them.

They are all the blood, sweat and tears of Clementi resident Siow Siew Eng, 72. The retiree took over the management of the "farm" from her godfather three years ago.

Her godfather, 87, built up the area and had maintained it for the past three decades, alongside other similar ones. But there is now a hitch.

Madam Siow's "farm" - part of a larger 1,800 sq m plot of land bound by the Sungei Ulu Pandan canal, Clementi Avenue 4 and Clementi Avenue 6 - belongs to the Government.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) posted notices on the illegal structures last Tuesday, calling for those responsible for the encroachments to come forward by next Tuesday.

If they fail to do so, the encroachments, especially those that affect public health and safety, will be removed.

Yesterday, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Sim Ann accompanied reporters on a tour of the site.

She said that a Clementi Avenue 4 resident complained about burning leaves in the area a few weeks ago.

Stagnant ponds there also serve as potential mosquito breeding grounds, noted Ms Sim. Concerned, she decided to write in to SLA.

Only three families who illegally farm there have come forward to identify themselves, but Ms Sim hopes more will do so.

Otherwise, it will be tough to have their views represented during consultations with SLA and the National Environment Agency, she said.

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Hide your food and don't feed the monkeys

Straits Times Forum 15 Mar 12;

THE Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Parks Board are working together to place traps at the fringe of MacRitchie Reservoir Park to capture monkeys, which have been behaving aggressively towards the public and snatching food and plastic bags from them ('Monkeys grab wife's groceries' by Mr Fong Wei Kurk; March 2). We will continue to closely monitor the situation at MacRitchie.

Irresponsible feeding by some members of the public has altered the behaviour of some monkeys. They are drawn out of the forest in search of food handouts from people, and may grab plastic bags or any other food containers that they have been conditioned to recognise.

We advise the public not to feed the monkeys.

In areas where monkeys are often seen, the public should ensure that the food they are carrying is kept out of sight and inaccessible to the monkeys.

Once there are no available food sources from humans, the monkeys will return to the forest for food.

Those who wish to provide feedback on the monkey nuisance may contact the AVA on 1800-476-1600 or

Dr Wong Hon Mun
Director, Agri Establishment Regulation
For Chief Executive Officer
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

Kartini Omar (Ms)
General Manager (Parks)
National Parks Board

Monkeys grab wife's groceries
Straits Times Forum 2 Mar 12;

MY WIFE was attacked by monkeys on Wednesday while she was crossing the overhead bridge from MacRitchie Reservoir to reach home.

One crept up behind her and ripped apart the plastic bag of groceries she was carrying which emboldened the rest to seek out her handbag and try to pry more items off her.

She almost fell when she tried to escape. My wife is six months pregnant, so imagine the consequences had she been seriously hurt.

This was not the first time she was hounded by such brazen monkeys who have made food forays into our estate.

I urge the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the National Parks Board to take urgent action to cull the population of monkeys in Singapore as they no longer seem to fear people, and have become a nuisance.

I have seen monkeys use the overhead bridges to cross over an otherwise busy Lornie Road to get to housing estates opposite MacRitchie Reservoir, presumably in search of food.

Fong Wei Kurk

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Malaysia: Wildlife trafficking drops 80%

Joseph Sipalan The Star 15 Mar 12;

PUTRAJAYA: Wildlife trafficking cases have dropped by over 80% since the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 came into force.

Wildlife Department figures showed that just 464 cases were recorded last year, compared to an average of 3,500 cases a year between 2007-2010.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said this was a positive development in the fight to save the country's natural environment.

"I'm very happy to note that the Act has had an effect. We've learned from the previous Act, that one main ingredient is deterrent (penalties).

"Wildlife trade is not an option. It is illegal and destroys our bio-diversity, and be assured that you will be caught," he said after launching the Where's My Mama 2.0 campaign here Thursday.

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Malaysia: Enraptured by raptors

New Straits Times 15 Mar 12;

Hundreds of bird-watchers converged on Port Dickson during Raptor Watch Week. Low Mei May joined in to scan the skies

THERE was almost a no-show by raptors at the launch of Raptor Watch in Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson last Saturday. But of the dozen or so spotted, one gave an aerial performance that visitors will not forget.

The white-bellied sea eagle circled over Ilham Resort with a metre-long fish in its talons.

Raptors need thermals to soar hundreds and even thousands of metres up in the sky and glide across the Straits Of Malacca to Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson, where the birds congregate yearly before continuing their journey to north Asia.

On Saturday, the thermals were missing and so were the big birds of prey.

“But there’s no need to worry,” said Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed. “This just means there are thousands of raptors in Pulau Rupat, Indonesia, waiting to soar over here.”

One year, Maketab said, more than 10,000 birds soared over the straits to Tanjung Tuan in a single day. “I don’t know how they counted,” he said in awe of the MNS members who have been counting the raptors for the last 13 years.
And he was proven right. Sunday was much hotter, with very few clouds. By noon, more than 2,000 birds were spotted. By evening, 5,300 birds were counted soaring on thermals to reach our skies.

Raptor Watch is a huge event in Port Dickson, drawing tourists from all over the country, and even from abroad. The birds fly here not over one weekend but over a period of about four months, from late January.
The migratory raptors flee the winter in Siberia, China, Korea and Japan towards the end of the year before returning in spring. Raptor Watch Week is also one of Malaysia’s premier eco-tourism events.
Although there was a near no-show by the raptors on Saturday, Raptor Watch week was by no means a washout.

Playing host for the 13th consecutive time, the MNS had lined up many nature-related activities, including talks, to promote eco-tourism. These included Nature Walk, Seashore Walk and Mangrove Walk.
Since February, more than 23,000 raptors had been spotted by counters stationed at the Tanjung Tuan lighthouse. The counters will continue their labour of love until April 1, for a total of 42 days. Last year, 58,000 raptors were spotted over 43 days flying over Port Dickson.

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Indonesia: Rare Sumatran Tiger Sees Surge In Brutal Conflict With Humans

Jakarta Globe 14 Mar 12;

Bengkulu City. The year is off to a bad start for Sumatran tigers, as conservation officials in Bengkulu province are reporting almost as much conflict in just a few months as from all of last year.

“So far in 2012, we have handled two tiger deaths and six tiger-human conflicts,” Amon Zamora, the head of the province’s Natural Resources Conservation Center, said on Tuesday.

Last year in all of Sumatra, two endangered Sumatran tigers were found trapped and four were known to have died from injuries inflicted by human actions.

Bengkulu’s first tiger death this year was of a male, named Rajo by conservation staff, who had been rescued from a snare trap in the Bukit Daun protected forest in Lebong district.

When conservation staff found Rajo on Jan. 8, it seemed he had been left for dead by an unknown attacker who had beaten him with a blunt instrument.

“It looked like they had deliberately tried to kill him,” Amon said. “We found him alive but covered in injuries.”

Despite medical care, Rajo eventually succumbed to his wounds.

The second tiger to die was discovered in Seluma district in February, dismembered and buried in an apparent attempt to hide the crime.

“We do not know the cause of death, but when our team dug the tiger out, we found it in pieces, with bones missing,” Amon said, adding that the forest police were still investigating the killing.

Dara, another female tiger so named after she was discovered snared in a North Bengkulu logging concession in February, will never return to the wild after her rescuers were forced to amputate her ensnared front leg, which was badly gangrenous.

In the most recent conflict, residents of Alas Bangun village in North Bengkulu district have reported unrest because of a tiger that has appeared in the vicinity of their village several times over the past few days.

Amon said his staff members were on their way to help.

“We’ll try to chase it into the forest, but if that proves impossible then we’ll be forced to conduct an ‘evacuation,’ ”he said, referring to an evacuation of the tiger, not the villagers, highlighting the cause of the problem.

Amon said the increasing frequency of such encounters points to a bleak future for the endangered species, of which only about 400 remain in the wild.

Their decline stems primarily from the constant encroachment of human development into their habitat, the conservation officer said.

Of the 400-odd tigers clinging on to their natural habitat, less than a third are thought to be living in areas set aside for conservation purposes.

The rest live in forests earmarked for timber concessions, plantations or other extractive purposes.

NGO group Forum HarimauKita, the Indonesian Tiger Conservation Forum, blames such conflicts on a lack of understanding and guidelines for tiger conservation among low-level government officials and plantation workers.

Antara, JG

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Global flower trade threatens rare palm

Mark Kinver BBC News 15 Mar 12;

Demand for leaves from an endangered palm, found in Central and South America, is threatening the species' long term survival, a study warns.

Leaves from the xate palm are used by the international flower trade, and are mostly harvested from wild trees.

UK researchers said training locals to cultivate the trees, thus easing the pressure on the wild population, only had a limited success.

The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.

"One of the reasons why florists like this leaf so much is because once you have cut it, it stays green for 30-40 days," explained co-author Sophie Williams, a researcher from Bangor University, Wales.

"There can be about two weeks from the forest to the florist, yet they can still store it for another two or three weeks."

Previous studies had said that the plant, which generally has five leaves, would be damaged if more than two leaves were removed at any one time.

The peak in demand, which is estimated to be worth $4m each year, for the leaves coincides with Mothers' Day and Palm Sunday.

Once harvested, the leaves are transported to Cancun, Mexico, before being exported to destinations including Miami and Amsterdam.

Barriers to growth

Overharvesting is a common threat facing many threatened plant species, and cultivation training is seen as one way to ease the pressure on wild populations.

In 2006, the UK Darwin Initiative Project and the Belize Botanic Garden set up a training programme, with the aim of giving locals the knowledge to grow and harvest the species rather than harvesting wild palms.

Ms Williams and the team, which included a researcher from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, used the study to assess whether the training programme had a beneficial effect.

"People will often state that we need environmental education or training, and people often see it as a panacea to protect species," she told BBC News.

"I agree that we need these things, but we also need to think about the context in which we are doing them.

"The training programme was great... but we need to look at other factors that could prevent the training from having an impact.

"Just increasing knowledge and awareness doesn't always lead to positive action all the time, and that is often because… there are barriers."

These barriers included long-term land tenure. This could act as a deterrent because it takes four years for the palm (Chamaedorea ernesti-agusti; another common name is fishtail palm) to grow before its leaves can be harvested.

If a farmer could not secure tenure of some land for long enough, then it would not be cost-effective to invest in cultivating the crop.

Access to seeds is another potential problem that could dilute the impact of a training programme.

Ms Williams said if there was not a supply of seeds for farmers, then it could encourage seeds to be taken from the wild population.

This practice, studies suggest, can be more damaging to the palms than harvesting leaves.

Ms Williams, a PhD student, said the next stage of her research is to assess whether increased cultivation is an effective conservation tool and eases the pressure on wild plants, or merely increases the supply of the economically important crop.

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Australia weather extremes likely to worsen: report

* Hotter Australia faces more intense rains, droughts
* Warmer seas, rising ocean levels further threats - report
* More chaotic weather a challenge to miners, farmers
David Fogarty Reuters 14 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE, March 14 (Reuters) - Australia, one of the world's top mining and agricultural nations, faces a quickening pace of climate change, according to a snapshot of the nation's weather, forcing farmers to alter cropping strategies and miners to cope with more intense floods.

The government report released on Wednesday confirms the changing trends in rainfall and warmer temperatures across Australia, to which farmers are adapting by growing new crop varieties and adjusting planting times.

Coal and iron ore miners are building bigger holding dams for flood waters, and strenthening road and rail infrastructure, while coastal communities are being told to prepare for rising sea levels.

The report, compiled by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), looks at long-term climate trends in Australia. Its release comes after 18 months of record rains in the country's east, triggering floods that ended a devastating drought.

Australia is getting hotter, the pace of sea level rise quickening, the oceans warming and rainfall patterns shifting towards more rain in the summer, the report said.

Each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s, it said, with rising greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture blamed for the changes.

"We're certainly seeing where the rain is falling is changing," Megan Clark, CSIRO's chief executive, told Reuters. "We're seeing more in spring and summer ... a monsoonal signature across Australia's north, and more rainfall in central Australia," she said.

"And from the agricultural point of view, less autumn and winter rain across the south."

The report is only the second joint climate snapshot, with the first released in 2010 before the start of an intense La Nina event that triggered months of flooding, crimping economic growth and causing billions of dollars in insurance losses.

Australia is the world's top coal exporter, a major iron ore producer and fourth largest wheat exporter, sectors at risk from more chaotic weather.


A second, weaker La Nina in 2011 brought more rains. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Meteorology said the event was coming to an end, but rainfall in parts of Australia could still be above average.

La Nina is a periodic warming of the Western Pacific Ocean. It normally triggers above average rains and cooler weather across northern and eastern Australia and Southeast Asia. The opposite phenomenon, El Nino, usually brings drought and warmer weather.

Clark said 2010-11 stood out for the peak rains and the equally record-breaking sea surface temperatures around northern Australia.

"This consistent rise in our sea surface temperatures has been a bit surprising," sshe said.

"The other thing we're seeing is when the conditions are right for rain, we're getting a lot of rain."

The report shows minimum Australian temperatures at night have warmed by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1910, with most of this since 1960, and that the rate of very hot daytime temperatures, higher than 40 degress C, has been increasing since 1990.

Sea levels since 1993 around Australia's north and northwest have been rising 7 to 11 millimetres a year, two to three times the global average.

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Rising Sea Levels Seen as Threat to Coastal U.S.

Justin Gillis New York Times 13 Mar 12;

About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research.

If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.

By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found, with roughly half of the nation’s at-risk population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying limestone shelf that constitutes much of that state. But Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk.

“Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing,” said Benjamin H. Strauss, an author, with other scientists, of two new papers outlining the research. “We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas.”

The project on sea level rise led by Dr. Strauss for the nonprofit organization Climate Central appears to be the most elaborate effort in decades to estimate the proportion of the national population at risk from the rising sea. The papers are scheduled for publication on Wednesday by the journal Environmental Research Letters. The work is based on the 2010 census and on improved estimates, compiled by federal agencies, of the land elevation near coastlines and of tidal levels throughout the country.

Climate Central, of Princeton, N.J., was started in 2008 with foundation money to conduct original climate research and also to inform the public about the work of other scientists. For the sea level project, financed entirely by foundations, the group is using the Internet to publish an extensive package of material that goes beyond the scientific papers, specifying risks by community. People can search by ZIP code to get some idea of their own exposure.

While some coastal governments have previously assessed their risk, most have not, and national-level analyses have also been rare. The new package of material may therefore give some communities and some citizens their first solid sense of the threat.

Dr. Strauss said he hoped this would spur fresh efforts to prepare for the ocean’s rise, and help make the public more aware of the risks society is running by pumping greenhouse gases into the air. Scientists say those gases are causing the planet to warm and its land ice to melt into the sea. The sea itself is absorbing most of the extra heat, which causes the water to expand and thus contributes to the rise.

The ocean has been rising slowly and relentlessly since the late 19th century, one of the hallmark indicators that the climate of the earth is changing. The average global rise has been about eight inches since 1880, but the local rise has been higher in some places where the land is also sinking, as in Louisiana and the Chesapeake Bay region.

The rise appears to have accelerated lately, to a rate of about a foot per century, and many scientists expect a further acceleration as the warming of the planet continues. One estimate that communities are starting to use for planning purposes suggests the ocean could rise a foot over the next 40 years, though that calculation is not universally accepted among climate scientists.

The handful of climate researchers who question the scientific consensus about global warming do not deny that the ocean is rising. But they often assert that the rise is a result of natural climate variability, they dispute that the pace is likely to accelerate, and they say that society will be able to adjust to a continuing slow rise.

Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group, said that “as a society, we could waste a fair amount of money on preparing for sea level rise if we put our faith in models that have no forecasting ability.”

Experts say a few inches of sea level rise can translate to a large incursion by the ocean onto shallow coastlines. Sea level rise has already cost governments and private landowners billions of dollars as they have pumped sand onto eroding beaches and repaired the damage from storm surges.

Insurance companies got out of the business of writing flood insurance decades ago, so much of the risk from sea level rise is expected to fall on the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program, set up by Congress, or on state insurance pools. Federal taxpayers also heavily subsidize coastal development when the government pays to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in storm surges and picks up much of the bill for private losses not covered by insurance.

For decades, coastal scientists have argued that these policies are foolhardy, and that the nation must begin planning an orderly retreat from large portions of its coasts, but few politicians have been willing to embrace that message or to warn the public of the rising risks.

Organizations like Mr. Ebell’s, even as they express skepticism about climate science, have sided with the coastal researchers on one issue. They argue that Congress should stop subsidizing coastal development, regarding it as a waste of taxpayers’ money regardless of what the ocean might do in the future.

“If people want to build an expensive beach house on the Florida or Carolina coast, they should take their own risk and pay for their own insurance,” Mr. Ebell said.

The new research calculates the size of the population living within one meter, or 3.3 feet, of the mean high tide level, as estimated in a new tidal data set from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the lower 48 states, that zone contains 3.7 million people today, the papers estimate, a figure exceeding 1 percent of the nation’s population.

Under current coastal policies, the population and the value of property at risk in that zone are expected to continue rising.

The land below the 3.3-foot line is expected to be permanently inundated someday, possibly as early as 2100, except in places where extensive fortifications are built to hold back the sea. One of the new papers calculates that long before inundation occurs, life will become more difficult in the low-lying zone because the rising sea will make big storm surges more likely.

Only in a handful of places have modest steps been taken to prepare. New York City is one: Pumps at some sewage stations have been raised to higher elevations, and the city government has undertaken extensive planning. But the city — including substantial sections of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island — remains vulnerable, as do large parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

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Over 110 Heads Of State, Government Attending UN Rio+20 Conference

Bernama 15 Mar 12;

UNITED NATIONS, March 15 (Bernama) -- More than 110 heads of state and government have said they will participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio+20, in Brazil in June, a UN spokesman said yesterday.

"The (UN) secretary-general has personally appealed to all heads of state and government to attend and to make this conference a success," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said at a daily news briefing Wednesday, Xinhua news agecny reported.

The conference, returning 20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit, will take place in Rio de Janeiro from June 20 to 22 where world leaders, along with thousands of participants from the private sector and non-governmental groups, are expected to come together to shape ways to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.

"The level of attendance is amongst the highest seen for this kind of event," Nesirky said. "The number is already higher than the Johannesburg conference."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to brief the UN General Assembly on Friday morning on the report, entitled " Resilient people, resilient planet: a future worth choosing," by the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, said the spokesman.

The initial round of negotiations on the proposed outcome document for Rio+20 began here on Jan. 25 in order to pave the way for a successful conference of world leaders in June on sustainable development.

This informal round is the first of four more negotiating sessions in March, April, May and June in the lead-up to the Rio+20 conference in Brazil.

Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang, who is also UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs, said at the opening of the three-day consultations:

"When world leaders gather in Rio in five months, we need to present them with an ambitious and yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today's challenges,"

"We need a robust outcome from Rio+20, with reinvigorated political commitments by all countries. We need strong decisions ... strong in commitments and strong in actions," she added.


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