Best of our wild blogs: 19 Mar 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [12 - 18 Mar 2012]
from Green Business Times

Night walk at Pasir Ris with special snake!
from wild shores of singapore

From USR to Chestnut Avenue
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Families enjoying day out on Chek Jawa Boardwalk
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Global rainforest carbon map released online
from news by Rhett Butler

Blue-eared Kingfisher
from Monday Morgue

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Population of wild boars on the rise

Some spotted even around Kent Ridge; NUS student doing study on their habitat
Grace Chua Straits Times 19 Mar 12;

A YEAR ago, Mr Chang Nam Yuen heard a loud crash in his garden in the middle of the night, accompanied by grunting and groaning.

The commotion was caused by a wild boar which had been injured, perhaps hit by a car, and fallen through a gap in his fence.

The Lower Peirce resident and chairman of the Kebun Baru Neighbourhood Committee, 60, said: 'We see them every night, as many as a family of 10.'

The wild pig or boar population here appears to be on the rise, say researchers and residents. A 2010 paper in the journal Nature In Singapore put the population at 552.

And the porkers are rooting around in nature reserves and have even crossed expressways.

They were thought to have disappeared from mainland Singapore until about 2000, and had been seen only on offshore islands.

But in the past decade, naturalists and those who live on the fringes of nature reserves have reported more sightings and reckon that the wild pigs swam over from Ubin, Tekong or Peninsular Malaysia.

The animals have even been spotted around Kent Ridge, surprising researchers who previously thought expressways like the Pan-Island Expressway served as natural barriers.

Now, National University of Singapore (NUS) fourth-year biology student Ong Say Lin, 25, is studying the local population of wild swine for his final-year project.

'They have no natural predators here except for the reticulated python... and poachers,' he said, suggesting the reason for the booming population.

'Conservation-wise, they are doing fine,' he added.

He is trying to estimate where on the mainland wild boars live, whether they are breeding here, and if they are doing any damage to forest ecosystems.

Their digging and rooting can snap saplings, reduce seed dispersal and spread invasive plants, but their dung can also be a food source for dung beetles.

Human-pig conflict is another aspect of Mr Ong's research.

Kebun Baru's Mr Chang said residents' foremost concern was about safety. For instance, they worried about unwittingly provoking an attack by the wild boars in self-defence, and about cars hitting them.

Asked if the research would increase poaching, lecturer N. Sivasothi, one of Mr Ong's project supervisors, said: 'I think poachers already know where they are; the poachers are out there, and they are probably more sensitive to the pigs' presence than we are.'

The findings would be shared with the National Parks Board (NParks), he added.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at NParks, said the agency is aware of the increase of wild pigs and is monitoring the situation.

'We are concerned because of the potential damage they can do to our forests if their population increases.

'We are considering options, and the management plan for wild pigs in nature reserves could include culling, as they do not face natural predators in Singapore,' he said.

He advises the public to keep a safe distance should they encounter wild pigs.

More on the NUS study can be found at

Members of the public can also submit their sightings at

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WWF, Singapore disagree over emissions count

Different methodology used for attributing emissions from imported products
Grace Chua Straits Times 18 Mar 12;

Your carbon emissions are still too high but, hey, Singapore is doing a great job when it comes to energy efficiency and others can learn from you.

That seems to be the 'yes, but...' response from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in the wake of a rebuttal by Singapore's National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) to scathing remarks about the Republic's greening efforts.

Earlier this month, media reports said that the WWF's Living Planet Report (2010) had named Singapore as having the highest per capita carbon footprint in the Asia-Pacific region.

WWF President Yolada Kakabadse had called Singapore '...maybe one of the best examples of what we should not do'.

Last week, the NCCS - which comes under the Prime Minister's Office - responded sharply, saying the comment 'seriously misrepresents the situation'.

The key bone of contention is the methodology. The WWF counts emissions from goods that a country imports as attributed to that country.

But in the United Nations' methodology, adopted by Singapore, those emissions are attributed to the country producing those goods.

The NCCS also pointed out that ranking countries by per capita carbon emissions disadvantages countries with small populations, and does not reflect Singapore's lack of alternative energy sources.

In the WWF statement put out on Friday, its Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan said: 'Singapore deserves recognition for the many achievements it has made in reducing its carbon footprint, particularly in energy efficiency.

'But in terms of carbon emissions per capita, the country can do more. So WWF welcomes the opportunity to work with the people, private and public sectors, to reduce the burden our current lifestyles are placing on the planet.'

On WWF's methodology, she said: 'Consumption activities are the primary drivers of environmental pressure but production activities are easier to regulate. Therefore both are important.

'However, if you want to understand the environmental impact a high-consumption lifestyle has on a particular place, then you need to look at the final destination.'

National University of Singapore geography associate professor Victor Savage, who studies sustainable development, agreed with the NCCS' point about 'per capita' distortions.

He said using per capita emissions ratings lets large carbon emitters like China, Germany and Australia off the hook. They may not have high per capita emissions, but they are large overall emitters.

But he added that a high per capita emissions ranking can help governments broach the issue with its citizens. 'You can say, 'Your per capita usage of energy is so high; we need to do something.''

Singapore's performance in environmental rankings has varied sharply by the methods and measures used.

In February, a University of British Columbia study ranked the Republic bottom of 150 countries in its 'ecological deficits', meaning it used far more of the earth's resources than it could supply.

In response to that study, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said Singapore should be compared with other city-states, not larger nations with more natural resources.

The Asian Green City Index by technology firm Siemens last year rated Singapore tops in its management of waste and water resources, and gave it high marks in sanitation and environmental governance.

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Chinese move to their eco-city of the future: Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City

The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City - the world's largest eco-city - is not a green, carbon-free paradise where cars are banned from the streets.
Malcolm Moore, in the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City The Telegraph 18 Mar 12;

Instead, as its first residents moved in this month, they found it is remarkably like most other Chinese cities: shrouded in smog and depressingly grey.

But then the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City, just over an hour from Beijing by train, is not supposed to be a whizzy vision of the future.

It is far more practical - model for how Chinese cities could develop and solve some of the enormous problems facing them: permanent gridlock, a lack of water and ruinous electricity bills.

If a few of the small changes adopted in Tianjin were rolled out nationwide, the results could dramatically change China's devastating impact on the environment.

"Our eco-city is an experiment, but it is also practical," said Wang Meng, the deputy director of construction. "There are over 100 eco-cities in the world now, and they are all different. If you look at the one in Abu Dhabi, they spent a huge amount of money and bought a lot of technology. It is very grand, but is it useful?"

To date, almost all of the world's eco-cities have been green follies, crippled by a central paradox: the more they enforce bothersome environmental rules, the less people want to live in them.

In Tianjin, the residents will not be expected to make any particular effort to be green. "If they take the bus and sort their rubbish for recycling, they will be making their contribution," said a spokesman for the city.

Their main contribution, in fact, is to be guinea pigs as planners experiment with the city around them. General Motors, for example, is using Tianjin to work out if electric driverless cars can function in a normal traffic system.

"Some eco-cities are too idealistic. In Tianjin they do not want to stop people from driving, but they do want to put into place policies that will help our vehicles to operate successfully," said Chris Borroni-Bird, the head of GM's autonomous driving project in Detroit.

He said Tianjin will allow GM to road-test the next generation of vehicles: small urban cars that drive themselves but are safe in an environment full of unpredictable drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Not only does China desperately need to solve its traffic problems, but it is one of the few countries that can throw significant resources at new ideas and indeed build cities from scratch in order to experiment.

Other projects on trial include a low energy lighting system from Philips and rubbish bins that can empty themselves, sucking litter into an underground network, by a Swedish company called Envac.

"We are not sure about that one," said a spokesman. "It requires people not to put the wrong sort of rubbish in the bins, or it could jam the system and prove expensive to maintain."

Just over three years ago, the site of the eco-city was a desolate wasteland of abandoned salt pans. An area half the size of Manhattan, it was tainted by decades of chemical pollution from the factories that border it.

By the time it is finished, in the next decade or so, some 250 billion yuan (£25 billion) will have been spent by the Chinese and Singaporean governments, and a number of private companies, on transforming the site into a comfortable home for 350,000 people - 60 families have already moved in.

Already, one new technology has been patented.

"We had an industrial reservoir that was full of heavy metals," said Mr Wang. "It used to be so bad that people could not go near it because of the smell. Now we have cleaned it with a special process that we can send to other parts of the country."

In a country where 70 per cent of the rivers are too polluted to provide drinking water, the technology is likely to be a money-spinner. Having ruined vast swathes of its countryside as it raced to wealth, China is now likely to spend billions on cleaning up the mess.

Elsewhere, the government-owned buildings in the city collect their own rain water for reuse, are powered by geothermal energy, have window shutters that move with the light, in order to keep buildings cool, and heating systems that use solar energy.

In a sign of how seriously the project is being taken, eight out of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the all-powerful council that rules the country, have visited.

"The idea is to create something that can be adapted to other cities in China," said Mr Wang. "What we want to develop is cheap technology that we can industrialise, produce and sell on elsewhere. We have to change people's ideas that being green is expensive."

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Malaysia: Fishermen learn to save turtles themselves

New Straits Times 18 Mar 12;

WIN-WIN: ‘It will result in sustainable fisheries’

KUALA TERENGGANU: THE cooperation of fisherfolk is vital to turtle conservation. Dr Jarina Mohd Jani of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu's Institute of Oceanography and Environment said more efforts were needed to improve relations between fishermen and turtle conservationists.

A turtle that choked to death is found washed ashore in Terengganu. Pic courtesy of WWF-Malaysia

"This enhanced engagement will contribute towards a better understanding of how turtle conservation affects the fisheries sector.

"This will benefit the fishermen as healthy turtle populations contribute towards a healthy ocean and more sustainable fishing livelihoods," she said.

At least 11 dead green turtles (Chelonia mydas) were found washed ashore in Terengganu in the first two months of the year, according to Fisheries Department statistics.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Malaysia said the animals died of drowning after being entangled in the wire mesh of ray nets (pukat pari), which are illegal.

The Fisheries Department seized 134 ray nets in the state's waters from April to September last year under the Fisheries (Prohibited Methods of Fishing) Regulations 1980. However, enforcement remains a challenge, and more stringent measures are needed to ensure that the use of illegal fishing gear is reduced.

Persatuan Khazanah Rakyat Ma'Daerah (Mekar), a community-based environmental non-governmental organisation in Kertih, had organised three turtle rescue and release workshops for about 150 fishermen in 2009 and last year.

The workshops trained participants to rescue and resuscitate turtles accidentally caught in fishing gear, and to subsequently release them back into the sea.

The workshops, which were carried out in collaboration with and co-facillitated by the Fisheries Department, WWF-Malaysia and WWF-Indonesia, are a means of engaging local fishermen through education and awareness activities.

Mekar also advised fishermen to notify the Fisheries Department or WWF-Malaysia of any dead turtles they might find.

Following these workshops, several turtles were rescued by fishermen by applying the techniques they learnt.

Most of the reports received from the public were also the result of the workshops.

Read more: Fishermen learn to save turtles themselves - General - New Straits Times

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Malaysia: Shark-finning ban draft law gets the nod

Muguntan Vanar The Star 19 Mar 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The state government has approved a draft amendment to a provision in the Fisheries Act that would ban shark hunting and finning in Sabah waters.

Tourism, Culture and Environ-ment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun confirmed the state cabinet’s decision for a ban on shark hunting.

“The state Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry has submitted the amendments to its federal counterparts.

“We hope they can take the necessary action to get the proposed provisions enacted,” he said yesterday.

Masidi said that the state was hoping that the process would not take long as Sabah was eager for the ban to be enforced and it could only be done if the federal Fisheries Act was to be amended.

The state government, over a year ago, proposed a ban on shark hunting and finning in an effort to conserve the shark population.

However, the state was unable to impose the ban on its hunting as such a law involved amending the federal Fisheries Act.

The state Fisheries authorities subsequently worked out a draft amendment to the Fisheries Act that would put in place a ban on shark hunting in Sabah waters.

The draft was approved by the state cabinet at its recent meeting and handed over to the federal authorities.

As an interim measure, the Tourism Ministry supported campaigns initiated by NGOs for people to avoid shark fin soup at restaurants.

They also concentrated on raising awareness among target groups like fishmongers to stop selling sharks and shark fins.

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Malaysia: Hornbills get helping hand

New Straits Times 19 Mar 12;

MORE data on when and where hornbills breed is needed in Sabah, according to an expert who conducted an assessment at the Lower Kinabatangan recently.

Professor Pilai Poonswad of the Hornbill Research Foundation and Mahidol University in Thailand said the lack of information on the birds was a cause for concern towards its continued survival.

She led a team of researchers in conducting a week-long study recently with locals from the Sabah Wildlife Department, Hutan-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme and the Danau Girang Field Centre. The effort was funded by Chester and Woodland Park Zoo.

Pilai, who studied and carried out community-based conservation efforts in Thailand the last 33 years, said there was not enough information on the breeding cycles of hornbills in the state while in Lower Kinabatangan there are not many suitable nesting trees.

"I understand that the Lower Kinabatangan is a forest that has previously been extensively logged and I can clearly see it is also now part of the oil palm landscape.

"This means that big trees which are usually preferred by hornbills are missing from this area.

"For example, in a similar site in southern Thailand, Rhinoceros Hornbills on average make nests in trees that have a diameter of about 148cm but in the Lower Kinabatangan, trees that might be suitable were mostly between 40cm to 60cm in diameter.

"Talking to our counterparts here, we know that the Rhinoceros Hornbills are seen along the Lower Kinabatangan, even in flocks, but this doesn't mean they are nesting here.

"They can be seen during non-breeding cycles, which is why it is important to establish the basic information of breeding cycles."

Hutan scientific director Dr Marc Acrenaz said Pilai and her team had helped repair a nesting site near Danau Girang and built another near a homestay in Sukau because of their concern on seeing a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill daily near where they stayed.

"The dedication and passion of the HRF is extraordinary, and I am grateful that they made the time to come down to the Lower Kinabatangan to do this much-needed rapid assessment," said Acrenaza, who added there are eight hornbills species in Lower Kinabatangan.

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Climate 'tech fixes' urged for Arctic methane

Richard Black BBC News 17 Mar 12;

An eminent UK engineer is suggesting building cloud-whitening towers in the Faroe Islands as a "technical fix" for warming across the Arctic.

Scientists told UK MPs this week that the possibility of a major methane release triggered by melting Arctic ice constitutes a "planetary emergency".

The Arctic could be sea-ice free each September within a few years.

Wave energy pioneer Stephen Salter has shown that pumping seawater sprays into the atmosphere could cool the planet.

The Edinburgh University academic has previously suggested whitening clouds using specially-built ships.

At a meeting in Westminster organised by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (Ameg), Prof Salter told MPs that the situation in the Arctic was so serious that ships might take too long.

"I don't think there's time to do ships for the Arctic now," he said.

"We'd need a bit of land, in clean air and the right distance north... where you can cool water flowing into the Arctic."

Favoured locations would be the Faroes and islands in the Bering Strait, he said.

Towers would be constructed, simplified versions of what has been planned for ships.

In summer, seawater would be pumped up to the top using some kind of renewable energy, and out through the nozzles that are now being developed at Edinburgh University, which achieve incredibly fine droplet size.

In an idea first proposed by US physicist John Latham, the fine droplets of seawater provide nuclei around which water vapour can condense.

This makes the average droplet size in the clouds smaller, meaning they appear whiter and reflect more of the Sun's incoming energy back into space, cooling the Earth.
On melting ice

The area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice each summer has declined significantly over the last few decades as air and sea temperatures have risen.

For each of the last four years, the September minimum has seen about two-thirds of the average cover for the years 1979-2000, which is used a baseline. The extent covered at other times of the year has also been shrinking.

What more concerns some scientists is the falling volume of ice.

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, presented an analysis drawing on data and modelling from the PIOMAS ice volume project at the University of Washington in Seattle.

It suggests, he said, that Septembers could be ice-free within just a few years.

"In 2007, the water [off northern Siberia] warmed up to about 5C (41F) in summer, and this extends down to the sea bed, melting the offshore permafrost."

Among the issues this raises is whether the ice-free conditions will quicken release of methane currently trapped in the sea bed, especially in the shallow waters along the northern coast of Siberia, Canada and Alaska.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, though it does not last as long in the atmosphere.

Several teams of scientists trying to measure how much methane is actually being released have reported seeing vast bubbles coming up through the water - although analysing how much this matters is complicated by the absence of similar measurements from previous decades.

Nevertheless, Prof Wadhams told MPs, the release could be expected to get stronger over time.

"With 'business-as-usual' greenhouse gas emissions, we might have warming of 9-10C in the Arctic.

"That will cement in place the ice-free nature of the Arctic Ocean - it will release methane from offshore, and a lot of the methane on land as well."

This would - in turn - exacerbate warming, across the Arctic and the rest of the world.

Abrupt methane releases from frozen regions may have played a major role in two events, 55 and 251 million years ago, that extinguished much of the life then on Earth.

Meteorologist Lord (Julian) Hunt, who chaired the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, clarified that an abrupt methane release from the current warming was not inevitable, describing that as "an issue for scientific debate".

But he also said that some in the scientific community had been reluctant to discuss the possibility.

"There is quite a lot of suppression and non-discussion of issues that are difficult, and one of those is in fact methane," he said, recalling a reluctance on the part of at least one senior scientists involved in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment to discuss the impact that a methane release might have.
Reluctant solutions

The field of implementing technical climate fixes, or geo-engineering, is full of controversy, and even those involved in researching the issue see it as a last-ditch option, a lot less desirable than constraining greenhouse gas emissions.

"Everybody working in geo-engineering hopes it won't be needed - but we fear it will be," said Prof Salter.

Adding to the controversy is that some of the techniques proposed could do more harm than good.

The idea of putting dust particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, mimicking the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions, would in fact be disastrous for the Arctic, said Prof Salter, with models showing it would increase temperatures at the pole by perhaps 10C.

And last year, the cloud-whitening idea was also criticised by scientists who calculated that using the wrong droplet size could lead to warming - though Prof Salter says this can be eliminated through experimentation.

He has not so far embarked on a full costing of the land-based towers, but suggests £200,000 as a ballpark figure.

Depending on the size and location, Prof Salter said that in the order of 100 towers would be needed to counteract Arctic warming.

However, no funding is currently on the table for cloud-whitening. A proposal to build a prototype ship for about £20m found no takers, and currently development work is limited to the lab.

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