Best of our wild blogs: 1 Apr 12

Photo Blog: Excursion to Raffles Lighthouse with MOS Tan Chuan-Jin from Psychedelic Nature

Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Strange worm-like creature found on Pasir Ris Beach
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Life History of the Malayan Snow Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

A Rare Butterfly at UPR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Tanimbar Cockatoo eating seeds of the drumstick
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Bungalow owner wants to barbeque civet cat for dinner after it destroyed his phone wires from Lazy Lizard's Tales

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CDL protecting eagles nesting on site

Grace Chua Straits Times 1 Apr 12;

After acquiring a Choa Chu Kang site last year, property developer City Developments Limited (CDL) came across two unusual residents: two majestic white-bellied sea eagles nesting in a towering albizia tree (above).

Photo: City Developments Limited

Construction at the executive condominium site has now begun, and CDL is looking to minimise the harm to its feathered tenants. It has agreed to its biodiversity consultant's recommendation to start work from the other end of the 1.75ha site.

The wooded patch, including the tree with the nest, has been retained, at least for the next few months, and protective hoarding put up around it, said CDL head of green building Allen Ang.

Foundation work such as piling is being resequenced from mid-May in stages, starting with the south end of the site, farthest away from the nest.

Choa Chu Kang resident Boris Chan, 48, first found the birds, a male and a female, in April last year, nesting at the plot off Choa Chu Kang Drive. He posted photos on social networking site Facebook.

White-bellied sea eagles, which are native to Singapore and range from India to Australia, mate for life.

They often return to the same tree or area to nest year after year, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, who was commissioned for the CDL study.

This year, the pair had returned to nest, and they have at least one chick. The nest will be monitored daily at least until fledging, when the feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight, which takes some 70 to 80 days in all.

The construction site itself will be monitored for the impact on biodiversity for about a year.

Once the chicks have flown off, the albizia will be cut down because it is diseased and at risk of toppling.

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Their (p)art for Mother Earth

One is an award-winning marine photographer, the other an ecological artist who traces the DNA of teak furniture. They have harnessed their artistic passions to the desire to get people to care more for Gaia
alicia wong Today Online 1 Apr 12;

They were scuba diving in Indonesia when they came across a fishing net, illegally placed at the marine sanctuary. Caught inside was a struggling turtle. Moved to act, Mr Aaron Wong and his companions cut the net and freed the turtle, which would otherwise have drowned.

The turtle might have been grateful, but the fishermen who lost their net were not.

Come evening, one fisherman steered his small boat alongside the divers' vessel and confronted them, waving a machete. Both sides shouted heatedly. The fisherman finally left when the divers threatened to call the coast guard and offered a small compensation.

Recounting the incident, Mr Wong said that while he sympathises with the plight of these fishermen, he also believes there can be "sustainability in everything we do".

The 35-year-old was speaking to Today ahead of the launch of his new marine fine art photography book, The Blue Within, this month. His first book, Water.Colors, was released last year.

"It aims to highlight the beauty of our blue planet and why we need to protect it," said the Singaporean photographer, who has combined his twin passions of diving and photography to produce numerous award-winning shots.

His images have won several international honours, including the BBC wildlife photographer award, and have been displayed in the Natural History Museum in London. His work has also been published in dive publications such as Scuba Diving (USA), Asian Geographic, Underwater Photography and Scuba Diver AustralAsia, where he contributes as a field editor.


Mr Wong's marine love affair budded when he was only nine or 10, accompanying his father on fishing trips. He started scuba diving soon after.

The seasoned diver is passionate about saving the world's oceans and, with sharks playing a "phenomenal role in the entire eco-system of the ocean", shark-finning is an issue he is most concerned about.

"Most people are very well informed, but they still choose to consume shark's fin because they don't feel it's their problem," believes Mr Wong, a Singapore ambassador of Shark Savers, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organisation currently campaigning for Singapore to be shark fin-free by next year.

Mr Wong talks about sharks with reverence. Describing them as the "apex predator", he recalls the "zen-like moment while diving when everything slows down" as he goes "eyeball to eyeball" with a shark. In spite of its predator's strength, it is almost "gentle" as it swims past you, as wary of you as you are of it, he says - criticising the Discovery Channel's Shark Week programme for perpetuating shark-phobia by portraying them mainly as ferocious creatures.


Pursuing his other passion, photography, did not come easy. Fresh out of the army, he had wanted to take a course in film, sound and video but, as an N-levels graduate with no O-levels, he was not eligible. So instead he toiled hard as a photographer's assistant, making S$800 a month.

He worked as a commercial photographer in advertising and fashion for several years, then opened his first photography studio, and later joined production house Hanchew Studios as chief photographer before moving on to freelance work.

Ten years ago, feeling burned out, he ventured into underwater photography and found "a new lease of life". But winning recognition for his style of "creative interpretations of nature" was tough.

Describing himself as an emotionally-driven "bohemian", he referenced the surreal oil paintings of marine life artist Robert Wyland, whose works have helped raise awareness of the conservation agenda. "As a photographer, in every way, you are an artist. He paints with oil, you paint with light. Instead of shooting very documentary-style pictures ... I started taking a lot of pictures like that (abstract wildlife)."

At first, no one appeared to appreciate his style. A photograph he submitted to regional underwater competitions did not even get into the semi-finals. "You start to realise, maybe your perception of 'nice' is very far from the general public's."

Later he wondered if it was because the Asian audience was just "not mature enough", so in 2008 he sent the same photo to the BBC's wildlife photography competition - and it won in the animal portrait category.

"So I continued shooting all these weird, different shots. And I started to develop this style which I call dark light" - where a well-lit subject is placed against a dark background - and, since then, he added, this style has been "all the hype".

"From then on, I basically won every award I could think of," he stated matter-of-factly.


Over the last three years, Mr Wong has been travelling monthly, invited by dive operators and tourism boards to talk about his experiences. He dives at least once a month and counts Indonesia among his favourite spots.

One of his most challenging experiences was a recent trip to World Natural Heritage site Shiretoko in Hokkaido. It is the only place in Asia where divers can dive under ice. There, Mr Wong and famous Japanese free diver Ai Futaki, a Guinness World Records holder, dived at -5°C.

"It's scary, ice as far as your eyes can see," he admitted. "Moments like this, you feel good just to be alive."

He intends to dive at the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador come October, and in Antarctica next year.

His latest 150-page photography book, with a 1,000-word foreword written by renowned underwater photographer David Doubilet, contains images taken on his adventures over the last decade. The book (retail price US$60 or S$75) will be launched at the Asia Dive Expo, which runs from April 13 to 15 at Marina Bay Sands, along with a photo gallery of his work.

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Klang hit by flash floods

Mazlinda Mahmood and G. Surach New Straits Times 31 Mar 12;

FLASH flood struck various parts here yesterday morning, inundating homes and forcing the closure of several schools.

Among those affected were Taman Sri Andalas, Taman Selatan, Taman Bayu Perdana, Taman Melawis, Taman Sentosa, Taman Sg Ujong, Taman Palmgrove, Taman Chi Liung, Kampung Delek and Padang Jawa.

Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan La Salle, SMK Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Simpang Lima, SMK ACS Klang, SMK (P) Methodist Klang, SM Teknik Klang and SM Sungai Udang were among the schools that had to declare "an emergency holiday" as the roads heading to the schools were under water.

Residents believe the flash floods, which occurred at 6am after more than 10 hours of rain, was exacerbated by the failure of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage personnel to open the floodgates and the uncollected garbage blocking the drains.

A Taman Selatan resident, who only wanted to be known as Frances, 57, said yesterday's flash flood was the first time her housing area was hit by floods in her 30 years' of living there.

The corporate communication executive said she believed flood waters rose up to one metre chiefly because of the blocked drains around the housing area.

"Since Alam Flora's contract was terminated, nobody has come to clean the rubbish piling up in the drains. Previously, Alam Flora employees used to clean the drains at least once a month.

"We have complained many times but no one has come to clear the rubbish. Residents are now terrified every time it rains."

FLY FM deejay and 8TV personality Prem Shanker, said he got up at 5am to find his porch in ankle-deep water.

"The water seeped into the living hall and kitchen as well," he said, adding that he helped several residents heading to work in the morning by directing traffic to prevent cars from breaking down in flood waters.

Selangor DID director Abdul Qahar Osman denied that the flash floods was caused by DID failure to manage the floodgates but was caused mainly because of high tides and rain. He said a rainfall of 87mm was recorded at Selat Muara yesterday, compared to the normal reading of 50mm.

The high tide at 11.30pm on Thursday caused water to rise up to four metres before it receded soon after. However, the high tide phenomena recurred early yesterday morning, causing waters to rise up to 3.8 metres in coastal areas, especially in the vicinity of Port Klang.

"Rainfall around Klang was also reported to top 85mm, following the non-stop rain since 1am yesterday," he said. "This caused water to overflow, cutting off some of the roads in the city."

Voices of outrage now flood Klang
Mazlinda Mahmood and G. Surach New Straits Times 1 Apr 12;

DISGRUNTLED residents, furious at the lack of response from local and state authorities, began counting their losses from Friday's flash flood. The possibility of this incident becoming a regular occurrence is giving them sleepless nights.

A visit by the New Sunday Times to Taman Selatan here yesterday found residents busy cleaning their houses. More than 10 hours of rain had inundated their homes with water at knee-level. Long-time resident and retiree M. Dawson, 64, said the flood was the worst he had experienced and was the first to strike his house in the past 40 years.

He believed it was caused by inefficient drain maintenance when the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) did not pick up from where Alam Flora Sdn Bhd had left off.

"Previously Alam Flora came to clean the drains at least once a month, but ever since its contract was terminated, we have yet to see anyone doing it.

"This area has many old residents, especially retirees. Many had to leave their cars and houses when the floodwaters rose. What if a tragedy had occurred, like an old person slipping and falling?" he asked, adding that his losses included some furniture costing RM1,000.

Dawson's neighbour, S. Pushpa, 48, said residents in Lebuh Jelutong had to clean the drains themselves without help from MPK.

"We have to do the cleaning despite paying quit rent and assessments yearly. How is this fair to the residents?"

Checks in other areas such as Taman Gembira, Taman Bayu Perdana, Taman Palm Grove and Taman Chi Liung also saw residents clearing up the mess. Anxiety grew again when another round of rain at 4am yesterday threatened to flood the areas.

Some residents expressed outrage and disgust after seeing rats and cockroaches rushing out of drains and onto the roads.

According to Taman Gembira resident R. Giridaran, 29, his house was overrun by the pests when floodwaters entered his porch.

Siti Aminah Abdullah, 48, of Kampung Delek, hoped that drain maintenance in residential areas could be carried out every week as she did not want the flash floods to become a regular feature.

She said the local authorities should also be more sensitive to flood victims and not take their plight lightly.

Checks at SMK Tengku Ampuan Rahimah nearby showed several teachers and workers cleaning up classrooms and the compound.

Headmaster Rahmah Arsad said the school was flooded up to one metre.

"We lost almost everything, at least 40 computers in the lab and furniture, including tables and chairs, and office equipment such as photostat machines and printers."

She said some documents and a collection of school magazines over the past 40 years were also destroyed.

According to Selangor Education director Abdullah Mad Yunus, Friday's flash floods here had caused RM500,000 in damage at 15 schools. He said the estimated losses included furniture and electrical items which could not be saved in time as the floodwaters rose quickly before dawn.

"We have already informed the Education Ministry of the estimated damage but the exact amount is still not known. The Kampung Raja Uda primary school, and a computer lab and three blocks of classrooms at SK Teluk Gadong were still without electricity," he said yesterday.

Abdullah said the worst affected school was SMK Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, which was also flooded on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said floodwaters had breached the school's 500m flood barrier built 20 years ago. The school was said to experience flash floods about eight times a year since the 1980s.

When asked whether the department had considered shifting the school to a new location, Abdullah said it had done so.

"However, schools like this have their own ethos and usually do not want to move. Therefore, we are considering other options like moving the administration office to a higher floor to minimise damage."

As of noon yesterday, Abdullah said the department did not received any more reports of schools being flooded, and all 15 schools were being cleaned up. Eight schools were closed on Friday while seven remained opened although they were still flooded.

Klang residents living in fear of recurrence of flash floods
Teh Eng Hock, Muguntan Vanar, Ong Han Sean and Nik Naizi Husin The Star 1 Apr 12;

KLANG: Residents are living in fear of a recurrence of the flash floods that hit Klang on Tuesday and Friday.

Many were up early and prepared for the worst when it started to rain at about 4.30am yesterday but luckily, the downpour was not heavy enough to wreak havoc.

Port terminal manager R. Maran, 41, said he woke up immediately when he heard thunder at 4.30am and constantly checked to see if water levels were rising.

“It has become a phobia. I couldn't go back to sleep even though I had been up cleaning until 1am,” said Maran yesterday.

Like Maran, housewife M. Mariayae, 66, was equally anxious after having gone through the previous day's nightmare.

“I worry when it rains. I had never experienced flooding as severe as this in the 12 years that I've been living here,” she said at her house in Taman Petaling here.

She said her family had to discard many items, such as bags and rugs, as they were damaged by the floodwater.

Klang Municipal Council (MPK) contractors were also going around in lorries to collect damaged furniture and other bulk items discarded by residents in Taman Sri Andalas, Taman Selatan, Taman Bayu Perdana, Padang Jawa and Taman Chi Liung.

Entire sofa sets and shelves were dumped on the roadside of Taman Bayu Perdana, Taman Petaling and Taman Palmgrove, and the lorries were quickly filled to the brim.

Former MPK councillor Tee Boon Hock said the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) had tabled a masterplan to the council on flood mitigation for the Klang district in 2009.

“It would have taken about five years to implement. However, it did not take off due to a lack of funds. The project costs more than RM1bil and is in need of federal funds.

“The problem is that there is over-development in Klang and the old drainage system cannot cope,” he said.

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