Best of our wild blogs: 8 Apr 12

Why balloons by the sea is heart-breaking
from wild shores of singapore

Spectacular St. John's Island
from wild shores of singapore

The fate of a trapped urban civet
from Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Photographing Swallowtails
from Butterflies of Singapore

Cream-vented Bulbul having an evening bath
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Weird spiky bug spotted near Yishun block gives passerby the creeps from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Watch your step! This creature is a jellyfish, not a plastic bottle

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Bottle Tree Park may have to go

Master tenant fails to get lease extended, but can take part in public tender
Jose Hong Straits Times 8 Apr 12;

It shuttered its operations at Bottle Tree Village in Sembawang in February when its lease expired.

But now, the same master tenant may have to let its other operation, Bottle Tree Park in Yishun, go.

After eight years, Planar One & Associates' lease on the 7ha park opposite Yishun Stadium will run out in October, and although it appealed to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to extend its lease, the government agency has said no.

In response to queries by The Sunday Times, SLA said it puts up a property for public tender when a tenancy expires, 'for fairness and transparency'.

This is so that other interested parties can have a go at bidding for use of the land. Planar One can also participate in the tender, said a spokesman for SLA.

Mr Alex Neo, managing director of Planar One, confirmed that the company did submit an appeal for an extension, but would not say more now that the appeal has been rejected.

Planar One ran Bottle Tree Village in Sembawang for eight years. The 8,671sq m rustic enclave had a popular seafood restaurant and offered recreational activities like fishing.

Bottle Tree Park, at Lorong Chencharu, has a seafood restaurant, a Japanese eatery and facilities for activities such as paintball, fishing and prawn hunting.

It also houses a non-profit organisation called Ground-Up Initiative.

The property will be put up for tender for lease of up to two terms of three years each, for recreational fishing, recreational horticulture, a campsite, adventure training ground, plant nursery, agriculture, and fish- and bird-farm use.

Tenants The Sunday Times spoke to expressed sadness that the place might close.

Ms Lily Chow, managerial assistant of Botoru Ki Japanese Restaurant & Bar, revealed that the three-year-old restaurant had yet to cover its start-up cost of $150,000.

'Business has only started to pick up these few months,' she said.

One of the tenants which will be most affected by the closure is Ground-Up Initiative.

Its founder and self-described 'kampung chief', Mr Tay Lai Hock, said the group, which connects people back to nature through activities such as farming, pays nothing for the use of the land and gets free equipment and labour from the management whenever required.

Yesterday afternoon, families were seen having a good time at the prawn and fishing ponds.

Among them was Mr Victor Yeow, country general manager of International SOS, who was with his wife and two children.

'We should try to keep some of these places,' he said as his son searched for fish in the pond. 'I'm concerned that more and more places like this are going to be taken over.'

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Monkey trouble

Monkeys, snakes and wild boars have been known to enter houses even in Singapore's urban landscape
Liew Wei Lin and Toh Wen Li Straits Times 8 Apr 12;

Wild boars crashing into your backyard, pesky monkeys snatching your food on your morning walk, snakes crawling into your home - it is tough being an urbanite in Singapore.

Singapore may be a skyscrapered, bustling city, but encounters with wildlife from its jungle pockets do rear their heads.

Take for instance residents in the modern terrace housing along Hindhede Place. They may be just a walk away from Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, but they are also at the foot of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - and have learnt the hard way not to walk down the street with a bag of groceries in their hands.

Monkeys in the area can recognise a food-filled bag when they see one, says 50-year-old Mrs Chan, an administrator who lives in a semi-detached house there with her family, and who wishes to be known only by her last name.

'When my children buy snacks and walk back in from the main road, the monkeys spot the grocery bags and chase them,' she says.

One of her neighbours, 48-year-old freelance energy consultant Henry Yee, adds that their rubbish bins are easily toppled by the monkeys, resulting in a trail of trash and fights for the food.

Residents have taken to strapping bungee cords over the lids or putting bricks on top so that monkeys cannot get in.

Over at Marigold Drive in Upper Thomson, monkeys are such a nuisance that some residents resorted to laying traps. But the monkeys were not fooled. 'They stopped coming,' says Ms Aty Witomihargo, a 37-year-old domestic helper.

Some residents along Old Upper Thomson Road have even placed spikes on their backyard walls to prevent monkeys climbing over.

Finding bats beneath lampshades in your home, monitor lizards in a water feature and a huge snake in the house were some of the stories shared by residents in the Upper Thomson area whom LifeStyle spoke to.

Says Mr Lim Soo Tiah, 62, a businessman, whose backyard overlooks MacRitchie Reservoir: 'We once had a 2m-long green snake curled up on the piano. I guess it's part and parcel of living so close to nature.'

And two weeks ago, late at night, a wild boar crashed into the home of Mr Chang Nam Yuen, 60, who lives in Lower Peirce. He contacted the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) for help.

Says businessman Chong Yin Fong, 71, who lives in Old Upper Thomson Road: 'Wild boars start to appear between five and seven in the evening, with a group of six or seven coming together to look for food.'

So what should the Singaporean urbanite do in an animal encounter?

He can install grilles and shut his doors but if this does not work, he can contact pest control agencies such as Aardwolf Pestkare and Rentokil, along with Acres, which has a wildlife rescue programme.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority received 570 calls last year on wild animal sightings or nuisance issues. It coordinates and liaises with relevant agencies on follow-up action.

The police should not be called and neither should the Singapore Civil Defence Force unless ambulance assistance is needed.

If you encounter a wild animal on a nature trail, wildlife experts advise that you walk away from it and do not display signs of aggression such as baring your teeth. Parkgoers are also advised to not eat in nature reserves and to store food in haversacks instead of plastic bags.

Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum says: 'We need to learn how to co-exist with wildlife while reducing the likelihood of unpleasant encounters. But these wild animals have been here for as long as the forest has been. Understanding them would reduce the chances of human-wildlife conflict.'

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Sting operation nabs online sellers of illegal animals

Jose Hong Straits Times 8 Apr 12;

A couple were caught trying to sell an illegal ball python in a recent sting operation mounted by animal advocacy group Animals Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

The man and woman had advertised online the sale of one ball python, describing it as 'super tame', a 'juvenile' and of a 'unique coloration'.

Acting on a tip-off, an Acres staff member posed as a prospective buyer and met the seller in Serangoon Central on March 30.

Under the Endangered Species Act, ball pythons are not allowed for sale in Singapore. Ball pythons are non-venomous snakes indigenous to Africa, and are known to roll themselves into the shape of a ball when threatened.

Mr Gerald Neo, executive manager of the AVA's wildlife section, said: 'Investigations are under way and a 20-year-old individual is assisting AVA.'

This comes after a 28-year-old man was caught on March 20 and subsequently fined $5,200 for keeping 13 hedgehogs, which he tried to sell online.

The ball python and 13 hedgehogs are now with Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Singapore is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) international agreement.

It seized the largest number of illegal live animals and animal parts in 2004, with 59 cases. Last year, it made 20 seizures. All of these were shipped from overseas.

Under Singapore's Endangered Species Act, anyone caught importing, exporting, re-exporting or possessing any species scheduled in the Act without a permit can be fined up to $50,000 per species, with a cap of $500,000, and/or jailed for up to two years.

Trading in such animals causes many problems.

Mr Neo said: 'They may introduce and spread diseases to humans and domestic animals, and Singapore's biodiversity would be greatly affected if such exotic pets were released into the wild, as most of them are non-native.'

Also, unsuitable living conditions and a lack of knowledge in their proper care may compromise the animals' welfare.

AVA monitors online forums and will investigate any alleged sale of illegal wildlife online when alerted.

Anyone with reliable feedback on the sale of illegal wildlife can contact AVA on 6227-0670 or Acres on 9783-7782. All information shared will be kept confidential.

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Malaysia: Orang utan need quality forests

The Star 8 Apr 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A wildlife study has reaffirmed the need for large swaths of forests for the orang utan to survive.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said the findings by Malaysian, British and Swiss researchers were further proof that the orang utan needed high-quality natural forests.

“Ultimately, a sufficient network of high-quality natural forest and dispersal corridors must be restored across Borneo and Sumatra to allow the orang utan to disperse naturally,” he said.

“It is a big challenge; governments, industries and NGOs should work hand-in-hand to achieve it.”

The study, conducted by researchers from the Institute of Anthropology in Zurich, Switzerland, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in Sabah and Cardiff University in Britain, was published in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology recently.

DGFC director Benoit Goosens said the findings showed that the male orang utan would traverse longer distances than the females.

This was based on faecal samples collected from male orang utan at seven sites in Borneo, including Kinabatangan South and North and Danum Valley in Sabah, and two in Sumatra.

“During a previous study published in 2006, a drastic decline in the orang utan population size was discovered, mostly due to habitat loss,” said Goosens.

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Sabah anglers against shark ban

Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 8 Apr 12;

INCOMES HIT: Call to consider setting up no fishing zones instead

KOTA KINABALU: THE idea of a shark ban has not gone down well with those who consume, catch or sell the fish in Sabah.

Traditional fishermen and restaurant operators are against the proposal to amend the Fisheries Act 1985 and make shark fishing illegal.

They made the call at a forum recently organised by the Fisheries Department following the circulation of pictures showing fishermen cutting up sharks in Semporna. Arguments from fishermen who attended the forum and a statement from restaurant operators poured cold water on the proposal to ban shark fishing.

To traditional fishermen, sharks are a source of food and income. They claim there is no way for them to avoid catching them when they set out their nets.

Tuaran Fishermen's Association board member Sidin Atun, who was among 30 fishermen present during the forum, said sharks caught were not wasted.

"We either sell them or eat them. To ban shark fishing would deprive us of our income and even of our food," said Sidin.

Another fisherman Abdul Karim said the government could consider establishing no fishing zones at marine parks or islands where sharks are found.

Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurant and Chefs Association president Lim Vun Chan said the ban would only profit the tourism industry but not others.

Lim said the government should instead consider setting up a sanctuary for the fish rather than push for a total ban on shark fishing.

"Restaurant operators that serve sharks also do not waste the fish as everything could be served, from the skin right to the bones."

A senior researcher from the federal Fisheries Department Ahmad Ali said sharks were not killed specifically for their fins in Malaysia.

Ahmad Ali is also the Southeast Asia co-regional vice-chairman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist Group.

Semporna district officer Ibnu AK Baba said there were two sides to the issue in his district -- one point of view came from those who catch sharks for food and the other from those who bring tourists to view sharks at sea.

"The government should instead look for a win-win solution," said Ibnu.

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Oil poisoning? Alarming sea animal deaths on India's west coast

Deccan Chronicle 8 Apr 12;

Two giant Baleen's humpback whale sharks washed up dead on the Mumbai and Thane beaches in separate incidents last week. This was preceded by a Bryde's whale shark getting washed ashore at a beach in Ratnagiri, around 250 km south of Mumbai.

In the past couple of months alone, over a dozen dead dolphins, usually seen frolicking in the calm blue-green Konkan coast waters, washed up on different virgin beaches in the region.

Conservationists suspect chemical or oil poisoning.

"All these instances are not natural. There's something more serious than we are aware of and it needs a detailed probe," said a visibly disturbed Vishwas (Bhau) Katdare, who is spearheading conservation efforts for turtles, vultures and other animals in the Konkan through the NGO Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra (SNM).

At times, a turtle or a huge fish may get entangled in the thousands of fishing nets cast off the coasts, Katdare said.

"Most of them are saved as the fishermen disentangle them and release them back into the sea and hardly one or two of the unlucky ones may succumb. We get one or two such instances in a month," Katdare explained.

But the alarm bells rang when in late March, a dozen big and small Olive Ridley turtles were found dead on various Konkan beaches. This was in addition to over five dozen turtles of different varieties being reported dead on Konkan beaches, right from Ratnagiri to Thane, in the past month or so.

A shocking incident was reported Friday from Velas in Ratnagiri district by a school teacher and an amateur conservationist, Mohan Upadhye.

"I had taken my two pet dogs to the beach for their morning walk. There, out of curiosity, they happened to lick a carcass of a turtle lying on the beach. Around three hours later, they both mysteriously died at my home. I have no clue as to what happened," Upadhye said.

Last month, at least two full-grown cows which had strayed on the beaches in Shriwardhan and Dive-agar had unwittingly licked turtle carcasses and fell dead after a few hours in the village, Upadhye said.

Expressing outrage, Himanshu Shah, director, Nature and Adventure Centre of the prestigious Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai, said, "This reeks of chemical or oil poisoning."

"In the past few years, Mumbai and surrounding coasts have witnessed many sunken ships, oil spills and other forms of assaults by humans on nature. This could be one of the reasons for the large number of sea animal deaths on beaches and a warning that we cannot continue to tamper with the natural surroundings," Shah said.

Katdare said SNM has already informed the authorities about the ongoing developments in the Konkan region and if necessary, he plans to write to the state and central governments on the issue.

"The worst aspect is that the scientific autopsies of these dead creatures are not being carried out to ascertain what could have caused so many deaths in such a short period, whether it is pollution or chemical poisoning or some other reasons," Katdare pointed out.

He said it was ironical that just as SNM and Kirat Trust had been successively involved in saving hundreds of turtle hatchlings since December 2011-March 2012, these were now dying on the beaches.

"In the past 10 years, we have managed to save over 35,000 turtle eggs from natural and human predators here and released them safely into the Arabian Sea," Katdare said.

The Konkan is one of the biggest nesting grounds for Olive Ridley, sea green and other giant and small turtles in the world, and the annual turtle festivals attract tourists and conservationists from all over the world here.

Shah called upon the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies as well as the fisherfolk to take immediate steps to ensure that ships sailing in and around the Konkan region do not discharge chemical wastes, hazardous pollutants or leak oils in the Arabian Sea.

"Currently, it is these mute and innocent sea animals. The next on the list could be humans," Shah warned.

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