Best of our wild blogs: 9 Apr 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [2 - 8 Apr 2012]
from Green Business Times

22 Apr: Earth Day in Singapore
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Giant clams at Terumbu Pempang Tengah
from wild shores of singapore

Angler who injured turtle with fish hook should be shamed
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Call of the Mangrove Pitta at Pasir Ris
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
from Monday Morgue

Punggol Waterway Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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Biologists to study Singapore corals' mass spawning this week

Jose Hong Straits Times 9 Apr 12;

THE underwater world is about to put up a spectacular display - one resembling an aquatic snowstorm of pink flurries.

Known as the mass coral spawning event, billions of eggs and sperm will be simultaneously released into the water by Singapore's coral reefs.

Coral in Singapore's reefs releasing egg-sperm bundles in the mass coral spawning event in 2010. The egg-sperm bundles will break up upon reaching the surface of the sea to allow fertilisation to occur. A similar release is expected from tomorrow to Friday. -- PHOTO: KARENNE TUN

A team of eight biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and National Parks Board will be documenting the annual event here by diving into the waters at the Southern Islands below Sentosa - from tomorrow to Friday, the days when the bulk of the spawning is expected to take place.

Although mass coral spawning occurs worldwide, it is especially meaningful in the Singapore context.

Dr James Guest, a coral reef research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University, said that in addition to the high sedimentation caused by development, reefs here are greatly impacted by high seaweed growth, thought to be detrimental to coral life.

Yet, past spawning events have shown that the corals here are 'capable of replenishing themselves', he said.

Furthermore, there is another reason to keep a close watch on the corals this year: to see how the reefs have recovered from the mass coral bleaching of 2010, when unusually warm ocean temperatures ravaged reefs around the world, including those off Singapore's coast.

Ms Karenne Tun, a PhD candidate at NUS, whose research is related to coral reef management, noted that the coral spawning last year was 'rather muted'.

She is one of the eight divers who will be going underwater this week to observe the event.

Ms Tun said: 'This year will be important to see if the corals have fully recovered from the bleaching by assessing the magnitude of the spawning.'

Spawning occurs only for a few nights each year shortly after the March or April full moon, during which flurries of gametes - usually pink - slowly drift about in the dark waters.

Because the release is concentrated in a small window of two to three hours, the biologists say they must work quickly to record the timings and species of corals which are reproducing.

So far, of the 255 coral species recorded in Singapore, only 69 have been documented to release their reproductive cells this time of the year.

This is because many coral species in Singapore are rare, and some complete spawning very quickly, so 'trying to catch them in the act is very difficult', said Dr Guest.

The marine biologist, who is not taking part in this week's dive, said he will use the available data here to publish a 10-year data set on Singapore's reefs. In doing so, he hopes others will use the information to better manage Singapore's reef ecosystem.

To Dr Guest, corals found here are 'as much a part of Singapore's heritage as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Chinatown'.

He added: 'The fact that they are spawning shows that they are persisting, and we need to protect them.'

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Singaporeans too busy to appreciate nature

Letter from Heng Cho Choon Today Online 9 Apr 12;

MR GORDON Reid's letter "This foreigner sees another side of Singapore" (April 7) strikes a chord with me as a nature lover.

The Singapore Flyer is a commercial project and the manicured lawns of the Botanic Gardens are too artificial to attract urbanites who long for the rustic outdoors.

Meanwhile, more of Singapore's forests, cemeteries and kampungs are making way for development and the living, who need more living space. Nonetheless, the National Parks Board spends millions each year to build park connectors and parks.

If Mr Reid had scrutinised the flora and waters of MacRitchie Reservoir, he would have found, perhaps surprisingly, that the place has butterflies galore and the pitcher plant (Nepenthes gracilis) grows in abundance near the water's edge.

The irony is that citizens hardly have time to enjoy the parks. Mr Reid hardly saw children there because they are immersed in their studies, tuition, ballet and music lessons.

Learn to spend more time in the outdoors
Letter from Ricky Jiang Shang Zhi Today Online 9 Apr 12;

Thank you, Mr Gordon Reid, for highlighting the peaceful, green and natural side of Singapore, in the letter "This foreigner sees another side of Singapore" (April 7).

It is a pity that this is not being promoted more to tourists and locals. Too much has been spent instead to promote the brightly-lit malls, casinos and theme parks.

Singaporeans, young and old, should learn to spend more time with nature instead of staying indoors in air-conditioning.

This foreigner sees another side of Singapore
Letter from Gordon Reid Today Online 7 Apr 12;

As a foreigner who has lived and worked here, I wanted to experience Singapore from an angle that did not include a theme park, shopping, entertainment or commercial experience.

Visiting one of the tourist visitor centres for ideas was an experience in itself.

I asked about the outdoors and walks I could find. I was met by a confused look and was told: "It's too hot for that. Why not see Universal Studios or the Singapore Flyer?"

So I asked about parks where I could get away from it all.

I was told about East Coast Park and the Botanic Gardens. I also checked the maps and was pleasantly surprised to find some wonderful areas of peace, green space and natural life.

First, I took the Mass Rapid Transit to Kent Ridge and walked along a winding road through a forest till I reached Kent Ridge Park.

It was delightful. During my walk, I saw some amazing birds, reptiles and butterflies. The view of the sea was lovely, too.

My path ended at a boardwalk with information about some significant historical events.

Next, I went to Labrador Nature Reserve and its nearby mangrove and coastal walk, all accessible from Labrador Park MRT Station. Once again, I was surrounded by peace and quiet, flora and fauna.

I ended the week with an 11.5km trek starting at MacRitchie Reservoir, accessible again via the MRT and bus. It was incredible that I was one of the few souls in these parks, which were free and easy to access.

At the same time, the shopping centres and streets were packed, with everyone shopping, looking for a table and queuing, while I took a bottle of water and packed lunch from home. I had no need to be entertained, nor was I compelled to buy.

I saw Singapore from a different perspective. It was a wonderful experience, yet I was saddened that I hardly saw anyone, especially children, in the outdoors.

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WWF Malaysia urges government to ban eating of turtle eggs

The Star 9 Apr 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia has urged the government to amend the Fisheries Act 1985 to ban the eating of turtle eggs.

WWF Terengganu Turtle Conservation Programme head Rahayu Zulkifli said the sale of turtle eggs openly shows lack of public awareness although many are aware that turtles are threatened with extinction.

"WWF fears that slow government action in banning eating of turtle eggs will cause extinction as landing of four species of turtles, the leatherback, hawksbill, green and olive ridley, off Terengganu coast has dropped.

"So far, only the leatherback turtle eggs are banned but WWF wants the ban on eating of turtle eggs to cover all species," she told Bernama here Sunday.

Turtle eggs are still readily available at Pasar Payang, the state's main tourist attraction.

Rahayu said many tourists visit Terengganu to sample turtle eggs as they can be easily buy them as Sabah and Sarawak had banned the sale and eating of turtle eggs.

The Malaysian government last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the management and conservation of turtles in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia (IOSEA) which seeks to protect endangered species but no follow-up was done.

WWF also submitted a memorandum on the importance of banning the sale and eating of turtle eggs to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last year but no progress was made. - Bernama

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Indonesia: Deforestation Pits Elephants Against Man in Nunukan

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 7 Apr 12;

Balikpapan. Elephants are increasingly coming into conflict with humans in the East Kalimantan district of Nunukan as more of the forest is cleared away for palm oil plantations and timber estates, a wildlife activist said on Friday.

Wiwin Effendi, a coordinator for the East Kalimantan chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, said a 2007 survey estimated the elephant population in Nunukan at between 30 and 80, with most of the animals located in Tobun Onsoi subdistrict.

“Elephants are now venturing into human settlements about once every seven months, and this has been going on since 2006. Companies have to help people shoo the elephants away from their fields,” Wiwin said.

But he warned that with more of their forest habitat disappearing, the elephants would come into more frequent contact with villages on the rim of the forest, increasing the risk for both humans and animals.

Wiwin said his organization was planning to release updated information on the elephant population in Nunukan in June.

Rahmat Suba, a biodiversity conservation lecturer at Mulawarman University in Samarinda, the provincial capital, said the government needed to limit the large-scale clearing of forests for plantations and mines.

“If the land near the elephants’ habitat is cleared, it is only natural that the elephants will find their food sources depleted,” he said. “And when that happens, herds of elephants will rampage through human settlements in search of food.”

He said the elephants in Nunukan mostly lived near the Sibuda, Afgison and Apan rivers.

He said that despite their smaller size, elephants in Kalimantan required about two hectares of forest to feed each day.

The Borneo elephant, also called the Borneo pygmy elephant, is much smaller than its cousins in the jungles of Sumatra.

It has been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation as the main threats to the species.

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Malaysia: Demand for exotic pets worrying

New Straits Times 9 Apr 12;

VICTIMS: Animals get sick or die as owners don't know how to care for them

Every time one passes a pet shop, the song How much is that doggie in the window made popular by Doris Day in the 1930s, and subsequently sung by Patti Page, comes to mind.

However, these days, a pet dog or cat is not as "cool" as a snake, spider or skunk.

Owning exotic pets, especially wild animal species, is a growing fad among Malaysians.

The rising number of pet shops offering a wide array of animal species from around the globe as "human companions" is testament to the demand in the exotic pet industry.

It is a lucrative market. Customers are willing to pay hundreds if not thousands of ringgit to possess albino Burmese pythons, marmoset monkeys or sugar gliders.

But some of the "pets" are not tame by definition and some are downright dangerous.

Which begs the question: Do pet owners really know what they are getting into when buying exotic animals?

Sahabat Alam Malaysia president S.M. Mohamed Idris said keeping exotic pets is more work than anyone can handle.

He said many realised too late the amount of money, time and effort required to provide basic care for such animals.

"Often, owners are not capacitated to give proper care. For example, boa constrictors will quickly outgrow its aquarium tank from younger years and reach gargantuan size.

"Urban dwellers cannot readily provide and match their pet's growth, appetite or habitual needs better than in the wild," he said.

Factors to consider include temperature control, ventilation, humidity, necessary tank or cage furnishings, roaming space, types of foods, susceptible illnesses and more.

"These cannot be taken for granted to ensure the animal's welfare.

"Owners are quickly overwhelmed by the responsibility and those who fail to provide adequate diet or suitable housing conditions soon end up with a sick or dead animal on their hands."

He warned that the attitude of purchasing exotic pets to show off usually resulted in the animals becoming victims of abuse.

"Once the fascination wears off, the care dwindles, frustrating both human and pet.

"These animals often suffer terribly and rarely survive as long as their natural lifespan in the wild."

He said no matter how experienced or dedicated, exotic pet owners were exposing themselves to a series of threats.

"Having a predatory or venomous animal in your household can quickly lose its appeal, especially if there are young children about.

He said smaller animals, like the sugar glider or chinchilla may look adorable and docile, but they can and often do bite.

"Wild animals have untold nature and behaviour. Even if harvested in captivity, their genetic predisposition is still wild.

"They are not suitably kept as companions at home compared with domesticated animals."

Then, there is the risk of contracting and spreading unknown diseases.

"Diseases may be transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans, or vice versa."

He said there was also the problem of unwanted pets being dumped into the surroundings.

"Our ecosystem can go haywire from a foreign species suddenly proliferating, wiping out local wildlife."

He gave the example of the Red-eared Slider, a common turtle species found in our pet stores that is native to the freshwater wetlands of America and Mexico.

"Released into our environment, we can expect trouble for some of our local fish and prawn species."

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John shared the apprehension.

She said in America's Florida Everglades, giant constrictors introduced into the environment as abandoned pets, took over and were eating up the population of smaller, native animals.

"This problem is a growing concern for many countries around the world. We could be facing a similar problem in future if left unchecked.

"Our animal biodiversity, waterways and agriculture would be in jeopardy."

She pointed out that keeping exotic pets also frequently posed a danger to wildlife conservation.

"Many species, often in huge numbers, are harvested illegally for the pet trade. In many cases this is the sole reason for their decline and extinction."

She cited a case in December last year where Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) recovered over 600 Indian Star Tortoises, found stuffed into two luggages, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"The Indian Star Tortoise is a protected species found only in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Yet, this species is frequently seen in our pet stores.

"On the home front, a popular song bird, the Straw-Headed Bulbul, is in decline for being heavily harvested for the pet trade. The birds are already extinct in Thailand and its population is rapidly declining elsewhere.

"Illegal capture for the pet trade is driving a worrisome decline."

Buying and keeping a protected species without a permit from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) is to fall foul from the law.

Perak Perhilitan director Nawayai Yasak said recent amendments to the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 had extended protection to more species, including arachnids, amphibians and gastropods, which are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.

"Exotic animal owners should check if their pet is a species not previously listed, but considered protected now.

"Those found keeping a protected species without permit are liable to be fined RM10,000 or jailed not more than a year or both."

The list of protected animals is on the Perhilitan website.

The public is advised to:

Do homework and find out if the species is threatened.

When in doubt, don't buy.

Call Perhilitan on its Care-line at 1-300-80-1010 to check. The toll-free line is operational daily including public holidays, between 8am and noon, even on public holidays.

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