Best of our wild blogs: 12 May 12

Signs of dugong in the South!
from wild shores of singapore

Phenomena - Longkang Encounters

A Scarlet Flash @ MacRitchie Nature Trail
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

little grebes @ lorong halus - 01may2012
from sgbeachbum

Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot feeding on guava
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Ew, white liquid spotted in drain in the Katong area
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

The Earth Day Coastal Clean-up 2012: 106 clear 400kg but not in thunder, lightning or in rain! from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Birds feeling heat of climate change

Delay in migration from breeding sites is cause for concern, says birder
Grace Chua Straits Times 12 May 12;

THE curlew sandpiper - a small, common wading bird - flies vast distances from Arctic Siberia to get to Singapore, and sometimes journeys on to spend the northern winter in Australia.

But it is getting here a day later in the year than it did three decades ago, which could signal it is changing its migration patterns as temperatures rise up north.

That is cause for concern, said birdwatcher and junior college lecturer Yong Ding Li, who is studying such migration patterns using data from Singapore birders.

Mr Yong, 28, remarked that the timing of migratory birds' arrivals from and departures for their tundra breeding sites indicates how likely the species is to be threatened by climate change.

'If they don't reach their breeding sites on time, food might not be plentiful and survival rates may be lower,' he said.

That wreaks havoc on the birds' breeding cycle, which depends on both internal biology and the external environment.

In Europe, some waterfowl species are setting off as much as a month late, Finnish researchers have found from 30 years of data.

Migratory birds are also threatened by habitat loss farther north, especially in East Asia's fast-developing coastal regions, Mr Yong said.

Here, generations of birders have enjoyed spotting foreign avian visitors at sites like Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, mudflats at Mandai and even parks and gardens.

A third of Singapore's more than 300 recorded bird species are migrants. The island state is a pit stop along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the migratory pathway from eastern Russia to New Zealand.

It may not host as many birds as other countries, where feeding and roosting grounds are much larger, but there are occasional surprises, said Mr Alan Owyong, 66, of the Nature Society's Bird Group.

In 2008, a Nordmann's greenshank, a rare wader, showed up at Sungei Buloh 27 years after the last one was sighted here.

And early last year, a common redshank which was tagged with an ankle ring here 20 years ago was spotted - a record for an individual bird, said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at the National Parks Board.

A number of events will be held today at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to mark World Migratory Bird Day.

They include Migratory Bird Day talks at 9.30am and 11.30am, guided walks at 9am, 10am and 11am, and a talk by National University of Singapore geography researcher Dan Friess about Singapore's mangroves at 10.30am.

The guidebook, Migratory Birds Of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, will also be launched today, and is available at the reserve for $15. An exhibition on migratory birds ends tomorrow.

Admission to the reserve costs $1 for adults and 50 cents for children, students and senior citizens.

Those interested in the talks and guided walks can contact Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 6794-1401.

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Students make a splash with nature research

Jose Hong Straits Times 12 May 12;

SOME people might feel that research is best left to scientists in universities and laboratories. But last month, 11 teams from various secondary schools and junior colleges set out to prove them wrong in the Little Green Dot Student Research Grant Symposium 2012.

The symposium, held for the first time, was jointly organised by Ikea Singapore, the World Wide Fund for Nature (Singapore) and the Nature Society (Singapore).

It marked the culmination of eight months of scientific research undertaken by the teams last year.

From May to December, the teams collectively received $45,000 in funding to conduct research on the theme of marine and freshwater conservation.

They were picked from a pool of 34 projects by a panel consisting of the three organisers.

These projects ranged from measuring the biodiversity of Singapore's coasts after reclamation, to efforts in saving the Malayan Boxshell Terrapin.

The students' findings were presented at the symposium.

One highlight was the work undertaken by Sharmaine Wong, Andrew Chia, Dillen Ng and Lim Jia Min of the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.

The 18-year-olds studied the effect of changing salinity levels on marine copepods, tiny aquatic crustaceans that form an important part of the food chain.

Their research showed that copepods can be killed when the surrounding salinity levels are changed drastically. The finding has potential implications for the management of Singapore's reservoirs when water is discharged into the sea.

Despite this, the students acknowledged that their work was far from conclusive.

'We're not confident that the results are foolproof,' said Sharmaine.

However, what the students have managed to accomplish thus far has impressed those who have supervised them.

'What struck me about the students' projects is that they actually managed to do anything related to marine and freshwater conservation at all, contrary to the popular perception that there's no nature left in Singapore,' said Mr Goh Ter Yang, outreach officer of the Nature Society.

He noted that Singaporeans hardly talk about the natural environment, except when 'some place is going to be bulldozed and people start protesting', leading to a negative discourse.

He hoped the results of the students' research will provide a chance 'to talk about our environment in a more neutral and curiosity-inducing light'.

The Little Green Dot Student Research Grant continues this year, this time with the theme of forest conservation.


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Malaysia: Electric fencing fails to keep out elephants

S. Ista Kyra New Straits Times 12 May 12;

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Herd sighted just 20m from Orang Asli villages

GRIK: Some 500 residents from several Orang Asli settlements here are living in fear following sightings of a herd of wild elephants in the area.

The herd of 13 elephants was spotted two weeks ago.

Despite the presence of a 12km electric fence put up last year to prevent such intrusions, the animals were believed to have gained entry through a gate which was left open.

Perak Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said their staff had advised the villagers to keep the gate closed, especially at night, but the warning was often ignored.

Among the affected settlements are Kampung Banun, Kampung Raba, RPS Desa Permai and RPS Pengkalan Permai.

Now, the department is faced with the hard task of tracking and driving the elephants out of the fenced-up area.

"We have a team working on it."

Perhilitan Grik branch chief Zainal Abidin Mat said the gate was part of a logging road linked to remote villages deep in the Belum-Temenggor forest complex like Kampung Semelor, Kampung Pulau Tujuh, Kampung Sungai Tekam and RPS Kemar.

"These villages are located in areas that have long been the elephants' roaming ground.

"Before the electric fence was put up, the herds used to pass by these villages and back into the jungle.

"Now that the animals are inside, it's more difficult to lead them out again through the main gate."

He said a four-man team had been stationed in the area since last month after the sightings. "The latest sighting of the herd was at 2am on Thursday, some 20m from the village."

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Malaysia: Bid to smuggle pangolins among live crabs foiled

New Straits Times 12 May 12;

GEORGE TOWN: The authorities foiled two separate attempts to smuggle live pangolins, tortoises and arowana fishes worth RM241,000 recently.

The Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department first rescued 94 live pangolins at the cargo complex in Batu Maung here, and 103 tortoises from a pet shop in Bukit Mertajam on Thursday.

The 50-year-old shop operator was detained and later released on police bail.

Department director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the smugglers had placed the pangolins in 40 different boxes mixed with live crabs. "We believe the pangolins were brought in from a neighbouring country and were headed to Hong Kong."

Meanwhile, the state Fisheries Department detained a Taiwanese man who was carrying 241 arowana fishes worth RM128,500 in two bags at the Penang International Airport yesterday.

The 35-year-old was heading to Guangzhou, China, when he was stopped at the airport check-in counter at 7.30am.

Fisheries director Mohd Sidek Md Jahaya said records showed the man had been here four times since last November.

Crab ruse can’t hold water
Winnie Yeoh The Star 12 May 12;

NINETY-FOUR pangolins believed to be bound for the cooking pots in the region were seized by the authorities at the cargo complex in Batu Maung, Penang.

The importer had shipped the animals in boxes from Sabah and declared them as crabs.

However, checks by the Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis) found that 43 of the 49 boxes contained pangolins.

State Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said they were still investigating where the protected species worth about RM106,000 were heading.

“We believe the animals will be sold in foreign markets where the demand for exotic meat is high.

“The price of the pangolin meat can go up to RM220 per kg.

“We have not arrested anyone yet. But we have information on the importer and exporter,” he said at the Perhilitan office in Jalan Gurdwara, George Town.

The smuggling attempt was foiled at about 12.30pm on Thursday in an operation led by state Maqis chief Abdul Hamid Sulaiman and Perhilitan officer Tang Teong Kim at the Kuala Lumpur Airport Services’ (KLAS) cargo complex.

Jamalun said the case was being investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) and if convicted, the offender would face a fine between RM50,000 and RM100,000 or a jail term up to three years.

In a separate case, the department’s licensing unit led by officer Rofley Ambuka raided a petshop in Bukit Mertajam and found 103 turtles not listed in its registry.

There were 40 Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis), 41 Giant Asian Pond Turtles (Heosemys grandis) and 22 Black Marsh Turtles (siebenrockiella crassicollis) with a total market price of RM7,000

Pangolins come in as crab consignment
The Star 12 May 12;

GEORGE TOWN: Ninety-four pangolins have been seized by the authorities at the cargo complex in Batu Maung here.

They were in boxes originating from Sabah and declared as crabs.
Imperilled creature : The exotic Pangolin, the meat of which is a highly sought-after delicacy overseas and worth about RM220 per kilo.

However, checks by the Penang Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services found that 43 of the 49 boxes contained pangolins.

State Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said it was investigating where the protected species worth about RM106,000 had been heading.

“We believe the animals were to be sold as the price of pangolin meat can go up to RM220 per kilo.

“We have not arrested anyone but we have information on the importer and exporter,” he said at the Perhilitan office here.

The smuggling attempt was foiled at about 12.30pm at the Kuala Lumpur Airport Services' cargo complex on Thursday.

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Wild Tigers Remain Vulnerable to Poaching In Most Protected Areas

WWF 11 May 12;

A recent preliminary assessment by WWF of 63 legally protected areas in seven tiger range countries shows that the minimum standards for protection according are only maintained in 22 of these areas, or 35%. This indicates that the areas set up to protect tigers and other threatened species are not necessarily the refuge they are designed to be.

“Poaching is the most immediate threat to tigers and protected areas are the first line of defence against poaching,” says Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “If this preliminary assessment reflects the full situation on-the-ground, then protected areas are not functioning as an effective safe haven for tigers. Without places tigers can be safer from poaching, there is no hope to meet the target of more than 6,000 tigers by 2022.”

In November 2010 at the “Tiger Summit” in St. Petersburg hosted by the Government of Russia and the World Bank, the 13 Tiger Range Governments and partners committed to doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022. From 15-17 May 2012, they will meet again to assess progress and plan the next steps.

Poaching of tigers, to meet consumer demand for their body parts and products, is now the main factor reversing the gains made by governments, donors and other partners working towards the 2022 goal. The meeting in New Delhi next week provides a perfect opportunity for the 13 countries to immediately launch an elevated operation to improve the protection of sites critical to tigers and take deliberate action towards Zero Poaching.

WWF’s internal preliminary assessment covered 84 locations, 63 of which are legally protected areas, in seven of the 12 countries where WWF currently works on tiger conservation. Scientists, researchers and managers working in the field, have determined these sites to be critical for wild tiger population growth.

Each site was evaluated on three critical factors for protecting tigers: the number of protected area staff, the use of law enforcement monitoring tools, and whether the park was officially protected by law. Data for the assessment was collected from published sources and through a survey of WWF field staff and managers of the sites wherever available.

Results from the assessment showed that staff and WWF field personnel from 41 of the 63 protected areas, or 65%, feel there are not enough staff to protect those areas and achieve Zero Poaching. One example is Malaysia’s Royal Belum State Park, critical for the survival of the Malayan tiger and where considerable poaching activity has been documented. Although occupying an area of over 1,000 km2, the park only has 17 enforcement staff. In contrast, protected areas such as Kaziranga National Park in India, with approximately 800 enforcement staff for about 860 km2, have been able to stem poaching activity. In Nepal, 2011 was recently celebrated as a Zero Poaching year for rhinos, which was largely attributed to the increase of range posts across several protected areas from 7 to 51.

The assessment also indicated that only 18 of the protected areas surveyed, or 29%, are currently using computer-based, law enforcement monitoring systems to help them manage their sites more effectively; the majority still rely on manual analysis. The number using computer technology should increase as two new systems, MSTrIPES and SMART, are rolled out in many protected areas in the next few months.

“Clearly, a large number of areas important for tigers urgently need increased investment in protection and enforcement,” said Mr. Craig Bruce, WWF’s expert on enforcement and protection of wild tigers. “Tiger range governments should immediately and dramatically increase their commitment and investment in securing these sites. They should ensure there are sufficient, effective and dedicated enforcement teams on the ground, working towards Zero Poaching.”

WWF has identified three actions tiger range governments can take immediately to launch an elevated operation towards Zero Poaching. These include identifying and delineating the most important sites requiring good protection from poaching, and ensuring these sites have sufficient numbers of enforcement staff who are well trained to monitor and improve their effectiveness by using monitoring systems. WWF also suggests that the police and judiciary need to help to ensure strict punishment on poaching and to actively engage local communities living adjacent to important tiger conservation areas.

A brief on the assessment How vulnerable are wild tigers to poaching in the sites critical for their survival? and its results is available at

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