Best of our wild blogs: 14 May 12

Biodiversity for kids during the June holidays!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

June evenings at the Pasir Ris Mangrove boardwalk with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Bleaching anemones, uprooted sea cucumbers on Chek Jawa
from wild shores of singapore

Chek Jawa (13 May 2012)
from teamseagrass

2012 World Migratory Bird Day @ SBWR - 12May2012
from sgbeachbum

the state of Singapore's Mangroves - Dan Friess @ 12May2012
from sgbeachbum

Terumbu Pempang Laut - picture blog
from Psychedelic Nature

A Tribute to All Mothers - Happy Mothers Day!
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Red Junglefow’s chicks
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Qingming in Ubin
from Ubin.sgkopi

Centipede from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Rapid progress ahead in Johor

Nelson Benjamin, Desiree Tresa Gasper and Mohd Farhaan Shah The Star 14 May 12;

PENGERANG: Southern Johor is poised to be become a major oil and gas hub with the development of refineries not just by Petronas but also by a Taiwan-based petrochemical company.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Petronas’ Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project along with the Taiwanese company would help bring in investments totalling RM120bil into the area within the next six years.

“These two projects are poised to make Pengerang a major oil and gas hub in the Asia Pacific region,” he said, adding that the project was three times bigger than the MRT project in the Klang Valley, which was valued at RM40bil to RM45bil.

Najib added that the Rapid project was larger than all the combined Petronas projects in Kertih, Gebeng and Malacca.

“These two refineries will be able to produce a combined 450,000 barrels of oil per day,” he said at the launch of the Rapid project by Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar here yesterday.

Najib added that the first phase of the Petronas project would cover 2,428ha and would need about 40,000 contract workers.

“Once operational, Petronas and the Taiwanese companies will need about 5,000 highly skilled workers,” he added.

Petronas has invested US$20bil (RM60bil) in the Rapid project.

Najib assured locals not to worry about their livelihood as they would be paid compensation. So far, RM4.1mil in compensation has been given to affected fishermen.

“The state government has set up a task force headed by Johor Agriculture and Agro-based Commit-tee chairman Datuk Aziz Kaprawi to help relocate the villagers,” he said, before presenting RM1.24mil to Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said to help repair 124 homes belonging to fishermen in the area.

Najib added that the Government was also prepared to build a fishermen’s complex in the new area and provide allocations to buy fishing gear, including boats, nets and engines.

Sultan: Don’t oppose development or you will become isolated
The Star 14 May 12;

PENGERANG: Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has reminded his subjects not to oppose any form of development if they do not want to be isolated or neglected.

The ruler expressed his disappointment with a group of people who had objected to the development of the Refinery and Petro-chemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project here.

“They instigate the people of Pengerang to protest and to make demands,” he said, adding that as the Sultan of Johor, he did not want any Johorean to be left behind in development.

“Fifty years ago, people here worked mainly as fishermen and farmers.

“Now, with improved education, many young people have moved to the cities looking for jobs.

“Rapid will make Johor the most developed state in the country and an important trading and investment destination in Asia.

“This will ensure jobs and better income for the young people,” he said when launching the Petronas refinery and petrochemical integrated project here yesterday.

Earlier, the Sultan launched the annual Kembara Mahkota programme, a state-wide royal expedition which allows the ruler and his family to meet his subjects and stay up to date with developments.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak flagged off the first leg of the expedition.

The Sultan reminded the people to respect the country’s laws and not to be involved in mass demonstrations that could threaten the country’s peace.

Expressing his concern with recent incidents that led to violence and vandalism, he said: “All this is just for publicity in the media.”

He further warned: “Do not do things according to your whims and fancy in the name of human rights.”

Wait over for Pengerang folk

New Straits Times 18 May 12;

JEWEL IN THE CROWN: 212 years later, sleepy hollow set to boom with Petronas project

GOOGLE "Pengerang" these days, and it is easy to find countless number of news items pertaining to the RM60 billion Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project in the area.

It is such a rising star in the financial world that investors have begun to zoom their lenses to look closely and explore the potential at this southeastern part of the peninsula.

Geographically, Pengerang is strategically located along the global shipping route.

For this reason, it is sufficient to have a project the magnitude of Rapid to place Johor, as well as the country, as a landmark in the world financial map.

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched the Rapid project by Petronas last Sunday and announced that it is expected to attract at least RM120 billion worth of investments over the next five years, one could visualise that this is like putting another jewel in the crown of Johor.

(The Iskandar Malaysia economic region is another jewel.)

Why not, when Pengerang has been far left behind in the mainstream of development in the past decades.

For the Malays, the name Pengerang was recorded during Munysi Abdullah's time in 1800, and it derives from the Malay word mengerang, which means crying in pain.

The name came about as during the early days, the only mode of transport linking Pengerang and the world outside was by boats.

As this remote part of the peninsula faced a malaria outbreak and other tropical diseases in those days, the people were suffering and crying in pain because of the poor medical facilities, That's how the name came about.

For outsiders, going to Pengerang was a painful task. From Tanjung Puteri in Johor Baru, it took 3.5 hours to reach Changi in Singapore by boat, before one could take a boat to Pengerang.

Life has become slightly better when the Kota Tinggi-Pengerang trunk road was built later, as the sea route is no longer the only option.

Because of its remoteness, Pengerang hardly had any development and the people there are either fishermen or farmers. The younger ones migrate to other cities because of the poor job opportunities.

So when the Rapid project was announced, it is like spotting an oasis in the desert, as the project is set to propel the local economy and bring many spillovers.

Sadly, not many people see it this way. Some see the project as an opportunity for them to press for astronomical compensation.

Opposition parties joined in the bandwagon by inflaming the matter on the pretext of fighting for the interest of the villagers.

Knowing the repulsive nature of some local folks, Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said during the launch of the project that Rapid would be the catalyst for their better futures, and described those opportunists who were against the project as anti-development instigators.

The Rapid project is a chance not to be missed.

After all, the people in Pengerang have been waiting for 212 years for such a chance to come by, and it will be naive to only think of the negative sides of the project, without realising the long-term benefits it will bring to the people.

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Taiwan Buddhist animal rites 'killing millions'

AFP Yahoo News 14 May 12;

Tens of millions of animals, mostly fish and birds, are dying every year in Taiwan because of so-called "mercy releases" by Buddhists trying to improve their karma, according to animal welfare activists.

The government is now planning to ban the practice, saying it damages the environment and that a large proportion of the 200 million or so creatures released each year die or are injured due to a lack of food and habitat.

Around 750 such ceremonies are carried out in Taiwan each year, according to the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan.

Negotiations have seen some groups agreeing to halt the practice, but others have yet to accept a ban, Lin Kuo-chang, an official from the government's Council of Agriculture, told AFP on Sunday.

Proposed amendments to current wildlife protection laws would see offenders facing up to two years in jail or fined up to Tw$2.5 million ($85,000) for such unauthorised releases, he said.

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Indonesia: Saving one turtle at a time in Bali

Aimee Leslie, WWF's Marine Turtle and Cetacean Manager
WWF 13 May 12;

Indonesia is 90% Muslim, but Bali is the exception, which is 90% Hindu. The Hindu community of Bali has traditionally used marine turtles for religious ceremonies for decades. Consumption of these turtles summed between 10,000 and 20,000 a year.

It is no secret that changing a tradition, specially a religious one is no easy task; but WWF-Indonesia was determined to do so. The local veterinarian and Hindu, I.B. Windia Adnyana, was aware of the problem and took matters into his own hands. He joined forces with his brother, a local religious leader to talk to the Hindu community and let them know that the turtle ritual could have dire consequences for the survival of the local populations.

The religious leaders listened and wanted to help, but could not eliminate a practice that was still intrinsically knit into their customs. Besides, the whole village of Serangan Island depended mainly on the sales of adult turtles to the Hindu community.

None the less, the local government joined in, and in 1999, measures were agreed on. Only 300 marine turtles per year would be culled for religious purposes. These turtles would be provided only through a permit authorized by the local government. The turtles would only come from the Turtle Education Centre, to be built by the government in Serangan Island.

The Turtle Education Centre would only use five Olive Ridley turtle nests a year, to raise the turtles for Hindu religious ceremonies. This is because adult nesting turtles have a much higher value for the future of their population. In nature only 1 out of every 1000 hatchlings born survives long enough to achieve sexual maturity.

Since 2006 the Turtle Education Centre has been up and running. It provides the Serangan village with more income than they ever had when dedicated to the illegal turtle trade. Students and tourists go to the Centre to see and learn about marine turtles. Though this is not the ideal solution, we’re in the process of getting there. WWF and its local partners were able to make a difference for Indonesia's marine turtles, one turtle at a time.

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Working together to save the dolphins of the Mekong River

Aimee Leslie, WWF's Marine Turtle and Cetacean Manager
WWF 13 May 12;

Today the population of 85 Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabits the Mekong River in Cambodia faces great danger. Gill nets, the proposed construction of hydropower dams, and unplanned development all threaten the survival of the Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong.

But today, the biggest challenge faced by WWF scientists is that the calves are dying in very high numbers. A recent population study lead by WWF and the Cambodian Fisheries Administration found that the survival rate of calves through to adulthood was virtually zero. This means that practically all Irrawaddy dolphins born in the Mekong die within the first years of life.

"If this trend continues Irrawaddy dolphins could disappear from Mother Mekong by the end of the decade," said Gerry Ryan, a dolphin researcher at WWF-Cambodia. "The problem is that we are uncertain why so many calves are dying."

In January 2012, WWF convened a dolphin conservation workshop in Kratie, Cambodia that was attended by fifteen of the top cetacean scientists in the world and many local and regional experts. The scientists agreed that gill nets are the primary cause of adult mortality, but the reasons for the high rate of calf mortality are still not clear.

WWF, the Fisheries Administration, and the Dolphin Commission signed the Kratie Declaration, a joint statement in which they agreed to work together to conserve dolphins in the Mekong. The declaration included a long list of recommendations for the conservation of this population.

WWF has been working in Kratie, Cambodia to help save Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins since 2005. The team has worked side by side with the Fisheries Administration to monitor the size of the population, determine causes of mortality through necropsy studies, water quality testing, promote protected areas in key dolphin habitat, and with local organizations to develop alternatives that improve the livelihoods of the surrounding communities, while reducing human pressure on dolphins and their environment.

"The Irrawaddy dolphins attract over 10,000 tourists a year to this province," said Gordon Congdon, Project Manager for WWF-Cambodia. "The survival of this population is important for the livelihoods of the communities along the Mekong River and as an iconic symbol of the rich natural heritage of Cambodia.”

WWF will continue efforts to save Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River through science based policy development and ongoing research, concurrent with grassroots work with local communities to reduce the threats - for healthy dolphins, healthy rivers, and healthy people.

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