Best of our wild blogs: 5 Jun 12

The weirdest marine creature I've seen
from wild shores of singapore and Nudibranch motherlode at Changi

Changi - diversity is stunning as ever..!
from Psychedelic Nature

spectacular aero-nautical eagle show @ marina bay ~ June 2012
from sgbeachbum

Colourful marine city of Punggol
from wonderful creation and Psychedelic Nature and Eggy, Peiyan.Photography and The annotated budak

Pipturus argenteus and the birds it attracts
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Turning sea walls into 'housing' units for marine life

Jose Hong Straits Times 5 Jun 12;

SEA walls defend the coast from erosion by waves and currents, but they are also potentially 'housing developments' for marine creatures.

These 'housing developments', however, are not ideal habitats. This is because the granite blocks making up these sea walls have steeply sloped, even surfaces - not the best for sea life looking for crevices to anchor themselves, feed, breed, or hide.

Research assistant Lynette Loke, a 24-year-old doing her master's in science at the National University of Singapore (NUS), wants to change that.

Ms Loke in the middle of mounting specially designed tiles onto sea walls at Pulau Hantu as part of her project in 2009. Designed and created by her, the tiles have ridges and pits which make them a more complex surface than granite for sea life looking for crevices to anchor themselves, feed, breed, or hide. -- PHOTO: PETER TODD

Her project now basically 'renovates' the sea walls by mounting specially designed tiles onto their surface. Designed and created by her, these tiles are moulded with ridges and pits, making them a more complex surface than just granite alone.

She has been at this for 21/2 years, and will complete an analysis of the effectiveness of the tiles only next year.

But her project has already garnered international praise.

Professor Gee Chapman, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Sydney, was impressed by the project when she visited NUS in March.

She said the research would answer important questions about how plant and animal species that live between the high- and low-tide levels use their habitats.

'More importantly, the results will provide advice to ecologists, engineers and environmental managers worldwide about ways in which sea walls might be modified or built to reduce their negative effects on local inter-tidal biodiversity,' she added.

Dr James Reimer, an associate professor at the Molecular Invertebrate Systematics and Ecology Lab of the University of the Ryukyus in Japan, has also come to hear of Ms Loke's work.

Saying the project fit well with his work of assessing the impact of coastal construction on marine biodiversity, he invited the principal investigator of the project, NUS assistant professor of biology Peter Todd, to give a talk on the project in April.

Dr Reimer, noting the talk was well-received, said: 'We're discussing ways to apply their methods to a project here in Okinawa.'

Dr Tjeerd Bouma, a co-principal investigator for Ms Loke's project, noted that sea walls have been built for decades with little thought to their impact on marine life. Dr Bouma,who is a researcher from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Deltares, said learning how to design these walls in the most ecologically friendly way was therefore important.

Ms Loke cannot agree more, adding: 'We hope one day to see our design on seawalls around the world.'

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Malaysia: Penang NGOs not happy with ‘mindless development’

The Star 5 Jun 12;

GEORGE TOWN: Penang may have been named one of Asia's most liveable cities, but two non-governmental organisations here beg to differ.

The Consumers' Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) argued that Penang was becoming unliveable due to “mindless development”.

“The kind of development that is taking place leaves no space for conservation,” said S.M. Mohamed Idris, who is president of both NGOs.

He claimed that hills were being destroyed while in places like Tanjung Tokong, the sea was being polluted by reclamation.

Yesterday, a small group of CAP and SAM members staged a 15-minute peaceful protest outside the construction site of a hillslope housing project in Bukit Gambier ahead of World Environment Day today.

Speaking to reporters later, Idris said the current number of high-rise developments was unnecessary.

“Based on our observations, we estimate that 40% to 50% of high-rise units in Penang are unoccupied,” he said.

He urged the Federal Government, state government and local authorities to halt all hillslope projects and gazette forests and mangrove areas as permanent forest reserves.

“Coastal reclamation and aquaculture activities in Penang have also contributed to the destruction of the natural coastal ecosystem. Approximately 70% of mangrove forests in the state have been destroyed by development projects.

“All these threats to the environment have led to at least 40 species of river and marine life to be endangered or extinct,” Idris said.

When contacted, state Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said: “We appreciate their concerns. I hope we can work together and that they provide us with their insight and help.”

Outrage over damage to environment
Looi Sue-Chern New Straits Times 7 Jun 12;

ANGRY VOICES: NGOs are calling on Penang government to ensure that proposed developments do not cause further environmental degradation

GEORGE TOWN: THE rivers are polluted and Penang's mangrove forests, beaches, hills and greenery are slowly making way for development projects.

Outraged by what is happening, the Consumers Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia are calling on the state government to ensure that proposed developments will not cause further damage to the environment and the people's lives.

S.M. Mohamed Idris, the president of both non-governmental organisations (NGO), said Penang was still losing its greenery and facing environmental problems, despite the state government's "Cleaner and Greener" initiative, Idris, who has been fighting for the environment for 40 years, said the situation was getting worse as Penang was becoming more and more congested with "monstrous" high-rise buildings and development projects coming up around the island.

He said, in the state Environment Department's river water quality report last year, 10 rivers in Penang were classed as polluted, nine were moderately dirty and only five were clean.

Among the polluted ones were the Jawi, Air Itam, Jelutong, Pinang, Juru, and Prai rivers.

In the department's report on marine water quality last year, he said, Kuala Sungai Pinang in Jelutong, Kuala Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau, and Kuala Sungai Prai and Kuala Sungai Juru on the mainland were high in Escherichia coli (E. Coli) bacteria, which indicated fecal contamination.

The state also faced natural coastal area destruction due to land reclamation and aquaculture activities.

He added that beaches, such as the Persiaran Gurney beach, were turning into mud flats.

"Some 70 per cent of mangrove forests here have been destroyed to make way for development projects.

Such threats endanger at least 40 river and marine species.

"We are also losing water catchment areas.

"Mud floods are occurring more frequently in villages and housing estates because of soil erosion and sedimentation from hill slope projects in places such as Balik Pulau and Bayan Lepas," said Idris.

He cited recent reports of Sungai Ara and Tanjung Bungah residents protesting against such developments.

Idris, who led members of the NGOs in an anti-hill slope development protest on Jalan Bukit Gambir here to mark World Environment Day recently, also called on the government to stop all projects on hill slopes.

The high-end condominium project, which is being developed by a Kuala Lumpur-based company, features a 31-storey condominium block with more than 140 units, a five-storey car park, a two storey open basement and seven three-storey bungalows that are expected to be ready in three years.

He said there was no need for more of these profit-driven projects which offered homes most people in Penang could not afford.

"We want our hills and agricultural land to be protected from further development and for forests and mangrove swamps to be gazetted as permanent reserve forests.

The state government and local authorities must enforce existing regulations.

"The Environment Department should also improve its education programmes to encourage public participation.

"The people must play their part to keep Penang clean and green to ensure a better life for ourselves and future generations," said Idris.

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Indonesia to add 15 camera traps to look for Javan tiger

Antara 4 Jun 12;

Jember (ANTARA News) - Meru Betiri National Park (TNMB) authorities will use 15 more camera traps in an effort to step up the search for the Javan tiger (Panthera Tigris Sondaica) in the area.

"With the addition of 15 camera traps, there will be 20 camera traps in that area. We hope that will help us find traces of the tiger," TNMB Chief Bambang Darmadja said here on Monday.

The expedition team had previously set up five camera traps in three locations.

The expedition has not succeeded yet in finding or photographing any tiger, but the expedition team wants to collect secondary data.

Bambang stated TNMB would like to invite non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with the Javan tiger.

Coordinator of the Big Carnivore Expedition Team at TNMB, Alif Olia Ananda, said the expedition was also aimed at collecting secondary data that would help determine the presence of tigers in the area.

"There has been no primary data in the form of photographs from the camera traps, although other animals such as such as bison, porcupines, and weasels have been photographed," he explained.

Alif said earlier the team did not have enough camera traps.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Humans Still the Biggest Threat to Indonesia’s Endangered Rhinoceroses

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 4 Jun 12;

There are many challenges in protecting the one-horned Javan rhinoceros, but the biggest barrier comes from humans hunting the rare species into extinction. This was the position put forward by Novianto Bambang, director of conservation and biodiversity at the Forestry Ministry when contacted by BeritaSatu on Saturday.

Novianto added that the ministry planned to declare 2012 the International Year of the Rhino to draw attention to the creature’s plight. The announcement is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

“For rhinos, the main threat is humans, besides natural disturbances and disease,” Novianto said. “Humans are very strange, in my opinion, because they are interested in the rhino for its horn. There are many who believe rhino horn has properties that can increase virility. The problem is, to get the horn, like it or not, they have to kill the rhino.”

He added that there were only 35 Javan rhinos remaining at the Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java.

“The second problem is, of course, human encroachment into the rhinos’ already limited habitat. It is becoming increasingly harder for rhinos to find food in their own habitats,” he said. “We don’t know when it’s going to become big problem, but we must be vigilant and start looking now for a way out.”

One of only 11 nations where rhinos are found, including Malaysia, India and South Africa, Indonesia is lucky to have has two kinds of rhinos: The one-horned Javan rhino and the two-horned Sumatran rhino, of which only 200 remain in the wild.

“Indonesia has two species of rhino that are still in some of the biggest numbers in the world. In Vietnam, the rhino is already extinct. We mustn’t let that happen here,” Novianto said. “We are now working on several activities to increase the population of both kinds of rhinos. From Way Kambas [South Sumatra], we have already received exciting news that there is a pregnant rhino nearly ready to give birth. Meanwhile, for the Javan rhino, we have 120 cameras that can tell us how many rhinos are out there.”

Data shows that there are 13 female and 22 male Javan rhinos still in the wild in West Java. Although the recorded number of Javan rhinos is still less than ideal, the fact that they are breeding is an good sign, said Mohammad Haryono from the region’s national park.

“It is certainly less than ideal that there are so few females, but the fact that they are breeding shows that they can still increase their numbers naturally,” he said.

With the population numbers as they are, Novianto acknowledges that the conditions are still far from ideal, but he said that the declaration of the international rhino day should help the species as it will increase awareness of the problem among the greater public.

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Indonesia: US provides US$7 million to Bunaken Sea Park

Antara 4 Jun 12;

Manado (ANTARA News) - The US government has provided funds of US$7 million to help develop the National Sea Park of Bunaken, the US Consul General in Surabaya, Kristen Bauer, said here on Sunday during a visit to Bunaken.

"We have been cooperating in the field of environment with the government of Indonesia, particularly for the Bunaken National Sea Park area, from 1997 to 2003," she declared.

According to her, the funds are used to help fishermen conducting fish farming to sustain their daily lives.

The fishermen also contribute to the park`s safety by patrolling the national park jointly with the relevant agencies to ensure that only appropriate activities are conducted in appropriate places in the park.

"We also want to make sure that the system which was built long ago is still functioning. Are the fishermen is still protecting and preserving the environment while continuing with their farming?" Kristen inquired.

Kristen expressed her appreciation for all the parties that jointly conduct conservation activities to ensure fish and coral reef preservation in the park.

She hoped that there would be a new breakthrough in increasing revenues for the park, which would further the preservation of coral reefs and improve the welfare of local communities.

"Hopefully, the management can find a solution to repair this area, so that it can be a source of income for the local community," she stated.

With regard to attracting more visitors to the park, the management of the Bunaken National Park Management Board (BNPMAB) is expected to collaborate with educational institutions.

In addition, the management will educate tourists before they enter Bunaken.

"This is intended to provide understanding and awareness, so that they can dispose of waste in the appropriate place," Kristen remarked.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Australia's Great Barrier Reef Under Clear Threat: U.N.

Chris McCall PlanetArk 5 Jun 12;

Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef is under imminent threat from industrial development and may be considered for listing as a world heritage site "in danger" within the next year, a U.N. report said this week.

Citing the findings of a mission to the world's largest living structure in March, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) recommended that "in the absence of substantial progress", its World Heritage Committee would consider such a listing in February next year.

Key pressures on the reef include coastal development, ports and liquefied natural gas facilities, extreme weather, grounding of ships and poor water quality, UNESCO said.

The reef's outstanding universal value "is threatened and decisive action is required to secure its long-term conservation", it said.

Australian organizations managing the reef have adopted high-quality practices, UNESCO said, but noted that "despite management successes there has been a continuing decline in the quality of some parts" of the reef.

Australia's northeastern state of Queensland, where the reef is located, is one of the country's fastest-developing regions.

Onshore are economically important coal mining operations, while the reef itself is a major tourist draw.

In recent years, critics have pointed to the dangers posed to the reef by industrial development, particularly since 2010 when a Chinese coal carrier rammed into part of the reef.

In its report, UNESCO specifically mentioned plans for liquefied natural gas facilities at Curtis Island, and ongoing development of the key coal port of Gladstone.

Future port infrastructure plans should be limited to "existing and long-established" ports in the region, it said.

UNESCO called for the setting of clear, legal targets for the reef's condition, and said the high level of approvals for planned development in recent years was a concern.

"Considering the high rate of approvals over the past 12 years, this unprecedented scale of development affecting or potentially affecting the property poses serious concerns over its long-term conservation," it said.

The politically influential Greens, who support Prime Minister Julia Gillard's minority government, responded to the report by calling for Australia to reduce its dependence on coal.

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke acknowledged that climate change and coastal development posed ongoing threats to the reef, but said the report contained no surprises.

"The UNESCO mission in March acknowledged that our management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is still considered to be best practice," Burke said in a statement.

The World Heritage Committee will discuss the report when it meets in St Petersburg later this month.

(Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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