Best of our wild blogs: 19 Jul 12

Jezebel Artists @HortPark
from Art in Wetlands

Singapore's living forests, reefs, seashores and more!
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

A Rare Glimpse into a Scientific Expedition
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

A spawn of articles on coral spawning in Singapore!
from wild shores of singapore

My Green Space: The Fascinating World of Caterpillars
from Butterflies of Singapore

juvenile White Bellied Sea Eagle @ marina bay - July2012
from sgbeachbum

120629 Rifle Range Road
from Singapore Nature and Venus Drive and CCNR

Features in ALUMNUS (July/September Issue)
from Raffles Museum News and A Coral Researcher Who Doesn’t Dive

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City of gardens doesn't make a garden city

Straits Times Forum 19 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE has been labelled the Garden City and foreigners often marvel at our ability for urban development while keeping the landscape 'green' ('Preserving Singapore's green heartland'; last Saturday).

The new Gardens by the Bay, the jewel of the Marina Bay skyline, is an example.

But while its bright lights and monolithic tree structures offer photo opportunities for visitors and photographers, the new park does little to provide the ecological support Singapore needs.

A stroll through the eco-places listed in the article in the late evenings or early mornings will surprise a visitor with the variety of fauna supported by these small pockets of lush greenery.

Indeed, most of the areas are not even primary forests or protected reserves, but nature that thrives when left to its own devices.

In my youth, rhinoceros beetles, atlas moths, oriental whip snakes, praying mantises and hornbills were found in these places, some even making their way into nearby homes and gardens.

Sadly, Singapore's special wildlife is fast vanishing because of condominium developments.

Even the species of spider young boys used to catch for fighting is rare now.

The solution is not to build more landscape parks or golf courses with aesthetically pleasing greenery. These no doubt create a habitat for mynahs and changeable lizards, but do nothing for the critical flora and fauna.

The authorities can do much more to extend the perimeter of protected reserves to some of these secondary vegetated areas.

After all, a city of gardens does not make a garden city.

Dr Isaac Seow En

Preserve the natural connection
Straits Times Forum 19 Jul 12;

I APPLAUD Dr Ho Hua Chew's insightful views in his commentary last Saturday ('Preserving Singapore's green heartland').

As an Australian expatriate who has lived here for the past four years, I delight in the safety of Singapore and the efficiency of its public transportation system. But I mourn for Singaporeans over what appears to be the slow death of their natural environment for what can only be explained as monetary gain.

Dr Ho points out the woodlands' soothing therapeutic value for one's psyche. A connection to natural landscapes encourages reflection and allows people to have a greater appreciation for their country.

Instead of looking at these areas of natural beauty as financial opportunities, perhaps those in charge could weigh the need to build yet another mall or soul-less development against the opportunity to provide Singaporeans with permanent connections to their homeland, as well as spaces to truly experience peace.

In an environment of concrete and planned parks, these natural woodlands provide a positive mental and physical break from the stresses of life. They should be protected and loved for their natural beauty.

Katrina Dub'e (Mrs)

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Singapore named 'bird-laundering point'

Thousands of illegally caught birds pass through country: Wildlife group
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 19 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE has been named as a key laundering point for tens of thousands of illegally caught birds from the Solomon Islands, one of the world's major wildlife exporters.

A report released by international wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic on Tuesday pointed to the Republic as the single largest importer of birds from the islands, accounting for 72 per cent.

In the 11 years that Traffic tracked reported figures by country authorities for their bird trade to and from the Solomon Islands, it found that Singapore took in some 49,500 birds, more than half of which were re-exported to other countries.

The problem, says Traffic, is that most of these birds probably came from illegal sources. Even though 80 per cent of the 68,500 birds that were exported from the islands between 2000 and 2010 were declared as bred in captivity, the Solomon Islands authorities have said that the country does not have the capacity to breed these birds in large numbers.

This means the birds were likely to have been caught in the wild and declared as captive-bred.

The birds were mainly parrots and cockatoos, and all were of species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which restricts trade in wild-caught animals but has less stringent rules if they are captive-bred.

The Singapore import and export figures were based on the number of permits issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) here, said the report.

Dr Chris Shepherd, Traffic's deputy director for South-east Asia, said traders could be drawn here because of the Republic's trading efficiency and accessible location.

He said Cites should investigate the Solomon Islands, but importers like Singapore should also check whether it was plausible for countries to export captive-bred birds in such large quantities.

'Declaring exported birds as being captive-bred has all the hallmarks of a scam to get around international trade regulations,' said Dr Shepherd.

In 2004, Malaysia, which accounted for 21 per cent of the Solomon Islands' bird exports, stopped all bird trade from the islands because of concerns over the birds' origins. The Republic should follow suit and also scrutinise imports from other countries, he added.

When asked, the AVA said that Cites permits were required from both the importing and exporting countries to import, export or re-export Cites species, whether wild-caught or captive-bred.

It said it verified the Cites permits issued by the exporting countries, and would not issue import permits if the export permits were invalid.

The AVA added that the Cites authority of the exporting country was responsible for certifying the source of the specimens, before the consignment was authorised to be exported.

But the Traffic report also pointed to discrepancies in Singapore's import and export numbers. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the Republic imported 350 of the threatened white cockatoos from the islands, but re-exported 596 of the birds as being from the islands.

To that, the AVA said that it had updated a stock system that tracks traders' applications for Cites permits to import and re-export birds. The system ensures that the re-export quantity does not exceed the imported quantity.

However, the import and export quantities for each year would not tally as the birds exported were not necessarily those which had been imported in the same year, said the authority.

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Malaysia: Transformation of mangroves at Danga Bay, Johor

Behold the beauty in the south
Sim Bak Heng New Straits Times 19 Jul 12;

TRANSFORMATION: Once a piece of swampland devoid of human activity the charming Danga Bay today is a landmark for visitors near and far

JOHOR BARU: THE Danga Bay here is a typical case of an ugly duck transforming into a beautiful swan.

The era of the ugly duck was the time when the area was mangrove swampland and the only crowd puller was the then Lido Beach. Yet, the Lido Beach has little infrastructure and has failed to become a tourist spot.

During the economic slowdown in the late 1990s, no businessmen with a sound mind dared to dump in their money to develop this swampland along the Johor Straits, or had high hopes of strong returns on investment in this location.

As most developers withdrew from this part of Johor Baru, Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo, the managing director of Ekovest Bhd, came in.

While most people could see only plenty of mud in the mangrove area, Lim saw visions of a waterfront city of the future.

He could visualise what Danga Bay would be like in five years, ten years, or even further.

Today, the Danga Bay development is slowly taking shape and is already a landmark not only in Johor, but the country.

It is surely a beautiful swan in the making.

At present, Danga Bay has an international convention centre called the Danga Bay Convention Centre which can seat 3,600 people for a banquet or 8,000 people for a conference.

Besides the convention centre is the Bay Leaf which features the Lazio Restaurant and Bar, as well as a seafood restaurant fit for family dine-outs and for entertaining guests.

An open space between the Lazio and the Johor Straits offers the perfect chill-out location for visitors to have drinks with friends while enjoying the sunset view at Danga Bay.

The spot is a popular choice for bridal photo shoots.

With the yachts and the scenery of Johor Straits as the backdrop, it is a sight to behold and a feast for the senses every evening.

Danga Bay has become a port of call for yachting enthusiasts worldwide.

After it became the stopover for the Sail Malaysia Darwin-Langkawi Yacht Rally in 2009, it is a choice location in the world yachting map.

Danga Bay is not only meant for adults. The Danga Bay Theme Park is popular with children as it offers many rides in the evening.

For adults, the theme park offers a perfect family get-together.

While most developers can't wait to build residential and commercial property on their land to make money, Lim took the unconventional way by investing on non-profit "social components" first.

He took on the responsibility of turning Danga Bay into a tourist and recreational spot, a task most developers would assign to the government.

The social components alone in Danga Bay have cost Lim some half a billion ringgit in total investment.

In fact, the only commercial element initially was the Danga View Apartment blocks. This was later followed by the Danga Walk shop offices. Now, of course, work has started in the high-end Tropez Residence.

"Turning Danga Bay into what it is now needs more than just money. It needs vision and plenty of courage.

"I've always dreamt about transforming Danga Bay into a beautiful waterfront city of the future since I first set sight on this place.

"We're still long way to realising the dream. But we've laid the foundation for bigger and better things to come," he said.

Danga Bay offers more than just activities inland.

The Danga Cruise brings tourists for a tour along the Johor Straits with food served onboard, offering an altogether different style in outdoor dining.

Chartered boats or water taxis are available for those interested in touring the islands across the Danga Bay.

The fun in Danga Bay is never-ending.

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Malaysia: Taman Negara faces trespassing menace

New Straits Times 18 Jul 12;

ENCROACHMENT: Perhilitan seeks soldiers' help to curb poaching

THE Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) plans to reactivate its collaboration with the armed forces to combat poaching and other illegal activities in Taman Negara here.

Pahang's Taman Negara superintendent Fakhrul Hatta Musa said encroachment into the park was usually by illegal immigrants who poached wildlife and stole gaharu wood, which fetched a high price on the market.

"We find it difficult to track them down as Taman Negara covers a vast area bordering three states -- Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang," he said after an expedition programme with the Media and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry here.

The programme was held between July 13 and 15 at the Pahang Taman Negara and South Jenderak Wildlife Conservation Centre to brief the media on Perhilitan's work.

Also present was Natural Resources and Environment Ministry head of corporate communications Yamuna Perimalu.

Previously, Perhilitan and the armed forces had collaborated from 2002 to 2007, but halted the exercise due to the high costs involved, said Fakhrul.

"So far, the situation is under control and we have managed to detain a number of trespassers, both local and foreign, from January this year," he said.

Apart from the Armed Forces, Perhilitan also plans to work with the police, Immigration and Customs Department and other authorities in relation to offences committed by trespassers, he added.

He urged the public and related non-governmental organisations to play a more active role and inform Perhilitan of encroachments or the sale of wildlife and plants from the park.

Describing Pahang Taman Negara, he said it covered 248,121ha, and was mostly hilly terrain, with the three highest peaks being Mount Teku, Mount Tangga Dua Belas and Mount Tahan.

"The Sungai Tahan, which starts from Mount Tahan, is the park's main water way.

"Pahang Taman Negara has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, like the Sumateran Rhino, tigers, primates and several species endemic to the area, including birds and fresh water turtles," said Fakhrul, who was director of the Institute of Biodiversity, Bukit Rengit, Lanchang, Pahang, before being appointed to the park post last month. Bernama

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'Ocean fertilisation' experiment stores CO2

Richard Ingham (AFP) Google News 19 Jul 12;

PARIS — German researchers on Wednesday said they had evidence that sowing the ocean with iron particles sucks up and stores carbon dioxide (CO2), preventing the gas from stoking dangerous climate change.

But their work, touching on a fiercely controversial issue called geo-engineering, came under attack from other scientists and environmentalists.

These said a far bigger question -- whether such schemes could damage the marine biosphere -- remained unanswered.

Published in the science journal Nature, the paper is one of the biggest and most detailed probes into ocean fertilisation, a practice that is banned under international law although scientific research into it is permitted.

Its goal is to take CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the deep sea so that it no longer adds to the greenhouse effect.

This would be done by scattering the ocean surface with iron dust, a nutrient for microscope marine vegetation called phytoplankton. As the plants gorge on the iron, they also suck up atmospheric CO2 thanks to natural photosynthesis.

In the next step, the phytoplankton die and sink to the deep ocean floor -- taking with them the CO2, which would lie in the sediment, possibly for centuries.

Critics, though, say geo-engineering schemes are riddled with unknowns, both in cost effectiveness and risks for the environment.

Scientists led by Victor Smetacek of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven took a research ship to the Southern Ocean off Antarctica in 2004.

There, they located a giant eddy -- a slowly-moving clockwise-rotating swirl 60 kilometres (37 miles across) that had relatively little interchange with the rest of the ocean -- and used it as a testbed for a five-week experiment.

They scattered seven tonnes of commercial iron sulphate particles, which within four weeks developed into a giant bloom of diatom plankton.

The diatoms then died, sinking in clumps of entangled cells, "far below" a depth of 1,000 metres (3,250 feet), according to samples measured with a gadget called a fluorometer.

They were probably deposited on the sea floor in a "fluff layer" that should remain for "many centuries and longer," Smetacek's team say.

Further work is needed to see what happens when sideways currents hit the diatom blooms, they add.

Other voices sounded a loud note of caution, saying the experiment took place in exceptional conditions and did not consider other environmental consequences.

Among them was Professor John Shepherd, who chaired a landmark report in 2009 by Britain's Royal Society into geo-engineering.

It concluded that ocean fertilisation would not suck up that much CO2 and could be harmful to the marine biosphere.

"Whilst the new research is an interesting and valuable contribution in this evolving field, it does not address the potential ecological side effects of such a technology in what is a poorly understood field," Shepherd said in an email to AFP.

The Canada-based ETC Group, an environmental NGO campaigning against geo-engineering, said the study "only focuses on a few narrow aspects and disregards or ignores others."

"The intended purpose of ocean fertilisation is to significantly disrupt marine ecosystems through drastic changes on phytoplankton, which is the base of the marine food web, so the effects would propagate throughout the ocean in unpredictable ways," it said.

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