Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 12

Join the guided Otter Cycling Trail @ Changi this Sat 28 Jul 2012: 8.00am – 1.00pm! from Toddycats!

Random Gallery - Narrow Spark
from Butterflies of Singapore

Bivalves Revealed: Bivalve Workshop Day 2
from wild shores of singapore

Sharing Cyrene with MPA
from wild shores of singapore

White-crested Laughingthrush foraging in rubbish bin
from Bird Ecology Study Group

New Publication: Calappa karenae, a new species of box crab from Guam (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Calappidae) from Raffles Museum News

Read more!

Why meat of culled wild boars cannot be sold to hawkers: AVA

Straits Times Forum 25 Jul 12;

I THANK Mr Thomas Lee ('Sell culled boars to hawkers'; July 17) and Mr Raymund Koh ('No to selling wild boar meat to hawkers'; last Friday) for their suggestions and feedback.

Only imported wild boar meat from accredited sources approved by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is allowed for sale in Singapore.

Our accreditation process for all imported meat includes evaluating the countries' veterinary infrastructure, animal health status as well as legislation for control of animal diseases and food safety.

We also assess the establishments to ensure that production facilities and practices meet AVA's food safety standards.

Local food processing establishments must be licensed by AVA before they are permitted to carry out any slaughtering, food processing or storage activities for wholesale distribution.

There are no appropriate facilities in Singapore to ensure safe and hygienic processing of wild boar meat.

Without proper processing, wild boar meat may not be safe for consumption, as wild boars may carry zoonotic parasites and diseases.

As such, meat from wild boars which are caught here cannot be sold.

Seah Huay Leng (Ms)
Director, Food Establishment Regulation Department for Chief Executive Officer
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

No to selling wild boar meat to hawkers
Straits Times Forum 20 Jul 12;

I DISAGREE with Mr Thomas Lee's suggestion ('Sell culled boars to hawkers'; Tuesday).

Unlike farmed pigs, wild boars are free-roaming and eat just about anything in the wild. They are not vaccinated and may carry unknown diseases, which can pose risks to human health.

Although such boars are considered a delicacy in other countries, those who wish to taste such a delicacy can go ahead and try it overseas.

I certainly hope the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) does not allow sales of wild boar meat to hawkers.

Sell culled boars to hawkers
Straits Times Forum 17 Jul 12;

THE National Parks Board made the right decision to start culling the boars in the Lower Peirce area ('Wild boar culling to go ahead: NParks'; last Thursday).

These animals are strong; they bite and can cause serious injuries to the public, especially young children, even if they merely charge at them.

On another note, the meat of the wild boar is regarded as a delicacy by some food lovers. Some travel to far-flung restaurants in Malaysia that serve it. The meat tastes better when dipped in chilli, garlic and vinegar.

As the authorities have confirmed that culling will begin, perhaps they should consider tendering out the meat for hawkers who can make a good meal out of it.

Thomas Lee

Game for local boar meat?
While edible, expert warns it may be host for bacteria. -TNP
Joyce Lim The New Paper AsiaOne 22 Jul 12;
Whole wheat 'stracci' pasta with braised imported wild boar meat in red wine.

WILD boar meat is sought after here.

So if National Parks Board (NParks) is planning to cull the growing population of the animal, why not make its meat available for consumption?

Responding to the NParks decision to cull the boars in the Lower Peirce Reservoir area, a Straits Times reader wrote to suggest tendering the wild boar meat to hawkers since it is "regarded as a delicacy by some food lovers".

He added that some people travel to far-flung restaurants in Malaysia that serve it.

But how safe is it to consume wild boar meat here?

While wild boar meat is edible, the problem is that nobody has studied if the meat from the animals here is safe to consume, maintained Dr Diong Cheong Hoong, the former head of the Natural Science Academic Group at the National Institute of Education.

So The New Paper turned to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the food watchdog which decides what is safe for consumption.

An AVA spokesman said there is no appropriate facility in Singapore to ensure the safe and hygienic processing of local wild boar meat.

And without proper processing, it may not be safe to consume products made from wild boar meat here.

But why is it unsafe?

Associate Professor Hugh Tan Tiang Wah, the deputy director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore, said wild boars here could have been exposed to pollutants and toxins that they consume, and their flesh may be infected as a result.

Sure, but how bad can it get?

Chef Riku Lek, 35, who has tried braised wild boar meat in Johor Baru, said: "It's a delicacy in Malaysia. It's definitely tastier than regular pork. The meat is lean, yet it is soft and melts in your mouth.

"Wild boar meat needs to be well-cooked as bacteria are known to grow on it. Most chefs would braise or slow-cook it.

"When you cook it for long hours, I don't think any bacteria will have a chance of surviving in the meat."

Dr Diong said: "Consumers risk being infected with disease pathogens that are transmissible directly from the boars to humans.

"Wild boars are hosts and reservoirs for a number of bacteria, viruses and parasites that are transmissible to humans.

"Some of the serious diseases... that are transmissible to humans include viral hepatitis E, swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, tuberculosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis and trichinosis.

"There is no study to date on the prevalence and infection intensity of infectious disease agents in the wild boar population in Singapore and until then, a wild boar carcass, in a culling operation, should be treated as a biohazard and disposed of accordingly."


If that is not scary enough, Dr Diong added that infection can come about by eating infected meat that is not properly cooked or by open skin contact with blood and tissue fluids of infected boars.

He said: "Human deaths resulting from the consumption of wild boar meat infected with disease and pathogens have been reported in Japan."

Mr Yong Ding Li, a research coordinator with the Nature Society (Singapore) and lead author of a research paper on the animal in Singapore, said: "To the best of my knowledge, there are no published studies on disease transmission in the consumption of wild boar meat locally.

"But people have contracted hepatitis E from eating undercooked wild boar meat."

Imported wild boar meat, however, is a different matter.

From January 2011 to last month, Singapore imported about 0.8 tonnes of wild boar meat, said an AVA spokesman.

Most of the meat came from the US and were tested by AVA before being supplied to the restaurants.

An AVA spokesman said: "All imported meat products, including wild boar meat, must come from sources approved by AVA.

"The accreditation process includes evaluating the countries' veterinary infrastructure, animal health status, legislations for control of animal diseases and food safety.

"It also includes assessing the establishments to ensure that production facilities, production practices, hygiene and food safety levels meet AVA's standards."

And yes, there are people who love the taste of wild boar meat.

Food suppliers TNP spoke to said that it has always been in demand here and can easily cost twice the price of pork.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

Read more!

Indonesia: Rare Rafflesia flowers attract tourists to Bengkulu

Antara 24 Jul 12;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The Taba Penanjung natural sanctuary in Central Bengkulu Regency has become a holiday destination overnight after two Rafflesia arnoldii flowers blossomed in the area on Tuesday.

"When they blossomed on Sunday (July 22), visitors started pouring in. Moreover, the flowers have bloomed at a strategic location, just 10 metres away from the sanctuary's main avenue," said Juanda, the keeper of the Rafflesia flowers, on Tuesday.

The blossoming of two Rafflesia flowers at the same time was a rare occurrence and the two flowers bloomed just 2 metres away from each other, he added.

Thanks to local and national media attention, visitors thronged to the sanctuary to see the two flowers.

"We get approximately a hundred visitors a day. We haven't kept count," Juanda stated.

He and his two colleagues, Ibnu and Reck, have placed donation boxes along the driveways of the sanctuary, the proceeds of which would be used to buy tents, so the flowers could be preserved at least for 24 hours.

"If we do not protect the flowers, they may be stolen. That has happened twice," he explained. The rare flowers are also vulnerable to damage. However, visitors are allowed to take pictures with the flowers by paying only Rp5.000,00.

"They can take some pictures with the flowers, but cannot touch the sheath because the flowers are extremely delicate," Juanda stated.

One of the visitors, Yusak, who came from Jakarta, said he was impressed and amazed by the uniqueness of the Rafflesia flower.

"I had never seen the flowers before. I went to Bengkulu on business, so I could see how unique the Rafflesia flowers actually were," he said.

In the meantime, Juanda said the two flowers would continue attracting visitors at least for two more days.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Read more!

Mangroves: A Filter for Heavy Metals

ScienceDaily 24 Jul 12;

A mangrove is a forest consisting of various species of mangrove trees growing with their bases submerged in water, at the interface between land and sea. They cover more than three quarters of tropical coastlines, that is to say almost 200,000km². In New Caledonia, they accounts for almost 80% of the island's western coastline. They act as a buffer zone between the lagoon and the mountain mining areas, rich in metallic elements (iron, manganese, nickel, chrome and cobalt, nearly all toxic pollutants).

New Caledonia is the3rd largest nickel producer worldwide, with over 30% of the planet's resources, and it has been the location of intense mining activity since the end of the 19th century. Around 300 million m3 of spoils rich in heavy metals have been created until now. A significant amount of this mining waste has been transported to coastal areas by the dramatic climate events, (thunderstorms and tropical tempests, cyclones) that often occur in this region. Accentuated by mining activity, this erosion is the most important cause of deterioration of the coastline, the mangroves, the fringing reef and the lagoon.

Polluted mangroves

An IRD team and their partners(1) have recently demonstrated that concentrations of mineral metals such as iron, nickel and chrome are 10 to 100 times higher in mangroves situated downstream from mining sites. Recently, two studies have been published, one concerning the mangrove downstream from a nickel mine that operated in the 20th century at the mouth of the Dumbéa river in the south west of the island, the other being unaffected by mining activity in its catchment area (used as a control) in Conception Bay, near Nouméa.

Core samples of sediment 70cm in length were taken at low tide from the different zones in the mangroves, in order to account for differing coverage in vegetation. The mangrove ecosystem is clearly divided into different zones, each dominated by a separate type of mangrove tree, according to the topography of the land and the duration of tidal immersion. Rhizophora trees are found where the mangrove meets the sea, large in size with their root systems above ground. In the central zone where high tides are intermittent, the medium-sized Avicennia mangrove shrubs are found. Located at the rear is the 'tanne', the area least often submerged by water, consisting salt-saturated soil, bare or sparsely populated with vegetation.

The core samples extracted were examined using a variety of chemical treatments designed to dissolve minerals containing metallic elements. Such analysis has enabled a comparison between the concentrations of metals in the sediment from the two mangroves under study, in addition to their potential toxicity, and revealed the biogeochemical processes that are specific to the various species of mangrove trees.

The mangrove -- a highly adapted forest

Mangrove trees use a real arsenal of survival techniques to deal with the extreme conditions of their natural habitat. To counteract the absence of oxygen in the mud, they have developed remarkable root systems, enabling air to penetrate the soil. The Rhizophora located on the waterfront have developed roots that form stilts, emerging from their branches, in order to combat the swell and currents. As a result, there is a major accumulation of litter within the sediment, where anoxic(2) processes take place, leading to the precipitation of 'sulphide' type minerals. In this type of forest, metals can thus merge with decomposing organic matter, or co-precipitate with the sulphides, and are thus trapped by the mangrove.

The Avicennia are characterised by a star-shaped root system that develops a sub-surface level, with vertical growths emerging skywards. These formations are known as 'pneumatophores', and allow the mangrove tree to extract oxygen from the atmosphere. However, these breathing organs are not watertight, and lose a portion of their oxygen to the sediment. As such, beneath the vegetation, metallic elements linked to iron oxides are dissolved and transferred to the mangrove trees.

This research has led to a better global understanding of the processes that control the mangrove ecosystem. It has confirmed that mangroves act as a well for contaminants over the long term. However, their surface coverage is decreasing by 1 to 2% each year. The cause: demographic growth along the tropical coastlines and urbanisation, as well as prospecting for and exploitation of natural resources, such as nickel in New Caledonia. Without the dense network of vegetation provided by the mangrove trees, sediment that is loaded with pollutants could be returned to the lagoon, a haven for biodiversity and a major source of revenue for the local population through fishing and aquaculture.

This research has been carried out by the University of New Caledonia, Koniambo Nickel SAS and the AEL/LEA laboratory in Nouméa, the University of Orléans and Paris-Sud University.

Journal References:

C. Marchand, J.-M. Fernandez, B. Moreton, L. Landi, E. Lallier-Vergès, F. Baltzer. The partitioning of transitional metals (Fe, Mn, Ni, Cr) in mangrove sediments downstream of a ferralitized ultramafic watershed (New Caledonia). Chemical Geology, 2012; 300-301: 70 DOI: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2012.01.018
C. Marchand, M. Allenbach, E. Lallier-Vergès. Relationships between heavy metals distribution and organic matter cycling in mangrove sediments (Conception Bay, New Caledonia). Geoderma, 2011; 160 (3-4): 444 DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2010.10.015

Read more!

Malaysia: Fishermen net 5 giant manta rays near Langkawi

New Straits Times 25 Jul 12;

TELUK INTAN: A group of fishermen from Hutan Melintang who were out to sea on Monday were pleasantly surprised when they found five giant manta rays (ikan pari hantu) stuck to their nets along with other fish.

The manta rays weighed 80kg, 120kg, 170kg, 190kg and 200kg, respectively.

The fishermen were in waters near Langkawi about noon when they stumbled upon the whopping catch.

Boat skipper Lim Joo Heng, 43, said this was the first time he had stumbled upon the manta rays.

"The 80kg manta ray is a male while the rest are females. We sold three of the manta rays to a businessman from Bukit Mertajam and one each to wholesalers from Sekinchan and Air Tawar, Perak."

Read more!

Indian court bans tourism in tiger reserve 'core zones'

BBC News 24 Jul 12;

The Supreme Court in India has ordered a ban on tourism in "core zones" of more than 40 of the country's central government-run tiger reserves.

In a landmark ruling, it warned that states that fail to implement the ban face contempt proceedings and fines.

The court imposed fines of 10,000 rupees each ($178;£115) on six states for not complying with its earlier tiger protection directives.

Tiger numbers have shrunk alarmingly in India in recent decades.

A 2011 census counted about 1,700 tigers in the wild.

A century ago there were estimated to be 100,000 tigers in India.
Poaching and conflicts

Conservation groups have welcomed the ruling, describing it as a significant development.

The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation petition filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey which sought the removal of commercial tourism activities from core or critical tiger habitats in tiger reserves.

Most tiger reserves in India have "core zones".

The reserves also have buffer zones - fringe areas that surround tiger reserves up to a distance of 10km (six miles).

The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says that while the ruling is important, it is unclear what impact if any it will have on the tourism industry, which is mostly confined to the buffer areas.

The court's order is one of a number of initiatives recently taken by the Indian authorities to conserve tigers.

In February an entire village was relocated in the state of Rajasthan to protect the animals.

Officials say conservation efforts by the government and wildlife organisations have helped tiger populations increase.

But poaching and conflicts between the tigers and people living in and on the periphery of the tiger reserves remains a threat.

Read more!

Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July

Scientists at Nasa admitted they thought satellite readings were a mistake after images showed 97% melt over four days
Suzanne Goldenberg 24 Jul 12;

The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right. An estimated 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. Photograph: Nasa

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Son Nghiem of Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release.

He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings. Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland at Nasa's space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, confirmed that the area experienced unusually high temperatures in mid-July, and that there was widespread melting over the surface of the ice sheet.

Climatologists Thomas Mote, at the University of Georgia, and Marco Tedesco, of the City University of New York, also confirmed the melt recorded by the satellites.

However, scientists were still coming to grips with the shocking images on Tuesday. "I think it's fair to say that this is unprecedented," Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian.

The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.

Zwally, who has made almost yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet for more than three decades, said he had never seen such a rapid melt.

About half of Greenland's surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted.

He said he was most surprised to see indications in the images of melting even around the area of Summit Station, which is about two miles above sea level.

It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann Glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious.

"If you look at the 8 July image that might be the maximum extent of warming you would see in the summer," Zwally noted. "There have been periods when melting might have occurred at higher elevations briefly – maybe for a day or so – but to have it cover the whole of Greenland like this is unknown, certainly in the time of satellite records."

Lora Koenig, another Goddard glaciologist, told Nasa similar rapid melting occurs about every 150 years. But she warned there were wide-ranging potential implications from this year's thaw.

"If we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome." she told Nasa.

The most immediate consequences are sea level rise and a further warming of the Arctic. In the centre of Greenland, the ice remains up to 3,000 metres deep. On the edges, however, the ice is much, much thinner and has been melting into the sea.

The melting ice sheet is a significant factor in sea level rise. Scientists attribute about one-fifth of the annual sea level rise, which is about 3mm every year, to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

In this instance of this month's extreme melting, Mote said there was evidence of a heat dome over Greenland: or an unusually strong ridge of warm air.

The dome is believed to have moved over Greenland on 8 July, lingering until 16 July.

Read more!