Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jul 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [23 - 29 Jul 2012]
from Green Business Times

Sat 04 Aug 2012: Join us on our pre-National Day coastal cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang mangrove! from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

It's Hard To Mate When There's Currents
from colourful clouds

Anemone City
from Pulau Hantu and Sedimentation on Pulau Hantu Reef Slope

Underwater splendor of Terumbu Pempang Tengah
from wonderful creation

grey-headed fish eagle @ sg buloh - 29July2012
from sgbeachbum

How many monitor lizards at Sungei Buloh?
from wild shores of singapore

Baya weaver(Ploceus philippinus) outside of SBWR
from PurpleMangrove

Common Palm Civet
from Monday Morgue

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Wildlife trafficking 'at all-time high'

Enforcement not keeping up with perpetrators, says anti-trafficking expert
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 30 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE - Bears in metal jackets - with metal catheters draining bile from their gall bladders - stand in tiny cages with their muscles largely wasted. Some have had their teeth smashed, or claws cut. Others could be killed, with their paws cut off or gall bladders taken out on-the-spot - if that is what the buyer wants.

Animal welfare issues aside, these bear farms - found in countries such as Laos, Myanmar and China and where thousands of bears are kept - are also a "real concern" from a conservation standpoint, given evidence that suggests that some of these bears are caught in the wild, said wildlife monitoring network Traffic's South-east Asia Deputy Director Chris Shepherd, who was recently in town.

The two bear species in South-east Asia - the Asian black bear and sun bear - are endangered species.

Cross-border trade of bear bile products is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but occurs throughout the region, noted a bear bile trade report published last year that Dr Shepherd co-authored.

The bleak picture extends to wildlife trafficking in general: With growing demand fuelled by rising affluence and the rise of online trade, and enforcement agencies failing to keep up with smugglers, trafficking levels are at an all-time high, according to Dr Shepherd, who is based in Malaysia.

"The situation has never been as severe as it is now," he told TODAY. "Last year, more rhinos were killed in South Africa to supply demand in Vietnam than have ever been killed before - it was the absolute peak last year. This year, it's looking to be worse."

Last year, 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Conservationists have pointed to demand from Asia, in particular Vietnam. According to Traffic, Vietnamese made up 24 of the 43 arrests of Asian nationals for rhino crimes in South Africa this year, reported The Guardian last Monday.

Dr Shepherd said the aim is not to stop all wildlife trade - but to "enforce legislation to a point where wildlife is not threatened by trade and, in some cases, can be used sustainably". Such laws enacted for the white-tailed deer in North America have resulted in no detrimental effect on its wild population despite hunting, for instance.

Traffic investigates trade, provides intelligence reports and assists authorities in wildlife trafficking enforcement. It has developed materials such as species identification guides in various languages for the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, an inter-governmental initiative targeting wildlife crime.

Its most recent report, on trade of birds in the Solomon Islands, analysed 11 years of trade figures and named Singapore as a key laundering point for tens of thousands of birds caught in the wild but declared as captive bred.

Dr Shepherd urged the Singapore authorities to "better scrutinise permits on shipments" of various species. "If they closed the door here, it would have a knock-on effect globally. Singapore definitely has the potential and capacity to do that," he said.

Cases of illegal import, export and trans-shipment of wildlife and their parts or products have decreased in the last two years, according to figures from the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). There were 33 cases in 2010 and 20 cases last year, with eight cases so far this year.

The possession and sale of illegal wildlife and their parts or products has decreased from 64 in 2010 to 14 last year. But in the first half of this year, 16 cases have already been recorded.

Three cases since 2010 have been prosecuted in court, with the rest given warnings or composition fines, said an AVA spokesperson. She added that the AVA conducts regular inspections on shops that sell wildlife, and checks all shipments from high-risk countries at ports of entry and exit. It also investigates CITES infringements based on its own intelligence and other information sources. The public may also contact the AVA at 6227 0670 to provide information on illegal wildlife sales.

Singapore consumers can play their part by not eating exotic or illegal meat in restaurants overseas, and not buying medicines and souvenirs with wildlife parts, said Dr Shepherd. They should not keep wildlife as pets and, if they come across wildlife being illegally sold by dealers, they should resist "rescuing" the animals by buying them.

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Anti-flooding measures at 11 more MRT stations

Move seen as preventive and follows earlier steps at 6 downtown stations
Royston Sim Straits Times 30 Jul 12;

THE Land Transport Authority is taking steps to flood-proof more MRT stations.

It called a tender earlier this month to beef up flood prevention measures at 11 MRT stations, several months after it did the same for six downtown stations.

The 11 stations up for enhancement works this time are: Braddell, Toa Payoh, Boon Keng, Somerset, Outram, Tiong Bahru, Bugis, Lavender, Bishan, Marina Bay and Changi Airport.

The works will include installing flood-barrier systems at the stations, sealing glass panels, vent shafts and other openings to make them watertight, and raising escape staircases.

Contractors are expected to design and install two types of flood-barrier systems at several points in each station - a manual stackable type and a swing-type which stays open during normal times.

Both systems must be designed to be watertight when flood waters are below 1.5m - the height of the flood barriers.

The flood barriers should be made of lightweight aluminium panels, said the LTA in its tender documents.

The stackable barriers must also be made so user-friendly that two people will take no more than 15 minutes to set them up.

A spokesman for the authority said: 'All MRT stations and associated structures... were designed such that the entrance and crest levels are high enough to accommodate potential flooding in lower lying areas.'

Still, the authority has decided to take additional measures to enhance the flood prevention capability of selected stations given their locations, he said.

This follows an earlier contract to flood-proof six downtown MRT stations.

That project was awarded to Sigma Builders for $2,228,776.

Those six stations - Orchard, City Hall, Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar, Novena and Little India - are all sited in low-lying areas with track records of flash-floods, but have themselves never been flooded.

Similarly, works at all 11 stations in this second phase are preventive in nature. No MRT station has ever been flooded.

Manually-operated full-height sliding barriers will also be installed at Tiong Bahru and Bugis stations.

The LTA spokesman explained that this was due to both stations' concourses being located below the lowest level of adjacent buildings.

Work on the first six stations will be completed by the middle of next year, while the next 11 stations should be outfitted by the third quarter of 2014.

Assistant professor Vivien Chua, who teaches in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore, said it is a good strategy for the authority to take preventive measures.

Temporary flood barrier systems are more reliable in holding back floodwater compared to sandbags, and are also resistant to seepage, she said.

She added that they are 'also cost-effective solutions compared to the economic cost of flood damage and the inconvenience which might result from flooding at the stations'.

Mr Kevin Kho, a 51-year-old engineer with more than 25 years of experience, said: 'As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. It's more cost-effective to have good preventive measures in place.'

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Global Tiger Day - spare a thought for tiger prey too!

WWF 29 Jul 12;

As tiger range countries today celebrate Global Tiger Day, WWF is urging the governments to raise efforts to work towards Zero Poaching of tiger prey as well as tigers.

With wild tiger numbers as low as 3,200, direct, targeted poaching of tigers is the most immediate danger for the species today. However, a serious contributing factor to the plight of the tiger is the widespread decline of its forest larder – the deer, wild pigs and wild cattle such as the Gaur.

One tiger needs to eat the equivalent of a medium size deer every week to survive and without adequate food, the tiger population declines very fast. Too many forests of Asia are classed as ‘empty forests” – the trees are there but the animals are gone. Anti-poaching efforts therefore must be targeted at protecting both the tiger and its prey.

Poachers very often focus on tiger prey rather than tigers themselves. Prey animals are sought by local poachers to supply the local food market. Many of these prey species are also highly endangered and often neglected by conservation efforts. Yet, they can also benefit from the extra protection given to the tiger.

“Without protecting the tiger’s prey from poaching and forest degradation, achieving the target of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022 is impossible,” said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “The survival of the prey is key to the survival of the tiger.”

Tackling poaching requires high levels of professionally managed security. But if the local community is against the park or the tigers, then the continued efforts of the poachers will overwhelm even the best-trained, motivated rangers who are at the frontline protecting tigers.

A long-term WWF project in southern Thailand, working intensively with the local communities living around Kuiburi National Park, has reduced poaching by four-fold and doubled tiger prey population. The project clearly demonstrates that when local communities are well mobilized, they can be a very powerful and essential force against poaching.

Working towards Zero Poaching requires serious government intervention. The WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard released on Monday reported that more than 200 tiger carcasses are being seized from illegal trade each year and that most countries were very far from providing protection against poaching and illegal wildlife trade, particularly those countries like China and Vietnam, where illegal traders know there is a strong demand for tiger-based products.

WWF is today releasing a short film “Confessions of an ex-poacher” that highlights the destructive trade. Interviews with two former poachers turned tiger protectors give insights into this illicit world that drives forests to become lucrative hunting grounds for poachers and making tigers their livelihoods. The film also discusses steps needed to stem out poaching in the heartland areas of forests where tigers breed. One of these is to provide those at the frontlines protecting tigers – rangers, protected area officials and local communities – with the right tools to eradicate poaching.

Local communities and protected area staff, particularly rangers or specialized enforcement officers, are the frontline against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Rangers put their life on the line everyday to keep wild tigers and their prey safe. They are critical in achieving Zero Poaching, yet are not always fully appreciated for their important role. WWF will be launching a special action on International Rangers Day on 31 July to honour these unsung heroes.

Elsewhere, WWF offices in tiger range countries are also joining governments and civil society in a range of Global Tiger Day celebratory events.

Bhutan: A special community event will be held in line with the theme of this year’s Global Tiger Day – “Tiger and community co-existing in harmony for mutual survival”. It will be held in Trongsa in central Bhutan, with a community that has been working on tiger conservation. There will be a skid presented by the community and a poster competition for students.

China: WWF will launch a pilot deer reintroduction programme in Wangqing Nature Reserve in northeast China, at a site where tracks of both the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard have been discovered frequently. This is part of a bigger tiger conservation programme aimed at recovering tiger prey density and restoring the habitat. A special launch ceremony will be held with officials, representatives from partner organizations and media in attendance.

Nepal: A series of public service announcements will be launched to promote awareness of the need to stop wildlife trade. There will also be a formal declaration of the results of the tiger count conducted in Bardia National Park earlier in the year. WWF will also hold an art competition for students in the Terai Arc region.

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