Best of our wild blogs: 3 Aug 12

Special Changi: a last look in 2012
from wild shores of singapore

What we tell NEA’s Dept of Public Cleanliness (DPC)
from Otterman speaks

scarlet-backed flowerpecker @ sg buloh - 29Jul2012
from sgbeachbum

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Marine park gets ready for opening

Oceanarium's construction complete; animals arriving here daily from overseas
Grace Chua Straits Times 3 Aug 12;

THE upcoming Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is on track to open by the end of this year. Construction is complete, and 15 per cent of the park's animals have already moved in or are now in quarantine in Sungei Tengah.

The 8ha Sentosa park, about the size of 13 football fields, will be one of the world's largest oceanariums. It will house some 100,000 marine creatures drawn from 800 species. These will include schools of palm-size yellow tang, clownfish, black-tipped reef sharks, puffer fish and small eagle rays.

But the 27 wild-caught dolphins which the park decided to buy and showcase as a key attraction have made more news in the last few years.

A Marine Life Park spokesman yesterday said the dolphins are still in Subic Bay in the Philippines, with no word on when they will arrive.

Meanwhile, marine animals from all over the world, but mainly from South-east Asia's Coral Triangle, are arriving daily to start their quarantine, either at the park or at the marine aquaculture and research centre in Sungei Tengah. The quarantine ensures they are disease- and parasite-free come opening day. This three-week period also gives the creatures time to get acclimatised to the temperature, salinity and other water conditions.

The 2ha Sungei Tengah facility was completed last year and started operations in February. Marine Life Park did not reveal its cost.

There, rows of tanks large and small are divided into pens by netting, which keeps fish separated by species for easier care.

Some tanks have shelter and hiding spaces. A large pipe, for example, now works as a substitute hole for a moray eel.

The Marine Life Park oceanarium director and chief curator is Mr Craig Sowden, who was with the Sydney Aquarium for 22 years and helped design part of it.

He is backed by about 50 curatorial staff, plus veterinary staff and animal health staff who care for the marine creatures, put them through tests and observe them for infections, skin lesions or unusual behaviour.

The creatures are fed specially imported pellets or frozen squid, fish and prawns.

Most of the creatures were caught in the wild, said Mr Sowden. The park wants its suppliers to guarantee they use only non-destructive methods of capture, he said. "We'll not purchase anything that's caught with explosives or cyanide."

After the park is up and running, the Sungei Tengah facility will be used for breeding research, both for the park and in collaboration with other institutions, he said.

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WWF seeing positive response to "No Shark's Fin" campaign

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 3 Aug 12;

SINGAPORE: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is seeing some positive response to its latest initiative which calls on consumers and businesses in Singapore to say no to shark's fin.

The initiative is in support of a global movement towards shark and marine conservation.

WWF says that it has sent out an electronic direct mailer to its 2,000 corporate partners and, so far, 10 companies have signed on. The organisation is hoping to hit 100 by the end of the year.

WWF Singapore has already received in excess of 15,000 individual pledges for its "No Shark's Fin" campaign so far.

Still, it is a challenging task to get Singaporeans to forgo shark's fin.

Statistics from the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) show that in 2011, shark fin imports climbed by 40 per cent when compared to the previous year.

But it is not just about shark's fin. An increasing number of restaurants and hotels in Singapore are also looking to source their seafood and their produce more sustainably.

According to WWF, an average of 100,000 tons of seafood is consumed each year in Singapore, making it one of the biggest seafood consumers in the Asia-Pacific.

Geoffrey Muldoon, live reef fish trade strategy leader at WWF, said: "I travel around the region and I see the status of stocks in the region and there is undoubtedly stocks of certain fish in the region that are heavily over fished.

"87 per cent of all fisheries in the world are either fully or over exploited, and that is an increase on two years ago and an increase on 4 years ago."

"We seem to be moving in the direction of pushing fisheries further towards over exploitation rather than recovering some of these fisheries," he added.

A number of hotels in Singapore, including Fairmont, Swissotel The Stamford, Shangri-La and The Fullerton no longer serve shark's fin soup, which means having to rework the menu.

Paul Lenz, area executive chef of Shangri-La Singapore, said: "The no shark's fin policy was implemented by Shangri-La earlier this year, worldwide, for all 72 hotels.

"We were working towards having no shark's fin since 2010. However, we made it available off the menu on request. The decision on that was taken due to the high volume of our Chinese banquet operations. It was always a traditional dish (for Chinese weddings) and it was always high in demand."

"At this time, it's the younger crowds, the younger generations who feel that it is not necessary to have shark's fin on the banquet menu. We came up with alternative dishes which can replace shark's fin easily," he said.

WWF adds that as many as 90 per cent of all the ocean's large fish have been fished out, and unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048.

But eating sustainably isn't without its challenges, and Mr Muldoon says that there are three main issues.

"One of the challenges is, actually locating what we would consider to be sustainable or more responsible sources of food," he said.

"The second is actually the cost associated with eating more responsibly. Inevitably, it costs more to eat more responsibly."

"And the third, for us, was the logistical aspect, working with food and beverage outlets and restaurants that are interested in the idea of sustainability is made more difficult in terms of actually locating that product that we consider to be better and getting it through the supply chain and in to the venue where the fish is being consumed," Mr Muldoon added.

Chef Lenz agrees that sustainable seafood consumption starts at the source, and that more sustainable farming methods need to be encouraged.

When it comes to cost however, Chef Lenz adds that if more people start to consume from sustainable sources, this could help to eventually ease pricing pressure.

"I think if everybody strives towards the same product on to the market, price will regulate itself over the years to come," he said.

- CNA/wm

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Trail closed for public safety

Wong Tuan Wah Director (Conservation), National Parks Board
Today Online 3 Aug 12;

We thank Mr Phang Kok Chiew for his feedback in "Risky barriers at nature reserve" (July 28). The trail he referred to, at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, has been closed permanently since December 2007 because it is unsafe.

Part of the trail has become unstable due to slope failure. The fence or barrier, with warning signs, was erected to warn visitors not to enter the area.

We urge visitors to observe personal safety and not to climb over the barrier.

There are more than 10 other trails in the Reserve that the public can use. These are demarcated clearly on map boards in the Reserve, for visitors' convenience.

For further feedback, members of the public are welcome to contact us at 1800-471-7800 or .

Risky barriers at nature reserve
Phang Kok Chiew Today Online 27 Jul 12;

I have recently noticed that iron bars with pointed ends are being erected along some Bukit Timah Nature Reserve trails, presumably for safety reasons. But these barriers are impractical, wasteful and, more importantly, risky.

The trails offer an interesting jungle experience. The more adventurous, like myself, would not be deterred by the barriers and, at our own risk, would go around them or squeeze through the gaps. This is already happening.

When the slopes are slippery, accidents could happen. But the real danger is if visitors were to climb over the bars. One slip on the sharp ends and it could be serious. Such an act may be foolish, but it may happen.

A practical approach is to clear fallen tree trunks across the paths and put up simple barriers with warning signs to indicate possible danger spots, such as where soil may give way. Appropriate advice could also be posted at the nature reserve's entrance.

Falling trees, landslides or cave-ins can occur anywhere in a forest, in stormy or sunny weather, and visitors need to stay alert at all times. Could the National Parks Board look into the concerns and advise if they are valid?

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Malaysia, Sabah: Rescuers fail to save beached whale

The Star 3 Aug 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A stranded 15.8m long whale that beached off Sabah's district of Kuala Penyu has died despite efforts to save it.

Earlier, firemen had sprayed water on the stranded whale as fisheries and wildlife officers tried to work out a solution to help the animal back into the sea after it became stranded early yesterday.

Kuala Penyu Fisheries Department officer Julin Bagang said the whale was alive then but weak.

“It had been hurt slightly but the injuries did not appear to be serious,” he said, adding that a fisherman had reported seeing the animal along the shores of Kampung Pitutan in Kuala Penyu, about 140km from here.

Bagang said the department had sought the expertise of WWF Malaysia in rescue efforts.

“Our main problem was logistics. We were unable to help the whale except to try to keep it calm and spray water on it. We had hoped for high tide to come in to guide the whale back into deeper waters with the help of floats.

This is the fourth reported stranding of whales in the west coast of Sabah.

Beached whale dies
Roy Goh and Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 3 Aug 12;

VALIENT EFFORTS: Fisheries, visitors try to keep it wet to guide it back to sea again

KOTA KINABALU: RESCUERS failed in their desperate efforts to revive a 17-metre-long whale which was stranded on the Kuala Sungai Sitompok beach in Kuala Penyu, located 135km from here, yesterday.

Despite repeated attempts to pull it back into the deep sea, the mammal resisted by heading towards the shore.

It was earlier spotted in shallow waters at 9am by Pulau Tiga park rangers who immediately alerted the Sabah Fisheries Department.

Kuala Penyu fisheries officer Julin Bagang said a team of 10 officers mounted many attempts to steer the whale to the open sea with the help of fishermen but without success.

"We used two boats to guide it out to the sea but the whale submerged and resurfaced before swimming to the beach.

"We believe it is a Baleen whale but don't know why or what caused it to come here."

Baleen whales can be found in all oceans, from polar seas to temperate and tropical zones, travelling thousands of kilometres. Some baleen whales stay near shore.

With low tide around 5pm, the whale, which appeared to have sustained cuts on its tail, was beached about 20 metres from the waterline. Attempt to use ropes to guide it back to the sea failed.

The fisheries officers had hoped to keep it alive until high tide at midnight to push it back into the water.

The Fire and Rescue Department team pumped seawater over the whale to keep it submerged in the water.

"It's the best we could do to keep it alive," said Julin.

The mammal died at 8pm and the authorities are now thinking how to dispose of the 10-tonne carcass.

News of the beached whale brought hundreds of people to the beach. The fisheries officers roped them in to help with the process of pouring seawater over the whale.

Richard Enggoh, 58, and Liew Moi, 52, who were among the volunteers, went back and forth fetching water from the sea with the use of empty paint cans.

"We felt sorry for it as it looked like it is injured. We don't know what will happen next but we will try to help as long as we can."

Dept to preserve skeleton of fin whale
Stephanie Lee The Star 4 Aug 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The skeleton of a whale that beached on the coastline of Kuala Penyu will likely be preserved as an exhibit for tourists.

Sabah Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel Galid said villagers had been stopped from trying to scavenge the carcass of the 15.8m mammal, which died on Thursday night.

He said the mammal, which was believed to be a fin whale, would be buried as this would allow the carcass to naturally decompose.

After that, a final decision would be made on what would be done with its skeleton, he added.

The department would also carry out DNA tests on the whale to identify the exact species.

The whale was spotted on Thursday morning by fishermen, who then immediately informed the Fisheries Department.

Firemen, Fisheries and Wildlife officials fought a losing battle to save the whale.

Following its death, some villagers severed the fin, prompting fisheries officials to lodge a police report to protect the carcass.

Galid said the department was also looking at what to do with the bones of a 12m Baleen whale that died in Pulau Mengalum about 40 nautical miles from the city five months ago.

In 2006, a 20m Brydes whale, which was found stranded at Gaya Island off the city, had its skeleton preserved in the state museum.

Experts said whales would normally beach themselves when they wanted to die or when they were injured.

Whale carcass to be buried
Roy Goh New Straits Times 4 Aug 12;

EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE: Authorities may allow experts to examine or collect samples

KOTA KINABALU: THE authorities yesterday moved to bury the 1m-long whale that died in Kuala Penyu.

The Fisheries Department made the decision to prevent pollution and at the same time, allow experts, to examine its remains.

Two days ago, government agencies and the public launched a desperate attempt to keep the stranded mammal alive at the Kuala Sungai Sitompok beach.

Identified as a fin whale of the baleen species, it died about 8pm, nearly 12 hours after it was first spotted in shallow water nearby.

District fisheries officer Julin Bagang said a contractor was appointed to bury the whale estimated to weigh about 10 tonnes.

"We picked a sandy spot not far from the beach," he said, adding this was necessary as the nearest village, Binturu, is about a kilometre away.

Julin said they had not received any official request to salvage or collect samples from the carcass, but assured it would be considered. He said the effort was an eye-opening experience for the department and other agencies involved, given their limited knowledge of whales. "We are not even sure if it is a male or female but we believe it is a fin whale of the baleen species based on its basic features.

"We tried our best to save it but when darkness fell, I could sense it was dying as the breathing from the blowhole became faster and irregular."

Julin said the whale's final breath was "long, deep and sad" as even the firefighters, wildlife officials and individuals who came to help, fell silent.

When word began spreading about the whale being stranded, many made their way there for a glimpse from afar while a few used boats to get close.

Earlier, the Fisheries Department tried guiding it to deeper water but the whale resurfaced and swam towards shore where the water was shallow.

In a desperate bid to pull it away, they tried towing it out to sea but failed. By around noon, it was stranded, half submerged on the shore.

As the low tide set in from 2pm, the public could walk straight to the whale, which had a black body and white belly, as it laid there until it died.

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Indonesia: Stranded whale shark dies in Yogyakarta

Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post 2 Aug 12;

A 13-meter black whale shark, which was stranded at Baru beach in Bantul, Yogyakarta, on Wednesday evening, finally died after rescue teams with the help of local fishermen failed to drag the giant mammal back to sea.

“The shark ran ashore on Wednesday. It was still alive when we found it at around 6 p.m.,” said a local fisherman, Gambos, on Thursday.

The whale shark, which has spot patterns on its skin, died of exhaustion after trying to head back to sea, according to Baru beach rescue team member Suparman.

He said rescue teams and local fisherman had tried to evacuate the whale shark back to sea with a boat, but the vessel had been too small to pull the four ton whale, he said.

“Despite its giant size, this whale shark was still young. Its length could have reached up to 20 meters [in subsequent years],” he said.

According to Bandis, the coordinator of local NGO Animal Friends Yogyakarta, the whale shark ran ashore on Baru beach when it was looking for food. Whale sharks look for food alone or in groups. They feed on macro-algae, plankton, krill, small squid, vertebrates or small fish.

"They migrate from Australian waters and pass through Indonesian waters,” Bandis said.

The stranded whale shark, he said, had become separated from its group. Previously, he had spotted around seven whale sharks who were about to run ashore. “But they can find their way back to deep waters,” he said.

In Indonesia, whale shark is a protected mammal under Law no. 5/1990.

The NGO decided to bury the carcass rather that take it back to sea, as the latter option proved difficult.

Bandis said his NGO had negotiated with locals on how to bury the whale shark carcass. “We will cut the carcass into pieces before burying it.”

Meanwhile, thousands of local residents flocked to Baru beach to watch the stranded whale shark.

“It’s not every day that we see a gigantic fish,” said Arum Santoso, a local resident. (riz)

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Malaysia: Ban turtle egg sale, state urged

Farik Zolkepli The Star 3 Aug 12;

WWF-Malaysia continues its call for the ban on the sale of turtle eggs despite the Terengganu Government’s reluctance to impose an all-out ban.

WWF-Malaysia executive director and CEO Dr Dionysius Sharma said a ban on the sale of turtle eggs would be a major step for the conservation of the endangered species.

“We firmly believe turtle conservation efforts must be carried out simultaneously on several fronts in order to be effective.

“These include the protection of nesting beaches, creating public awareness, strict enforcement of relevant laws and regulations as well as the ban on the sale of turtle eggs,” he said in a recent statement.

He was commenting on The Star’s report quoting Terengganu Environment Committee chairman Datuk Toh Chin Yaw saying that the state government did not encourage the sale of consumption of the eggs but had no plan to have an all-out ban on these practices.

Dr Dionysius explained removing turtle eggs from nesting beaches for consumption was known to be a major contributor to the declining of turtle population.

“We applaud the Terengganu Government’s effort in gazetting Rantau Abang beach as a turtle sanctuary.

“However, the gazettement of a nesting beach whilst at the same time allowing the sale of turtle eggs is inconsistent,” he said.

He added that if no action was taken to ban the sale of such eggs, then the declining turtle population would not recover.

“We have made headway through our outreach activities along with those carried out by other turtle conservation NGOs in the state.

“More individuals, especially the younger generation, are saying no to turtle egg consumption,” he said.

He explained that the Terengganu Government could only be highly commended if it chose to take the lead in banning the sale of turtle eggs.

“Such ban will be in line with the National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sea Turtles, which sets the ban as its number one priority,” he said.

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Malaysia: Tioman reef clean-up plan

C. Premananthini New Straits Times 3 Aug 12;

CONSERVATION:Berjaya Hotels and Resorts, Berjaya Cares Foundation together with several NGO partners launch programme to rehabilitate corals

IN collaboration with several non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners, Berjaya Hotels and Resorts (BHR), Berjaya Cares Foundation (BCF) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) have embarked on a 15-month coral reef rehabilitation programme.

Called Restore Our Awesome Reefs (ROAR), the programme was launched in conjunction with World Ocean Day celebrated every June 8.

The NGO partners involved in the programme include Shark Savers Organisation, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia and Scuba People.

MNS executive director Shah Redza Hussein said the plan to protect and conserve marine life, especially the coral reefs around the island, would involve artificial reefs created via the Biorock technology being introduced this month.

Shah Redza said even under the adverse environmental conditions, the technology would help the corals thrive.

"The coral reefs at Tekek Bay are threatened by various factors, which is why we have decided to introduce the technology," he said.

"Our main effort is aimed at restoration and rehabilitation, and also to educate the locals in what they can do towards helping protect our diverse marine ecosystem.

"It is due to the island's continuous and rapid development that the reefs are facing the detrimental effects. We must realise that corals support a productive and biologically rich environment producing more living biomass than any other marine ecosystem."

MNS head of communications, Andrew Sebastian, said that metal wired frames will be placed around the corals. A supply of low-voltage electricity will then be generated to the wires to enhance the growth of the corals.

"The power supply is generated from the island. Our divers will place the pieces of broken coral reefs onto the wires. The electric current that passes through the wires and the minerals from the seawater will help the reefs to grow," he said.

"Once the implementation is done, we will monitor the growth of the corals. Countries like Thailand and Indonesia have used the Biorock technology successfully."

Sebastian said the coral bleaching that took place in 2008 nearly wiped out the coral population in Tekek Bay.

"Although coral reefs are known to be resilient, they still need our help especially in critical areas. This is why we at MNS and Berjaya Cares Foundation joined forces to implement the technology to save the corals here," he said.

"There are more than 400 species of corals and over 500 species of fish here. However, human activities like over-fishing, coastal development, climate change and pollution are causing serious threats to our coral reefs and other marine life."

Sebastian added that corals, being sensitive, need clear water to absorb sunlight.

In line with the goals, BCF presented a grant worth RM180,000 for the ROAR project. The mock cheque was presented by Berjaya Land Bhd executive director, Leong Wy Joon, to Shah Redza.

Leong also signed the corporate pledge, "I'm FINished with FINS", in support of the Shark Savers Organisation.

Leong said the foundation was mooted by Tan Sri Vincent Tan. He said for the long term, Berjaya hoped to build awareness on coral reefs, ultimately creating a sustainable eco-tourism industry while protecting the island's natural heritage.

Meanwhile, 50 students from SK Tekek joined media members in the turtle conservation workshop. The workshop was conducted by Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia co-founder, Chen Pelf Nyok, and teen ambassador Fimie Don.

Both spoke about the extinction threat faced by turtles and urged the public to stop eating the eggs. The children were also briefed on different characteristics of turtles through fun-filled activities.

Shark Savers Organisation director Benedict Lu also gave a talk on keeping sharks alive.

Following the launch, 50 divers from Malaysia and Singapore took part in the reef clean-up. They managed to remove 103 Crown of Thorns starfishes which prey on coral reefs.

"The Crown of Thorns and climate change are behind the destruction of coral reefs," said BHR marketing and communications corporate director Abel Nelson Nang.

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