Best of our wild blogs: 20 Aug 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [13 - 19 Aug 2012]
from Green Business Times

Cyrene Reef is stunning as ever!
from wonderful creation and Peiyan.Photography and wild shores of singapore

Saturday Seringat-Kias
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Golden-bellied Gerygone – Failed Nesting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Domestic Cat
from Monday Morgue

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Wild boar culling method decided

Animals to be rounded up, sedated then euthanised through injections
Grace Chua And David Ee Straits Times 20 Aug 12;

THE National Parks Board (NParks) has decided on a method to control the wild boar numbers in Lower Peirce.

It told The Straits Times that it will round them up before vets sedate them with dart guns and euthanise them with drug injections.

But it did not say when the culling will begin or how many animals will be involved.

The wild boar population in Lower Peirce has been getting out of hand, said NParks, as the animals root around for worms and insects, snap off saplings for use as nest material and pose a safety hazard when they cross roads.

They have been in the spotlight this year - in June, two animals attacked a security guard and a boy.

There are at least two herds of about 40 animals each in Lower Peirce, a population that NParks said is unsustainable.

Its decision to cull them, first publicised in June, has upset conservationists and animal welfare groups that are calling for relocation or sterilisation instead.

They said there is not enough data to show that the boars are causing long-term damage to the forest.

NParks conservation division director Wong Tuan Wah said that while studies of long-term forest damage have not been done here, wild pigs have been shown to slow forest regrowth in other countries. By the time data is collected here, he pointed out, the unchecked population might be too much for local forests.

Nature Society Singapore (NSS) president Shawn Lum agreed, citing research by ecologist Kalan Ickes of Clemson University in the United States. The latter's work on wild pigs in Malaysia's Pasoh forest reserve shows that wild pigs' nesting habits were responsible for 29 per cent of young sapling deaths and that the pigs specifically targeted the economically and ecologically important family of hardwood trees called dipterocarps.

The NSS is doing surveys to find out whether boar activity is linked to the availability of food sources such as oil palm and sea apple. The surveys will go on until at least next month.

If the link is confirmed, the answer is to clear out exotic species like oil palm, said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, chair of the NSS' vertebrate study group.

In fact, this is what NParks wants. It aims to reforest Lower Peirce with dipterocarps and other native species, Mr Wong said. But as long as wild pigs are rooting up turf there, the native trees will not stand a chance.

In the most recent draft of the NSS position paper on wild pigs, it said that, even as the number in Lower Peirce needs to be "substantially reduced immediately", long-term action must be taken to stop the number from increasing.

It recommends studying wild pig populations in the central catchment nature reserve to work out optimal population density for its secondary forests.

In the early and mid-1990s, NParks surveys did not record any wild boar in mainland forests but it has made a comeback in the last decade. Over-population put it on the NParks radar two years ago and, for the last year, two conservation officers have kept watch on the Lower Peirce herds. One has been chased up a tree for his pains.

So why have the numbers grown? The boars may have swum over, driven out of neighbouring Johor's wild areas by development projects.

Over here, they lack predators like tigers, have rich sources of food such as oil palm and are seldom hunted or poached, said Mr Ong Say Lin, who studied the animal last year as a student at the National University of Singapore.

The boars often travel in herds of up to 40 and have been sighted in Upper Bukit Timah, Pulau Ubin and Lim Chu Kang.

Most opponents of culling believe the animal is not aggressive but it can be unpredictable if humans wander into its area.

"A better understanding of these animals and interpretation of their behaviour would reduce any hysteria or sensationalisation," Mr Ong said.

Cull only as last resort, say animal welfare groups
Straits Times 20 Aug 12;

CULLING should be a last resort, and used with other management methods, say animal welfare and conservation groups.

Mr Ong Say Lin, who studied the wild boar as an undergraduate, said culling must not be the only method or long-term solution.

Calling for sterilisation to be explored, Mr Ong, who heads the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's (Acres) office in Laos, said in his personal capacity: "The amount of effort and time put into darting a herd of wild pigs and euthanising them is about the same as darting and sterilising them."

He suggests sterilisation methods such as darting pigs from afar and using chemical-laced bait.

To reduce human-animal conflict in residential areas, he proposes using physical barriers and scent deterrents and removing food sources.

Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said it supports sterilisation rather than culling.

But a spokesman for NParks said it has ruled out sterilisation as no single-dose chemical contraceptive injection is commercially available. Available drugs need follow-up injections - not practical for free-ranging animals.

Surgical sterilisation, on the other hand, is an elaborate and costly process that requires capture and sedation of the animal, setting up of mobile clinics and holding it in post-surgical care.

These procedures can also cause stress to the animal.

This is why culling may have to be a repeat affair, said the NParks spokesman.

Some members of the public said culling should be put on hold until there is enough data.

Educational psychologist Vilma D'Rozario wants more studies done on the numbers of wild boar in Lower Peirce and elsewhere, and proof that they are causing damage to the forest. If such studies are done and the numbers are found to be too high, "then, yes, I would support management of the numbers but culling would be a last resort".

She also called for observers from SPCA and Acres to be allowed to watch the culling to ensure it is done humanely.

Former National Institute of Education professor Diong Cheong Hoong, who has studied the animal, suggests a culling method using large box traps or corrals.

"You might catch non-target species like civet cats, deer and monitor lizards, but you just release them and it's good information to have on other species," he said.

"Trapping is a humane method as it requires fewer handlers. The fewer the people, the better it is. Rather than chasing them around, do it quickly."


Tales of boar hunts and sightings on Ubin
Straits Times 20 Aug 12;

UNTIL the new millenium, when sightings began to increase, wild boars were thought to have been extinct on mainland Singapore since the mid-20th century. But on Pulau Ubin, residents narrate tales of encounters with boars from the 1940s that continue until today.

Mr Chew Yok Choon, 67, a lifelong Ubin resident who was born in 1945, remembers that when he was a child, his family was one of the few that did not own a rifle. Hunting was the order of the day.

"In those days, residents on Pulau Ubin all had rifles. They would hunt flying lemurs, wild boars, civets - all to be eaten," he said in Mandarin.

Villagers would encounter only a handful of wild boars each year, he said, so the animal became a prized catch. "There weren't many boars then. There were a few thousand people living on Pulau Ubin during that time."

But the equation has changed since then, as the human population dwindled. By 2002, there were only about 100 islanders. Today, Mr Chew estimates that only 30 to 40 residents remain, while the boars have reclaimed the forest and flourished.

The clampdown by the authorities on poaching there about a decade ago was another key factor in the increase of the boars, he said. Mr Chew estimates that 500 to 600 of the animals now roam Pulau Ubin, a figure based on resident sightings and his own local insight. Other residents say the figure could be higher.

Mr Chew, still sprightly, raised a boar in the mid-1990s, and, based on that experience, has seen first-hand just how intelligent the animals can be.

He said the boar would track him down each time he ventured a few kilometres from home: "Wild boars are clever creatures, maybe even more clever than dogs."

He and his friends have regularly seen wild boars swimming in the sea between Pulau Ubin and Johor.

But it is the voracious eating habits of boars that Ubin residents speak of with awe.

"They eat anything, even snakes. They will pull down entire banana trees for the fruit, and rip open coconut shells to eat the flesh," said Mr Chew.

Even durians and, incredibly, dogs as well, appear to be at risk, according to another 58-year-old resident, who preferred not to be named.

"Would you believe that boars eat dogs? It's true," he said. "People I know have already witnessed it twice. The boars surrounded the dog, attacked it and ate it. My uncle had to climb up a tree to escape."


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Deer found dead along Old Upper Thomson Rd

Joanne Chan Channel NewsAsia 19 Aug 12;

SINGAPORE: A Sambar deer was found dead along Old Upper Thomson Road on Sunday morning.

While such animals were once thought to be extinct in Singapore, a wildlife activist said there have been more sightings of Sambar deers in recent years.

Eyewitness Wong Ong Kok was doing his daily exercise when he came across the dead animal along Old Upper Thomson Road.

The 63-year-old retiree said: "The head was somewhere around here, the whole body was lying here, sideways, (and) the backside was down here. The length of the animal was about one meter."

The deer appeared to have suffered a broken leg.

He said: "At first, I thought it's a wild boar - wild boar is a very common animal here. So I thought it was a big, dead wild boar. But when I got closer, it didn't look like a wild boar. But in fact, it looked like a deer to me. The body looked to be quite fresh; it's quite fresh because the eyes were still open, and only a bit of live flies resting on the eye and the nose."

Executive director of ACRES, Louis Ng, said: "The deer in the photo is actually a Sambar deer. And these are native to Singapore. Although the zoo also has a population. We've responded to some cases already of people knocking down these deer."

ACRES recommends that the Land Transport Authority puts up signs urging motorists to slow down in areas where such wildlife is known to roam.

Executive Director of SPCA Corinne Fong said motorists should call its hotline if they spot an animal in distress so that assistance can be rendered as soon as possible.

This isn't the first time that a deer has been spotted along the roads of Singapore.

Two years' ago, Channel NewsAsia reported that a deer rammed into a car along Seletar Expressway. It suffered major injuries and had to be put down.

- CNA/ck

Rare deer found dead on Old Upper Thomson Road
Rachel Chang And Poon Chian Hui Straits Times 21 Aug 12;

A RARE deer was found dead along Old Upper Thomson Road on Sunday night, most likely struck by a vehicle.

It was not a runaway from the Night Safari, which has a sambar deer enclosure, but one of a small wild population that dwells in the forested area of Lower and Upper Peirce Reservoirs.

Naturalists estimate the population to be around 20 to 30.

The deer, which emerge only at night, are secretive creatures, said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, chair of the Nature Society Singapore's vertebrate study group.

Members of the society spot them only once or twice a year at areas like Adam Road near the Sime Road junction, he said.

Sambar deer were thought to have become extinct in the 1940s due to poaching, and their habitats being destroyed.

But in 2009, a pair of males were spotted at Bukit Brown cemetery.

This is the second sambar deer to become roadkill in about two years.

In 2010, one was killed by a car on Seletar Expressway.

Despite the two incidents, experts said there is no evidence the wild deer population here is growing, nor is there cause for concern that they might become unmanageable.

Recently, the growing number of wild boars in the same forested area led to a decision by the National Parks Board to cull some of the population.

But unlike wild boars, which have more food sources, the lack of grazing ground limits the growth of the deer population, said Mr O'Dempsey.

"This is an inconvenience that should not be blown out of proportion," said Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy.

"We should see how we can protect the wild deer population as they are native to Singapore."

To have killed a deer, he added, the motorist would have been driving above the speed limit of 40kmh for Old Upper Thomson Road.

Residents and trail visitors were surprised to hear of the incident, saying wild boars and monkeys are common sightings in the area, but not deer.

Said university student Charlotte Loh, 20, who was with her family at the trail to spot wild boars: "It makes the place even more interesting; we will want to come by more often."

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Felled trees were a threat to safety

From Yap Chung Lee Director, Land Operations (Public), Singapore Land Authority
Today Online 20 Aug 12;

We refer to Ms Ong Ruici's letter "Save the Braddell Road forest" (Aug 11).

Albizia trees are of a species vulnerable to storms and prone to falling down because of their brittle wood structure and shallow root system. Recently, many Albizia trees fell under severe wind conditions and caused substantial damage.

We consulted the National Parks Board and on its advice, in the interest of public safety, we decided to remove Albizia trees with a high chance of falling down.

Where appropriate, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will replant trees of species that are better able to withstand adverse weather conditions.

With help from a certified arborist, 12 out of 30 mature Albizia trees in the forested State land in front of Braddell View estate were identified as posing significant safety threats.

Before felling the trees, we informed the management corporation of the estate and sought its assistance to inform residents and convey to us any feedback regarding the proposed removal.

It informed the SLA that it had no objections.

The removal work commenced last month. To date, seven trees have been cleared and the remaining five will be removed next month.

We are now identifying other Albizia trees on State land elsewhere in Singapore that threaten public safety.

We will continue to notify nearby residents prior to the commencement of removal work.

We have contacted Ms Ong and she has accepted our explanation.

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Marine Life Park reaches out to young to promote conservation

Ng Puay Leng Channel NewsAsia 19 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: The Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa is reaching out to the young to promote conservation even before it opens at the end of the year.

It's organising tours to its Marine Aquaculture & Research Centre in Lim Chu Kang.

The facility is the temporary home of the sea creatures that will call the Marine Life Park its home.

And students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science are the first to check out how the centre is looking after its residents.

Chu Yao Quan said: "Before I came to this tour, I didn't know there are so many conditions that have to be taken care of for the fishes."

Director of Conservation & Education of Marine Life Park, Biswajit Guha, said: "It's really a self-contained world-class facility. And currently it's being used as a quarantine area for animals that will eventually be at Marine Life Park. But what's also very key is the systems that we have in place.

"Marine aquaculture and essentially maintaining fish in a managed situation has a lot of science behind it. And that is something which our experts and specialists, aquarists, life support specialists, veterinarians, have many years of expertise in."

- CNA/ck

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Improving Water Quality Can Help Save Coral Reefs

ScienceDaily 16 Aug 12;

Research from the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton has found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals.

Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps.

The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source.

High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae.

Without the algae, corals appear white, a state which is often referred to as 'bleached'. Bleaching often leads to coral death and mass coral bleaching has had already devastating effects on coral reef ecosystems.

The study of University of Southampton, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, has found that nutrient enrichment of the water can increase the probability of corals to suffer from heat-induced bleaching.

Within the coral, the growth of zooxanthellae is restricted by the limited supply of nutrients. This allows the algae to transfer a substantial amount of their photosynthetically fixed carbon to the coral, which is crucial for the symbiotic relationship.

Algal growth becomes unbalanced when the availability of a specific nutrient decreases compared to the cellular demand, a condition called nutrient starvation.

Researchers from the University of Southampton based at the Coral Reef Laboratory in the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, found that an increased supply of dissolved nitrogen compounds in combination with a restricted availability of phosphate results in phosphate starvation of the algae. This condition is associated with a reduction in photosynthetic efficiency and increases the susceptibility of corals to temperature and light-induced bleaching.

Dr Jörg Wiedenmann, Senior Lecturer of Biological Oceanography at the University of Southampton and Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory, who led the study, says: "Our findings suggest that the most severe impact on coral health might actually not arise from the over-enrichment with one group of nutrients, for example, nitrogen, but from the resulting relative depletion of other types such as phosphate that is caused by the increased demand of the growing zooxanthellae populations."

Dr Wiedenmann adds: "Our results have strong implications for coastal management. The findings suggest that a balanced reduction of the nutrient input in coastal waters could help to mitigate the effects of increasing seawater temperatures on coral reefs. However, such measures will be effective only for a short period of time, so it is important to stop the warming of the oceans, which will otherwise destroy most of the reefs in their present form in the near future.

"Finally, our results should help the design of functioning marine reserves.."

Journal Reference:

Jörg Wiedenmann, Cecilia D’Angelo, Edward G. Smith, Alan N. Hunt, François-Eric Legiret, Anthony D. Postle, Eric P. Achterberg. Nutrient enrichment can increase the susceptibility of reef corals to bleaching. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1661

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Eyes in the sky spy on threatened jungles

Reuters Yahoo News 20 Aug 12;

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - In the two minutes it takes to read this story, an area the size of 60 football pitches will have been clear-cut by illegal loggers globally, according to Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London.

Catching the loggers and their bosses has long been a problem because of corruption, lax law enforcement and limited ability to detect the crime quickly.

Satellite monitoring is changing that. Powerful eyes in the sky and cheaper and more powerful data-crunching computers mean there will be no place to hide for palm oil, logging or mining firms that clear without permits or outside their concessions.

Higher resolution satellite imaging and near-real time analysis will mean investors, green groups, law enforcement agencies and the public can monitor any patch of forest.

Washington-based World Resources Institute plans to launch an upgraded version of Global Forest Watch, a free Web-based service, either later this year or early in 2013.

Using a NASA satellite, the service will focus on tropical areas of the globe with an image resolution of 500 meters by 500 meters every 16 days.

Users can choose an area of interest and be alerted by e-mail about any changes in tree cover.

The Global Forest Watch tool, supported by Google and the University of Maryland among others, will also contain data about logging or agricultural licenses and their owners, protected areas, infrastructure and other details.

For investors such as banks or private equity firms, the tool can be used for due diligence to check up on a potential acquisition such as an Indonesian palm oil firm, to make sure it is on the right side of the law, said Nigel Sizer, director of WRI's Forests Initiative. Similarly, international food companies can make sure their palm oil suppliers are environmentally compliant.

Forest and conservation news site recently launched a free deforestation tracker using NASA satellite data. It issues an alert if green cover in an area being tracked changes by more than 40 percent over a year.

Another service, Terra-i, offers free high-resolution forest cover analysis for all of Latin America.

Thomson Reuters subsidiary Lanworth offers detailed deforestation analysis by area, time and forest type. Their work was central to a Reuters investigation last month into illegal clearing by a palm oil firm in Borneo.

Sizer said within five years, micro satellites with 5 to 10 meters resolution will deliver real-time imaging to rapidly detect any changes in forest cover. In a decade, high-resolution video would likely be available.

(Reporting by David Fogarty, editing by Bill Tarrant)

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