Best of our wild blogs: 2 Sep 12

Holiday fun at Pasir Ris mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Life History of the Jacintha Eggfly
from Butterflies of Singapore

The three Little Grebes at Lorong Halus Wetland taking a bath
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysia: Villagers discover dead dugong beached in Pengerang

The Star 2 Sep 12;

JOHOR BARU: The carcass of a 2.1m-long male dugong has been found beached at the banks of Sungai Rengit in Pengerang here.

It might have been dead for more than a day, said fisherman Hong Thian Hwa, 27.

“The dugong had many slash-like wounds on its body and head,” he said, adding that nobody wanted to move the carcass because of its stench.

The dugong is herbivorous and feeds largely on seaweed. It is an aquatic mammal with a barrel-shaped body, flipper-like forelimbs, no hind limbs, and a triangular tail.

Hong said the area was known to be a dugong habitat and fishermen frequently spotted them at sea. The dugong would sometimes come close to the fishing boats.

“The dugong is quite huge and can weigh up to half a tonne.

“This is the first time villagers have found a dead dugong washed up along Sungai Rengit,” he said.

Johor Fisheries Department director Abdul Hamid Yasin said the carcass would be sent to the Veterinary Department for a post-mortem.

“Dugongs are known to be found along the coastline of Johor, especially in Pengerang, Pasir Gudang and Gelang Patah,” he said.

In January 1999, fisherman Atan Husin found a baby dugong trapped in his fishing net.

He kept and treated the injured dugong, which he named Si Tengang.

However, his “pet” died after it was released a few days later.

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The last kampung

Straits Times 2 Sep 12;

Kampung Lorong Buangkok is regarded as Singapore's last surviving kampung or village.

It comprises 27 mostly-single-storey, wooden houses along unpaved lanes.

In 1956, Mr Sng Teow Koon bought the land on which it sits on a 999-year lease.

After his death, his daughter Sng Mui Hong, 59, took over as landlady. She charges kampung residents a monthly rental of between $6.50 and $30.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2008 Master Plan, the land the kampung sits on is earmarked for future residential, school and community developments, as well as a major road linking Yio Chu Kang Road and Buangkok Drive.

Further details have yet to be announced.

Buangkok villagers charge 'entrance fees'
It's compensation for intrusion - residents of Singapore's last kampung explain why they charge for visits to their homes lasting hours
David Ee Straits Times 2 Sep 12;

For most people, weekends are a time for calm and relaxation and, some might say, privacy at home.

But then, most people do not live in Singapore's last kampung.

Housewife Sharifah Rodziah, 43, a resident of Kampung Lorong Buangkok, said her family can no longer sit on their verandah without having their pictures taken by passing shutterbugs. Some pictures and videos have surfaced online and on YouTube.

Others in this 27-house kampung off Yio Chu Kang Road agree that the stream of nostalgia hunters treat the area like a tourist attraction and forget the houses there are private homes.

More than 200 curious visitors and photographers turn up every week, and the Asia Paranormal Investigators run after-dark "ghost tours" there every other month for 30 to 40 visitors.

Although visitors are free to walk through the kampung or snap pictures of the outside of the houses, some ask to be allowed in. Some pop in and out for a few minutes but others stay for hours.

Since the late 1990s, the villagers have drawn a line at visitors entering their homes and ask to be paid if visitors want to stay long enough to take photos, shoot documentaries or use the interiors as locations for movies.

They have received groups who come to the village for television or movie projects, as well as student groups and individuals with cameras in hand.

The villagers say some visitors add to their electricity bill when they plug in their laptops and lighting equipment.

Most who are asked to pay to enter homes for extended visits do not mind. But recently a student photographer from a polytechnic was appalled when she was asked to pay $20 to spend three hours in a villager's home, and protested.

The kampung's landlady, Ms Sng Mui Hong, 59, who inherited the land when her father died in 1996, handles all requests to use the kampung for projects.

Defending her tenants, she said: "Would you allow people to just walk into your house to take photographs? Some visitors think they have the right to just walk into our homes."

She said that with visitor numbers growing since the late 1990s, the villagers have had to put up with more intrusions.

Newspaper deliveryman Aslam Jafar, 32, who has lived in the kampung since he was born, said visitors sometimes walk onto their porches without even asking for permission. They also litter.

In June, after visitors entered the kampung mosque without removing their footwear, the villagers decided to lock up the place. It is now open only during prayer times.

Apart from casual visitors and student groups shooting documentaries, the likes of film director Jack Neo have also come by. He shot a portion of his 2009 box office hit Where Got Ghost? in Ms Sng's home.

Another director, Chao Ong, who shot part of last year's National Day music video there, said: "Anyone who has ever shot a kampung scene in Singapore would have gone there. The only other options for kampungs are in Pulau Ubin or in Malaysia."

Visitors who go into homes quickly to take a few photos are usually not charged. But if the visits last hours or a day, they would have to pay.

A fee of $400 to $600 a day for commercial location filming is not uncommon, they say. Shoots usually take a day or two.

Villagers say it is not a money-making venture, but compensation for the intrusion. And some say they accept whatever is offered by the visitors.

As Mr Aslam said: "Once you enter my house, I definitely have to charge."

Ms Sng said half the homes in the village are willing to host projects; those that do receive one request a month, although the frequency varies.

Almost all the families have a main breadwinner, so what they receive from visitors is a side income.

Nominated Member of Parliament Eugene Tan has urged visitors to respect the villagers' private space.

The assistant professor of law at Singapore Management University added that the situation called for courtesy and respect on the part of the visitors, as well as goodwill on the part of villagers.

Writer Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, 38, who covers heritage issues, said nostalgia for a fast-fading heritage may result in Singaporeans "loving places to death".

She felt that charging people "entrance fees" was the villagers' right. She also said that visitors should see the kampung not as a tourist attraction but as a place where people live.

"Some visitors just go there to take a few nice snapshots on a Sunday afternoon. They're not interested in getting to know the residents and their way of life," she said.

Preserve Singapore's last kampung
Straits Times 9 Sep 12;

The article ("Buangkok villagers charge 'entrance fees'"; last Sunday) about Kampung Lorong Buangkok made me realise that a kampung still exists in Singapore.

It is right that the villagers charge a nominal fee for home

visits, as they need to have privacy.

Though the Urban Redevelopment Authority has designated the area for future development, I hope the Government will allow the place to become a heritage area.

Nowadays, it is very hard to find remnants of "old" Singapore like Buangkok village.

David Soh

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Report soon on new link between Johor and Singapore

The Star 2 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE: Consultants will be tabling a comprehensive report in the coming months on whether it is viable to build a bridge or an underground tunnel linking the republic and Malaysia.

This follows an announcement by Singapore that its Thomson mass rapid transit (MRT) line would be opened in stages from 2019.

The 30km line will run through the north-south corridor of the island republic, starting in Woodlands, the area closest to Johor Baru via the Causeway, and passing through industrial, residential and shopping districts before ending at Marina Bay. The whole S$18bil (RM44bil) line will be completely underground and is expected to serve 400,000 commuters daily.

“Now that Singapore has announced its Thomson line would be opened in stages, it shows both sides are doing something,” said Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Md Hussin Nayan, when met at the commission's Merdeka event on Friday.

Present were the republic's Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew and two MPs.

On another issue, Md Hussin said the Johor Premium Outlet (JPO) and the soon-to-be-open Legoland Malaysia were creating a lot of buzz for tourism in Iskandar Malaysia.

Md Hussin said over RM100bil was expected to pour into Iskandar Malaysia by the end of the year and agencies such as the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) have to ensure things are efficient, safe and clean for visitors.

Md Hussin added that Malaysia and Singapore were also undertaking commercially viable projects in Iskandar Malaysia and several parcels of land in Marina South and the Ophir-Rochor area in the republic.

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WWF Malaysia: Eat farmed fish instead

Stephanie Lee The Star 2 Sep 12;

KOTA KINABALU: With marine life dying and fish from the sea becoming acutely scarce, a conservation group is pushing for farmed fishing.

“Fish species, such as the leopard coral trout (locally known as sunoh) and the hump-head wrasse (mameng) are decreasing. Yet, people do not seem to care,” said World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia conservation director Dr Sundari Ramakrishna.

“There would be no more fish in the sea if people don't start protecting marine life and fishermen do not change the way they catch fish,” she said during a reef fish campaign here to encourage consumers to eat farmed fish.

Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Tengku Zainal Adlin launched the campaign at the Tanjung Aru beach yesterday.

“Let us all start to conserve the environment,” said Dr Sundari.

“Fish by using sustainable methods and make it a habit to choose farmed fish instead of endangered species of marine life,” she added.

Tengku Zainal, the WWF Malaysia past chairman, urged fishermen to catch only “mature” fish and let the smaller ones go.

“If you stick to serving bigger fish, you can still earn a lot of money. The cake is still huge and there is enough for everyone.

“So, don't kill the small fish,” he said, adding that over-fishing must stop and fish bombing and using coral-destructive chemicals in the ocean had caused fish stock to diminish.

Chefs from hotels and restaurants here came together to cook farmed fish at the event to show they were just as good as those caught in the sea.

Spurring fish farming
Avila Geraldine New Straits Times 2 Sep 12;

BETTER ALTERNATIVE: Campaign to make live reef fish trade sustainable and curb destructive fishing methods

KOTA KINABALU: CHEFS from restaurants and hotels joined WWF-Malaysia to show their support for sustainable seafood consumption at Tanjung Aru, here, yesterday.

The Live Reef Fish Consumer Campaign, organised by the national conservation trust, is aimed at creating awareness on the destructive fishing methods associated with the supply of reef fish.

During the event, six chefs took the challenge to cook sustainable farmed leopard coral trout (grouper) to match the taste of wild caught fish. This was to demonstrate that farmed fish was comparable with wild caught fish.

Present was Sabah Tourism Board chairman Tengku Zainal Adlin Mahmood and WWF-Malaysia conservation director Dr Sundari Ramakrshna.

"In the 1980s, when the live reef fish trade was first introduced in Sabah, reef fish species, such as groupers and humphead wrasse, were caught using hook and line.

"Unfortunately, the increasing demand for these types of fish led to the use of other faster extracting methods, including using sodium cyanide," Sundari said.

The campaign was one of the efforts to help reduce pressure on the wild reef fish population and promote good fishing practices to help make the live reef fish trade a sustainable industry.

Apart from urging the industry players to pledge for more sustainable cyanide-free fish supplies, consumers were also advised to choose farmed fish or sustainably caught fish.

Tengku Zainal said the tourism sector in Sabah was very much dependent on the marine ecosystem, but with the population of highly valued fish fast decreasing, the state was in real danger of losing its charm.

"The seafood industry is thriving and has become a lucrative business, and it is closely linked to tourism. In fact, almost all of the 2.8 million tourists who visited Sabah last year went to seafood restaurants during their stay.

"Many visitors from Singapore and even China ask where to find good seafood restaurants the moment they arrive in Sabah."

Praising WWF's efforts to help consumers select fish wisely, Tengku Zainal said there were always alternatives to healthier, tastier seafood.

He advised hotels to emulate Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort's efforts to obtain its seafood supply from sustainably cultivated fish farms.

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Indonesian Ministry of Forestry Looks to Combat Invasive, Destructive Plants

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 1 Sep 12;

The Ministry of Forestry voiced concern on Friday about invasive plant species that are beginning to threaten native vegetation and wildlife.

“At Baluran National Park, the original ecosystem was savanna but now it is dominated by Acacia nilotica, which is native to India,” said Adi Susmianto, head of the ministry’s conservation and rehabilitation research center. “Nearly 50 percent of the park is covered with acacia, that’s around 7,000 hectares of land.”

Acacia was originally planted on the fringes of the national park, located in East Java, to prevent wildfires from spreading, but the plant was soon dominating the park, leaving the native bull without enough space to graze.

“There used to be 200 bulls and now there are 34,” Adi said.

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, located in three provinces in Sumatra, is under threat from the similarly invasive Merremia peltata, a type of morning glory known locally as mantangan, Adi said.

The plant is indigenous to the area but has spread over 10,000 hectares of land at the national park, threatening other types of plants.

Adi said both parks would host a pilot project aimed at controlling the spread of invasive plants.

Soekisman Tjitrosoedirjo, a plant physiology expert, said invasive plants could have an adverse effect on native trees and weeds, and ultimately force local wildlife to relocate or die of starvation.

“If you see Baluran National Park from above, it is no longer a savanna because it is now filled with Acacia nilotica. The more we try to destroy this acacia, the more other invasive plants will take its place,” he said.

Soekisman said the government introduced the plant to the area to prevent forest fires from spreading, but that the plant turned out to be too well-suited for the environment.

“The acacia replaced the savanna ecosystem because its ability to absorb nitrogen from the air has made the land more fertile,” he said.

“Plus, acacia seeds can easily spread so they grow close together, making it difficult for animals to find food.”

In Bukit Barisan, the mantangan is thriving due to the unchecked land clearance in the area.

‘Lack of Regulations’ Lets Invasive Species Crowd Out Native Flora
Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 3 Sep 12;

The Environment Ministry has bemoaned the lack of legal restrictions on managing non-native plant species, which it identifies as posing a threat to the country’s indigenous biodiversity.

Sugeng Harmonom, the ministry’s head of biodiversity security management, said on Sunday that while there was a raft of regulations in place on biodiversity protection, there were no rules expressly restricting the cultivation of so-called invasive alien species of plants.

“This leaves quarantine officials confused over how to deal with the flow of IAS imports,” he said.

IAS are defined as species that are introduced to an area outside their natural habitat, where they often end up crowding out indigenous plant species and overrunning the area.

Sugeng said there were a host of international conventions dealing with the IAS issue, including the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), but Indonesia had yet to take the matter seriously.

“The CBD specifies a goal called the Aichi Target, which urges caution in dealing with IAS and calls for an improved biodiversity database and networking links,” he said.

“But in Indonesia we remain very weak in terms of data collection and information about the spread of IAS.”

Titiek Setyawati, a researcher with the Forestry Ministry’s Conservation and Rehabilitation Research Center, agreed that regulations explicitly targeting foreign plant imports were needed and said it should be up to the Agriculture Ministry, which oversees the quarantine department, to issue them.

“The regulations don’t exist yet because most people don’t understand the social and economic risks posed by invasive plant species,” she said.

Adi Susmianto, the head of the research center, first raised concerns about IAS on Friday, when he noted that acacia trees originally from India now covered almost half of the Baluran National Park in East Java, a previously savanna area and one of the last remaining habitats of the Java banteng, a species of wild cattle.

The acacias were originally planted on the periphery of the park to prevent wildfires from spreading, but the trees soon encroached into the park, reducing the amount of grazing land for the banteng.

“There used to be 200 banteng and now there are only 34,” Adi said.

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, straddling three provinces in southern Sumatra, is also under threat from the similarly invasive Merremia peltata, a type of morning glory known locally as mantangan , Adi said.

The plant is indigenous to the area but has spread over 10,000 hectares of land at the national park, threatening other types of plants there.

Soekisman Tjitrosoedirjo, a botanist, said invasive plant species could have an adverse effect on native trees and weeds, and ultimately force local wildlife to relocate or die of starvation.

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