Best of our wild blogs: 19 Oct 12

“Wild Singapore” the book – a very special sale for NUS students/staff – this Fri and Tue only from Otterman speaks and Raffles Museum News

Wild Singapore book on sale from today
from wild shores of singapore

Special crab at the Northern Expedition Day 4
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Seines of life
from The annotated budak

Copper-banded Butterflyfish Feeding
from Pulau Hantu

The Colonial Defences of Tanjong Berlayer
from One-North Explorers: A Singapore-based Urban Exploration Outfit

Intertidal corals can resist coral bleaching?
from Bleach Watch Singapore

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Parks board gears up to start culling wild boar

Move to rein in numbers should help safeguard residents, protect forest
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 19 Oct 12;

NParks has built a metal enclosure in the Lower Peirce area to trap wild boar (above). Its officers have observed two herds in the area with 80 to 100 animals in total. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

PREPARATIONS are under way to cull wild boar in the Lower Peirce area.

When asked, the National Parks Board (NParks) told The Straits Times that it had built an enclosure there and was in the process of trapping the animals.

It declined to provide further details.

When The Straits Times visited the spot yesterday, two fenced areas, each slightly smaller than half a basketball court, could be seen. They were connected by a fenced passageway.

There was no sign of the animals.

Near the enclosure were "do not enter" signs.

NParks had also put up a sign nearby in Old Upper Thomson Road to warn drivers about the possibility of wild boar crossing the road.

In August, NParks said the animals would be rounded up, and vets would sedate them with dart guns and euthanise them with drug injections.

It declined to comment on the number of wild boar it wants to cull in the area.

The agency has said that, based on numerous studies done in other countries, there should be no more than seven wild boar in the 1.5 sq km Lower Peirce area in a balanced eco-system.

But its officers have observed two herds in the area with 80 to 100 animals in total.

NParks conservation director Wong Tuan Wah has said the animals pose a safety risk to residents and that culling is also necessary to protect the Lower Peirce forest.

The agency has documented damage caused by the animals to the forest's seedlings and tree saplings, which affects the forest's regeneration.

A boar also attacked people in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in June.

Wild boar are native to Singapore but were thought to be extinct until about a decade ago.

Their numbers tend to grow exponentially because they reproduce quickly. Left unchecked, they could damage forests because they feed on seeds, young plants and even some small animals.

Mr N. Sivasothi, 46, a lecturer at the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences, said: "Some management of the wild boar population here is inevitable because they have no natural predators here and can move between forest patches."

However, he added, Singapore's eco-systems are complex, and more research into wild boar ecology, including their numbers and feeding patterns, is needed. "Undergraduate student research has contributed to greater understanding and can continue to do so," he said.

He will give a talk on wild boar at the Science Centre tomorrow morning. It is open to the public and admission is free, but those who want to attend must register at

NParks has said it will continue to explore other ways of controlling the Lower Peirce boar population, for instance, by removing food sources. However, it did not rule out more culling in future if the numbers continue to grow.

It also plans to hire a manager to help monitor animals, including wild boar, sambar deer and banded leaf monkeys, in the nature reserves. This will involve identifying where they are found, estimating their populations and tracking their movements and behaviour.

Such efforts are not new, but the manager will be given a nine-month contract to help streamline the operations and improve how they are coordinated, NParks said.

Both wild sambar deer and banded leaf monkeys are rare here, with estimates of the deer population ranging from 20 to 30.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society here, has called the banded leaf monkey "possibly the rarest and one of the most threatened species of larger animals here".

Meanwhile, wild boar sightings have become more common in other parts of the country.

Some residents in Sengkang told The Straits Times they had spotted the animals in the forest and field near Pei Hwa Secondary School in Fernvale.

Said administrative assistant Alicia Mak, 33, a resident there who saw one last week: "It looked quite big, but it stayed near the forest, so it was not so scary."

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Malaysia: Largest marine park in Southeast Asia soon

1.02m-hectare Tun Mustapha Park may be gazetted by 2016
Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 19 Oct 12;

CONSERVATION: 1.02m-hectare Tun Mustapha Park may be gazetted by 2016

KUDAT: FOLLOWING an expedition and survey, a team of scientists has approved the idea of gazetting a 1.02 million hectare marine park, which covers the waters here to Pulau Banggi.

The 19-day expedition at Tun Mustapha Park last month yielded positive results.

They will propose that the Sabah government gazette the park by 2016, to ensure the conservation of marine life. The park also has the potential to become the largest marine park in Southeast Asia.

A survey on the park's marine species was conducted by experts from the Naturalis Biodiversity Centere of Netherlands, University of Queensland, Australia, World Wide Fund (WWF)-Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Malaya and Sabah Parks.

WWF-Malaysia Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) programme manager Robecca Jumin said: "Preliminary results show that the presence of species, such as butterfly fish, giant clams sea cucumber and sea urchins indicates the coral reefs are in good condition. However, fish species are low."

She said rampant fishing activities by local communities from the surrounding areas had contributed to the small number.

The area consists of 50 islands and islets, and is a source of livelihood for the 80,000 people living along the coast, who still practise barter trade with traditional farmers from the interior.

The team also discovered the remains of a shipwreck during the survey.

"It will attract adventurous divers and provide an alternative livelihood to the local communities."

The expedition was jointly funded by Malaysian-CTI (Mosti through the National Oceanography Directorate), United States Agency for International Development's Coral Triangle Support Partnership and WWF-Malaysia.

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Malaysia: Where dolphins come to play

Winnie Yeoh and Josephine Jalleh New Straits Times 19 Oct 12;

Photos courtesy of Tan Kai Hong

Triple play: Dolphins playing in the water. Triple play: Dolphins playing in the water.

A SCHOOL of dolphins jumped up and down in the open sea near the second Penang bridge in Batu Kawan and their acrobatic show has created a buzz for many Penangites including civil engineer Tan Kai Hong.

“During that time, I was in a boat with three colleagues. We were about six metres away from the dolphins.

“They kept jumping above the water surface. As we got nearer, they jumped less frequently,” he said.

Tan said he was really amazed to see so many dolphins at one time and he did not hesitate to film their actions on his digital camera.

“It was a rare moment. There were about 20 of them but in my video, I managed to capture about nine dolphins.

“My colleagues were with me at that time and they were busy taking videos and pictures too,” he said.

They were visiting the second Penang bridge near the Batu Kawan end at around 4pm on Monday.

Since uploading the 84-second long video clip on his Facebook page (Kai Hong) , netizens had began sharing it on their own Facebook page and also on YouTube.

The video clip also drew “like” from thousands of Facebook users.

Tan said it was part of his job to go to the bridge site regularly to conduct quality checks on the structure.

“The first time I spotted the dolphins was on Oct 12 in Batu Maung but I only took pictures that time.

“I showed the pictures to my parents but they said they were not clear enough. So, I went to look for the dolphins again on my next visit to the bridge,” he added.

Universiti Sains Malaysia marine mammal biologist and lecturer Dr Leela Rajamani, who is based in the university’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies in Muka Head, Teluk Bahang, said dolphin sighting was common in Penang.

“Last week alone, we spotted dolphins three times in Muka Head.

“They are common in our waters,” she said when contacted yesterday.

She said so far the Indo-Pacific Humpbacks and Irrawaddy dolphins were the ones spotted here.

“They are shoreline animals so they have specific habitat based on their prey. Northwest Penang (Teluk Bahang) is a hotspot for them.

“Now, they are spotted quite often and it could be due to the seasonal change,” she explained.

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Indonesia: Bali mangrove cries SOS due to garbage, unsafe paths

Agnes Winarti Bali Daily 19 Oct 12;

Green attraction: Visitors observe the coastal ecosystem from a wooden walkway in the mangrove forest in Suwung, South Denpasar.(BD/Agung Parameswara)Green attraction: Visitors observe the coastal ecosystem from a wooden walkway in the mangrove forest in Suwung, South Denpasar.(BD/Agung Parameswara)

Enjoying the warm afternoon breeze under the watchful eye of her father, a toddler busily ate her crispy snacks while standing by a wooden gazebo in the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest.

Her fingers dug deeper into the package until no crisp was left uneaten. As she threw away the empty package without a second thought, it drifted into the nearest pile of garbage, as if being welcomed as its latest comrade.

“Compared to other mangrove forests I have visited across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest is among the most heavily polluted with garbage. It’s similar to the Muara Angke mangrove in Jakarta. It’s not a pretty sight,” Komang Tri Wijaya, who works for the Mangrove Forest Management Office (Balai Pengelolaan Hutan Mangrove -BPHM) headquartered in Ngurah Rai mangrove forest in Suwung, told Bali Daily on Thursday.

Over a short period of time, the mounting garbage might not be a major issue for the matured mangrove trees, but Wijaya acknowledged: “For the young saplings, a polluted environment would not make an easy place to grow.”

Ecologically, mangroves provide benefits by severely reducing ocean wave abrasion and seawater intrusion in coastal areas, controlling the microclimate, as well as serving as a habitat for various water organisms. Indonesia has 4.2 million hectares of mangrove forest overall, among the largest in the world.

Although there have been some educational programs to raise awareness among school students and teachers on the importance of mangrove forests, Wijaya acknowledged that the conservation efforts for the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest had not been sustainable.

Mangroves were still regarded as the sole responsibility of the forestry agency, while actually also being a concern for fisheries, the economy and community empowerment, he pointed out.

“All this time, the mangrove forest has merely been viewed as an income generator [for the administration]. However, its long-term conservation value has been ignored,” he said. In September, the mangrove forest welcomed as many as 1,765 domestic visitors. From the entrance fee alone, last year the forest contributed Rp 114 million (US$11,900) in revenue for the administration.

A large part of the previously around 1,373 hectare mangrove forest stretching from Sanur to Tanjung Benoa has been rented to, to name a few, the public works agency (PU), the state electricity company (PLN), the state oil and gas company (Pertamina) and Ngurah Rai International Airport, and been converted to host buildings and main roads. “At present, only around 900 hectares are left that are still covered with actual mangrove trees,” said Wijaya.

Head of the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest operator, Irwan Abdullah, acknowledged that the office only received a total annual allocation of Rp 900 million, 50 percent of which went on forest rehabilitation in the form of planting saplings, 40 percent for security measures against intruders and 10 percent for educational programs.

“It’s clearly not enough for any sum to be allocated for waste management. Honestly, we are overwhelmed with the accumulation of trash,” said Irwan, citing that the office had only two sanitation officers that were in charge of collecting the piles of garbage around the forest’s some 10 hectare area that was open to the public.

“BPHM has been assisting us with their pickup truck to transport the garbage to the landfill each day. But there has not been any cooperation with the sanitation agency for regular waste pick up,” he said, citing the waste being collected amounted to four times the capacity of the trucks. The garbage comes not only from irresponsible littering visitors, but also from the streams of Badung River.

Mounting garbage is not the only problem, today parts of the forest’s 1.4-kilometer wooden paths provided as walkways around the 10-hectare forest are rotting. About 30 percent of the tracks constructed back in 2003 are now in dire need of renovation. Graffiti is also another issue yet to be tackled.

Recently, the Bali administration announced it had issued a license to manage an area of 102.2 hectares of the Ngurah Rai mangrove forest to a private company, PT Tirta Rahmat Bahari. Details of company’s development plans in the forest are still sketchy, but it was reported that some 75 temporary wooden gazebos would be built for accommodation, as well as a restaurant.

“Let’s hope they don’t only build gazebos. We really do hope that the private investor will thoroughly engage in revamping the forest’s tracks and toilets, rehabilitate the forest, and most importantly handle the nuisance of garbage,” said Irwan.

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Biodiversity heroes -- from tiger saviors to rejuvenating forests across India

Chetan Chauhan Hindustan Times 18 Oct 12;

Poachers turning into tiger protectors in Kerala, villagers starting community movement to save Olive Ridley Turtles in Orissa and villagers in Naxal hit Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra joining hands with forest department to rejuvenate forests are some of the success stories in otherwise
increasing conflict between human and biodiversity in India.

Eight of such change-makers from India were awarded first India Biodiversity Awards 2012 on Thursday at the conference of over 180 countries in biodiversity by environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

What remained untold was increasing conflict in Indian forests with growing naxalism and poor locals turned into refugees in their own land for industrial use of natural resources.

"Through the awards we have tried to send a message that protection of biodiversity was possible even without direct government intervention," said S N Srinivas, additional India director in UNDP.

Around 40,000 locals earn daily livelihood from tiger-related tourism activity resulting in traditional hunters turning into tiger protectors in Periyar tiger reserve in Kerala, a wildlife area doing well despite being home to biotic pressures --- Sabrimala Temple and Mullaperiyar Dam.

"We turned a problem into an opportunity," said Pramod Krishnan, a brainchild behind the innovative project which led to similar initiatives in some other tiger reserves in India.

The project has sustained as income of the local beneficiaries has constantly increased and protecting biodiversity has resulted in better lives of many of them.

"Earlier the tourist used to stay for a day in Periyar. Now, they say on average for 2.5 days. Longer stay means better income for locals," Krishnan said.

Thousands of kilometers on eastern coast of India, women of Gundlaba village realised that saving biodiversity was self-protection after the devastating cyclone of 1999.

"Traditionally mangroves had saved us," said representative of Pir Jahania Jungle Surakasha Committee, set up after the cyclone to rejuvenate the mangroves. Women joined

Village women, worst hit by such natural disasters, joined hands to protect mangroves and local biodiversity including world biggest Olive Ridley Turtles nesting site at Gahirmatha beach. Work of 12 years has resulted in the mangrove cover increasing by 63 % and income of locals increasing with fish catch increasing from one kg per family to five kg per family a day.

In north-western Indian state of Rajasthan, where forests is a scarce commodity, villagers in Udaipur district felt that the Forest Rights Act of 2006 would led to encroachments and destruction of forests. Their perception, however, changed with they getting rights to collect forest produce and in return ensuring forest protection under the state government’s Van Uttan Sansthan.

Shankarpur Village in western state of Maharashtra succeeded where majority of the Indian states has failed --- granted community rights to use forestland. The village panchayat also used funds allocated under Mahatma Gandhi National Guarantee Scheme to rejuvenate depleting forests through check dams, a rare convergence of government schemes for benefit of biodiversity.

UNDP officials, however, agreed that the awards have failed to look at realistic efforts to look at conservation efforts by people at odd with the Forest Department officials. Over a million people in India have been displaced because of forceful evictions in name of conservation and development.

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