Best of our wild blogs: 16 Dec 12

Cyrene Reef (15 Dec 2012)
from teamseagrass and wild shores of singapore

Butterfly of the Month - December 2012
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Giving stray animals a safe haven

Caring for kitten led woman to open shelter that now cares for 600 cats and dogs
Leslie Kay Lim Straits Times 16 Dec 12;

When a robber held her up at knife-point on the streets of Hong Kong, Ms Cathy Strong was traumatised.

For two weeks, she barely left the safety of her home.

But after her husband brought home a stray kitten, she was forced to venture out again to buy a feeding bottle to tend to it.

"Ever since, I started to notice the plight of animals," she said.

More than 30 years on from her traumatic experience, Ms Strong now runs Pets Villa, an open concept animal shelter in Pasir Ris.

The 61-year-old said her aim was to witness a Singapore free of strays: "I may not be able to see my dream come true within my lifetime, but it can - and will - happen one day."

She first became active in animal welfare circles after returning from Hong Kong. In 2002, she founded the Animal Lovers League, a non-profit organisation that fed and sterilised stray cats and dogs.

Two years later, she set up the shelter, prompted in part by the culling of strays due to Sars.

Despite starting out in 2004 with only about 100 cats and 20 dogs, it now looks after 600 animals on a plot of land about half the size of a football pitch.

At full capacity, it can no longer accept new pets despite the many calls it receives. The shelter encourages people to adopt, but only three or four successful matches are made each month.

Smaller animals, which are allowed in flats, tend to get adopted more quickly, leaving many others behind.

Animal Lovers League volunteers still feed and sterilise strays on a regular basis. Ms Strong emphasised that they are there to help all creatures, whether or not they are in the shelter.

At Pets Villa, the volunteers clean, bathe, feed and walk the dogs, and address medical needs. The older ones suffer from a host of ailments such as kidney and liver failure, arthritis and cataracts.

Caring for this many animals does not come cheap, Ms Strong admitted.

Expenses each month can amount to $40,000.

The shelter receives private donations and offers a pet boarding service for $5 per day. It also allows people to sponsor a particular animal for $130 a month.

Long-time volunteers make sure the shelter continues to exist.

Ms Christine Bernadette, 23, has been helping out several times a week for seven years.

As the petite teacher spoke to The Sunday Times, she deftly handled dogs weighing as much as her. "The animals keep me coming back," she said.

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"Tornado" sighted at Pasir Panjang

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 15 Dec 12;

SINGAPORE: A "tornado" at Pasir Panjang on Saturday left some residents startled.

The winds were so strong that it caused some of the zinc slats on the roof of Pasir Panjang ferry terminal to dislodge and fly off.

Employees at the terminal said no one was injured.

The "tornado" was in fact a waterspout, which is caused by intense thunderstorms, and is formed when columns of water are sucked to the base of the clouds.

Julie Beattie, whose home overlooks the ferry terminal, sent in video footage of the weather phenomenon to Channel NewsAsia.

"I felt the wind start to pick up and went to close the balcony doors, and then noticed this swirling motion of water, and I thought, what is this?" she said.

"I was glued to it, it started getting stronger... I thought this (was) a mini tornado."

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said an average of three occurrences of waterspouts over Singapore waters are reported every year.

NEA added that waterspouts tend to have a short life cycle of up to tens of minutes and they usually dissipate rapidly upon reaching the coast.

They also noted waterspouts are generally associated with intense thunderstorms over the sea.

However, it is difficult to forecast the occurrence of waterspouts because not all thunderstorms lead to the formation of waterspouts.

- CNA/xq

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Malaysia: 35 orang utan back in the wild

Muguntan Vanar The Star 16 Dec 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Thirty-five orang utans have been rehabilitated at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort's Nature Reserve conservation centre since its inception in 1995.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the rehabilitation programme was to complement efforts undertaken by the department's Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.

“This is also to give an opportunity for the public and schoolchildren from the state's west coast to experience first-hand the rehabilitation process.

“The programme at the resort's nature reserve, however, is much smaller in scale compared to Sepilok,” he said, adding that all 35 rehabilitated orang utans had been returned to Sepilok for release into the wild.

Laurentius was responding to an “open letter” on the reasons they were reluctant to respond to a local NGO Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia regarding the treatment of orphaned orang utans at the Rasa Ria Resort.

Laurentius said the department had always explained the rationale for the initiation of an orang utan rehabilitation centre at the resort in Tuaran, about 35km from here.

He claimed that Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia were invited to attend an orang utan conservation workshop and also for a site inspection of Rasa Ria in November last year but they declined.

There were representatives from other NGOs who came and were happy with the conservation efforts, he added.

“We have nothing to hide. These orang utans only spend their first two parts of the rehabilitation programme at the nature reserve of the resort before being sent back to Sepilok for the last part of their programme.”

He said the Sepilok centre had strictly supervised the rehabilitation programme with a veterinarian on 24-hour call.

Medical checks were also done on all the orang utans in Rasa Ria, he added.

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Indonesia: Plant Trees to Prevent Flooding From River

SP/Usmin Jakarta Globe 10 Dec 12;

Bengkulu. Authorities in Bengkulu have highlighted the importance of reforesting denuded river catchment areas in an ongoing effort to prevent flooding during the rainy season.

Sumarsono, the head of the provincial river catchment management agency (BPDAS), said on Saturday that over the past three years his office had planted saplings across 5,000 hectares of affected areas in the Sumatran province.

“We’re doing this to mitigate the impact of the flooding that occurs during the rainy season,” he said.

“We’ll continue to keep regreening critically deforested land in river catchment areas throughout Bengkulu so that we can restore the water-absorbing function of these areas.”

Sumarsono said that when a catchment area lost most of its vegetation, it also lost its ability to absorb high volumes of rainwater runoff. This, he went on, meant that excess amounts of rainfall not absorbed into the ground would keep flowing downhill as floodwater.

He added that planting more trees would also have a beneficial impact beyond the rainy season, with the extra vegetation helping the soil to retain more moisture during the dry season.

He said the BPDAS was working with the provincial military command to reforest critical areas throughout Bengkulu.

In Jambi, meanwhile, the Jawa Pos National Network reported that thousands of hectares of food crop were under threat from ongoing torrential rains that have already caused widespread flooding across the province.

Amrin Aziz, the head of the provincial agriculture office, said on Saturday that much of the farmland under threat lay within the catchment area of the Batanghari River.

“Given the sustained high intensity of the rainfall, thousands of hectares of farmland are at threat,” he said.

He added that many farmers, faced with the prospect of losing their entire harvests, were being forced to harvest their crops early to minimize their losses.

Most of the city of Jambi was paralyzed over the weekend by floodwaters reaching up to two meters in some areas after the Batanghari burst its banks, forcing residents to resort to using rafts and canoes to get around.

Amid Third Week of Floods, Locals Depart
SP/Radesman Saragih & SP/Barthel B. Usin Jakarta Globe 11 Dec 12;

Jambi/Palangkaraya. Facing a third straight week of widespread flooding, residents of Jambi in Sumatra finally began to evacuate their homes on Monday.

Residents living in affected areas along the banks of the Batanghari River had previously refused to leave stilt-supported houses, but with floodwaters now rising as high as three meters, many women and children have begun leaving for higher ground while the men stay behind.

Suhartini, 45, a resident of the Legok ward in the Telanaipura subdistrict, said most of those leaving their homes had opted to go to the homes of relatives rather than to the temporary shelters set up by the authorities.

“It’s only the women and the young children who are going, while the men and the boys are staying put,” she said.

“Someone’s got to keep an eye on the houses so that our property doesn’t get looted while we’re away.”

Since late November, heavy rains have swollen the Batanghari River, raising the water level three meters above normal.

The water level on Monday at Jambi’s Taman Tanggo Rajo floodgate is measured at 13.15 meters, according to officials, up from the normal figure of around nine meters.

Dalmanto, the head of emergency response at the provincial Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), said that if the water level reached 13.45 meters, the flooding there would be considered an emergency situation. “At that point, we would have to order a mandatory evacuation of all residents from the affected areas,” he said.

He added that some parts of Jambi have been inundated for two weeks now and were entering a third week of rising floodwaters.

“The worst-affected area right now is the Legok ward. There are some 264 stilt houses there that are flooded,” Dalmanto said.

“If the water level rises past the critical mark, we’ll have to evacuate roughly 1,370 people from 345 households in that ward alone.”

Rain-induced flooding is also taking a toll on Central Kalimantan, where the Barito and Kahayan rivers have burst their banks.

Aprian Noor, the legislative speaker in the district of North Barito, said on Monday that the district capital of Muara Teweh was now completely paralyzed by flooding, with the water level reaching two meters in some areas.

Bambang Edy Prayitno, the district secretary, said the flooding was the worst in a decade, and added that all residents living on the banks of the Barito River had evacuated their deluged homes while the floodwaters had wrought extensive damage to crops and livestock.

Authorities in Muara Teweh have also begun to register the extent of the damage in the flooded parts of town.

In the Gunung Mas district, the Kahayan River overflowed on Monday, the second time it has occurred since Saturday, cutting off road access into and out of the district.

9,000 Central Kalimantan Homes Inundated as Flood Waters Continue to Flow
Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 10 Dec 12;

Nearly 9,000 homes have now been inundated as flooding that began a week ago in Central Kalimantan’s North Barito district continues unabated.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said on Sunday that 8,872 homes in the district were reported to have been affected by the flooding.

“The flooding there that began on December 3 is still continuing to spread,” he said. “Six of the nine subdistricts in North Barito are now inundated in around two meters of floodwater. In some places the water is as deep as four meters.”

He added that the problem was so severe that in some areas of the district, the water level was reported to be rising by as much as 30 centimeters a day.

In addition to the houses, the flood has also affected 11 schools, six community health centers, five mosques, a church and a Hindu temple.

The flooding, caused by the rain-swollen Barito River bursting its banks, has also swamped 2,700 hectares of rice paddies and thousands more hectares of other crops, as well as washed out 25 bridges and flooded 10 kilometers of roads.

District authorities declared a state of emergency there on Saturday, while disaster relief officials have set up temporary shelters and soup kitchens to cater to those forced to flee their homes.

Sutopo said relief supplies were being distributed by the district and provincial administrations.

He previously warned that rain-related disasters across the country were expected to continue until January. The BNPB noted that mudslides and floods in the past two months have killed at least 33 people and forced 35,000 to flee their homes.

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