Best of our wild blogs: 30 Apr 13

Undergrad part-time field/lab assistants wanted (Apr – Dec 2013)
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Pulau Ubin: "What more could you want?"
from wild shores of singapore

Site Allocation Exercise II – 2,955 volunteers from 52 organisations registered!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Jong Surprises
from wild shores of singapore

Bryozoans and Hydroids Workshop Day 1
from wild shores of singapore

Random Gallery - Grey Sailor

from Butterflies of Singapore

Bidadari: A challenge to Nature Society’s birdwatchers
from Bird Ecology Study Group

What if companies actually had to compensate society for environmental destruction? from news by Jeremy Hance

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'Relook' planting of big trees near roads

Brother of man killed by tree, experts suggest NParks look into size, species
Hoe Pei Shan Straits Times 30 Apr 13;

THE National Parks Board (NParks) could reassess the practice of planting huge trees close to roads.

That is one suggestion salesman Jacky Cheong, 31, gave when The Straits Times spoke to him at his younger brother Jason's wake yesterday. The driving instructor, 25, died last Saturday after a rain tree - 14m tall and 3.9m thick - in Admiralty Road West fell during a spell of rain, and crushed a car that he was in.

Mr Cheong's proposal was echoed by some experts The Straits Times spoke to. They suggested NParks look into the sizes of trees lining roads, and the species.

Madam Jacqueline Allan, assistant director of Nature Landscapes, said: "Today's urban developments have changed wind directions and wind forces in some areas. NParks could look at the history of fallen trees and reconsider the tree species in these areas as a preventive method."

Asked which species are suitable for roadside planting, as well as whether big trees should be near roads, NParks yesterday declined to comment.

Following the 2010 death of project manager Chua Loong Wai, whose car was crushed by a 15m-tall rain tree, then-NParks director of streetscapes Simon Longman said: "It is not so much about the size of the tree, but about the management - even smaller trees can cause extensive damage."

NParks said then that it stepped up its tree-management regime after a series of cases of fallen trees and branches. It said well-maintained trees could still be uprooted in severe weather.

A 2011 coroner's inquiry revealed that the tree that killed Mr Chua showed no signs of pest infestation or deterioration, and heavy rain had caused its fall.

Yesterday, NParks said the tree in last Saturday's accident was inspected last November, and assessed to be healthy.

Landscape architect Mason Tan said: "So why is NParks so fixated on intensifying its maintenance practices when even the best-maintained trees can still succumb to nature? There are many other complementary solutions they can look at."

For example, instead of having fixed distances between trees, he suggested planting them in clusters to simulate natural conditions, which could result in better support between trees. "We need to reinvent our greenery policies so that they're relevant to our rapid urbanisation, which is changing the encumbrances and root systems of our trees," he added.

Arborist Lucien Wijeadasa noted the quality of NParks' tree maintenance is "indisputable", but that "tall, upright trees, such as casuarinas, shouldn't be in areas with heavy traffic".

Still, he cautioned that replacing bigger trees with smaller ones might not completely remove the danger. "If a heavy wood tree falls on something hard like a car, the damage is much greater than that caused by a softer wood. But if both fell on a person, they may cause roughly the same damage."

Additional reporting by Lim Min Zhang

Trees can be felled by natural forces beyond NParks' control
Straits Times 6 May 13;

MR DANIEL Chia suggests that the National Parks Board (NParks) plant only deep-rooted trees along our roads ("Plant only deep-rooted trees along roads"; last Friday). However, even the strongest tree may fall if it rains continuously for two weeks and wind speeds reach hurricane levels.

Is it feasible for NParks to deploy a battalion of arborists and tree inspectors to inspect every tree once every six months, given that there may be more than a million trees in Singapore?

Our trees are exposed to inclement weather throughout the year. Trees can fall by acts of God - events caused by natural forces whose effects cannot possibly be prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and foresight.

An act of God may be a defence against liability for injuries or damages; insurance policies often exclude coverage for damage caused by acts of God.

Urban land owners are responsible for injuries caused by a falling tree only if they knew, or reasonably should have known, that the tree posed a danger. They are not expected to know that a tree is rotten, as an expert would, but rather as a reasonable person would.

In the vast majority of cases involving trees felled by strong winds, the car owner whose vehicle is damaged will have to make a claim against his motor insurance policy and not the tree owner.

NParks has a duty to take only reasonable steps to prevent trees from falling, but it does not owe a duty to motorists and persons if trees are felled by unprecedented natural forces beyond its control.

Heng Cho Choon

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Scientists divided on pesticides and bee health

Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent PlanetArk 30 Apr 13;

Bee populations have been declining steadily in recent decades but there is scientific disagreement over the contribution of pesticides called neonicotinoids to falling bee numbers.

Europe is expected to impose a temporary ban on the pesticides after EU governments failed on Monday to agree whether or not their use should be halted.

Some recent studies have shown neonicotinoids can have damaging effects on bee health by interfering with their homing abilities and making them lose their way.

Other scientific studies point to a virus spread by a parasitic mite called the Varroa as a prime suspect in fuelling so-called "colony collapse disorder" which has seen bee numbers drop rapidly in Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East.

Bees are important pollinators of flowering plants, including many fruit and vegetable crops. A 2011 United Nations report estimated that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, beetles or birds do work worth 153 billion euros ($203 billion) a year to the human economy.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are new nicotine-like chemicals and act on the nervous systems of insects. They pose a lower threat to mammals and the environment than many older pesticide sprays.

Because they are water soluble, they can be applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant, making them "systemic" - meaning they render the whole plant toxic to insects. Neonicotinoids are often applied as "seed treatments", which means coating the seeds before planting.

A report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in January said three widely-used neonicotinoids, made mainly by Switzerland's Syngenta and Germany's Bayer, posed an acute risk to honeybees.

But Britain, whose department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) recommended abstaining in a previous EU vote in March, argues the science is inconclusive and advises caution in extrapolating results from lab studies to real-life field conditions.

Lynn Dicks, a bee expert at Cambridge University said it should come as little surprise that insecticides kill insects.

"They are designed to," she said, adding it is the extent to which they can be blamed for bee decline that is in doubt.

"They are unlikely to be the sole cause of falling insect numbers and diversity, but they represent one of a set of multiple interacting threats that seems to be driving declines."

Experts note that one of the key difficulties in establishing the potential danger lies in how to find out how much of the pesticides the bees come into contact with as they forage, and the degree to which this might lead to fewer bees.

Britain's DEFRA published a report in January in which it said its research "did not show conclusively that exposure to neonicotinoids used within a normal agricultural setting had major effects on bumble bee colonies".

James Cresswell, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, says the science has yet to produce unequivocal answers.

"While recent research based on artificial dosing shows that neonicotinoids can harm bees, uncertainty remains over the severity of environmentally realistic conditions," he said.

Lin Field, Head of Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection at Rothamsted Research, says there is not enough evidence to support a total ban on neonicotinoids and questions whether the "precautionary principle" should apply and a ban should be imposed just in case the threat turns out to be real.

"On the face of it that might be the best solution but it takes no account of the risk of the ban on our ability to control insect pests and secure crop yields," she said.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Metals recycling needs bigger role in product design: U.N

Alister Doyle and Nina Chestney PlanetArk 26 Apr 13;

Designers of everything from mobile phones to electric car batteries should make their products far easier to recycle to offset soaring demand for metals, two United Nations reports recommended on Wednesday.

Products should be made to become "designer minerals" at the end of their lifetimes so they can more simply be broken up and stripped of metals ranging from copper to gold, according to the twin studies.

"Global metal needs will be three to nine times larger than all the metals currently used in the world" if demand in emerging economies rises to levels of rich nations, said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme.

The total amount of steel in use in the United States, for instance, was an estimated 11 to 12 metric tonnes per person in 2010, compared with 1.5 tonnes in China.

"Product designers need to ensure that materials such as rare earth metals in products ranging from solar panels and wind turbine magnets to mobile phones can still be recovered easily when they reach the end of their life," he said in a statement.

Recycling rates are low in most nations and electronic waste alone is estimated at between 20 to 50 million tonnes a year, or between three and seven kilos (7-15 pounds) per person. Most ends up dumped or burned, contaminating air, water and soil.

A third report by a non-governmental organisation quoted estimates that about 130 million mobile phones are thrown away annually in the United States. Collectively, they weigh about 14,000 tonnes and include almost 2,100 tonnes of copper, 46 tonnes of silver and 3.9 tonnes of gold.

A mobile phone alone can contain more than 40 elements including copper, tin, cobalt, indium, antimony, silver, gold, palladium, tungsten and yttrium. Most are in tiny amounts but recycling would take pressure off mining.


The two reports by the United Nations' International Resource Panel urged governments to agree on best available recycling technologies. So far, recycling laws are limited mostly to developed nations.

Manufacturers also should start with ease of recycling in mind, the reports said, for instance avoiding mixes of metals that are hard to separate. Platinum group metals, for instance, can effectively dissolve when mixed into steel.

"Some combinations are harder and uneconomic to separate," Markus Reuter, lead author of the report on metals recycling, told Reuters. He likened some mixes to trying to separate a cup of coffee into water, milk, sugar and coffee.

Rising demand for metals will also have to be curbed with lighter-weight designs. In the European Union, for instance, the average weight of cars rose to 1.2 tonnes in 2001 from 0.85 tonnes in 1981.

Recycling could also cut energy demand and greenhouse gases compared to mining, which often uses 10 to 100 times more energy than recycling for the same amount of metal.

"Metals use seven to eight percent of the world's total energy in their primary production. That's larger than anyone had thought," Ester van der Voet, lead author of the other report on metals and environmental challenges, told Reuters.

The third study, by the Gaia Foundation, said the world's growing addiction to throwaway consumer electronics was putting enormous pressure on resources such as metals, minerals, water and ecosystems.

In the United States, it said, 80 percent of electronic waste was shipped to developing countries in Asia or Africa where it was handled in bad social and environmental conditions.

"In failing to create effective recycling systems, we are thus outsourcing our toxic waste and turning parts of the world into digital dumps."

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Plants slow climate change by forming cloud sunshade: study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 29 Apr 13;

Plants help to slow climate change by emitting gases as temperatures rise that lead to the formation of a sunshade of clouds over the planet, scientists said on Sunday.

The tiny sun-dimming effect could offset about one percent of warming worldwide and up to 30 percent locally such as over vast northern forests in Siberia, Canada or the Nordic nations, they wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience.

While proportionally small, some scientists said the study provided further evidence of the importance of protecting forests, which help to slow climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases as they grow and to preserve wildlife.

Observations of forests from 11 sites around the world showed that plants emitted tiny particles that float on the wind as temperatures warm and act as seeds for water droplets that create clouds, they wrote.

Clouds' white tops in turn reflect sunlight back into space and offset warming, they wrote.

The study focused on forests in Europe, North America, Russia and southern Africa. The effect is believed to be smaller over far hotter tropical forests such as in the Amazon or the Congo basin.

"It's a small effect - one percent is not much," said lead author Pauli Paasonen of the University of Helsinki and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.

"If temperatures were to increase by 1 degree without this effect, they'd rise 0.99 degrees with it," he told Reuters of a study that included researchers in the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Hungary and Sweden.


Many other tiny aerosols, such as human pollution from factories, cars and power plants, also have a sun-dimming effect that may be slowing the pace of climate change, blamed mainly on emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

But there has been uncertainty about the role of nature, and of plants' emissions of gases such as monoterpenes.

"Everyone knows the scent of the forest," Ari Asmi, a University of Helsinki researcher who also worked on the study, said in a statement. "That scent is made up of these gases."

It is unclear why plants emit more monoterpenes at higher temperatures - it may be a side-effect of trees' natural air conditioning to reduce heat.

"Forests are providing an additional cooling. This is another reason why we should conserve and protect forests," said Dominick Spracklen, an expert on plants and climate change at the University of Leeds who was not involved in the study.

But the damaging effects of warming on forests, such as more wildfires or insect pests, may exceed tiny benefits of more clouds that would only come from healthy forests, he said.

Spracklen said plants' cooling effect was tantalizing evidence for people who believe the planet somehow acts as a self-regulating organism for life, sometimes known as the Gaia hypothesis.

One idea launched in 1987 was that warmer temperatures spur the growth of more algae in the upper oceans. These tiny plants would in turn release more of the chemical dimethyl sulphide that seeds clouds to reflect sunlight.

"No one has yet proved that this effect exists," he said.

The U.N. panel of leading climate scientists says that human emissions of greenhouse gases are driving up world temperatures and will lead to ever more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

It says that it is at least 90 percent certain that human activities, rather than natural variations in the climate, are to blame for most of the warming in the past half-century.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Apr 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [22 - 28 Apr 2013]
from Green Business Times

Security Barriers at Tanjung Rimau, Sentosa
from Peiyan.Photography

Sentosa shore is crabby alive
from Peiyan.Photography

Flowering Syzygium Trees Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Earth Day at Pasir Ris Park mangrove boardwalk
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Long-tailed Macaque
from Monday Morgue

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AVA moves to control monkey problem

Unruly macaques in Bt Timah being caught and rehomed or euthanised
Grace Chua Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

THEY break into kitchens, knock over flower pots while fleeing and hog overhead bridges, disrupting the lives of some Bukit Timah condominium residents.

In response to the rising number of complaints, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority told The Straits Times last week that it has been carrying out "monkey control operations" in the area.

In other words, moves have been made to trap and either rehome or kill the long-tailed macaques living there.

"It's getting worse and worse," said Ms Winnie Chang, an administrative officer who lives at Springdale condominium in Hindhede Road.

Monkeys have followed her along an overhead bridge outside her home and tried to grab her groceries, she said. "The only way is to get rid of them."

However, Ms Vinita Ramani Mohan, 34, who lives in a condominium even nearer the reserve, said she has had no problems with the monkeys.

"I find it puzzling and silly how people choose to move 'close to the green', and then are surprised when mosquitoes, monkeys, snakes and other inhabitants from the reserve areas wander into the condos."

In addition to catching monkeys, AVA lends traps to residents. Around 130 monkeys were caught in such traps last year, down from the 206 recorded in 2007.

The number of complaints about the "monkey nuisance" has risen lately.

AVA received 800 complaints in 2010, 730 in 2011 and 920 last year.

Assistant Professor Michael Gumert, who studies primate behaviour at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), pointed out that the rise in the number of complaints might not indicate an increase in monkey trouble.

Instead, it could be because AVA is doing more to reach out to residents. For instance, the agency started a 24-hour hotline in August last year.

It could also be because more people have moved into the area. The past few years have seen two new properties come up as well - Raintree condominium and Mont Timah cluster homes.

NTU research assistant Amanda Tan, who is working with Dr Gumert to study a troop of monkeys at Bukit Timah, said she spotted contractors two weeks ago with cages that contained oranges and bananas, just outside the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve near the Kampong Trail.

AVA said the monkeys are rehomed elsewhere whenever possible. The rest are euthanised, but AVA did not say what proportion of the monkeys caught were rehomed.

The National Parks Board (NParks) and AVA both urged the public not to feed monkeys. Doing so within nature reserves carries a fine of up to $50,000 or a jail term of up to six months, or both.

Residents should also keep food out of sight, tie garbage bags tightly, secure bin lids and close windows or install grilles.

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Is Jurong groundwater suitable for ‘fifth tap’?

Noel Chia Kok Hwee Today Online 29 Apr 13;

I refer to “Singapore’s new fifth ‘national tap’ may draw on groundwater” (April 27) and wish to express my concern over the possibility of drawing on “naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater” in the Jurong Formation area, given that Jurong has been an industrial estate for many decades.

Firstly, chemicals from things such as batteries, insecticides, medicine, paint and printer ink can eventually end up in our water supplies if we do not discard them properly.

Secondly, we need to be assured that factories dealing with chemicals are morally and legally responsible for not dumping harmful waste into rivers or burying them in the ground. Toxic waste seeping into the source of groundwater can cause a lot of harm if not carefully treated.

Thirdly, run-off or water from rain (or melted snow) not absorbed by the ground can run over the ground and loose soil, picking up pollutants and transporting them into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal areas.

Water can be polluted by urban, industrial or agricultural run-off which include pesticides and fertilisers from parks and gardens, oil and grease from our vehicles, and heavy metals and chemicals from construction sites and factories.

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Winning app offers car-pooling mums cleaner, greener ride

Rachel Tan Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

CAR-POOLING may not be new, but developing it into an online application to help mothers with children in primary schools is a prize-winning idea.

Parent Pool won first place at the first Government-led hackathon, which ended at the National University of Singapore yesterday.

"We wanted to look for a user group in Singapore which had a strong identity. So we picked the mums of primary school-going children," said 26-year-old co-founder Titus Seah, who works at PUB, the national water agency.

Parent Pool is an online programme that allows mothers to meet and assist one another in car-pooling kids to school. This service can save fuel and cause fewer traffic jams, said Mr Seah, who met the other two co-founders, Mr Anthony Chow, and Mr Chan Haoyee, both also 26, at Stanford University.

In the long run, the three hope the application will also build stronger community ties.

"We found out that parents want to get to know one another before their kids get into school," said Mr Seah after speaking to parents and teachers.

Parents of Primary 1 children are the key targets for Parent Pool as they need the most assistance when their children are starting school, Mr Chow said.

"I think the hackathon mentors helped us a lot because one of the key things was finding out what drives people to change their behaviour," added the SingTel data scientist.

The three men won $5,000 to further develop their app with the support of Samsung technologies.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) conceptualised the Clean and Green Hackathon last year.

About 170 participants - some as young as 17 years old - took part in the three-day forum, which started last Friday. Developers, professionals and students met to explore and create new eco-solutions through mobile or Web channels.

"More and more, you find that environmental problems are multi-faceted, so apps are able to address a few issues," said Ms Sueanne Mocktar, deputy director of the corporate, NGO and marketing department of the 3P network division at NEA.

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Hazy issues cast a pall yet again

Simon Tay and Nicholas Fang Today Online 29 Apr 13;

The Indonesian economy continues to do well, attracting Singapore investors to look southwards. Yet there was a cloud over the otherwise convivial bilateral retreat held last week between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The haze resulting from fires in the nearby Indonesian provinces cast a literal pall over the city even as the two leaders discussed cooperation.

Despite efforts over some 15 years after the worst fires in 1997 and 1998, the problem is recurring and has been getting worse of late. Last year saw the most prolonged spell for more than a decade and this year’s haze seems on track to be even worse.

The National Environment Agency of Singapore has begun hourly updates of the Pollutant Standards Index as the dry season, typically marked by heightened burning, approaches next month.

Singapore officials had earlier been working on the ground in the province of Jambi with some success, but the agreement has lapsed. President Yudhoyono responded positively during the meeting and promised to persuade provincial governors to resume cooperation. But with decentralisation and more autonomy in Indonesia, it remains to be seen if Jakarta can really deliver.


The province of Aceh provided a basis for scepticism.

Just before the announcements by the two leaders, it was reported that Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry is close to approving a plan by the Aceh government to rezone over a million hectares of protected forests into production forests. Such a move would open these forests to mining, logging and clearing for oil palm plantations.

Reports point not to Indonesian businesses but a Canadian mining company, whose chief executive praised the move while his company was “working closely” with Indonesian officials to implement the reclassification. The move has drawn sharp criticism from many non-government organisations (NGOs).

The troubling development has implications on efforts to contain the haze. Studies indicate that a large number of fires are set by plantation owners, especially palm oil and timber concessions.

It has also highlighted the assertion by many that attempts to address the haze are hampered when industry and corporations “capture” these efforts and render them ineffective: The previous Aceh government had committed to protecting these forests from being cleared, but its new administration is said to favour opening up forests for exploitation.

This problem goes beyond Aceh. A larger-scale difficulty may exist with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a well-intentioned effort to bring together the private sector, along with NGOs, to tackle the haze and other related issues.

A recent report by Greenpeace alleges that an RSPO member, a large palm oil company, has broken commitments and ignored the organisation’s standards by illegally burning and clearing large tracts of forest and peatland with impunity.

The report further contends that other RSPO members trade with this reportedly recalcitrant corporation. It questions the efficacy of the RSPO and suggests that industrial and commercial interests may have “captured” the initiative.

But other problems also exist. With the haze recurring year after year, there has been a notable lack of urgency and increasing fatalism towards the issue, putting a damper on political will and the capacity to address the problem.

Underlying this are deeper institutional problems. ASEAN inter-governmental cooperation on the issue is limited to environment ministers and does not include their counterparts in other relevant portfolios, which could explain in part how Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry was able to get away with the move despite promises by the country’s Environment Ministry to address the haze.


Given these obstacles, a holistic approach towards haze prevention is needed. For one, public awareness and support, which have the power to influence companies, should be promoted.

If the general public in the region are more aware of their role in haze prevention, they will be better equipped to back “greener” companies and make their own consumption more environmentally sound, feeding into a virtuous circle between consumer and producer.

The involvement of other departments beyond the environment ministries in initiatives on the ground should also be sought, to prevent another incident like what took place in Aceh. Moreover, any venture to combat the haze must consider the delivery of sustainable economic development and other benefits to local communities, who experience the impacts of haze-causing practices most keenly.

The re-emergence of the haze and the recent issue in Aceh are symptoms of the problems plaguing the region. This is not just about governments resuming previous measures that have worked, important as they are.

Addressing these issues requires the expansion of earlier successful efforts, and new holistic attempts to address this ever-persistent problem.


Simon Tay is the Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). Nicholas Fang is the Executive Director of the SIIA.

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Malaysia: 26 turtles found dead in Terengganu this year 28 Apr 13;

DUNGUN, April 28 (Bernama) -- The rate of turtles killed by fishing gear, including fishing nets, in Terengganu waters this year is worrying the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation and Information Centre.

Its spokesman said 26 Green turtles and an Olive Ridley turtle had been found dead on the Terengganu beach this year, with the latest, a Green turtle, found at Pantai Jambu Bongkok yesterday.

Last year, a total of 31 Green turtles and two Hawksbill turtles were found dead, believed killed by fishing gear, he added.

He told Bernama here today that more landing by the Green and Olive Ridley turtles were expected in Terengganu this year.

Since last month, we had found more than 500 nests and more than 47,000 eggs had been collected for hatching, he added.

26 turtles found dead on beaches
New Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

DUNGUN: The rate of turtles killed by fishing gear, including fishing nets, in Terengganu waters this year is worrying the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation and Information Centre.

Its spokesman said 26 green turtles and an olive ridley turtle had been found dead on Terengganu beaches this year, with the latest, a green turtle, found at Pantai Jambu Bongkok yesterday.

Last year, a total of 31 green turtles and two hawksbill turtles were found dead, believed killed by fishing gear.

He said yesterday that more landings by the green and olive ridley turtles were expected in Terengganu this year.

Since last month, they had found more than 500 nests and more than 47,000 eggs had been collected for hatching, he added.

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Malaysia Start Action Plan For Tapir Conservation For Next 20 Years

Bernama 28 Apr 13;

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 (Bernama) -- An action plan has been drawn up for the conservation of the Malayan tapir for the next 20 years, which also identifies the latest threats to the fully protected species.

The plan was drafted in collaboration between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Copenhagen Zoo.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Malaysian Nature Society said this in a joint statement, in conjunction with World Tapir Day, on Saturday.

"This included programmes to release tapirs to their natural habitat. Efforts and cooperation to promote tapir and its habitat as a national heritage will be continued for the coming generation," said the statement.

It said that close cooperation from government agencies, non-government organisations (NGO), educational institutions and the private sector was crucial because conservation efforts was a joint responsibility. The statement added, the World Tapir Day, celebrated worldwide on April 27, was to boost awareness on the conservation of the Mountain Tapir, Lowland Tapir, Baird's Tapir and the Malayan Tapir.

"The tapir is also fully protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. It is an offence to hunt or keep a tapir without a special permit and those found guilty would be fined up to RM100,000 or jail of not more than three years or both as stated under Section 68 Act 716," it clarified.

The statement said, the 2013 World Tapir Day was held for the first time in Malaysia at the National Park, Pahang which was the natural habitat of the species.

The programme was jointly organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Perhilitan, Malayan Nature Society, the Forestry Faculty of Universiti Putra Malaysia and supported by the Malaysian Education Ministry's Mutiara Taman Negara, Tapir Specialist Group, Copenhagen Zoo and Leica, the statement added.


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Vietnam: Mangrove trees protect villagers from hard times

VietNamNet Bridge 28 Apr 13;

All their neighbours were cutting down trees, attracted by the prospect of making money quickly. But people in one village refused to let their forest be destroyed. Today, they're reaping the benefits of that bold decision.

When hundreds of hectares of mangroves in the central province of Quang Nam's Nui Thanh District were cut down to build shrimp ponds about 25 years ago, residents in Dong Xuan Village were determined to say no to a 'fast buck' because they realised the true value of their village's forest.

At the time the decision was viewed as backward, but in the end it has helped them to retain a "museum" of typical mangroves which provide them with sustainable livelihoods and protects them from natural disasters.

Tam Giang is like an oasis, just over 1km from the district's administrative centre.

It's 5am, and Do Thi Lieu is returning from the river that flows through the mangroves. Despite the dark rings around her eyes caused by lack of sleep, she looks cheerful.

"I've caught 2kg of shrimp since 1am, which I can sell for around VND150,000. Our villagers can make a living from the river because we refused to allow our mangroves to be cut down. Fish and shrimp disappeared from many parts of the river a long time ago," says the 49-year-old woman, who has been catching fish on the river since she was very young.

Pham Hong Danh, another fisherman, says: "Fortunately, the river near the mangrove forest still has lots of fish and shrimp for us to rely on during the months that we have to stay away from the sea during the stormy season. The mangroves are a shelter and breeding site for all kinds of shrimp, fish, crabs and snails. All we need is a net and a torch to catch some food."

Village's "protective wall"

The mangroves also provide protection from the fierce storms and floods that have ripped through the region in recent years.

Village chief Pham Van Nhi recalls that during the tropical storm in 2009, locals thought the western part of the village would be destroyed by the strong waves.

"That storm was so strong. In the eastern area, winds and waves were weaker, but a 150m dyke was devastated by waves.

"The western part of the village was untouched despite the fact there are no dykes because it was protected by the mangroves," he says.

Villagers were shocked when nearby areas cut down their mangroves to make way for shrimp ponds.

Huynh Ngoc Anh, 63, the then chief of Tam Giang Commune, recalls: "In 1990, the movement to cut mangroves to build shrimp ponds in Tam Giang began. People were attracted by the benefit of shrimp farming, and in 1992, they hired machines to destroy the mangroves. The noise of the heavy machinery rang out through the village day and night, and by the end of 1997, there were no more mangroves in the commune."

The former chairman says that just a few years later, shrimp farmers began to pay the price for their actions. Having enjoyed initial success, disease decimated their stocks, and the annual cost of flood repair work outweighed what they earned from breeding shrimp. They had lost the protection of the mangrove forests.

Seventy year old village chief Nhi says that his generation treasures the forests that their ancestors left for them.

The riverside village has few fields and the land here is particularly acidic making it difficult to grow crops, so the villagers have to rely on fishing in the river and at sea.
"Most of the households earn a living from fishing, and by preserving the mangroves, we can continue to do so for years to come, " he says.

Realising the value of the mangrove forest, residents have planted more trees to further increase the coverage and durability of them.

News of this reached Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, and a group of scientists from the university arrived in the village in March last year to study the local mangroves.

"They suggested we establish a mangrove conservation club to persuade people to keep preserve and develop the mangroves. The university also promised that they will help the club members raise shrimp and crab in natural conditions later this year," says Do Thi Lieu, head of the club.

The mangrove forest acts as "shield" to prevent flooding and storms, and the loss is conspicuous in areas where people have cut down mangroves to build shrimp ponds, says deputy chief of Tam Giang Commune, Pham Van Chau.

"We must replant the mangrove forests and learn from that lesson. Tam Giang this year will plant 31ha of mangroves on an area that people used to set up shrimp ponds. It will be expensive and it will take a long time for them to grow back, but we understand now that it was unwise to cut them down in the first place," he says.

Pham Van Quyen, the district's deputy chief, also agrees.

"Dong Xuan is my home village. In the days before the locals constructed shrimp ponds, the mangrove forest was like a shield that protected the whole commune. Many of the trees were very old and valuable. Destroying the forest was wrong and it's painful to think back on it. "Fortunately, Dong Xuan Village retained its mangrove forest.

To save the environment, especially during these times of climate change, the district has adopted the model to replant mangroves in Tam Giang. We have also asked provincial authorities to co-ordinate with the Catholic Relief Services in Viet Nam to implement a project to prevent and ease natural disasters in Nui Thanh District, including planting mangroves in three communes adjacent to Tam Giang," Quyen says.

Source: VNS

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Apr 13

Sharky Terumbu Semakau
from wild shores of singapore

Celebrating Earth Day with the Naked Hermit Crabs at Pasir Ris mangrove boardwalk from Peiyan.Photography

#6 Kent Ridge Park
from My Nature Experiences

Life History of the Plain Banded Awl
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Look ahead to 10 million people by 2100?

Former chief planner says a better living environment is possible even with high density
Janice Heng Straits Times 28 Apr 13;

Singapore should look beyond 2030 and plan for a more distant future - perhaps even one with 10 million people, former chief planner Liu Thai Ker said at a public forum yesterday.

"The world doesn't end in 2030, and population growth doesn't end at 6.9 million," he said, referring to the planning parameter in the Government's White Paper on Population.

Singapore could do well to look ahead, perhaps to 2100 when it might have a population of 10 million, he suggested.

Mr Liu was one of five speakers at a forum organised by the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) and co-hosted by the National University of Singapore's Department of Architecture, on the topic of planning for 2030.

Mr Liu, who used to head the Housing Board, argued that population growth is necessary for economic growth. And since Singapore's land area is essentially fixed, higher density is thus inevitable.

But he was optimistic that "high density and a better living environment are mutually compatible". Liveability can be preserved with adequate amenities, buffers of greenery, and alternating denser and less dense areas.

Another speaker, ophthalmologist Geh Min, urged a more cautious approach towards development. The past president of the Nature Society argued that preserving green and heritage spaces helps build national identity.

Tussles between citizens and urban planners over areas such as Bukit Brown, a cemetery set to have a road built through it, show "that there are people in Singapore who care about the country - not just their neighbourhood, but the larger Singapore".

Dr Geh also invoked the idea of "public trust" land, held by the Government as a trustee for the public, rather than as a landlord. As land demand rises, she worried that the best lands might end up with private developers.

The other speakers were sociologist Paulin Straughan, transport expert Gopinath Menon and economist Chia Siow Yue.

Dr Straughan argued for valuing every citizen, given low fertility rates: "We have to stop this fixation about whether you are an old Singaporean or new Singaporean."

Mr Menon suggested ways to tackle congestion while Dr Chia spoke on Singapore's future economic challenges.

In the discussion that followed, a member of the audience suggested one way to improve land use: carry out the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, where old flats are redeveloped, on a much larger scale.

But the panellists urged caution, citing the importance of letting the elderly age in place, and the need to preserve heritage neighbourhoods.

"I don't think we should just tear down all the old HDB areas," said discussion moderator and Singapore Institute of Planners council member Tan Shee Tiong.

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20,000kg of trash in one day of coast clean-up

David Ee Straits Times 28 Apr 13;

A record 20,000kg of trash was cleared off beaches and mangroves during an annual one-day clean-up by International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) last September.

This was double the amount collected in 2008, and more than triple that of a decade ago.

Not all the trash, however, is locally generated, ICCS lead coordinator N. Sivasothi told The Sunday Times.

Some is carried by sea currents from Malaysia and washes up on our shores, he added.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), which oversees the cleanliness of beaches in Singapore, confirmed last week that flotsam on coastlines here is brought in by wind and tides from the region, or passing vessels.

And as the ICCS' growing band of about 4,000 volunteers cleans up new sites - for example, previously uncleaned coastlines such as Lim Chu Kang East mangrove - more trash is discovered, some of which has lain there for years.

Even so, Singapore's littering problem is real, said Mr Sivasothi.

For instance, more than 34,000 items of trash were collected on a single day by the ICCS at East Coast Park last year, compared with 30,000 in 2010.

Most of these were cigarettes and styrofoam pieces such as food packets tossed by beach-goers, he said.

"You just have to go cycling there in the morning and you can see.

"Any place where there's high human use, there's a high amount of rubbish," said Mr Sivasothi, referring to litterbugs at recreational areas such as parks and beaches.

The NEA employs cleaners to keep our recreational beaches free of trash. It said that it also works with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to clean up flotsam from our port waters.

Mr Sivasothi, however, said that more needs to be done by ordinary Singaporeans.

The ICCS has started preparing for this year's upcoming clean-up, including registering volunteers and identifying new sites to clean up.

But educating people about responsibility and the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - is key to tackling the problem, he said.

"I see the reactions of first-time volunteers (at ICCS) when they see the trash. They have no clue. They thought they grew up in a Singapore that's clean."

Said student Venus Tan, 18, who first joined the ICCS beach clean-up in 2009: "I was shocked at the amount of rubbish. When I would go to normal beaches, it wasn't like that".

About 63 per cent of the ICCS' coastal trash haul last year was disposables such as plastic and styrofoam, bags, bottles, containers and straws.

Keep Singapore Clean Movement head Liak Teng Lit stressed the need to reduce their supply.

For example, he said, businesses could follow furniture giant Ikea's lead, and stop providing plastic bags. Or the Government could incentivise them to.

This year's coastal clean-up takes place on Sept 21.

Mr Sivasothi also organises a separate clean-up on each National Day. "The patriotism I'd like to see is for people to clean up after themselves," he said.

Interested volunteers may sign up at

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Sport fishing gaining popularity in Singapore

Patwant Singh Channel NewsAsia 27 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE: Fishing has been a regular hobby among Singaporeans, but now sport fishing is catching on too.

More Singaporeans are getting into it apparently, going by the jump in sales of recreational-sized speedboats.

About 950 were sold in 2012, up from 750 in 2011.

Enthusiasts fish as far as the waters off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many of them also share their big catches on YouTube.

Those who take the sport seriously are snapping up boats. The Singapore Yacht Show has seen the strongest sales for such boats in the last three years.

On the downside, those in the fraternity lament the dwindling number of sport fishing sites in Singapore.

Boat skipper Mohammad Mus Mulyad said: "We still do fishing small time fishing. We go nearby to Sentosa, maybe St John's island, and maybe Lazarus island near to Kusu but most of the space that we have is not enough for us to fish, most of them are complaining."

Despite the various limitations, those in the fraternity feel that this sport still has a bright future even among the young. On any given weekend, up to 40 to 50 boats can be seen around Singapore indulging in sport fishing.

- CNA/xq

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The food cycle - Cycling in Singapore and Pulau Ubin

The Age 28 Apr 13;

Ian Wilson pedals his way to guilt-free gluttony in the city-state.

As the tropical storm clouds gather, there are two compelling reasons to finish my bike ride in a hurry: avoid death by lightning strike in one of the lightning capitals of the world and, more importantly, be on time for the evening's foodie tour.

Singapore has been on a mission to shed its image as a mere stopover destination, with new hotels, casinos, shopping centres and theme parks to visit. But I'm seeking experiences beyond the airconditioned artificiality, so have opted to explore the city-state and its vibrant food scene by bike.

I wasn't aware of Singapore's new tourism mission until alerted by the front page of the local newspaper. Nor is Singapore renowned for cycling, but there is fun to be had on two wheels. A number of parks feature cycle-friendly trails connected by a network of off-road bike paths, called park connectors.

The Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network links several parks in eastern Singapore in a 42-kilometre loop. You can ride along the 15-kilometre coastline of the popular East Coast Park with its cooling sea breeze or use the park connector network to explore beyond the tourist trail. There are several bike rental kiosks along the route, making it ideal for tourists.

The bike paths take me along the palm tree-lined coastline of Pasir Ris, Changi Beach and East Coast Parks, past Changi Airport and through housing estates.

The East Coast Lagoon Food Village provides the perfect tonic for my exertions in the form of fresh coconut juice, served with a cup of ice to pour into the coconut.

Singapore has a reputation for some draconian laws and the same can be said of cycling. I'll do more walking than riding if I obey every sign to dismount when crossing a road intersection but the locals seem to ignore this rule. The signs threatening $S1000 ($785) fines for riding across an overpass bridge are more persuasive. After taking shelter during the heaviest downpour of rain, I eventually complete the ride and arrive at the Betel Box Hostel tired, late and famished for a six-hour food tour.

If you wish to expand your knowledge of the Singaporean way of life as well as your waistline, then the Betel Box Real Singapore Food Walk is a must. Run by Tony Tan, who also owns the Betel Box Hostel, the tour is a fascinating insight into how Singaporeans live, work, play, pray and eat, far beyond the guidebooks and tourism websites.

Beginning at the hostel, the walk takes our group of seven through the Joo Chiat/Katong district in eastern Singapore.

Our group returns to the hostel for a selection of more than 17 local dishes including the famous Singaporean chilli crab. The food reflects Singapore's ethnic mix with strong Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. I, along with the rest of the group, cannot finish half of the delicious dinner despite Tan's exhortations. Then the dessert dishes are brought out! I miraculously squeeze in a few sweet treats.

I can barely move by this stage but we still have a couple of hours of the tour to go as we venture back onto the streets. By the time we walk by the former president's residence, it's 12.30am and I am stuffed, knackered but euphoric.

Next day, for a different cycling experience, I head to the island of Pulau Ubin, which has avoided modernisation, save for the bike rental shops in the main village. The island is a short ride from Changi Village aboard a small old wooden ferry, known as a bumboat. Bumboats were once used to transport cargo but many now operate as passenger ferries.

The island comprises a series of undulating hills, covered by forest and grassland, picturesque water-filled quarries and the Chek Jawa Wetlands, which can be explored on almost traffic-free roads. I tackle the easy section of the Ketam Mountain Bike Trail but am not confident that my bike or collarbones are prepared for the more challenging sections.

I also catch a cable car to the thoroughly modernised Sentosa Island and cycle along its beachfront, which gives me an excuse to visit Universal Studios afterwards.

The neighbourhood cats must agree that Cookery Magic offers the best cooking classes in Singapore, judging by the continual meowing from a couple of felines seeking food and attention. Ruqxana Vasanwala conducts classes from her eastern-Singapore home, which features an open-air kitchen, lending a sense of authenticity to this local experience - a Malay class cooking nasi goreng (fried rice), percik ikan (grilled fish in a spicy coconut sauce) and tempeh goreng rempah (spicy fried soy bean cake). It is a hands-on, no-nonsense but friendly class as we have plenty of information to absorb and ingredients to cut, peel, pound, combine and cook. We then dine on our home-cooked creations.

Eventually you have to take a break from eating and cycling but you can still indulge those passions, whether by strolling through the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Park, admiring the Girl on a Bicycle sculpture in the Singapore Botanic Gardens or exploring the Food Gallery of the National Museum.

Trishaw food carts have disappeared but some of the ice-cream stands scattered around the city are hooked up to bicycles. Once you choose from the myriad flavours (including durian), the vendor pulls out a block of ice-cream and sticks it between two biscuit wafers or in a slice of bread like a sandwich. With the sun setting, eating a chocolate ice-cream sandwich by Singapore River is one of life's simple pleasures.

Trip notes

Getting there Singapore Airlines operates direct flights from Australia to Singapore. 13 10 11,

Cycling there In East Coast Park or other stops along the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network, you can hire a bike from one of six PCN Pitstops operated by Lifestyle Recreation. Make sure you check the bike first and bring ID.

Catch a bumboat to Pulau Ubin from Changi Ferry Terminal, $S2.50 ($1.95). On Pulau Ubin there are several bike shops in the main village near the ferry terminal. Bike hire costs about $S5.

On Sentosa Island, you can hire a bike from Gogreen Cycle on Siloso Beach from $S12 for the first hour. The Heritage & Island Explorer is a one-hour guided tour on hybrid electric bikes ($S28),

Eating there Betel Box: The Real Singapore Tours' Singapore Food Tour costs $S80, half that if you stay at the Betel Box Hostel. Betel Box offer various tours, including a cycling tour. 200 Joo Chiat Road, +65 6247 7340,

Cookery Magic: Costs $S100 a person. 117 Fidelio Street (off Siglap Road), +65 6348 9667,

Singapore Zoo: Jungle Breakfast daily, 9am-10.30am. Adult $S29, child $S19. Bookings recommended.

More information

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A billion-dollar business puts grouper species and people at risk

IUCN 28 Apr 13;

At least 12% of groupers – globally-important food fish species that live on coral and rocky reefs – face extinction, putting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people around the world at risk, finds a report published today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission’s (IUCN SSC) Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group.

The overall percentage of threatened groupers could be much higher as there is insufficient data for about 30% of the species, according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The study points to overfishing and the booming international luxury seafood trade as major threats to the survival of some grouper species, and to the livelihoods of those who depend on them for food and income. Its authors call for urgent conservation and management efforts to prevent further declines of these species.

“The declines in some grouper fisheries are alarming,” says Yvonne Sadovy, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group and lead author of the study. “Most of them are not managed at all and their natural ability to reproduce can’t keep up with increasing demand. The rapidly growing international trade in groupers further reduces their populations.”

More than 300,000 tons of groupers – or 90 million individuals – were caught globally in 2009, mostly in Asia, where they are particularly sought-after for the luxury restaurant trade. Groupers are the foundation of the US$ 750 million international live reef fish market centered in Hong Kong and growing in mainland China, where consumers are ready to pay over US$ 200 per kilogram of the species. They are also important food fish in developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, where pressure to export reef fish is growing, according to the study.

Groupers are among those species that are most vulnerable to fishing because of their longevity, late sexual maturation and the fact that many form large mating groups known as ‘spawning aggregations’. Despite their economic importance, few grouper fisheries are regularly monitored or managed, and many are in decline.

In the US Caribbean, the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), which is commonly fished during its brief aggregation periods, has been essentially wiped out. Of the several dozen well-documented breeding grounds, only two continue to support large numbers of the species, and these have also been considerably reduced. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, several species are considered to be threatened by the international trade, including the Square-tailed Coral Grouper (Plectropomus areolatus), also often taken from its spawning aggregations.

“Overfishing is like mismanaging a bank account,” says Matthew Craig, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group and one of the authors of the report. “The current fish population is our principle balance, hopefully earning interest in the form of new fish born. If those initial assets are continually withdrawn faster than the interest accumulates, the principle, that is the fish out there now, will be quickly depleted. It’s easy to see how rapidly we could lose all the money, or in this case, all of the fish.”

Improved management by source countries with priority given to local food security considerations, as well as better monitoring and control of international trade are urgently needed to reduce threats to these species, according to the authors.

The study, Fishing groupers towards extinction: a global assessment of threats and extinction risks in a billion dollar fishery, was published in the journal Fish and Fisheries. It is based on data accumulated by experts over a period of 20 years.

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Apr 13

Two Terumbus in one trip!
from wild shores of singapore

21 April in Hantu
from Climb, Dive, Grow

Probe confirms Singapore-based palm oil company engaged in land-grabbing in Borneo from news by Rhett Butler

Save the Frogs Day 2013
from ARKive blog

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Natural greenery 'key to diverse wildlife'

Species in cultivated green areas do not differ much from site to site: Researcher
Grace Chua Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

NOT all green areas in Singapore are created equal - and, for the first time, researchers here are able to measure how unequal they are.

Some 47 per cent of the island state's land area is under green cover - meaning any sort of plant life, from manicured lawns to wild forests.

But only about half of that is "natural", meaning scrubland, forest or other greenery that has been allowed to spring up on its own, said National University of Singapore biology doctoral student Chong Kwek Yan, 29.

Mr Chong's doctoral research, presented last week, confirmed what many intuitively suspect: That while cultivated green areas have a fairly wide range of bird and butterfly species, the collection of species does not differ much from site to site.

By contrast, one natural site may have a very different set of species from another.

"In Singapore, cultivated greenery is currently not a good substitute for natural greenery," said Mr Chong.

But much of this natural greenery is made up of fragments of wild vegetation outside nature reserves, and could succumb to development as Singapore's population grows, he added.

Mr Chong and his colleagues surveyed 42 sites from Tampines to Tuas. These were classed as low greenery, high cultivated greenery or high natural greenery areas, based on the amount and type of green cover.

The team suggested that planners either plant trees in cultivated areas or try to preserve big trees in places being developed, as these serve as a haven for species.

"We need to explicitly plan for natural greenery in our built-up environment if we are to maintain a diverse urban wildlife," said Associate Professor Hugh Tan, Mr Chong's thesis supervisor.

The work was funded by the Ministry of National Development's research fund for the built environment, and aims to develop frameworks for greenery planning in high-density cities.

Such studies have been done in temperate cities but this is one of the first specific to Singapore's tropical vegetation.

There are benefits to exposing urban dwellers to nature that go beyond providing shade and oxygen, said Mr Chong.

"Urban areas are where most of the world's population will live and determine the kind of nature that the majority of the world's population will have contact with."

In turn, that will determine the level of public support for conservation, he added.

The different shades of green
Manicured landscapes no substitute for natural vegetation, study finds
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 27 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Cultivated greenery is a poor substitute for natural greenery when it comes to sustaining richness of biodiversity, a local study has found.

A higher percentage of natural vegetation cover supports richer and diverse communities of bird and butterfly species. In contrast, cultivated greenery was found to support a homogenous community of species — albeit a higher number than areas of low greenery.

Part of a National University of Singapore (NUS) biological sciences graduate’s doctoral thesis, the findings have implications on the management of green spaces here. It is a first step towards quantifying trade-offs in biodiversity levels when natural green spaces make way for development, as well as how the effects of development could be mitigated, said Mr Chong Kwek Yan, the study’s author.

The research was funded by the Ministry of National Development’s Research Fund for the Built Environment.

Vegetation covers about 56 per cent of Singapore’s land area — 27 per cent is cultivated greenery and 29 per cent is natural greenery. Common bird species found in low greenery areas are mynas, pigeons and sparrows, while in high cultivated greenery areas, species like the Asian koel and sunbirds can be sighted.

Mr Chong analysed surveys of 42 plots of land islandwide measuring 500m by 100m.

Twenty-three plots in places like the city and newer heartlands like Tampines were classified as that with low greenery, nine were of high cultivated greenery and 10 — such as along Changi Coast Road and Bukit Batok Nature Park — were of high natural greenery. The areas were classified based on factors including percentage cover of cultivated trees and natural shrub and grassland.

Areas with 80 per cent natural vegetation cover had an average of about 45 bird species and 25 butterfly species, while areas with 20 per cent natural vegetation cover averaged 35 bird species and fewer than 20 butterfly species.

While the authorities already know cultivated greenery is not a replacement for natural greenery, the study, with its quantitative findings, helps measure the trade-offs when certain actions are undertaken, said Mr Chong, 29.

NUS Associate Professor Hugh Tan, Mr Chong’s thesis supervisor, said: “If our objective is to have a diverse urban wildlife, we must explicitly make plans for natural greenery.”

The research also found that big trees were the component of cultivated greenery that support rich urban wildlife. Hence, it is important to keep as many healthy large trees as possible when land plots are developed, said Assoc Prof Tan. Another option is to have minimal maintenance of cultivated landscapes to achieve a more semi-natural state for these areas.

Comparing latest findings with surveys done in 2000 and 2001, Mr Chong also found that numbers for 14 of the 20 most common bird species here, such as the Javan myna and brown-throated sunbird, had increased. But whether this is at the expense of rarer bird species is unclear, as different surveyors were used in the older and newer surveys.

Going forward, more research can be done on the interplay between traffic and greenery on biodiversity, as well as on the status of the species found, suggested Mr Chong.

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Mosquito spreading two types of fever

Chikungunya cases on the rise even as Singapore fights losing battle with dengue
Salma Khalik Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

THE Aedes mosquito is wreaking havoc in Singapore, spreading not just dengue fever but more recently the very painful chikungunya as well.

This month alone, 56 people have become sick with chikungunya - which translates from an African language as "to become contorted".

This is up from just 22 for the whole of last year. Symptoms include a sudden fever and severe joint swelling and pain. Victims often also suffer from muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rashes. It is rarely fatal and lasts between several days to a week - although some people have complained of continued joint aches for months and years.

In spite of the National Environment Agency's best efforts, the number of chikungunya infections has been growing over the past month - from six in the first week of April, to 15 in the second, and 35 in the third.

A Health Ministry spokesman said that of the 35 people infected last week, 27 are foreign workers and two are Singaporeans who live or work around the Kranji-Sungei Kadut area. The other six are residents in the Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Trevose Crescent area along Bukit Timah Road.

Meanwhile, Singapore also appears to be losing its fight against the spread of dengue, which has infected more than 5,000 people so far this year.

Both dengue and chikungunya are viral diseases that can be spread only by mosquitoes.

About 110 people were hospitalised for dengue last week out of the 510 who were infected. More will need such care this week as the number of infections continues to soar, with another 386 diagnosed with dengue since Sunday.

Experts have predicted a huge dengue epidemic this year as the current surge in cases comes before the usual peak during the hotter months in the middle of the year. The change in the dominant type of dengue virus means fewer people are immune to it.

There are four types of dengue viruses. Once infected, a person is protected against that viral type but can still be infected by any of the other three.

According to the Ministry of Health, about one in three people diagnosed with dengue end up in hospital - or about 1,600 of the 5,000 cases so far this year. In the 2005 epidemic, 14,000 people were infected and 25 died.

But Associate Professor Leo Yee Sin, clinical director at the Communicable Disease Centre, hopes that the experience doctors have gained over the past years will mean fewer or perhaps no deaths at all this year, even if infection numbers go up.

Up to $10m contract for campaign against dengue
Poon Chian Hui Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE, in its fight against dengue, has awarded a contract worth up to $10 million to an advertising firm for year-round campaigns against the deadly disease.

The contract from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to DDB Worldwide is made up of two parts: $5 million for campaign costs from now till next March and another $5 million should the contract be extended another year.

The year-round campaign against the worsening epidemic starts tomorrow and there will be no let-up even during the months when the Aedes mosquito is lying low.

The disease peaks during the hotter months between May and October.

But this year, the 5,127 cases so far have already surpassed the 4,632 recorded for the whole of last year, official figures show.

Both DDB and NEA declined to comment on the contract but according to the tender documents, the key target group is housewives and working mothers.

This is likely due to the fact that seven in 10 breeding spots of the dengue-causing mosquitoes are found in homes, such as in containers and flower pots.

Singapore now has 48 dengue clusters, mainly in the east. The worst-hit area is Tampines Street 12, 21 and 22 where 124 people fell ill.

The battle will be fought on several fronts: from social media to grassroots events and roadshows at construction sites.

It will include using the traffic light warning system wherein banners in red, yellow and green colours are put up in dengue clusters to indicate the severity of the situation in the area.

This is on top of a "mozzie wipeout" drive to urge people to clear stagnant water in homes that can breed mosquitoes. But there is one nagging problem, according to the tender. People tend to become complacent when infection rates start to fall.

Public health experts have observed that people "naturally will not remain in a state of alert... unless the threat is constantly made visible to them", said the tender.

There is a need to inculcate a "sense of ownership", and have the messages communicated in an "intensive manner", it added.

Year-long campaigns, however, are a challenge, said Nanyang Technological University's Assistant Professor Marko Skoric from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

"Do you want to hear about dengue for a year? I'm not sure."

He suggested giving a variety of materials, rather than crafting a specific message, so people can continually discuss and reflect on the topic.

Social media like Facebook can be particularly useful.

"When you share a message, there's a certain sense of commitment," said Dr Skoric. "In the process, you may persuade not just others, but also yourself, that it's important to do something about dengue."

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Malaysia: Tapir under threat

Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal New Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

World Tapir Day today puts a timely spotlight on an animal that’s seriously under threat of extinction, writes Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal

IT’S not the best looking of animals. Neither is it the sort that makes you want to reach out and cuddle it. In fact, the tapir, with its short, prehensile snout, small beady eyes, horse-like head and a shape similar to a pig, looks rather odd, almost like it was assembled somewhat hurriedly when it was created.

According to Chinese folklore, after God created the land and sea, He decided to fill it with live inhabitants. He moulded different body parts comprising various shapes and sizes for the creation of wildlife and combined them together to create elephants, wild boars, tigers, monkeys, birds and others. God was satisfied with his work but there were still some leftover body parts. Not wanting to waste anything, He put together the leftovers and made the tapir. That’s why the tapir is also known as si bu xiang, which simply means having the resemblance of four different animals while looking like neither.

Handsome or not, the tapir is being celebrated in conjunction with World Tapir Day today. The animal is an important part of the ecosystem in its role as seed disperser. It’s also one of the oldest surviving genera in the animal kingdom. But despite its size, history and ecological importance, the poor tapir remains one of the least recognised species of animals.


World Tapir Day, which takes place every year on April 27, was established to raise awareness of the four species of tapir that inhabit central and south America and Southeast Asia.

All are in decline, with the mountain tapir facing extinction within the next 20 years if conservation efforts aren’t introduced in its ever-shrinking habitat in Colombia and Ecuador. The baird’s tapir, the largest mammal of the Americas, is facing a similar threat in its home range in central America.

Meanwhile, the Malayan tapir is also facing severe threat in Indonesia and other countries due to habitat destruction. Even the Brazilian tapir, the most numerous species of tapir, is vulnerable because of the increasing rate of destruction of the Amazon.


As large herbivores, the tapir is the first to be affected by human encroachment into its territory. It’s also the last to return to re-growth forest. The mountain tapir and Asian tapir population are the most at risk. The Sumatran population of the Asian tapir may no longer be viable as there have been suggestions that only 50 animals remain in the wild.

Tapirs require substantial tracts of undisturbed land for them to maintain a genetically-diverse population. They inhabit jungles, grasslands, swamps and cloud forests — all threatened by human activity, whether through mining, oil palm plantations, roads or settlements.

The plight of tapirs is symbolic of the wider threat to their habitats specifically, and world ecology in general. The decline of tapir populations is indicative of the general health of their ranges. Their disappearance from their home ranges often marks a point of no return for the natural environment. The destruction of forests into small, isolated enclaves and the encroachment of human activity into pristine forests affect all native species. However, as the largest, and perhaps the quietest, of animals in their ranges, tapirs disappear without trace, along with countless
other species.


The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), Department Of Forestry and National Parks (Perhilitan), Faculty Of Forestry of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Mutiara Resort Taman Negara, is celebrating World Tapir Day today at the Mutiara Resort Taman Negara — Kuala Tahan, as a public event for the first time ever in the country.

The main objective is to create awareness of the importance of Malayan tapir conservation especially in the peninsula. Events such as guided walks, colouring competition, talks and a musical performance have all been lined up.

There will also be an overnight education camp today and on April 28, conducted by UPM for local students. Details at

Tapir Specialist Group

IN 1980, the Tapir Specialist Group (TSG), a scientific organisation was founded as one of the 120 Specialist Groups of the International Union For The Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC).
Its primary goal is to conserve biological diversity by stimulating, developing, and executing practical programs to study, save, restore and manage all four species of tapir and their remaining habitats in Southeast Asia as well as central and south America.

The members are involved in various projects to understand tapirs better and to protect remaining populations of all four tapir species. They carry out scientific research (both in the wild and in captivity), conduct educational and public awareness programmes in local communities near tapir habitats and support habitat protection efforts.

Today, the TSG has approximately 100 members from 25 countries worldwide — including field researchers, educators, veterinarians, governmental agencies, NGO representatives, zoo personnel, university professors and students — who are directly or indirectly involved in tapir field research and/or captive breeding in their respective regions.

Support the Tapir Specialist Group conservation efforts at

Fast facts

• The Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), also called the Asian tapir, is the largest of the four species of tapir, measuring up to 1.8m long and weighing up to 350kg. It’s also the only one native to Asia.

• The Malayan tapir lives in the rainforests of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra in Indonesia.

• Tapirs aren’t related to anteaters, pigs or hippopotamuses. Their closest relatives are horses and rhinoceroses — the only remaining families of the Perissodactyla order. Extinct species of tapir would have looked similar to the four extant species, although the proboscis (snout) only evolved in the last few million years.

• A tapir can live up to 30 years, but like many aspects of tapirs, the average lifespan of wild tapirs is poorly researched. The gestation period of a calf is around 13 months. Baby tapirs have striped and spotted coats for camouflage and weigh between 8-12kg at birth.

• Tapirs prefer a wet climate and usually live near water, but can on occasion, be found in comparatively dry forests. They like to bathe, they swim well and can remain submerged for several minutes to escape predators. They’re also excellent climbers and with their size and thick skin, can bulldoze through thick vegetation to escape.

• The Malayan tapir eats the twigs and growing tips of a wide range of vegetation, including snapping small to large saplings with its mouth to get to plant parts that are out of reach. It also takes a large variety of fruit and leaves from the forest floor.

• The Malayan tapir is an important seed disperser. They consume large amounts of fruit, helping to disperse the seeds. IT is regarded as keystone species that play an important role in shaping and conserving the biological diversity and ecological functions of the forest.

• The Malayan tapir is an important indicator of the health of its forest environment. Due to its bulky disposition, it’s sensitive to changes in its surroundings and is usually amongst the first to be affected.

(Source: Malaysian Nature Society)

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Apr 13

"Pulau Ubin - facts and discussion" - Tue 30 Apr 2013: 7.00pm - 9.30
from ecotax at Yahoo! Groups

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Green Activities in May
from The Green Volunteers and Happy Api Api

Sat April 27 Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Wet wet trip to Tekukor
from wild shores of singapore

Straw-headed Bulbul contact call
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Otter Cycling Trail v2.0 – Of herons, storks, owls, otters and stories galore from Toddycats!

Random Gallery - Malayan Lascar
from Butterflies of Singapore

Female Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker collects tiny bits of bark
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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PUB explores groundwater in western and southern Singapore

AsiaOne 26 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB is looking into the potential of tapping underground water sources.

The agency said on Friday that it has called a tender for consultancy services to study the potential of tapping aquifers and other underground water sources in the western and southern parts of the island, in an area known as the Jurong Formation.

The three-year Groundwater resource assessment in Jurong Formation study will be awarded in July 2013.

Here is the press release from PUB:

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB has called a tender for consultancy services to study the potential of tapping aquifersand other underground water sources in the western and southern part of the island, in an area known as the Jurong Formation.

Titled "Groundwater resource assessment in Jurong Formation", this three year study will be awarded in July 2013.

The study comprises three key areas:

a. Development of groundwater flow model of Jurong Formation
b. Field Investigation Programme
c. Validation Study

Over the last 50 years, through integrated water management, and investments in R&D, PUB has put in place a long - term water supply strategy called the Four National Taps.

The Four National Taps comprise local catchment water, imported water, ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water branded as NEWater, and desalinated water.

The Four National Taps has ensured a robust and sustainable water supply for Singapore. Singapore's water demand currently stands at approximately 400 million gallons a day (mgd), and is projected to almost double by 2060.

With competing demands for land for other uses such as housing, industries and other services, it will be increasingly challenging to build new reservoirs to meet our water needs. To enhance the long term sustainability of Singapore's water resources, PUB is always on the lookout for new water sources.

There are potential solutions in the form of naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater.

"Through this study, we are exploring the presence of deep aquifers within Singapore's geology and if it is possible for us to tap on this water source," said Mr Harry Seah, PUB's Chief Technology Officer.

"However, the extraction of groundwater will only be carried out if the risks of groundwater extraction can be adequately managed with no impact on existing buildings and infrastructure, which will be verified by the groundwater models to be developed through this work." he added.

Despite its small size, Singapore's geology is thought to be complex, spanning rocks hundreds of millions of years in age to more recent soils and sediments.

At the surface, the Bukit Timah Granite is seen in the central and northern regions, sedimentary rocks of the Jurong Formation are seen in the western and southern regions, and old alluvium is seen in the eastern region.

Based on knowledge of other rock formations worldwide, and from observations made during engineering work , it may be possible that the Jurong Formation could host a deep, confined aquifer which could be less prone to surface pollution or subsidence.

Singapore's geological setting indicates that there are other groundwater prospects, each with their specific advantages and challenges. This includes unconfined aquifers in the Old Alluvium, fractured rock in the Bukit Timah Granite, and confined aquifers in other rock formations of Singapore.

Besides Singapore's main is land, PUB has embarked on a study to verify the feasibility of extracting groundwater from reclaimed land in Jurong Island.

The R& D project entails assessing the potential yield and quality of groundwater, and the necessary groundwater management measures to prevent any land subsidence due to groundwater extraction. The project has been awarded and has commenced in April 2013.

PUB is in the midst of finalising the appoint ment of an international Expert Panel on Hydrogeology to give guidance and direction on its underground water exploration endeavours.

"This is Singapore's first foray in the search for deep aquifers . Besides exte nsive examination of our underground geology, we also want to learn from and tap on the expertise of overseas experts who have vast experience studying and carrying out groundwater exploration work in other countries," said Mr Seah.

The Expert Panel will convene at least once a year to discuss and provide advice on the two groundwater projects and any other related matters on hydrogeology.

Singapore’s fifth ‘national tap’ may draw on groundwater
Eugene Neubronner Today Online 27 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Looking to add a fifth “national tap” to Singapore’s existing four, national water agency PUB announced yesterday that it was looking to study the possibility of drawing on “naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater” in the area of the Jurong Formation.

Aquifers are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials, such as sand, from which groundwater can be extracted.

The PUB has called a three-year consultancy services tender to study the potential of tapping on aquifers and other underground water sources in the western and southern part of the island, which contain rock deposits called the Jurong Formation.

The study will look at the development of groundwater flow models, field investigation programmes and validation studies.

The tender will be awarded in July. PUB declined to review the budget for the study.

Singapore’s current four “taps” are the local catchment areas, imported water, desalinated water and reclaimed water, known as NEWater.

The PUB said that water demand here will nearly double by 2060 — from about 400 million gallons a day currently — of which about 70 per cent of demand will come from the non-domestic sector.

With “competing demands for land”, the PUB said, it would be “challenging” to build new reservoirs to meet Singapore’s water needs.

“Based on knowledge of other rock formations worldwide and from observations made during engineering work, it may be possible that the Jurong Formation could host a deep, confined aquifer which could be less prone to surface pollution or subsidence,” the PUB said.

The agency noted that advances in geophysical exploration methods over the last few decades make surveying today “more effective than in the past” and will help in the study.

PUB Chief Technology Officer Harry Seah said “extraction of groundwater will only be carried out if the risks of groundwater extraction can be adequately managed with no impact on existing buildings and infrastructure.”

This will be verified by the models that will be developed in the study, he added.

Academics TODAY spoke to said such aquifers would probably be at depths of 50 to 100 metres.

Earth Observatory of Singapore Director Kerry Sieh suggested three areas the study is likely to look at: Porosity, permeability and fracturing.

Porosity is the amount of space for water to flow in while permeability is how easily water can flow. Fracturing is when rocks are broken up with enough spaces in between for water to accumulate.

“The next question would then be, is there enough water to pump it out?” he said.

Assistant Professor Chew Soon Hoe from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore pointed out the challenges the study would have to address if they do indeed strike gold.

“How would you recharge the amount of water that goes back in?” he asked. “And how do you make the well pumping economical?”

Dr Sieh also echoed some of these concerns. He gave the example of India’s river Ganges, which has had so much water pulled out it is “measured in dropping meters per year”. Singapore, like elsewhere, will have to ensure that such sources are tapped “sustainably”.

The PUB has also embarked on a study to verify the feasibility of extracting groundwater from reclaimed land in Jurong Island. The project has been awarded and commenced earlier this month.

Additionally, the PUB is finalising the appointment of an international expert panel on hydrogeology to “give guidance and direction on its underground water exploration endeavours”.

More about PUB’s tender
Today Online 27 Apr 13;

What is an aquifer?

An underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock. There are two kinds: Confined and unconfined. Confined aquifers are typically deeper and separated from the surface by a low-permeability layer.

How will we get the water?

Most likely by using pumping stations to suck the water out like a straw.

Why is the PUB doing this now?

Water usage here is expected to almost double by 2060 from approximately 400 million gallons a day today. While the PUB has been aware of some amount of surface groundwater, it is now looking at confined aquifers through a comprehensive study.

Which other countries are doing this?

Most countries tap on groundwater for their freshwater needs. Queensland and parts of South Australia, for example, tap on the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest ground aquifers in the world.

PUB calls for tender on studying groundwater potential
Maryam Mokhtar Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

NATIONAL water agency PUB has called a tender for consultancy services to study the potential of tapping underground water sources in the western and southern parts of Singapore, it said in a press release yesterday.

The area to be studied is part of the Jurong Formation, a bedrock of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, shale and limestone.

The three-year study, to be awarded in July, will assess if the water stored deep in the pores and crevices of these sedimentary rocks can be harnessed and used.

Built on the 230-million- year-old Jurong Formation are areas like Jurong, Clementi, Bukit Merah, and Choa Chu Kang.

The study will comprise the development of a groundwater flow model, field investigations and a validation study.

"Through this, we are exploring the presence of deep aquifers within Singapore's geology and if it is possible for us to tap this water source," said Mr Harry Seah, PUB's chief technology officer.

Aside from homes using well water in the past, Singapore has not tapped underground sources on a larger scale. Groundwater is significant for countries such as the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Seah noted that the extraction of groundwater would be carried out only if the risks of extraction can be managed and there is no impact on existing buildings and infrastructure.

The rock formations in Singapore are "significantly large" and technically, have the potential for extracting groundwater, said Mr Chong Kee Sen, vice-president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES). He added that in IES' view, the studies should take into account the potential impact on land stability and subsidence and consider factors such as changes in groundwater flow that could be critical to grassland or wetland habitats.

Singapore's water demand currently stands at approximately 400 million gallons a day and the figure could almost double by 2060 - enough to fill more than 1,200 Olympic-size swimming pools a day.

The country's water sources comprise imported water, treated rainwater and sea water, and reclaimed used water.

PUB also embarked on a study this month to see if groundwater can be extracted from reclaimed land in Jurong Island.

In 2010, PUB found the island had fresh groundwater, after it dug a 5m-deep well and pumped a litre of water per second from it for three months.

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MND to raise animal welfare standards

Channel NewsAsia 26 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of National Development (MND) has accepted all 24 recommendations proposed by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC).

The ministry said it would partner with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to work out detailed implementation plans and roll out the recommendations in phases.

MND added that it also welcomes chairman of AWLRC Yeo Guat Kwang’s plans to table a Private Member's Bill to amend the animal welfare legislation in the Animal and Birds Act as a follow-up to the committee's recommendations.

Mr Yeo said: "It marks a significant step for animal welfare in Singapore, as we will move on to more proactive and responsive legislation as well as instilling responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle.”

Recommendations include the establishing of a minimum age for pet buyers – only those aged 16 or older will be allowed to buy a pet. This will also become a condition for the licensing of pet shops and pet farms selling pets.

Also among the recommendations is a tiered penalty structure that differentiates the intent of the offender and nature of the offence.

The committee has proposed different penalties for individuals and corporate bodies such as pet shops and farms.

The current penalty is a maximum fine of S$10,000 and/or a 1 year jail term.

The AWLRC has recommended that repeat malicious offenders of animal cruelty and abuse be given a maximum fine of S$50,000 and/or 3 years' jail. The offender would also be prohibited from keeping animals for up to one year.

The committee also proposed a new penalty for those with the deliberate or malicious intent of being cruel to an animal and for repeat offenders who fail to ensure adequate care; the recommendations call for a maximum fine of S$20,000 and/or 2 years' jail. The offender would also be prohibited from keeping animals for up to one year.

The proposed recommendations also call for first-time offenders who are reckless, ignorant or those who fail to provide care to the animals to be fined a maximum of S$10,000 and/or jailed for one year. The offender would also have to perform community service.

Corporate bodies will also face stiffer penalties depending on the nature of the offence.

Under the recommendations, repeat corporate offenders who commit wilful or cruelty cases can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or be prohibited from engaging in animal-related trade for up to one year.

Wilful offenders and repeat offenders will face a maximum S$40,000 fine and/or be prohibited from engaging in animal-related trade for up to one year.

Businesses that are deemed to be reckless, ignorant and that fail to provide care can also face a maximum S$20,000 fine.

The recommendations, both legislative and non-legislative, are grouped under four thrusts.

These include ensuring reasonable care and welfare of animals, increasing deterrence and stepping up action against wrongdoers, fostering greater responsibility in the industry to ensure animal welfare, as well as fostering greater responsibility amongst pet owners and greater community awareness of animal welfare.

MND said this is a significant step towards improving animal welfare in Singapore.

- CNA/jc

MND accepts recommendations to improve animal welfare
Walter Sim Straits Times 26 Apr 13;

The Ministry of National Development (MND) has accepted all 24 recommendations made by a Government-commissioned committee in a "significant step towards improving" animal welfare, MND said in a statement on Friday.

This follows a year-long study by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which included representatives from members of parliament, community leaders and industry representatives. Public input was sought through an online feedback portal and focus group discussions.

The recommendations have been grouped into four areas: to ensure reasonable care and welfare of animals; to increase deterrence and stepping up action against wrongdoers; to foster greater responsibility in industry; and to foster greater responsibility among pet owners and greater community awareness.

MND said the recommendations are "timely and essential to achieving a harmonious living environment", especially with animal welfare being a "complex and emotive" subject that has "gained prominence in recent years". The full report can be found at

MND added that it plans to work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to work out implementation plans and roll out the recommendations in phases.

This is the second victory for animal welfare in a week. On Monday, the Education Ministry announced that it will be incorporating a new syllabus - Character and Citizenship Education - from next year, to educate primary and secondary students on the importance of animal welfare

Govt says 'yes' to all recommendations of animal welfare panel
It will work with AVA to roll out the proposals in phases
David Ee And Walter Sim Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

THE National Development Ministry yesterday accepted wholesale the recommendations made by an expert panel to better protect animals here, in what it called "a significant step towards improving animal welfare".

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002. In a statement, the ministry called the move "timely and essential", but also noted the need to balance diverse views in society.

The Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee proposed 24 measures in a report last month after a year-long study, including heftier fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers and mandatory pre-sale screening of pet buyers, who must be aged 16 and above.

The pet industry has also committed to raising its own standards, a development which committee chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said was key. The Pet Enterprises and Traders Association of Singapore (Petas) will lead an accreditation scheme for pet farms, shops and groomers.

The ministry said it will work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to roll out the recommendations in phases. Mr Yeo told The Straits Times that he aims to table a draft Bill in Parliament by November.

This comes against the backdrop of heightened animal welfare concerns. There were 1,426 reported cases of animal abuse in 2011, up from 1,162 in 2007.

Two ministers who have been vocal about animal rights weighed in on the developments.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin gave the efforts a "thumbs up" in a post on his Facebook page. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said: "I am personally very, very pleased that the recommendations have all been accepted and the law will be amended to better protect animals... This is a milestone, but it is not the end point. There is much more to do."

Committee members emphasised that their open approach of taking in views from all stakeholders helped "pave the way" forward. The committee comprised MPs and members from animal welfare groups, Petas, town councils and residents' committees. It held a month-long online consultation with the public, and also met with community groups.

"I'm pleased, not only with the outcome, but with the process. We agreed to disagree (on some issues), and yet came to a consensus," said Mr Yeo.

Committee member Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, added: "This signals quite a change in how policies can be drafted. It's really a bottom-up approach."

But they stressed that much work lies ahead. Mr Yeo acknowledged there will be challenges in enforcing the new measures.

Many welcomed the move. A spokesman for pet shop Pet Lovers Centre said the recommendations will "push pet businesses to be more ethical in their operations". Mr Marcus Khoo, 39, executive director of Petopia, which offers pet grooming and boarding services, said industry-wide standards are timely, but there may be "teething problems".

"Many pet businesses may not see the value in this, until it becomes more widely recognised. To be effective, the scheme should be made mandatory."

Dog owner Gail Sethi, 49, said it was a good step but was equally circumspect: "We can have all the laws in the world but how do we make sure they can be enforced?"

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