Best of our wild blogs: 21 Jan 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [14 - 20 Jan 2013]
from Green Business Times

Tree flies
from The annotated budak

Black-winged Stilt at Seletar, Singapore
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Back To Changi & Pasir Ris Park/Mangroves
from Nikita Hengbok

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400 gather to celebrate Bukit Brown's heritage

Leslie Kay Lim Straits Times 21 Jan 13;

BUKIT Brown cemetery hogged the limelight yesterday at The Substation's Black Box Theatre, when up to 400 people gathered to celebrate its heritage.

Organised by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and the group All Things Bukit Brown (ATBB), the day-long event featured a host of activities from exhibits and readings to a documentary screening.

The cemetery had made headlines in recent years when it was announced that parts of it would have to make way for new roads. Of the 100,000 or so tombs there, 3,746 must be exhumed.

"We want to inspire people to go to the site before it changes too much," said Dr Chua Ai Lin, vice-president of the SHS.

More than 4,000 people have participated in 190 tours - organised by the ATBB, SHS and Nature Society - to date.

Said an ATBB volunteer, production manager Khoo Ee Hoon, 47: "There's a lot of excitement. We can go in, 'bush bash' and find tombs. There are many yet to be discovered."

Her area of interest is genealogy and trying to determine which tombs are linked to people who are related.

Descendants of those buried at Bukit Brown also lent their support yesterday. Ms Millie Phuah, 52, read from Kuo Pao Kun's play The Coffin is Too Big for the Hole. "It's a real sense of identity," said the video producer about finding her great-grandfather and two great-grandmothers' plots at the cemetery in 2011. "It's like you know who you are, with family history set in stone."

The event also included an update on the Bukit Brown documentation project by Dr Hui Yew Foong, 40, a senior fellow and anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Explaining that the project is a "holistic" one, he spoke about the rituals and social history of the cemetery. Some 4,000 graves, including previously exhumed ones, have been documented as part of the project.

The crowd also caught the first public screening of a 45-minute documentary, Bukit Brown Voices, by Khoo Su Mae and Brian McDairmant. It follows the families who come each year to pay respects to their ancestors, as well as those who exhume the graves.

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Malaysia: Tap bird-watching tourism from Singapore, Johor told

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 21 Jan 13;

LUCRATIVE: Singaporeans offering huge amounts to local guides

JOHOR BARU: THE Malaysian Nature Society (MSN) Johor branch wants the Tourism Department to step up efforts to develop the untapped avitourism industry in the state.

Its chairman, Vincent Chow, said avitourism was a multi-billion industry, but there was a lack of courses for tour guides to be competent in nature tourism.

"I have received calls from a group of Singaporeans who offered as much as RM16,000 for a local guide who can help them find a particular species of bird.

"Unfortunately, I had to turn them down because I really do not know anyone who can assist them.

"Another group was willing to pay RM37,000 for a nature guide to take them to the Panti Bird Sanctuary in Kota Tinggi, Fraser's Hill and Penang for bird-watching."

Chow claimed the Singapore groups were coming into the state, possibly led by their own guides, who used "our backyard" to earn a lot of money.

A check with the state Tourism Department revealed that foreign guides were not supposed to bring tourists here, as Johor has its own licensed guides.

However, a department spokesman was unable to disclose the number of licensed local nature guides.

Chow was speaking to the New Straits Times after a pair of rare Asian Openbill storks were sighted here.

According to Chow, it was the first sighting of the birds here even though hundreds of the species had been spotted in Kuala Gula, near Taiping, and Penanti, Penang, on Jan 8 and the Batang Tiga padi fields in Malacca the following day.

The species was first sighted in Ulu Dedap, Perlis, in March 2008.

Chow also called on the Education Ministry to play a part by creating more awareness on local bird species and flora and fauna.

"Johor has Ramsar-gazetted conservation sites such as Pulau Kukup, Sungai Pulai and Tanjung Piai as well as the Panti Bird Sanctuary in Kota Tinggi.

"Our students know what an ostrich and emu are, but they do not know much about our local bird species.

"In Panti, 40 per cent of the bird species found there are local.

"There are articles written about the sanctuary, mostly by foreign bird enthusiasts.

"When MNS conducted a joint pilot programme with the Iskandar Regional Development Authority in December last year to rope in fishermen in Kampung Sungai Melayu to help in the development of avitourism, the response was encouraging.

"However, the plan later fizzled out. It should be an on-going effort and the relevant government agencies, especially the Tourism Department, should step up efforts to develop avitourism in the state," he said.

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