Best of our wild blogs: 26 Jan 13

Our SG Conversation for the Green Community @ Singapore Polytechnic
from AsiaIsGreen

Butterfly of the Month - January 2013 - The Blue Jay
from Butterflies of Singapore

Hantu Blog @ Tanjong Katong Girls School
from Pulau Hantu

Sharing Berlayar Creek with Shell
from wild shores of singapore and Pulau Hantu

Art Garfunkel and his bright eyed crab
from Raffles Museum News

Read more!

Sheng Siong frees injured shark

Activists upset shark was put in small tank after being purchased
Jennani Durai Straits Times 26 Jan 13;

A SHARK kept in a small tank at the Sheng Siong supermarket in Clementi was released back into the wild, a day after animal activists began campaigning for its freedom.

A photo of the approximately 2m-long leopard shark - held in a tank barely bigger than itself - circulated on social media on Thursday, and was shared nearly 500 times by last night.

Activists from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and Shark Savers were even willing to buy the shark's freedom from the supermarket. But a Sheng Siong spokesman said yesterday it was not for sale or consumption.

In fact, the supermarket's intention was to "nurse it back to health" and release it back into the sea, and it did so yesterday morning.

The group's managing director, Mr Lim Hock Leng, said that Sheng Siong's "seafood team" had spotted the shark at Jurong Fishery Port on Tuesday, along with the rest of the day's catch from Indonesia.

"When we saw the shark, it was not doing very well, possibly due to some injury sustained," he said. "So, we bought the shark with the intent of protecting it from harm and nursing it back to health."

Sheng Siong's Clementi Avenue 1 branch was chosen for the shark's rehabilitation, as it had a temperature-controlled glass tank, and the outlet was near the fishery port.

Plans to move the shark to a bigger pool at the port were foiled when the pool was found to be in use.

The supermarket then decided to release the shark.

Mr Louis Ng, Acres' executive director, said this was not the first time that the supermarket chain has incurred the wrath of animal rights groups.

Other sharks had been on display in the past, he claimed, and the supermarket used to have a practice of leaving live fish out on ice to die slowly.

These cases were reported to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which had in turn informed the supermarket chain to be more humane in its practices.

Mr Ng added: "I hope they sought a veterinarian's advice to make sure the shark was fit for releasing. Otherwise, I'd question if it was safe to release it after putting it through a lot of stress and then releasing it with the same injury it was found with."

An AVA spokesman said leopard sharks are not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Imports are allowed for local sale as long as they are handled by AVA-licensed seafood importers.

Read more!

IKEA to stop providing plastic bags

Customers will need to bring their own bags or purchase its reusable ones from March
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 26 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — In an effort to get shoppers to use fewer plastic bags here, a major retailer has decided to stop providing them in stores.

Come March, customers visiting Swedish furniture giant IKEA at both its Alexandra and Tampines outlets will either have to bring their own bags or purchase its blue reusable bags for their shopping.

The prices of the reusable bags have been reduced to S$0.90 for the large ones and S$0.30 for smaller versions, down from S$1.20 and S$0.60 respectively.

Said its Managing Director Christian Rojkjaer: “This initiative is the next natural step for us to further reduce the use and consumption of disposable plastic bags in Singapore and, at the same time, support change in people’s everyday behaviour for a positive sustainable impact for the environment.”

In 2007, IKEA became the first retailer here to charge for plastic bags.

Proceeds from the 18 million plastic bags sold since the start of the initiative have been donated to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to boost eco-education programmes.

While some retailers have moved to encourage shoppers to use fewer plastic bags, they remain a step away from ceasing to provide them altogether.

In the retail environment here, “shoppers still expect retailers to provide plastic bags for their purchases”, a spokesperson for Dairy Farm Singapore, which manages Cold Storage supermarkets, noted. “While we will continue to encourage shoppers to either bring their own reusable bags or purchase reusable bags at the checkout counters, there are no plans at this point to not provide customers with plastic bags,” she added.

At NTUC FairPrice, a scheme that provides a S$0.10 rebate to customers who bring their own bags, for purchases of at least S$10, has saved about five to six million plastic bags annually.

“We are seeing an increasing number of customers bringing their own bags but we acknowledge that it is a habit that will take time to nurture,” said Mr Koh Kok Sin, Chairperson of NTUC FairPrice’s Green Committee.

The supermarket chain has also started dedicated checkout lanes for customers who bring their own bags or who do not need them at two stores: City Square Mall and myVillage at Serangoon Garden.

“We will consider including more of such lanes in future in other stores depending on the customer response,” Mr Koh said.

Mr Jose Raymond, the Singapore Environment Council’s Executive Director, noted that “cost and convenience are both facets of everyday life in Singapore that are difficult to compromise on”.

Further, some shoppers may feel it is necessary to obtain plastic bags so that they could bag their domestic rubbish before disposal, he added.

If an IKEA plastic bag is used at home for bagging rubbish, Mr Rojkjaer felt that at least it has served another purpose.

“But I’m more nervous about the disposable bags that doesn’t end up as garbage bags, but in all the other places where they tend to end up in but shouldn’t — in the sea, in parks and so on,” he added.

A “workable strategy”, Mr Raymond felt, would be to take into account a certain level of plastic bag usage, while focusing on eliminating wastage.

“This is where retailers can play a part — by cutting down on the provision of bags that are not viable for rubbish disposal, for example those that are too small or thin.

“Instead, retailers should look at giving out bags of a certain size and thickness that will see an extended life cycle use,” he added.

At IKEA, the move to stop supplying plastic bags in Singapore “took a bit longer” as compared to stores in Thailand and Malaysia, said Mr Rojkjaer.

In Thailand, IKEA had opened last November without the provision of plastic bags, while the Malaysia store stopped supplying them last year, with customers being “more forgiving than we thought they would be”, he noted.

To prepare customers here on the move, signs will be put up in both stores a month before the new measure kicks in.

“I think the Singapore consumer are more wealthy, on average. With wealth, comes demand and a requirement for services and a better lifestyle. That’s why, together with our customers, we want to change this way of thinking … in which we will be better off in the long term,” Mr Rojkjaer said.

Read more!

Treat illegal wildlife trade as serious crime: CITES

AFP Yahoo News 24 Jan 13;

Illegal trade in wildlife products like ivory and rhino horn must be treated as a serious crime in order to end the devastating poaching of protected species, the head of UN wildlife trade regulator CITES said Thursday.

"This is serious crime, and you need serious resources and serious penalties" to address it, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon told reporters in Geneva.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of CITES's 177 member states in Bangkok in early March, Scanlon said finding better ways to crack down on the illegal trade of ivory and rhino horn were among the top issues on the agenda.

Pointing out that illegal wildlife trade is estimated to rake in about $20 billion a year, he insisted that such crimes needed to be treated in the same manner as for instance the international illegal drug trade.

A World Wildlife Fund report last month listed the illicit sale of wildlife products as the fourth-largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

The sharp increase in poaching of protected species like elephants and rhinos in recent years appears to be fuelled by organised criminals eager to reap massive profits at very low risk, and is also believed to be helping to fund insurgencies in Africa, Scanlon said.

"These trends with ivory and rhino horn are going up (so much) that we will start wiping out local populations very soon," he warned.

Rhino horn can sell for as much as $80,000 a kilo, and poachers have killed some 2,000 rhinos in the past two years -- a huge number considering only about 25,000 rhinos remain, he said.

Elephant poaching in Africa has also increased sharply, with devastating incidents like the family of 11 elephants killed in a Kenyan park earlier this month, and the up to 450 elephants slaughtered last February in Cameroon by poacher gangs, likely from Chad and Sudan.

"It would appear that some individuals are stockpiling. You could say they are banking on extinction (and) assuming that as these species become rarer, the rhino horn and the ivory will become more valuable," Scanlon said.

To halt the trade, authorities need to work harder to trace the illegal products to the people creating the demand, he said.

"Until we find out who ordered (the products), prosecute them, convict them and impose a serious penalty, we're not going to be able to stop this."

Read more!

What Is Geodesign-and Can It Protect Us from Natural Disasters?

Larry Greenemeier Scientific American Yahoo News 26 Jan 13;

As New York, New Jersey and other states hit hard during Superstorm Sandy last fall begin their long road to recovery, the decisions they make on how to rebuild are crucial to determining how well they're weather than next big storm. The choices range from installing large storm-surge sea barriers near Staten Island and at the mouth of New York Harbor to keep rising waters at bay, to cultivating wetlands around the southern tip of Manhattan that can provide a natural buffer.

Both concepts are on the drawing boards and are being fiercely debated on their merits. Although they are radically different, each one takes geographic design into consideration to some degree. Geodesign is an approach to city planning, land use and natural resource management that takes into account the tendency in recent years to overdevelop land at the expense of natural habitats, as well as population growth and climate change, which have left communities increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters.

Geodesign arose thanks largely to the availability of geographic information system (GIS) data. Such data is gathered from maps, aerial photos, satellites and surveys and stored in large databases where it can be analyzed, modeled and queried. Particularly useful is data provided by the Landsat program, a joint initiative between the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, has been placing satellites in orbit since 1972 to collect GIS data.

"With GIS, we have the tools to understand our landscape and [the] impact of our design decisions," says Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota's College of Design. As an analytical tool, GIS is more than geographical information--it's a way to visualize weather, climate and demographic data as well, he adds.

Careful study of GIS data--which includes weather data but also takes into account population demographics, land use and a variety of other factors--could uncover clues about the likely intensity and impact of future storms as well as the extent to which zoning decisions can mitigate potential damage, according to Fisher, the emcee and moderator of this week's Geodesign Summit hosted by GIS mapping software maker Esri at the company's Redlands, Calif., headquarters. "This is an issue with Sandy--do we rebuild on the same sites, considering there could be another [major] storm within the next seven or so years? My sense is not that we lack data but that we've lacked the ability to visualize it and apply it to certain places," he adds.

Geodesign is not entirely new, of course. After the1930s Dust Bowl across the over-farmed Great Plains, the U.S. government initiated changes in land cultivation, Fischer says. Federal organizations such as the Civilian Conservation Corps cultivated grass on government-protected lands to keep topsoil in place and retain moisture. They also planted millions of trees from Canada to Texas to block wind gusts and likewise keep soil in place. Farmers were also educated on how to rotate crops, implement soil terracing and use other more sustainable farming methods.

Regardless of how New York and New Jersey decide to rebuild, geodesign projects are already underway nationwide. The city of Asheville, N.C., offers an interactive mapping tool called Priority Places to help local businesses determine where best to put their offices and factories, help urban planners find neighborhoods for renewal projects and help real estate developers make decisions based on population demographics and zoning regulations. In Montana, the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center's data processing and modeling capabilities help biologists and land managers with landscape planning and management of local species and their habitats. Meanwhile, Florida planners are turning to geospatial data that reveals information about the state's population distribution to anticipate the state's needs in 2060, by which time the population is expected to have doubled to 36 million people, placing a heavier burden on already overcrowded urban areas and infrastructure.

Read more!