Best of our wild blogs: 28 Feb 13

Northern Expedition featured in Knowledge Enterprise
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Job opportunity: Help us out at the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey! from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

sunda pygmy woodpeckers @ pekan quarry, Ubin - Feb2013
from sgbeachbum

Greening the Rooftops
from mndsingapore by Minister Khaw Boon Wan

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Singapore's Earth Hour to encourage lifestyle changes

Channel NewsAsia 27 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE: The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will partner Singapore companies for this year's Earth Hour to encourage Singaporeans to make four lifestyle changes in support of the environment.

The lifestyle changes are to reduce the use of plastic bags, turn up their air-conditioning by one degree, switch to energy-efficient LED lights, and take short showers.

Corporate partners IKEA, Philips Lighting and Marina Bay Sands have issued challenges to the Singapore public through the Earth Hour "I Will If You Will" platform for three key actions.

Home furnishing retailer IKEA has pledged to have a free reusable Blue Bag Day if 20,000 people in Singapore pledge to use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.

Philips Lighting will provide LED and other sustainable lighting solutions to 1,000 lower-income families if 100,000 Singaporean families convert to LED lighting solutions.

Integrated resort Marina Bay Sands will be engaging its staff and partners in several challenges.

Among them is a challenge to its top 20 vendors to raise their air-conditioning temperatures by one degree.

If this is met, Marina Bay Sands will fulfil the promise to raise its air-conditioning by one degree in its back-of-house and various public areas for one day every month of the year, beginning from Earth Hour 2013.

The public can take up these challenges from today via the Earth Hour microsite at

Earth Hour 2013 takes place at 8.30pm on Saturday, 23 March 2013.


Three companies challenge Singapore to reduce its carbon footprint
Kelly Ng Today Online 28 Feb 13;

SINGAPORE — Three corporations have issued a challenge to Singapore to reduce its carbon footprint, ahead of Earth Hour next month.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has pledged to raise its air-conditioning by 1°C in the back of the house and various public areas for a day each month for a year, if its top 20 vendors do likewise. The integrated resort operator has also agreed to turn off all non-essential facade lighting on the first Tuesday of each month, if at least 20 other buildings in the Marina Bay district participate in Earth Hour.

While its challenges are targeted at organisations, two other companies have directed theirs at households. Furniture retailer IKEA will hold a free reusable blue bag day if 20,000 people here pledge to forgo plastic bags for reusable bags, while Philips Lighting will provide sustainable lighting to 1,000 lower-income families if 100,000 Singaporean families convert to LED solutions.

These pledges are in line with efforts made by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore to garner support from individual Singaporeans, with the group’s Chief Executive Elaine Tan noting that simple actions can have a huge collective impact. “With the Government’s projection of population growth, there is an urgent need ... to change our consumption patterns now,” she said.

Earth Hour, which was first introduced to Singapore in 2009 by the WWF, will be celebrated here on March 23. Individuals can accept challenges and pledge their own at

Generate your own power by dancing at Earth Hour
Straits Times 28 Feb 13;

PARTICIPANTS at this year's Earth Hour will have to dance and generate their own electricity for a film screening at The Float @ Marina Bay.

Special dance mats, which will fill an area of about 22 sq m and can accommodate 80 people at a time, will convert kinetic energy from the dancing into electricity to power the outdoor screening.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore chief executive Elaine Tan said the March 23 event will show "it is possible to power a sustainable city using clean and renewable energy".

"We are trying to connect people from a symbol (of turning their lights off for one hour), to a very tangible action that they can relate to," said Ms Tan.

WWF Singapore is hoping to attract more than 2,000 participants for the event.

Earth Hour is a global movement which started in Sydney in 2007. It encourages people to switch off their lights for one hour to raise awareness about climate change.

WWF - the main organiser of Earth Hour activities - will also continue with last year's "I Will If You Will" campaign, which encourages people to keep up Earth-friendly practices beyond the annual event.

This year, WWF Singapore hopes to get buildings and households to turn up air-conditioning by 1 deg C. Marina Bay Sands, which has pledged its support for the "One Degree Up" movement, is encouraging its key suppliers to do so.

WWF Singapore also wants to promote the use of environmentally friendly LED lighting. Philips Lighting will provide LED and other sustainable lighting solutions for free to 1,000 lower-income families if 100,000 Singaporean families convert to LED lighting solutions.

WWF Singapore also hopes Singaporeans can adopt "green" habits such as taking shorter showers and using fewer plastic bags.


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Malaysian Nature Society dares politicians to declare green stand

The Star 28 Feb 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) has for the first time in its 73-year history challenged politicians to declare their “green stand” in the upcoming general election.

Its president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said the society would encourage the public to support political parties and candidates who pledged to protect the environment by addressing weaknesses in the forest management system.

He said MNS had compiled 10 requests for change, including mandatory public consultation before degazettement or conversion of any forest reserve.

Other requests include calling for all clearing and logging within permanent forest reserves and state land forests to be carried out, with the consent of the local communities, as well as with the compliance of existing plans such as the National Physical Plan and the Central Forest Spine masterplan.

“We see that the forests, whether under Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, are still being cleared. We want an environmental policy that will halt unsustainable development,” he told the media yesterday.

MNS executive director Mohamed Shah Redza Hussein said MNS would analyse the manifestos of each political party and the candidates at the federal and state levels and make its results known to the public.

“With 4,000 members, we managed to mobilise almost 90,000 signatures for our Belum-Temengor campaign within a short time. We speak with the voice of our grassroots supporters,” he said, adding that sustainable development and environmental conservation were important issues to voters today.

MNS conservation head Balu Perumal pointed out that every state had been troubled by environmental problems for decades.

GE13: ‘Green pledges’ a good start to save environs
The Star 7 Apr 13;

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional’s manifesto includes some promising “green pledges” and represents a good start towards environmental management, said Malaysian Nature Society president Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed.

“For example, Barisan said it would allocate more space for green lungs within major cities. This commitment will help us in our fight to ensure Bukit Kiara in Selangor is gazetted,” he said.

Dr Maketab added that it was encouraging that both Barisan and Pakatan Rakyat’s manifestos for the 13th general election were committed to sustainable handling of Malaysia’s natural resources.

However, he noted that the critical issue of latex timber clone plantations was left out by both sides.

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Malaysia: Rescuers save 10 pygmy elephants

The Star 28 Feb 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Quick action by wildlife rescuers saved a herd of 10 Bornean pygmy elephants that had wandered off their range and ventured as close as 10km from the east coast town of Lahad Datu.

The rescue unit from the Sabah wildlife department captured and relocated the nine female adults and the lone male, a four-year-old calf, in an operation from Jan 18 to Jan 25.

Disclosing details of the eight-day roundup here yesterday, unit senior officer Jibius Dausip said the elephants had ventured more than 45km from the Tabin wildlife reserve.

“We received a call from Sri Tungku Simpang Ladang Permai, near Lahad Datu, that the elephants were roaming near his house,” he said.

Wildlife rangers rushed to the scene and captured the elephants using tranqualiser darts.

Department veterinarian Dr Diana Ramirez said the female elephants were transported to the Tabin reserve, with two of the largest animals fitted with satellite collars provided by the Danau Girang Field Centre.

The calf was transferred to the Low Kawi wildlife park, near here. “Its trunk was severely injured, probably from a snare trap. Without captive intervention it would have little chances of survival in the wild,” she said.

Department senior veterinarian Dr Senthivel Nathan said: “We are studying the possibility of releasing future translocated herds together.”

He said they were not able to translocate and release the current herd together due to logistical reasons. “That might also cost more.”

Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goosens said two elephants fitted with satellite collars by the centre showed they had not ventured into plantations around Tabin.

“If they return in the vicinity of Lahad Datu, we will advise plantation owners on how to fence their land to avoid any intrusion.”

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Thai premier accepts half-million signature petition from WWF to ban ivory trade

WWF 27 Feb 13;

Bangkok, Thailand – WWF today handed over a global petition calling for a ban on the trading of ivory in Thailand to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a move that aims to spur legal reforms in the country that will help prevent the slaughter of up to 30,000 wild African elephants a year.

“We already have the existing laws to protect wildlife, and elephants are culturally important to Thailand,” Prime Minister Shinawatra said at a special handover event on Wednesday. “We will take the issues raised by WWF into consideration.”

The Thai government on Wednesday also said that Prime Minister Shinawatra will preside over the opening day of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) taking place in Bangkok this week.

As the host of this critical wildlife trade negotiation, WWF calls on Prime Minister Shinawatra to take bold action to shut down Thailand’s ivory markets. Thailand is the world’s largest unregulated ivory market.
The petition - which had over 500,000 signatures from over 200 countries and territories on 27 February - is part of a WWF and TRAFFIC campaign calling for an announcement by the Thai Prime Minister to ban all ivory sales in Thailand.

“If host-nation Thailand fails to take bold action - and that means nothing less than a ban on all ivory trade - then Thailand's wild elephants could be next,” said Janpai Ongsiriwittaya, Illegal Wildlife Trade campaign leader in WWF-Thailand.

“Perhaps as few as only 2,500 wild elephants are left in Thailand. That's as many elephants as were wiped out each month in Africa in 2012 to fuel demand for ivory trinkets,” added Ongsiriwittaya.

The sale of ivory from wild elephants is currently illegal for CITES-host Thailand, but the sale of ivory from Thai domestic elephants is legal. Determining whether ivory products are derived from wild elephants or domestic animals is extremely difficult, and enforcement agencies are currently unable to detect illegal ivory entering the Thai trade.

Crucially, the nation’s status as an international transportation and shipping hub ensures that a steady stream of black market purchasers enter the country to buy ivory products. It also facilitates smuggling of raw ivory into Thailand, since illegal shipments are easily hidden in the many thousands of containers entering Thai ports everyday.

“While the Thai government has tried several times to reform the law in recent years, nothing has changed. The reality is that the existing legal framework does not prevent Thailand from being the laundering hub for illegal ivory,” said Ongsiriwittaya.

Hollywood actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio has also appealed to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban ivory trade ahead of CITES.

"Illegal wildlife trade is the most urgent threat facing species like tigers, rhinos and elephants. These animals are being killed every day to feed an escalating demand for their body parts," DiCaprio said.

WWF and TRAFFIC recently called on governments CITES to consider formal trade restrictions against some of the worst offenders in the illegal ivory trade, including Thailand, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Local warming: U.S. cities in front line as sea levels rise

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 27 Feb 13;

The signs of rising water are everywhere in this seaport city: yellow "Streets May Flood" notices are common at highway underpasses, in low-lying neighborhoods and along the sprawling waterfront.

Built at sea level on reclaimed wetland, Norfolk has faced floods throughout its 400-year history. But as the Atlantic Ocean warms and expands, and parts of the city subside, higher tides and fiercer storms seem to hit harder than they used to.

Dealing with this increased threat has put Norfolk at the forefront of American cities taking the lead on coping with intense weather, from floods to droughts to killer heat, without waiting for the federal government to take the lead.

In Norfolk, home to the largest U.S. Naval base and the second biggest commercial port on the U.S. Atlantic coast, floods are a perennial problem that has worsened in recent decades, Assistant City Manager Ron Williams Jr told Reuters.

The relative sea level around Norfolk has risen 14.5 inches (.37 meter) since 1930, when the low-lying downtown area routinely flooded. The floods are worse now, because the water doesn't have to rise as high to send the river above its banks and into the streets, Williams said.

At the same time, severe storms are more frequent.

"We've had more major storms in the past decade than we've had in the previous four decades," he said.

Extreme rainfall events have increased too.

Williams does not call what's happening in Norfolk a symptom of climate change.

"The debate about causality we're not going to get into," he said.

Still, many scientists see the frequent flooding as consistent with projected consequences of rising global temperatures, spurred by increased emissions of greenhouse gases.


No matter what city leaders call it, some of their actions speak louder than words.

Williams said Norfolk, a city of 243,000, needs a total investment of $1 billion in the coming decades, including $600 million to replace current infrastructure, to keep the water in its place and help make homes and businesses more resilient.

Paying for it will be a burden, Williams said. The city is working with the state legislature and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and hoping federal block grants will help too.

One proposed project, a flood wall to protect the historic Ghent neighborhood and others, would cost an estimated $20 million to $40 million.

Williams said a similar barrier completed in 1970 banished perennial floods from what is now the high-rise downtown. That provided a great return on a $5 million investment, Williams said, with $500 million in assessed real estate value in the area that used to flood but now doesn't.

These measures have made Norfolk a leader for other coastal cities on how to adapt to climate change, said Cynthia Rosensweig, a NASA climate scientist who advises New York City on its response. Rosensweig, Williams and others note that building resilience into infrastructure before disasters hit is far less expensive than rebuilding afterwards.

Henry Conde, a retired U.S. Navy captain who lives in Ghent, said he and his neighbors feel the flood threat viscerally: "There's a low-grade fever, so to speak, or an awareness throughout the year. People are always on edge."

Armpit-high waders, stand-alone generators and sump pumps are standard equipment for when the floods come and the power goes out, Conde said in an interview at his 115-year-old home. Winter nor'easters can be just as bad as summer hurricanes and preparing for the worst beforehand instead of mopping up later is simply an economic reality, he said.

Superstorm Sandy's strike on New Jersey and New York in late October heightened awareness of the need to prepare for incoming water. Sea levels are rising along almost every part of the U.S. coastline, except in Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( here ).

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. cities see environmental shifts that can be linked to climate change, but they lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to planning how to adapt to these changes and assessing how vulnerable they are, according to a survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the non-profit International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI.

U.S. cities have traditionally focused more on mitigating climate change than adapting to it, the opposite of most cities in the developing world, where vulnerability to climate-fueled natural disasters is already high, said ICLEI's U.S. program director Brian Holland.

More than 1,000 city leaders have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (here), in which they promise to try to beat global targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in their communities and urge Congress to pass carbon-cutting laws.

But labeling it global warming can be dicey, given that there is still controversy, particularly among politicians, over whether human activity is contributing markedly to increasing temperatures.

"Given the politicized view of climate change in this country, it seems that some cities are emphasizing risk management - that way they can get on with the important tasks of reducing risk and safeguarding local residents and municipal assets," said MIT's JoAnn Carmin, author of the 2012 survey of 468 cities worldwide, including 298 in the United States.

Still, city leaders can often reach consensus and act more easily than some members of Congress can, said Jim Brainard, the Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, and head of the Energy Independence Task Force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. One reason for this is that lobbyists opposed to climate measures rarely target mayors or other community leaders, he added.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko.; Editing by Ros Krasny and Andre Grenon)

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