Best of our wild blogs: 28 Mar 13

Hantu Blog Celebrates 10 Years!
from Pulau Hantu and Yellow-lipped sea krait

Red Junglefowl Third Brood
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Thu 28 Mar 2013: 1pm @ NUS LT14 – “How much is that doggy in the window?” from Otterman speaks

Wed 10 Apr 2013: 7.00pm @ NUS Museum – Frank Bucks’ “Tiger Fangs” from Otterman speaks

APP suppliers allegedly slashing forests and peatlands in Indonesia, despite new 'no deforestation' policy from news by Rhett Butler

Read more!

Hazy conditions expected in Singapore over next few days: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 27 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said hazy skies in Singapore are due to more hotspots in the northern South-East Asian region experiencing the traditional dry season.

"This has led to an increased concentration of particulate matter such as dust particles in the air over the region, including Singapore," it said in a statement, adding that weakening winds over Singapore in the past few days have added to the current hazy situation.

The NEA said the PSI as of 4pm on Wednesday is in the good to moderate range of between 39 and 53.

The hazy condition is expected to persist over the next few days, and NEA will continue to monitor the situation.

- CNA/xq

Overseas hot spots contributed to haze: NEA
Grace Chua Straits Times 28 Mar 13;

SMOGGY skies the previous two nights were not just due to Tuesday's shipyard fire at Jurong and the blaze that gutted several motorcycles at Hougang.

Rather, dust particles and other particulate matter have drifted over from hot spots in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, which are going through their dry season, said the National Environment Agency.

"With the weakening of winds over Singapore in recent days, the accumulation of increased particulate matter in the air could have led to the current hazy condition," explained an NEA spokesman.

Winds are light and variable during the current inter-monsoon period between the North-East and South- West monsoons, which typically lasts from late March to May.

At 4pm yesterday, the PSI, a measure of air pollution, was between 39 and 53, in the good to moderate range. The level of PM2.5, or very fine particulate matter, was between 25 and 39 micrograms per cubic metre.

While those levels did not trigger any health advisories for the general population, those who are unusually sensitive to haze should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion, the NEA said.

The hazy condition is expected to persist over the next few days and NEA will continue to monitor the situation, said a spokesman.

Mr Dave Liew, a 43-year-old artist, complained of a scratchy throat and headaches since Monday.

"It's like an assassin," he said. "It gets you before you can actually see it."

Air quality readings and health advisories are available at, or at the Weather@SG website, on Twitter @NEAsg, by calling 1800 CALL NEA (1800 2255 632), or via the myENV iPhone or Android app.

Read more!

Indonesia: Tainted Turtle Meat Kills at Least Three Kids, Poisons Hundreds in West Sumatra

Jakarta Globe 27 Mar 13;

At least three people have died and hundreds more were sickened after consuming toxic turtle meat in Mentawai Island, West Sumatra, a local news portal reported on Wednesday.

Rijel Samaloisa, deputy mayor of Mentawai, told news portal that three children — a 3-year-old, an 8-year-old and an 11-month-old – died after eating the tainted meat on Tuesday night.

“The first victim died this morning [Tuesday] and the other two passed away in the afternoon. The latest information, a child aged 7 years old, is in critical condition at the Tuapejat Regional Hospital,” Rijel said.

He said residents of a fisherman’s community in the Sao hamlet of Bosua village, South Sipora, ate turtle that had been caught on Sunday. The deputy mayor added that some victims died because their families could not seek treatment in time.

“People were [sick] on Sunday but they were not directly taken to get medication,” he said.

All of the poisoned survivors have since received medical treatment, Rijel said, adding that they were admitted to Tuapeijat Hospital and Sioban community health center. reported that limited access to the village hindered the ability to seek treatment for the sickened villagers, as the only means of transportation which can accommodate many people at once is a boat with an outboard engine. Soa hamlet is located at the southern part of Sipora island and it can take up to two hours in good weather to reach the district health facilities. The regional hospital could take up to four hours to reach from the village, which has no mobile phone coverage, according to the portal.

Rijel said this was not the first time Mentawai people were sickened after consuming turtle meat.

“People have never learned, there were similar cases like this in the past,” he said. reported that 36 people on the island were poisoned from turtle meat on March 16.

Mentawai Island Health Office head Warta Siritoitet said there were four cases of poisoning from turtle meat in the past year in Mentawai.

Rijel said that the Mentawai administration would issue a mandate to prohibit the consumption of turtle.

“People will be prohibited to eat any kinds of turtle. We will distribute [a circular about the ban] in the mosques, churches, governments offices and other places,” he said.

Read more!

Solomon Island villagers kill another 70 dolphins

Solomon Star 28 Mar 13;

MORE than 70 dolphins were reportedly killed by Fanalei villages, Malaita, last week.

Sources from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources revealed this to Solomon Star yesterday.

One source said that a team from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources was last week sent to observe and assess the people’s ongoing traditional hunting practices.

“More than 70 dolphins were hunted and killed last week when we (Fisheries team) were there,” the source said.

“There were in-fact two traditional hunts that took place-the first hunt I believe they caught around 40 dolphins,” he said.

When asked about the current dolphin ban, the source explained the ban only applies to life export,

“Traditional dolphin hunting is a way of life of many people in our coastal areas. The ban doesn’t apply to them but it restricts them to a certain number of dolphins caught during a particular hunt,” the source said.

He added that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is now currently working on a dolphin management plan to help restrict the number of dolphin catches in particular traditional hunts.

“We are now working on a management plan which will then be implemented and made aware to our coastal people.

“This will safeguard our dolphins stock,” he said.

This latest killing is likely to infuriate animal rights groups who have recently condemned the killing of up to a thousand dolphins in recent weeks.

The villagers kill the dolphins for their meat and teeth.

By Jeremy Inifiri

Related posts
Dolphin slaughter affecting Solomon Islands tourism Campbell Cooney and Sam Bolitho Radio Australia 30 Jan 13;

700 dolphins slaughtered in Solomons money row Campbell Cooney ABC 24 Jan 13;

Read more!

US regulators under fire over bee-toxic pesticides

Kerry Sheridan (AFP) Google News 28 Mar 13;

WASHINGTON — US environmental regulators are under fire from beekeepers and conservationists who say they are failing to vet risky pesticides that put people and valuable crop pollinators like bees in peril.

On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a scathing report of the Environmental Protection Agency's record of using a loophole to allow more than 10,000 "untested or under-tested" pesticides on the market.

That followed a lawsuit brought last week by several beekeepers and environmental groups, accusing the EPA of failing to protect pollinators and challenging practices that speed to market about two-thirds of all pesticides.

The suit seeks to suspend the EPA registrations of pesticides that have been identified as toxic to bees.

Pesticides in a family called neonicotinoids are believed to contribute to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious plague that has killed off about 30 percent of bees annually since 2007.

The two pesticides highlighted in the federal district court suit are clothianidin and thiamethoxam, both of which were first used heavily in the mid-2000s, around the time that the bee die-offs began worldwide.

Last year, France banned thiamethoxam, found in a pesticide made by Swiss giant Syngenta, after research showed it shortened bees' lifespans.

A handful of European countries have restricted or banned neonicotinoids but the European Union earlier this month failed to reach a consensus on the issue.

In the case of clothianidin, Bayer CropScience was granted conditional registration from the US EPA in 2003.

It has been used widely to treat canola and corn seed. Nearly all of the 92 million acres of corn seeds planted annually in the United States are coated with these pesticides, said Larissa Walker of the Center for Food Safety, one of the parties bringing the lawsuit.

"A lot of the farmers feel that it is difficult for them to find seeds these days that don't contain a neonicotinoid product," she told AFP.

The EPA approved the pesticide but said Bayer had to submit a field study of the effects on bees by 2004.

"Unfortunately the field study that Bayer handed in was not only late by several years but was poorly conducted, and had some serious flaws in it," said a senior scientist at NRDC, Jennifer Sass.

A separate study by Purdue University in 2012 showed clothianidin-coated seeds contaminated farm machinery with as much as 700,000 times a bee's lethal dose of pesticide.

"Nonetheless, EPA continues to rely on the Bayer CropScience studies only that failed to find harmful effects on bees," Sass told reporters.

In response, Bayer CropScience said it "has no concerns about the quality of the field study in question" and that the NRDC claims "are incorrect and unwarranted with regard to bee health," according to a statement sent to AFP.

Environmental groups say a congressional loophole dating back to 1978 has allowed the EPA to approve more than 10,000 pesticides with minimal testing.

This "conditional registration" was meant for rare cases -- such as a disease outbreak or a public health crisis -- but instead has been used for 65 percent of the 16,000 pesticides on the market, the NRDC said.

Mae Wu, an attorney at NRDC, said the EPA was not tracking the conditional registrations properly and that supposedly temporary pesticides were falling into a "black hole."

The EPA said it "does not comment on pending litigation."

However, it defended the practice of conditional registration, saying 90 percent of the pesticides approved that way are identical to or differ just slightly from products already on the market.

The EPA also said it is "accelerating the schedule for registration review of the neonicotinoid pesticides because of uncertainties about these pesticides and their potential effects on bees."

The NRDC urged the EPA to review all its conditionally registered pesticides, cancel the registration for clothianidin and a germ-killer known as nanosilver, and start a publicly searchable database of approved pesticides.

Neonicotinoid pesticides 'damage brains of bees'
Rebecca Morelle BBC World Service 27 Mar 13;

Commonly used pesticides are damaging honey bee brains, studies suggest.

Scientists have found that two types of chemicals called neonicotinoids and coumaphos are interfering with the insect's ability to learn and remember.

Experiments revealed that exposure was also lowering brain activity, especially when the two pesticides were used in combination.

The research is detailed in two papers in Nature Communications and the Journal of Experimental Biology.

But a company that makes the substances said laboratory-based studies did not always apply to bees in the wild.

And another report, published by the Defra's Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), concluded that there was no link between bee health and exposure to neonicotinoids.

The government agency carried out a study looking at bumblebees living on the edges of fields treated with the chemicals.

Falling numbers

Honey bees around the world are facing an uncertain future.

They have been hit with a host of diseases, losses of habitat, and in the US the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder has caused numbers to plummet.

Now researchers are asking whether pesticides are also playing a role in their decline.

To investigate, scientists looked at two common pesticides: neonicotinoids, which are used to control pests on oil seed rape and other crops, and a group of organophosphate chemicals called coumaphos, which are used to kill the Varroa mite, a parasite that attacks the honey bee.

Neonicotinoids are used more commonly in Europe, while coumaphos are more often employed in the United States.

Work carried out by the University of Dundee, in Scotland, revealed that if the pesticides were applied directly to the brains of the pollinators, they caused a loss of brain activity.

Dr Christopher Connolly said: "We found neonicotinoids cause an immediate hyper-activation - so an epileptic type activity - this was proceeded by neuronal inactivation, where the brain goes quiet and cannot communicate any more. The same effects occur when we used organophosphates.

"And if we used them together, the effect was additive, so they added to the toxicity: the effect was greater when both were present."

Another series of laboratory-based experiments, carried out at Newcastle University, examined the behaviour of the bees.

The researchers there found that bees exposed to both pesticides were unable to learn and then remember floral smells associated with a sweet nectar reward - a skill that is essential for bees in search of food.

Dr Sally Williamson said: "It would imply that the bees are able to forage less effectively, they are less able to find and learn and remember and then communicate to their hive mates what the good sources of pollen and nectar are."

'No threat'

She said that companies that are manufacturing the pesticides should take these findings into account when considering the safety of the chemicals.

She explained: "At the moment, the initial tests for bee toxicity are giving the bees an acute dose and then watching them to see if they die.

"But because bees do these complex learning tasks, they are very social animals and they have a complex behavioural repertoire, they don't need to be killed outright in order not to be affected."

The European Commission recently called for a temporary moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids after a report by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that they posed a high acute risk to pollinators.

But 14 out of the 27 EU nations - including the UK and Germany - opposed the ban, and the proposal has now been delayed.

Ian Boyd, chief scientist at Defra, said: "Decisions on the use of neonicotinoids must be based on sound scientific evidence."

He said that the results of the Fera bumblebee study suggested that the extent of the impact might not be as high as some studies had suggested - and called for "further data based on more realistic field trials is required".

Dr Julian Little, communications and government affairs manager at Bayer Crop Science Limited, which makes some of the pesticides, said the findings of laboratory-based studies should not be automatically extrapolated to the field.

"If you take an insecticide and you give it directly to an insect, I can guarantee that you will have an effect - I am not at all surprised that this is what you will see," he explained.

"What is really important is seeing what happens in real situations - in real fields, in real bee colonies, in real bee hives, with real bee keepers."

Read more!