Best of our wild blogs: 1 Apr 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [25 - 31 Mar 2013]
from Green Business Times

Last call - sign up for Chek Jawa Boardwalk outing on 6th April (Sat)
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Pulau Semakau (31 Mar 2013)
from teamseagrass

Two Terumbus in one trip!
from wild shores of singapore

(Actual) Last Hurrah at Raffles Museum
from Exploring Science Communication

Painted Jezebel
from Monday Morgue

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This could be Singapore's first World Heritage Site

Tan Dawn Wei Straits Times 1 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE is making a pitch for its first Unesco World Heritage Site - the 154-year-old Botanic Gardens.

It has sent its initial application for the coveted status to the global body, formally known as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The historic gardens was founded at its present site in 1859 by an agri-horticultural society. Its director, Dr Nigel Taylor, said an application to Unesco was made last December.

But more work needs to be done before the gardens can be considered for official listing as a World Heritage Site.

"The Singapore Botanic Gardens fulfils the criteria for World Heritage Site assessment, and is a well-loved outdoor area for Singaporeans from all walks of life," he said.

"It is also significant for its interesting history that parallels Singapore's development."

Unesco World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural sites that have been deemed to have outstanding universal value. There are 962 in the world, with 33 in South-east Asia such as Angkor in Cambodia, and Malacca and George Town in Malaysia. Singapore ratified the World Heritage Convention last year, which means it is bound to protect its national heritage.

In describing the gardens to Unesco, the Republic pointed out that it was the oldest surviving example of its kind in the Straits Settlements, and a "living testament to the foresight of the early pioneering spirit of Singapore".

The 74ha park, which draws more than four million visitors a year, was instrumental in pioneering rubber cultivation and tapping techniques, and orchid breeding. Its botanical research and conservation have also put it on the international map.

The other botanic gardens that have made the Unesco list are the Royal Botanic Gardens in London and Orto Botanico in Padua, Italy.

Historians and heritage buffs say the gardens is an obvious choice for Singapore's first stab at gaining Unesco status.

Dr Chua Ai Lin, an historian and one-time member of the former Singapore Sub-Commission on Culture and Information for Unesco, said the idea of backing the Botanic Gardens for the listing had been discussed for a few years.

"It was quite clear the Botanic Gardens was a low-hanging fruit," she said. Getting the Unesco stamp "will show that it is not a history that is just meaningful to us here in a small way, but meaningful in a universal way".

University lecturer Tan Wee Cheng, who started a Facebook page in 2009 to campaign for Singapore to get itself on the list, said the gardens was a "fitting choice" to be the country's first official site.

"But instead of just celebrating if and when we do get on the list, we should consider issues of identity and conservation - if there are other sites we should conserve and further build on our national identity."

Gaining the recognition would be good for national pride, he said. "From a tourism perspective, they can then put the Unesco logo on their brochures."

The country will now have to put together a nomination file.

More details will be shared at a later date, said Dr Taylor, but The Straits Times understands that there will be a series of public engagement exercises running till the end of this year, before the documents are submitted officially.

Singapore gardens aim for UNESCO heritage status
Bhavan Jaipragas (AFP) Google News 4 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Singapore, one of the world's most densely populated countries, is campaigning to get its 154-year-old Botanic Gardens declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

If selected by the UN cultural body, the lush and serene 74-hectare (182-acre) park on the edge of downtown Singapore will join the Royal Botanic Gardens in London and the Orto Botanico in Italy on the prestigious list.

The Singapore gardens were founded in 1859 by the Agri-Horticultural Society while the island was under British colonial rule.

The gardens became known for pioneering rubber tapping and orchid breeding techniques and evolved into a hugely popular attraction for Singaporeans and foreign tourists alike.

It now sees around four million visitors a year in a city-state of 5.3 million people.

"The Singapore Botanic Gardens fulfills the criteria for World Heritage Site assessment, and is a well-loved outdoor area for Singaporeans from all walks of life," said the attraction's director Nigel Taylor.

The campaign for the gardens to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage site was initiated in December, said Taylor, a former curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Singapore gardens currently sit on UNESCO's 'Tentative List'.

"Such sites will be further researched on before they are considered for official listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site," said Taylor.

The 962 sites currently on the World Heritage List are places of cultural or natural heritage "considered to be of outstanding value to humanity", according to UNESCO.

The Straits Times newspaper said Singapore authorities are planning a series of public events throughout the year before an official application is submitted to UNESCO.

The gardens boast over 30,000 plant and tree species, according to the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO, as well as a swan lake and amphitheatre where classical music and other concerts are held.

It is also internationally acclaimed for its VIP and Celebrity Orchids area, where varieties are cultivated and named after famous people, from Princess Diana to Nelson Mandela.

Local conservationists have welcomed the campaign, and say the garden is Singapore's best bet at gaining UNESCO heritage site status.

"The gardens have been extremely well maintained over the years and are well deserving to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site," said Yeo Kang Shua, the honorary secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society.

"The entire process of applying to UNESCO will allow Singaporeans to understand the importance of the gardens in our economic development since the British era," he told AFP.

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Leopards and Humans Peacefully Coexist in India

Becky Oskin Yahoo News 31 Mar 13;

Leopards and humans peacefully share the same densely populated rural landscape in western India, a new camera trap survey shows.

The cameras caught leopards and other jungle cats, as well as hyenas and jackals, prowling close to houses through the night in farmland in western Maharashtra, India. The carnivores and people shared the same paths — so much so that the researchers had to turn off their camera traps during the day because of the human and livestock traffic.

Yet the leopards went largely undetected by people, according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which helped fund the study.

"Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas," Ullas Karanth of the WCS, a study co-author, said in the statement. "The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both humans and wildlife to each other's presence."

The findings were published online March 6 in the journal PLOS One.

The camera traps documented 10 large carnivores per 38 square miles (100 square kilometers) in the densely populated area — five leopards and five hyenas. The human population density is more than 300 people per 38 square miles. [Images: Backyard Leopards Caught on Camera]

The discovery of so many large carnivores living in proximity to people highlights the need to focus on conservation outside of protected areas, the researchers said.

The farming-intensive landscape lacks wilderness and wild herbivores for prey, and the region has only one protected area for wildlife, the Kalsubai Harishchandragarh Wildlife Sanctuary, the researchers said.

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Earth-cooling schemes need global sign-off, researchers say

World's most vulnerable people need protection from huge and unintended impacts of radical geoengineering projects
Ian Sample The Guardian 31 Mar 13;

Controversial geoengineering projects that may be used to cool the planet must be approved by world governments to reduce the danger of catastrophic accidents, British scientists said.

Met Office researchers have called for global oversight of the radical schemes after studies showed they could have huge and unintended impacts on some of the world's most vulnerable people.

The dangers arose in projects that cooled the planet unevenly. In some cases these caused devastating droughts across Africa; in others they increased rainfall in the region but left huge areas of Brazil parched.

"The massive complexities associated with geoengineering, and the potential for winners and losers, means that some form of global governance is essential," said Jim Haywood at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter.

The warning builds on work by scientists and engineers to agree a regulatory framework that would ban full-scale geoengineering projects, at least temporarily, but allow smaller research projects to go ahead.

Geoengineering comes in many flavours, but among the more plausible are "solar radiation management" (SRM) schemes that would spray huge amounts of sun-reflecting particles high into the atmosphere to simulate the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions.

Volcanoes can blast millions of tonnes of sulphate particles into the stratosphere, where they stay aloft for years and cool the planet by reflecting some of the sun's energy back out to space.

In 2009, a Royal Society report warned that geoengineering was not an alternative to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but conceded the technology might be needed in the event of a climate emergency.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Haywood and others show that moves to cool the climate by spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere could go spectacularly wrong. They began by looking at the unexpected impacts of volcanic eruptions.

In 1912 and 1982, eruptions first at Katmai in Alaska and then at El Chichón in Mexico blasted millions of tonnes of sulphate into northern skies. These eruptions preceded major droughts in the Sahel region of Africa. When the scientists recreated the eruptions in climate models, rainfall across the Sahel all but stopped as moisture-carrying air currents were pushed south.

Having established a link between volcanic eruptions in the northern hemisphere and droughts in Africa, the scientists returned to their climate models to simulate SRM projects.

The scientists took a typical project that would inject 5m tonnes of sulphate into the stratosphere every year from 2020 to 2070. That amount of sulphate injected into the northern hemisphere caused severe droughts in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad and Sudan, and an almost total loss of vegetation.

The same project had radically different consequences if run from the southern hemisphere. Rather than drying the Sahel, cooling the southern hemisphere brought rains to the Sahel and re-greened the region. But Africa's benefit came at the cost of slashing rainfall in north-eastern Brazil.

The unintended consequences of SRM projects would probably be felt much farther afield. "We have only scratched the surface in looking at the Sahel. If hurricane frequencies changed, that could have an impact on the US," said Haywood.

Matthew Watson, who leads the Spice project at Bristol University, said the study revealed the "dramatic consequences" of uninformed geoengineering.

"This paper tells us there are consequences for our actions whatever we do. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card," he told the Guardian.

"Whatever we do is a compromise, and that compromise means there will be winners and losers. That opens massive ethical questions: who gets to decide how we even determine what is a good outcome for different people?

"How do you get a consensus with seven billion-plus stakeholders? If there was a decision to do geoengineering tomorrow, it would be done by white western men, and that isn't good," Watson said.

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