Best of our wild blogs: 4 Apr 13

Southern Expedition (20 May - 7 Jun 2013) of the Mega Marine Survey from wild shores of singapore

Singapore Green Landscape 2013
from Green Future Solutions

Long-tailed Parakeet eating MacArthur palm fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Making every patch of land work harder

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE - Singapore is not unique - not in its ambition to be a leading global city, not in its size constraints, or in its diversity and the tensions that result when people from all backgrounds rub shoulders with one another.

But it has tried to manage its land use in some unusual ways, such as reclaiming a large percentage of its land area, going underground, and making every patch of land work harder.

Turning marshes or sea to solid land is one of Singapore's oldest methods of creating more land area.

Since the 1960s, Singapore has added more than 100 sq km, or a sixth of its original size - five times the size of the greater Tampines area.

The industrial Jurong Island itself is made up of seven smaller islands stitched together by reclamation, and at 32 sq km it is larger than Singapore's four gazetted nature reserves put together.

Today, the Government's Land Use Plan proposes future reclamation along northern and southern coastlines and islands from Pulau Tekong to Pulau Hantu, though environment groups are concerned this could affect marine biodiversity.

Land reclamation also has a limit: Filling in greater sea depths takes more sand and is more costly. Along the southern coast, reclaiming land farther out to sea would also begin to interfere with shipping lanes.

Singapore also puts some functions underground, particularly those that would otherwise take up too much valuable surface land.

Since 2008, the military has stored ammunition beneath a disused Mandai quarry, while the Jurong Rock Cavern is being built to store crude oil and other petroleum products.

Critical infrastructure like power cables, MRT lines, the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System, and the Common Services Tunnel under Marina Bay are also beneath the surface, and there are theoretical proposals and studies for housing power plants, water treatment, waste incineration and even nuclear energy underground.

Finally, it is trying to squeeze as much use from every piece of land.

The western Tengeh reservoir will get floating solar panels in a pilot project to tap the sun's energy for electricity, while community farms in Bukit Panjang and Clementi serve as recreation areas and a food source.

Even roads could be put to better use.

Last month, in a Budget debate in Parliament, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the Land Transport Authority was studying the feasibility of a "reversible flow" traffic scheme for some areas where heavy traffic is one-directional at different times of the day, such as the stretch between the Kranji Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway.

Read more!

Measures for safe diving culture

Straits Times Forum 4 Apr 13;

WE REFER to Ms Angela Chong's letter ("Adopt zero-tolerance approach to diving mishaps"; March 26).

The National Water Safety Council (NWSC) set up a recreational diving safety committee in January 2011 to look into enhancing recreational diving safety standards.

Following two years of deliberations and consultations with stakeholders from the diving fraternity, the committee recommended establishing an official set of standard safety guidelines for local operators and participants, and a national safety programme for recreational diving.

The Technical Reference for Recreational Diving, or TR 32, was launched on Jan 7 this year by the NWSC and the Singapore Standards Council.

The TR 32 provides dive operators with a set of consistent standards to help them address safety concerns and make appropriate decisions when conducting overseas trips.

These include ensuring that equipment is well-maintained, trainee divers are certified to be competent and fit to undertake dives, and that operators are familiar with medical and first aid procedures. The TR 32 also aims to promote participants' awareness of safety issues.

Better-informed divers will thus be able to exercise greater personal responsibility for their safety, by expecting diving operators to provide the right level of safety measures.

The Singapore Underwater Federation will be managing a DiveSafer programme, which will accredit and audit dive operators compliant with the TR guidelines.

DiveSafer, which will be launched later this month, aims to encourage consumers to seek the services of DiveSafer-accredited operators.

As more operators get accredited, consumers would also have greater assurance that their training and safety needs are met.

We hope these measures will provide a set of best practices towards safer diving, and set the foundation for a safer diving culture in Singapore.

Teo Ho Pin (Dr)
Chairman, National Water Safety Council

Song Shing Hae
President, Singapore Underwater Federation

Adopt zero-tolerance approach to diving mishaps
Straits Times Forum 26 Mar 13;

THERE have been several cases over the years of recreational scuba divers from Singapore who encountered difficulties while in the water.

The latest incident claimed the life of a university professor ("SMU professor dies during dive trip off Mersing"; March 16).

One difficulty frequently cited in diving accidents is that if the incident occurs outside Singapore waters, the Singapore authorities may not have the powers to investigate it.

Nevertheless, divers should adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards accidents, and ensure that there is better awareness of the recommended operational guidelines.

Diving instructors in Singapore, like those in most other countries, usually rely on external international agencies that prescribe training procedures and certify instructors.

Many of these agencies have headquarters in the United States, such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, National Association of Underwater Instructors and Scuba Schools International, while others are based in Europe, such as the British Sub Aqua Club in Britain.

While many countries rely on these agencies to provide licensing for teaching professionals, some countries also require individual instructors or the dive shops that employ them to take out liability insurance, which adds to operating costs.

It would be good if the Singapore Underwater Federation, which is affiliated to the Singapore Sports Council, took on a more prominent leadership role in promoting safety awareness within the scuba diving fraternity and in the investigation of accidents - wherever they occur.

Having stated guidelines is good, but there must be a will and drive to ensure that they are followed.

It would be good to promote the orientation of divers and instructors in local and neighbouring waters, spread awareness of local boating etiquette and draw lessons from accidents.

Angela Chong (Ms)

Read more!

A third of frogs in danger of extinction

Borneo Post 4 Apr 13;

KUCHING: A third of frogs are in danger of going extinct, mostly from human-induced factors, said professor of herpetology Dr Indraneil Das.

However, the amphibians are being discovered faster than scientists can describe them, with 7,044 species (including other amphibians) recorded and new ones emerging every week.

During ‘The Amazing World of Frogs’ talk held by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kuching on Tuesday, Das from the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said frogs and other amphibians are our window to nature.

“By protecting frogs, we automatically protect nature,” he said, adding that frogs need both good forests and clean streams to survive.

He said frogs could potentially hold answers to human ailments.

Das described one genus of frogs where the mother would swallow the fertilised eggs, incubate them in her stomach and regurgitate them as young frogs.

Their ability to halt their digestive process with the eggs could have provided a cure for gastric, he said.

Sadly these particular frogs went extinct shortly after they were described.

While it is a better know fact that male frogs primarily call to attract females, Das said that certain species of frogs also emit a distress call when grabbed.

“Very often, the victim will have no chance of getting away when grabbed, but it will still make noise.”

He said that it is possible to tell if there is a snake in the vicinity by the calls made.

“Even if the frog is swallowed by the snake, you can still hear them call from inside the stomach. So what is the function? You have to devote some serious behavioural theories to understand this.”

On a lighter note, he said male frogs also have a specific release call they use when grabbed by another male.

He also warned those who come into contact with frogs to wash their hands thoroughly.

“Frogs are full of different chemicals on their skin, and are not to be messed with,” he said.

Das said there are over 180 species of frogs in Borneo, based on their limited research and unpublished research.

“Around 110 species were described in Mulu alone,” he said, before pointing out that Southeast Asia and South America are hotspots for amphibian research.

Meanwhile, the Bornean Frog Race 2013 will be held on April 27 at Kubah National Park.

Held in celebration of the international ‘Save the Frogs Day’, the race hopes to raise public awareness of declining populations of frogs and other amphibians.

Event general-secretary Pang Sing Tyan said 65 of the 100 spots have been filled.

“Those who do not want to join the race itself can still attend the talks and workshops in the afternoon,” she said.

The race will involve participants following designated trails in the national park within two hours to take photographic evidence for the most number of amphibians found, rarest amphibian found, and best amphibian photo taken.

Registration is RM25 for students, RM30 for non-students and RM50 for foreigners.

Participants must bring along their camera with appropriate flash, lenses and download cables.

For more information, go to or

Read more:

Read more!

South Africa rhino poaching toll for year tops 200

(AFP) Google News 4 Apr 13;

JOHANNESBURG — Poachers have killed over 200 rhinos in South Africa this year, the environment ministry said Wednesday, as a major security operation fails to curb illegal hunting for the rhino horn trade.

The world-famous Kruger National Park was the hardest hit, with dozens of raids by poachers.

"This is like full scale war that's raging in that park," environment ministry spokesman Albi Modise told AFP, after 56 incursions were recorded by rangers in just 12 days in March.

The toll since the beginning of the year is now 203.

Even soldiers and police with helicopters deployed to stop the slaughter struggle to secure the vast reserve, which is roughly the size of Israel.

Last Sunday a mutilated rhino cow was found "bleeding profusely from having its horns, entire mouth, tongue, nose and eyes hacked off and had to be euthanised", the ministry said in a statement.

A poacher was killed in a shootout the same day, while another is believed to have committed suicide.

At the weekend, five soldiers died in a military chopper crash during an anti-poaching operation.

Sixty people have been arrested this year.

The lucrative Asian market for rhino horn drives poaching in South Africa, which has the largest rhino population on the continent. Asian consumers falsely believe the horns, the same material as fingernails, have powerful healing properties.

The killings have escalated from 13 poachings in 2007.

Last year, 668 rhinos were killed.

Read more!

Arctic Going Green from Warming, Study Finds

Tia Ghose LiveScience Yahoo News 4 Apr 13;

Large swaths of the Arctic tundra will be warm enough to support lush vegetation and trees by 2050, suggests a new study.

Higher temperatures will lessen snow cover, according to the study, which is detailed in the March 31 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. That, in turn, will decrease the sunlight reflected back into the atmosphere and increase warming. About half the areas will see vegetation change, and areas currently populated by shrubs may find woody trees taking their place.

"Substitute the snowy surface with the darker surface of a coniferous tree, and the darker surface stores more heat," said study co-author Pieter Beck, a vegetative ecologist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. "It's going to exacerbate warming."

Warming Arctic

The Arctic climate affects the world: Changes in sea ice affect ocean circulation, which, in turn, affects atmospheric circulation that then impacts the globe, said Bruce Forbes, a geographer at the Arctic Center at the University of Lapland in Finland, who was not involved in the study. [Images of Melt: Earth's Vanishing Ice]

Past research suggested that warming has already brought later winters and earlier springs to the Arctic. And fossil forests reveal the Arctic was once green as well.

To find out exactly how much greening Arctic warming would bring, the team used a model that projected how temperature changes would affect snow cover, vegetation, and the increased evaporation and transpiration from plants in the Arctic.

Transformed tundra

The team found that at least half of the tundra would see changes in the plant types it supported by 2050. In addition, they found more than a 50 percent increase in how much woody greenery — such as coniferous trees — would populate the Arctic. The tree line would also shift north, with coniferous forests sprouting where shrubs once grew.

Most of the greening was driven by the loss of reflectivity, or albedo, from snow cover. With less snow to reflect heat back into the atmosphere and more dark trees, the Earth gets warmer, "just like a dark car gets hotter in a warm parking lot than a light car does," Beck told LiveScience.

That warmth supports more tree and shrub growth, creating a positive feedback cycle to the warming, Beck said.

Real effect

The findings match forecasts for Arctic greening predicted by various other methods, and they foreshadow effects that will strike closer to home later, Forbes said.

"What's happening now in the Arctic is a faster version of what will be happening at lower latitudes," Forbes told LiveScience.

That could worsen extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy in the future.

"The snowstorms in Washington, D.C., and New York, and the flooding and the freezing on the River Thames — the extreme weather will continue to be extreme but it won't be so uncommon," Forbes said.

Read more!

Environmental groups pressure U.N. body for carbon aviation deal

Valerie Volcovici PlanetArk 2 Apr 13;

Environmental groups have urged the United States to back a global deal to curb carbon emissions produced by planes, noting that global aviation emits more of the greenhouse gas than all but six of the world's nations.

The groups, alarmed at scant progress toward an agreement within a United Nations aviation body, presented a petition with more than 60,000 signatures on Monday to a representative of the U.S. State Department.

The petition asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to secure agreement under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for a market-based approach to curb heat-trapping emissions produced by planes.

Environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, want Kerry to honor a statement he made while still a U.S. senator that nations must forge an international agreement on aviation emissions.

Kerry did not attend a meeting of high-level negotiators from 17 countries from March 25 to March 27 at ICAO's Montreal headquarters but his climate change envoy Todd Stern represented the State Department

The high-level group is attempting to devise a plan that would avert the reinstatement of an unpopular European Union law requiring all aircraft that land at or take off from EU airports to pay for emissions through the bloc's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

The United States, China, India and Russia all lobbied fiercely against the EU law's planned implementation date of 2012. The countries won a one-year reprieve from Europe, where officials were worried about touching off a trade war.

In November the European Commission said its agreement to freeze the law for a year was intended to spur the creation of a less contentious global alternative at ICAO.

Since then ICAO's working group has considered various market-based measures to address emissions, such as mandatory carbon offsetting and a global carbon cap-and-trade system.

Aoife O'Leary, a policy officer for the advocacy group Transportation & Environment, told Reuters that three days of talks this week left negotiators no closer to an agreement.

"There is not much prospect of any global market-based mechanism by September," said O'Leary, who presented to the group on behalf of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, an umbrella group of environmental NGOs.

O'Leary's presentation said that a global market-based mechanism to set a price on carbon emissions was the only way the airline industry can meet its own goal of achieving carbon-neutral growth in 2020 and cutting emissions 50 percent by 2050.

She said a plan for a global market-based mechanism should be agreed in time for ICAO's triennial assembly of its over 190 member countries in September, and that the assembly should agree to an "accelerated timeline" to implement it by 2016.

But so far, delegates have not advanced a plan, and concluded this week's meeting with a draft of general principles to discuss at a later meeting.

Countries seem to be deadlocked over the geographic scope of a global mechanism over how to charge for carbon emissions related to international flights.

A U.S. proposal for curbing aircraft emissions would exclude time spent flying over international waters. The EU, on the other hand, wants to apply a carbon charge to emissions released over international airspace.

U.S. airlines want any market-based mechanism delayed at least for the rest of the decade, instead preferring to focus on improving "technology, operations and infrastructure".

(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio)

Read more!