Best of our wild blogs: 20 Apr 13

New articles on Nature in Singapore website
from Raffles Museum News

Outreach Event: Otter Cycling Trail v2.0
from Otters in Singapore

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Retain Pulau Ubin for nature lovers

Heng Cho Choon Today Online 20 Apr 13;

The commentary, “Pulau Ubin and the unsettled S’pore psyche” (April 18), touched a chord with me, as I have been a regular visitor to the island since 1970. The boat fare then was S$1.00; today, it is $2.50.

The only other palpable change is the absence of granite quarries.

I have cycled to every corner of the island, its terrain different from that of East Coast Park. Only last week, I went there with friends to pick durians.

Bukit Brown is a forsaken cemetery, with tombstones covered with creepers and some cracked by tree roots. If Bidadari and its ornate tombstones can be sacrificed, then the old graveyard at Bukit Brown should give way to a road and housing.

Sentosa may attract the well-heeled, but let Pulau Ubin be retained for trekkers, cyclists and campers. Noordin Beach and Mamam Beach are the last of our enchanting beaches, while Chek Jawa is well known for its marine life.

Pulau Ubin is also famous for its mangrove forests and nature trails. Let us preserve the Bruguiera gymnorrhiza with its scarlet hypocotyl, the drongos with their beautiful tails and the tree-climbing crabs called the Episesarma singaporense.

If these are sacrificed in the name of progress, the loss would be irreplaceable for our future generations.

Related links
More about Pulau Ubin, how to get there what to see and do, on wildsingapore.

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Preserve our past for the future

Straits Times Forum 20 Apr 13;

Reading In Search Of Singapore's Past (SundayLife!, April 14), I was reminded of what a friend told me about his mother who had died last year.

He said it had been difficult for her in her twilight years. All the places that were familiar to her, where she had raised her children, were gone. She was not just losing her mind, but also losing her daily compass points. Her links to her past were disappearing one by one. To me, that is a microcosm of what Singaporeans face if we do not make efforts to preserve our past.

Most of the Alexandra-Redhill area - the schools, low-rise flats, market and the streets where I grew up - is gone. The area is fast becoming an upmarket condo belt, which is so incongruous and remote from what I remembered.

But a lot of other memories are fading too, such as those associated with the now-defunct Capitol Theatre and the old MPH building. The buildings may still be there, but the people, such as the kacang puteh man, the sarabat stalls and other repositories of our memories, including the old National Library, have vanished and become apparitions in my mind.

Our memories are physically eviscerated every few years in the name of progress - urban renewal and en-bloc sales. The list of places where we find comfort and refuge in our daily lives keeps getting shorter.

For example, how long did Borders last, compared to the MPH Bookstore on Stamford Road?

What is the point of being asset-rich when we are deprived of our collective memories?

If we do not make the effort to preserve our heritage, as in the case of Bukit Brown cemetery, we may end up living our twilight years in ever-shrinking shoeboxes in a giant, bubblegum-free theme park surrounded by pockets of artificially manicured and what I call bonsai attractions, such as Gardens by the Bay.

How can we call a place home when we are forever lost in transition, if the old keep vanishing and the young keep forgetting?

Leow Aik Jiang

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Indonesia fires bring haze to Singapore

Air quality still in healthy range; hazy condition to continue over weekend
Lim Yi Han And Feng Zengkun Straits Times 20 Apr 13;

THE hazy skies and burning smell in the air across many parts of Singapore yesterday were caused by fires in Indonesia, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has said.

It added that some haze can be expected for the rest of the week, and it is monitoring the situation.

Even so, the air quality here remains healthy, according to the latest Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings at 4pm yesterday.

The index ranged from 28 to 43 across the island, within the "good" category. Air becomes unhealthy only when the index crosses 100.

Most people did not notice the haze until yesterday morning. Members of the public told The Straits Times there was a burning smell even indoors.

Undergraduate Kenneth Goh, 25, who lives in Tanjong Pagar, said: "I was by my window at home and I could smell it. The sky also looked gloomy and the view of the buildings around was quite blur."

Yesterday's daily PSI readings were an average of the previous 24 hours. That means the reading could have been worse at different times yesterday. In the past, when the haze was worse, the NEA issued a three-hour reading.

Earlier this month, Singapore also experienced haze because of hot spots in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, which were experiencing their traditional dry season.

This time, fires in Sumatra were to blame. The haze and smell were brought here by prevailing winds blowing from the south-west and west, said the NEA. Sumatra is located about 400km south-west of Singapore.

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore website, the number of hot spots in Sumatra spiked from fewer than 20 on Sunday to about 130 on Monday, although the figure has since fallen.

Fires in Indonesia are typically caused by the dry season from June to September, and farmers and logging companies clearing land using fire.

But Indonesian news reports last month quoted a government spokesman as saying that this year's dry season could begin as early as this month.

People with lung or heart conditions, children and the elderly should reduce or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise when there is haze, the NEA said.

Hazy conditions to continue: NEA
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 20 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE — Expect hazy conditions over Singapore and a burning smell to linger in the air for a few more days. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the haze and burning smell that hung over Singapore yesterday are from fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra, which are brought over by prevailing winds blowing from the south-west or western direction.

It added that hazy conditions are “expected occasionally over this period” as satellite images have shown smoke plumes, originating from hot spots in Riau province, being blown towards Singapore. The winds are forecasted to occasionally blow from the south-west or western direction “for the next few days”, said the NEA. At least 15 callers to the MediaCorp News Hotline reported poor visibility and a burning smell across many parts of the island, such as West Coast, Yishun, Toa Payoh, Punggol and Pasir Ris.

Despite these reports, the overall Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings across the island ranged between 28 and 43 as at 4pm yesterday — falling into the “good” range. A reading below 50 is classified as “good”, higher than 50 is “moderate” and anything higher than 100 is “unhealthy”. The level of PM2.5, or very fine particulate matter, was between 20 to 30 micrograms per cubic metre, yesterday.

Singapore’s air quality was generally good for the first three months of this year, with the PSI reading just crossing over into the “moderate” range on March 27, when it reached 53.

Several residents TODAY spoke to experienced sinus problems due to the poor air quality.

Mr Siah H D, 25, who is self-employed and works in an outdoor environment, said: “Several of my colleagues started coughing, while my nose is running a marathon.”

Student Tan Jie Ying, 24, who experienced sinus problems and dry eyes, was confused between the “good” PSI readings as opposed to the hazy conditions she experienced in her Punggol-area home. She questioned: “How can the numbers fall within the good range when it is so smoggy and there is an obvious burning smell in the air?”

The PSI readings reflected on the NEA’s website are based on 24-hour readings, which are updated at 8am, 12pm and 4pm daily. The NEA said it is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further updates when necessary. Woo Sian Boon

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Malaysia: Tapir saved in Cherating

T. N. Alagaesh New Straits Times 20 Apr 13;

UNEXPECTED 'VISITOR': Roaming animal's legs stuck in mud at beach

KUANTAN: BEACHGOERS and villagers at Cherating, near here, pulled out a female tapir trapped in its famous sandy beach on Thursday.

The adult tapir, weighing 200kg, was earlier spotted roaming near chalets along the beach before it headed towards the sea at 6pm.

However, its legs got stuck in mud and it struggled to free itself before help arrived.

State Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said since it was low tide, villagers managed to dig the sand around the tapir's legs and pull the animal out.

The tapir, which was exhausted and dehydrated, was then tied up and brought to a shed before a villager alerted the department.

"When our personnel arrived, the animal appeared weak but it was doing well.

"Our officers alerted the Jenderak Wildlife Conservation Centre in Kuala Krau for assistance to relocate it.

"The tapir was fed and given medical treatment before it was sedated and sent to Kuala Krau Wildlife Reserve in Temerloh yesterday morning," she said when contacted yesterday.

Khairiah said Malaysian Civil Defence Department personnel and a group of villagers assisted department personnel to rescue the animal.

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Malaysia: Penang turtle conservation centre scores a first

The Star 20 Apr 13;

GEORGE TOWN: The 23-year-old turtle conservation centre in Penang has scored a first, hatching its first batch of Olive Ridley turtle eggs.

The 39 hatchlings were from a batch of 65 eggs collected in Sungai Batu, at the south-eastern tip of the island, in mid-February.

Pantai Kerachut Turtle Conservation Centre head Mansor Yobe said the eggs hatched last week.

“We will rear the hatchlings till they are much larger to increase their chances of survival in the wild before releasing them.

“It is rare to see Olive Ridley hatchlings in Malaysia, so they will be a source of ecological education at our centre too,” he said at a ceremony to release six tagged adult green turtles and 40 green turtle hatchlings at the centre on Thursday.

Twenty guests of Penang Parkroyal Resort, led by its general manager Francois Gabriel Sigrist, were also present for the occasion.

Mansor recalled getting a telephone call one night in February from a villager in Sungai Batu, who told him of a turtle landing on the 200m stretch of beach there.

“That's how turtles behave. The late evening landings are only their reconnaissance trips,” he explained.

Mansor said he rushed to Sungai Batu after getting the call.

“All lights in the village were turned off and they kept the beach as dark and tranquil as possible,” he said.

The Olive Ridley returned at 1.30am and by 3am, Mansor collected 65 eggs and tagged the reptile before it returned to the sea.

He said it was the first time the centre had Olive Ridley hatchings although there had been past occurrences in other parts of Penang.

It had been reported that among the places where there had been Olive Ridley hatchlings was Teluk Kumbar in 2007 and 2009.

Mansor said the centre's conservation officers would keep a closer watch along the Sungai Batu-Gertak Sanggul stretch since there had been several Olive Ridley landings there.

He said the turtle eggs take about 50 days to hatch, with a hatching rate of 60%.

State Fisheries Department deputy director Noraisyah Abu Bakar described the turtle population in Penang as stable but fragile.

“Last year, we spotted 10 turtles making 50 landings. From them, we collected 5,606 eggs and hatched 3,201 of them,” she said, adding that the centre had released about 50,000 green turtle hatchlings into the sea since 1990.

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Indonesia Moves Towards Approving Deforestation Plan in Aceh

Jakarta Globe 19 Apr 13;

The Indonesian government has said it aims to approve within a month a plan that would free up vast swathes of protected virgin rainforest on Sumatra island for commercial exploitation.

Rights groups reacted with outrage at the news that the plan, which also needs to be passed by the Aceh provincial parliament, was making progress, saying it would only benefit huge foreign companies and not the area's people.

But Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, which conducts gold exploration in Aceh, hailed the progress as "positive news for mineral extraction in the area."

The government aimed to approve the plan "in up to a month," senior forestry ministry official Hadi Daryanto said late on Thursday.

Rights groups say it will free up around 1.2 million hectares to be cleared.

The head of the Aceh legislative committee overseeing the project, Tengku Anwar, said it had a lot of support in the legislature. "We hope it will go through as soon as possible," he said.

Approval of the plan would open up the forest, on the northern tip of Sumatra province and home to critically endangered orangutans, rhinos, and elephants, for mining, paper and palm oil plantations.

The Aceh government banned the granting of new logging permits six years ago to protect the forest, but a new administration that came in last year is in favor of allowing logging again.

East Asia Minerals' chief executive Edward Rochette said the company was "very pleased" at the progress because if the plan was approved, it would help the group's gold exploration activities.

"These new developments are good progress and positive news for mineral extraction in the area," Rochette said in a statement.

The company said it was working with government officials, and company representatives on the ground in Aceh province were pushing for the forest to be reclassified from "protected forest" to "production forest."

But Friends of the Earth Indonesia campaigner Dedi Ratih said the plan must be "immediately rejected."

The plan "is being developed via a highly unhealthy process, in which foreign corporations are intervening and driving local policy," he said.

Ian Singleton, who works in Aceh for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, said the East Asia Minerals' statement was "amazing" and that it was "shooting itself in the foot."

"The Aceh government has repeatedly claimed this plan is to benefit the people of Aceh, but this shows that's clearly not the case," he said.

Agence France-Presse

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