Best of our wild blogs: 22 Apr 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [15 - 21 Apr 2013]
from Green Business Times

UNESCO Heritage Listing?
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Bird Watching @ Kranji Marshes, #5 Kranji Reservoir Park
from My Nature Experiences

Makan time at Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

From Lornie Trail to Rifle Range Link
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Female Olive-backed Sunbird Sips Nectar – In Slow Motion
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle
from Monday Morgue

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More sightings of wild otters in Singapore

Resurgence may be due to land development in Johor: Researchers
David Ee Straits Times 22 Apr 13;

LESS than 20 years ago, the Singapore Zoo may have been the only place here where you could see these playful animals. But sightings of wild smooth-coated otters, once rare here, have soared by 10 times in the past decade.

In 2000, just four sightings were reported. By 2011, the number had risen to 39, according to figures from otter researcher Meryl Theng. The actual number would "definitely be higher", said the National University of Singapore graduate, if unrecorded sightings were included.

A fortnight ago, a pair of the mammals, listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, were sighted resting on a breakwater at East Coast Park, creating a stir online. At least three others were also seen on the rocky southern coast near Marina Bay.

While the exact numbers are uncertain, as are the reasons for their resurgence, researchers suspect that development and land reclamation in nearby Johor in recent years may be the catalyst. "Johor is developing rapidly, and this could be forcing the otters out," said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

Much of Singapore's northern coast - with the densely vegetated shores in Sungei Buloh, along Sungei Tampines, and in the new Punggol and Serangoon reservoirs - is suitable for otters, he said. But Singapore's southern shores tend to be more developed and make poor habitats for otters.

Why then have they been seen there, and even as far south as Pulau Semakau? Mr Rajathurai explained that these are generally young males trying to establish their own packs.

The sleek creatures are social, often hunting together in groups of four to seven. They are estuarine, making them equally at home in fresh water or sea water, feeding on fish and prawns.

But they may not succeed along the urbanised southern shores, and face threats from onshore traffic. In 2011, a dead otter was found in Harbour Drive near West Coast Park. Another was hit by traffic near Bedok Reservoir.

Mr Rajathurai is hoping that the first islandwide otter study, a collaboration with the National Parks Board, which he is concluding next month, may shed more light on the otter population. It could convince the authorities to designate some reservoirs as wildlife sanctuaries. "Our reservoirs are here, holding water for us. Why not make them more attractive for wildlife?" he said.

Mechanical engineer Ishad Rageeb saw an otter for the very first time last month while cycling at Serangoon Reservoir. "It was completely unexpected. Seeing them that close was remarkable. I think it's important that we nurture their populations."

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7 habits of environmentally conscious people

Straits Times Forum 22 Apr 13;

TODAY, April 22, is Earth Day, which is celebrated globally with activities to remind us to do our part for the environment.

But do we still continue this effort after Earth Day? There are seven habits commonly found in people who are environmentally conscious that we can learn from.

One, develop a respect for nature, and renew our bond with nature and its biodiversity.

Nature has much to teach us on how to live in harmony with other creatures on earth. Without this respect and bond, there will be no desire to protect nature. Start exploring nature areas in Singapore and join guided walks to learn more.

Two, read up on local and global environmental issues. What are the current environmental trends and problems? What needs to be done? Make a commitment to learn more about these issues from channels such as websites, books, and newspapers.

Three, reduce our environmental impact by taking personal action to reduce energy and water consumption, and waste. Embrace sufficiency in our consumption, and practise the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Four, spread the green message and educate family members, friends, classmates or colleagues. Share your knowledge with them and make use of social media. Influence the organisation that you belong to, whether it is a school, company, or social group, to be more environmentally friendly.

Five, participate in government and civil society initiatives for the environment. Support local environmental causes and non-governmental organisations, and join the various activities organised by the groups or volunteer your time with them.

Six, participate actively and constructively as citizens in the formulation of government policies on the environment. This could be through government dialogue sessions or feedback channels, and also through the media. Play a part in advocating green causes that you feel strongly about.

Seven, make a conscious choice to be a responsible consumer. Buy only what you need and always think twice before buying. Choose more eco-friendly, sustainable, ethical and organic products that are made by sustainable businesses.

We can all commit to adopt and practise the seven habits and do our part for the earth.

Eugene Tay Tse Chuan

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Animal welfare included in syllabus on building character

David Ee Straits Times 22 Apr 13;

BOTH primary and secondary students will learn the importance of animal welfare in the new upcoming Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) syllabus to be introduced next year.

Through this, they will gain an understanding of "how they can contribute towards developing a caring society", using their daily experiences as a guide, an Education Ministry (MOE) spokesman said.

MOE was responding to queries from The Straits Times, after Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam - who has championed animal rights in recent years - revealed in an interview with a magazine this month that the CCE syllabus would teach students about animal care and handling.

He had said: "I'm a strong believer that children are automatically interested and loving towards pets, so we should encourage them and educate them so that the future generation will be even more loving or at least tolerant of animals."

MOE did not provide more details about the syllabus content.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat had announced last November that the CCE syllabus - begun in the 1990s to teach values - would from 2014 no longer focus solely on textbook learning, and that schools would be given more flexibility to design their own CCE programmes.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had written to Mr Heng last December, asking him to consider including an animal welfare module in the new CCE syllabus.

Animal welfare groups were pleasantly surprised by the news. Despite few details being made available, they said this could be "a big step forward" in changing mindsets towards animals.

Mr Ricky Yeo, president of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), said: "If a child grows up learning about animals, it would not consider them foreign and alien. For those who don't, it would be very hard to change their minds."

SPCA executive director Corinne Fong added: "This is more than just about pets. It's about being compassionate to any living thing, including our fellow human beings."

But for the syllabus to be meaningful, they said that it would have to include interaction with animals, not just classroom lessons, and be taught to children from a young age.

The SPCA hosts up to 100 school field trips a year at its shelter, where students as young as pre-schoolers interact under staff supervision with rabbits, hamsters, dogs and cats. ASD occasionally brings dogs to schools for students to learn how to interact with them.

Both groups said they hoped these opportunities for students continue, whether under the new CCE syllabus or not. They welcomed the MOE to make use of the experience animal welfare groups here have.

Educators similarly hailed the move. "I view this as very timely," said Mrs Jacinta Lim, principal of Yangzheng Primary. "We have to start with the younger generation. That's where impressions are made. If you want to mould a child, you have to start right when they're young."

She added that the inclusion of animal welfare under CCE "underscores its importance".

Supplementing CCE lessons with, for example, attachments to animal welfare groups, is important, said Ang Mo Kio Secondary principal Abdul Mannan.

In the future, this may even lead to improved pet care and a fall in animal abuse cases, said Mr Yeo. "You will see the effects of it a generation later, when these kids grow up."

Animal welfare improving but 'more can be done'
Irresponsible ownership, pet abandonment among concerns
David Ee Straits Times 23 Apr 13;

ANIMAL welfare is gaining ground, with its introduction into the national school curriculum and laws in this area expected to be toughened.

But groups say they would like to see more done.

To encourage character-building, the Education Ministry is incorporating it into the Character and Citizenship Education syllabus to be introduced next year.

Last month, the Government-commissioned Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee also recommended wide-ranging measures - both legislative and industry-led - to improve the lives of pets in Singapore.

There have been other signs of progress.

Pilot programmes to get stray dogs and cats adopted in Housing Board flats started on a positive note, a national adoption centre is in the pipeline and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has in recent years begun re-homing some stray dogs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K.Shanmugam and Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin have also been visible in championing greater animal protection.

But tensions and challenges remain. Animal welfare groups - most representing dogs and cats - have grown by about 20 per cent since 2004 and now number at least 30.

The largest of these are the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Cat Welfare Society (CWS), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), Agency for Animal Welfare (AAW), Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) and the Animal Lovers' League.

Passionate and vocal, their volunteers and other animal lovers often harness social media as a clarion call, bringing animal concerns to the fore. At times, this has put the AVA and even the SPCA on the back foot.

On March 19, a member of the public took to Facebook claiming that the AVA put down a stray golden retriever unnecessarily. Her post was shared more than 5,000 times and prompted the authority to issue two explanations on its Facebook page.

Last October, the SPCA moved to improve how it identifies lost animals after hundreds of netizens criticised it for mistakenly euthanising a lost pet dog.

"It's not a sit-and-wait situation any more. Now everything is out on the Net in the open. People are tweeting, Facebooking," said Ms Eunice Nah, chief advocate volunteer for the AAW.

Groups say social media can be just as counter-productive as it can helpful. "It could give a bad image to animal welfare," said SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah. "People may sympathise less with the cause, thinking that (animal lovers) are going overboard."

The AVA said it welcomes greater awareness about animal welfare as it "reflects civic-consciousness and a maturity of understanding about the treatment of animals".

This very civic-consciousness has driven groups to regularly air their views on moves they feel AVA should take.

Welfare groups say problems of irresponsible ownership, animal abandonment, the large stray dog population and re-homing policies are linked, and that the AVA should focus on these root causes rather than rely on culling.

On their wish list of policies not included in the committee's report: a concerted effort to sterilise the 8,000-strong stray dog population here, for HDB to relax its ban on medium and large dogs in flats and mandatory training for all prospective pet buyers.

A national sterilisation programme would control the stray population, they say, reducing the need for heavy-handed culling. While the AVA recognised that sterilisation could be "effective", it stressed that "relying solely (on it)... is not a viable option. Dogs, sterilised or not, can still pose a public safety and public health risk".

Others want HDB rules relaxed as most strays are larger than the approved size, greatly lowering the odds of them being re-homed since about 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in public flats.

Groups say that larger breeds can be well managed as long as owners are informed and responsible dog keepers. But HDB says that small dogs are "generally more manageable", especially with the need to maintain conducive living for residents in these high-density estates.

A pilot to re-home stray dogs - stretching the rules - began in April last year, led by ASD and supported by the Government. It has since re-homed 18 strays. Last year, ASD re-homed about 100 out of the 240 dogs in its shelter, the vast majority in landed or condominium homes.

A similar pilot re-homing stray cats in Chong Pang is also underway.

Progress is being made, they acknowledge, but root causes like these mean the stray population remains large and animal shelters have been full for years. Culling is often the result, with the AVA killing strays for public safety and the SPCA doing the same to prevent overcrowding at its shelter.

In 2011 and 2012, the AVA euthanised about 2,400 stray dogs and re-homed about 220 others. In 2010, it put down 5,100 stray cats. SPCA declined to reveal its figures. Groups like the ASD and SOSD practise a "no kill" policy.

An AVA spokesman said it supported re-homing, but that "not all impounded dogs can be successfully re-homed and humane euthanasia is our last resort".

Inadequate law enforcement is another issue that has long been a sore point among animal lovers.

Animal abuse cases handled by the AVA and SPCA rose from 1,162 in 2007 to 1,426 in 2011, but warnings or fines were issued in only about 300 cases.

The AVA said it investigates every case of animal cruelty reported to it, but that it needs "verifiable evidence and witnesses who are willing to testify in court" to take further action.

SPCA's executive director, Ms Corinne Fong, said the AVA would be able to do more if given legislative power and a boost in manpower. She called on the public to be more understanding.

"AVA is hamstrung by the current laws. If the law is broadened and they are given specific powers of enforcement, then their job would be much easier. The courts must give them more bite and they need a larger budget."

The AVA said that it views working together with the groups as "integral" to animal welfare.

Ultimately, groups remain optimistic about the path ahead, saying that political will and public sentiment appear to be in their favour. "If you do this for so long, you have to be optimistic," said CWS president Veron Lau.

SPCA developing animal-welfare website for educators and students
Straits Times Forum 24 Apr 13;

WE ARE pleased that the Education Ministry has confirmed the inclusion of animal welfare in the new Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum ("Animal welfare included in syllabus on building character"; Monday), starting next year in primary and secondary schools.

Our meeting with the ministry earlier this year regarding the CCE curriculum went well, and we discussed extensively the importance of teaching our young good values.

We cannot stress enough the importance of these changes to the education curriculum as we are raising the next generation of young girls and boys to be respectable and responsible citizens, and to live lives of kindness, having compassion for animals and fellow human beings. This is the breakthrough we have been hoping for.

We are putting together a dedicated website for educators, teachers and students. This site will serve as a resource for those who wish to teach or learn about animal welfare.

As our schools have a fair amount of autonomy when it comes to deciding the curriculum for the CCE syllabus, we look forward to helping our educators and children with this resource material.

Corinne Fong (Ms)
Executive Director
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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Haze disrupts flights in Pekanbaru

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 22 Apr 13;

A thick haze on Monday morning forced authorities in Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, to apply a flight ban from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. local time.

“The haze is hampering pilot visibility, which is reaching only around 200 meters. This is very dangerous and is far below flight safety standards. An aircraft will be permitted to take off only if the visibility from the cockpit reaches more than 500 meters,” said Ibnu Hasan, Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport's duty manager, in Pekanbaru on Monday.

Limited visibility caused delays to eight regular flights from and to Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport for several hours.

Passengers on Lion Air and Garuda flights to Jakarta and Wings Air to Batam, which should have departed at 6 a.m. local time, had to wait until the haze dispersed.

“At 8:30 a.m., cockpit visibility was beyond 800 meters, so it was quite safe for aircraft to take off,” said Ibnu.

Flights operated by Mandala Airlines and Lion Air from Jakarta, Wings Air from Batam, Air Asia from Bandung, and Silk Air from Singapore landed one at a time at the airport after 9:20 a.m., while they should have arrived at Pekanbaru between 7:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Ibnu said the airport’s operations started to return to normal after 10:20 a.m. “I have to underline that the haze that affected the airport’s operations this morning was caused by dew, not by smoke,” he added. (ebf)

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Malaysia: Johor, by any other name, is just as famous

Peggy Loh New Straits Times 22 Apr 13;

EVOLUTION: We all know the state by its current name but few know that Johor originally went by some very unusual names, writes Peggy Loh

DID you know that before the reign of Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, Johor was once known by obscure names like Lenggiu, Ganggayu and Galoh?

There was a time when the spelling for Johor was Johore - with an "e" - a word believed to have originated from the Arabic word, Jauhar, which means, "gem" or "jewel". When you pass the corner of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Sawmill, look out for the Jawi rendition of the word, Jauhar which is now preserved there in a beautiful sculpture.

A plaque in the Johor Bharu Chinese Heritage Museum states that when Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim gained sovereignty over the territory of Johor in 1855, he called it Iskandar Petrie, which was renamed Johore Bahru (note spelling) in 1866.

Based on historical records, Johor had various ancient names like Hujung Medini, Ujong Tanah (land's end) or Wurawari, a Javanese word that means "clear water." The area south of the Muar River to Singapore was known as Ujong Tanah because this region was acknowledged as the southernmost tip of mainland Asia.

When Stamford Raffles came to Singapore in 1819, the Chinese in the Riau Islands and Singapore were already successfully cultivating gambier. In Singapore, the land around Kranji and Sembawang, they fondly called the "Old Mountain," was exhausted and infertile after being cultivated for 10 to 15 years. So when Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim invited them to move into Johor to open the land for new plantations, the Chinese were ready to relocate.

Aware that Johor had an enlightened ruler who understood the Chinese and encouraged them to come to Johor, their interest was aroused. With a strong pioneering spirit, immigrant Chinese were attracted to the prospect of settling on huge tracts of land, just waiting for them to clear for cultivation of pepper and gambier under the kangchu or River Lord system. Not long after Iskandar Petrie was established, the Chinese accepted Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim's grants to establish plantations in Johor and started to arrive by cargo-carrying barges or tongkang through Sungai Segget or Segget River, and settled in the nearby area.

At that time Iskandar Petrie was only a frontier outpost with a few huts occupied by fishermen and charcoal-makers near Sungai Segget. It was surrounded by jungle and mangrove forests and a flagpole flying the Johor flag near a police post on a hill represented the presence of a government. Its capital, Tanjung Puteri, was situated at a coastal site that had the most convenient boat access to Singapore - opposite the end of Bukit Timah Road in Singapore.

If you have been to the former Royal Abu Bakar Museum, housed in the Grand Palace in the Istana Gardens, you will remember some of the Sultan's hunting trophies preserved in the gallery. The elephant skeleton and ferocious fangs of stuffed tigers standing in the showcases, gave us a glimpse of the types and sizes of wild animals that once roamed the dense Johor jungles. In addition to being confronted by wild animals such as these, Chinese immigrants lost lives to strange diseases and the harsh environment as they braved physical challenges to clear the jungles and open up land through the rivers into Johor's interior.

Through the kangchu system, the River Lords could collect taxes and govern Chinese communities in their areas along the rivers. After Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim was succeeded by Sultan Abu Bakar, he continued his father's legacy in trying to develop Johor into a thriving metropolis.

According to Wu Hua, author of local history written in Chinese, Tan Kee Soon opened up Tan Chu Kang near Kangkar Tebrau while Wong Ah Fook opened up Jiu Soon Kang on the left bank of the Sungai Segget. Tan Hiok Nee opened a market on the right bank of Sungai Segget while Tan Tua Choon started a public trading post on Jalan Segget.

To the Chinese, Johor is Yau Fatt Chow (Cantonese) while Johor Baru is traditionally called Sun San (Cantonese), Sin Sua (Teochew) or Xinshan (Mandarin) a name literally translated as, "New Hill".

Sun San is a name believed to have been coined by the kangchu who had been farming pepper and gambier in Lim Chu Kang and Choa Chu Kang in Singapore, when they sighted a hill on their arrival in JB. This hill - probably Bukit Timbalan - was then known as Bukit Bendera or Flagstaff Hill.

The literal meaning of the word, san may mean, "hill" or "mountain," but the word, Sun San may likely be derived from the colloquial Chinese term, sanbah, which used to mean "jungle" or "rural area." So to Chinese immigrants, Sun San was in fact, the New Rural Settlement that was attracting them. The Chinese who settled in plantations were mainly Teochew who were involved with jungle clearing and opening rivers while a large number who came to Iskandar Petrie were Cantonese, mainly from Taishan, with occupations like carpenters and artisans, who contributed to the development of urban settlements.

In 19th century Johor, the Teochew settlement spanned from Jalan Ngee Heng - which used to stretch up to present-day Jalan Tun Abdul Razak - down Jalan Trus to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee while the Cantonese community was centered in Kampung Wong Ah Fook, an area between present-day Jalan Sawmill and the start of Jalan Tun Abdul Razak near Komplex Tun Abdul Razak. These two centres of early Chinese communities in Iskandar Petrie were geographically divided by Sungai Segget. The contributions of pioneering Chinese to the development of modern Johor remains a lasting legacy in a state which we now call, Johor Darul Takzim, the "Abode of Dignity."

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Philippines: New population of Irrawaddy dolphins discovered in Quezon, Palawan

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 22 Apr 13;

A NEW Philippine population of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins has been discovered near the coastal town of Quezon, Palawan, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) announced on Monday.

The discovery was reported by Mavic Matillano of WWF-Philippines’s Palawan Team, aptly as the country joins the world in celebrating Earth Day on April 22.

The Quezon, Palawan, pod represents the fourth known group of Irrawaddy dolphins reported in the Philippines.

Along with the sea cow, locally called dugong, the Irrawaddy dolphin has been identified as “critically endangered” in an assessment report on the conservation status of marine-mammal species in the Philippines.

Scientifically known as Dugong dugon and Irrawaddy dolphin, scientifically called Orcaella brevirostris, both face an extremely high risk of extinction, according to the Red List Status of Marine Mammals in the Philippines report, a comprehensive and up-to-date list of the country’s threatened dolphins, whales and dugongs that was published early this year.

Dugongs and Irrawaddy dolphins continue to face threats such as destruction of habitat, entanglement in fishing nets, solid waste, coastal development, boat traffic and sedimentation all made more severe with climate-change impacts.

WWF-Philippines described the Irrawaddy dolphins as unique because they are able to literally smile; they are able to adapt to a wide range of salinities, too. Irrawaddy dolphins are lightly colored all over. They have a blunt, rounded head and an indistinct beak. Their dorsal fin is short, blunt and triangular. In the wild, they have been seen spitting out steams of water, another unique and peculiar behavior.

According to WWF-Philippines, Irrawaddy dolphins are not river dolphins. They are oceanic and live in brackish water near coasts, river mouths and estuaries.

“The discovery confirms the fact that the Philippines is a hotbed for cetacean diversity. Irrawaddy dolphin habitats must be properly managed to ensure that their widely distributed but largely fragmented populations are able to reproduce indefinitely,” said Gregg Yan, the WWF-Philippines communication and media manager in an interview.

Yan said the best way to conserve Irrawaddy dolphins would be through a species conservation plan. A good first step, he said, would be to minimize the threat of catching them.

“Eurohaline and river dolphins sometimes get snagged in passive fishing gear and drown. To augment fishing incomes, ecotourism is a viable alternative livelihood,” he said.

Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the latest discovery is yet another reason to strengthen integrated coastal management in the area where they have been found.

“These dolphins live near the coasts so it is important that coastal communities in the area are aware of their importance and that they should avoid unsustainable land-use activities that could impact on the shores,” Lim told the BusinessMirror in an interview.

This means that the local government should also work to prevent land-based pollution and unsustainable land development that could cause siltation and adversely affect the river system.

“Partnership and awareness raising would be good activities to start with to protect this population,” Lim said.

The group of at least 20 Irrawaddy dolphins, locally known in Palawan as lampasut, was spotted by chance in Quezon, Palawan, along the coastline of the West Philippine Sea.

The pod of rare marine mammalswas displaying typical behavior, foraging for prey around lift net fish traps sitting approximately 1 kilometer offshore, WWF-Philippines said in a press statement.

According to WWF-Philippines, previous populations of these dolphins have been documented in Malampaya Sound, as well as off the island of Panay by another WWF-Philippines team led by Dr. Louella Dolar.

Jonathan L. Mayuga

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