Best of our wild blogs: 29 Apr 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [22 - 28 Apr 2013]
from Green Business Times

Security Barriers at Tanjung Rimau, Sentosa
from Peiyan.Photography

Sentosa shore is crabby alive
from Peiyan.Photography

Flowering Syzygium Trees Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Earth Day at Pasir Ris Park mangrove boardwalk
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Long-tailed Macaque
from Monday Morgue

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AVA moves to control monkey problem

Unruly macaques in Bt Timah being caught and rehomed or euthanised
Grace Chua Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

THEY break into kitchens, knock over flower pots while fleeing and hog overhead bridges, disrupting the lives of some Bukit Timah condominium residents.

In response to the rising number of complaints, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority told The Straits Times last week that it has been carrying out "monkey control operations" in the area.

In other words, moves have been made to trap and either rehome or kill the long-tailed macaques living there.

"It's getting worse and worse," said Ms Winnie Chang, an administrative officer who lives at Springdale condominium in Hindhede Road.

Monkeys have followed her along an overhead bridge outside her home and tried to grab her groceries, she said. "The only way is to get rid of them."

However, Ms Vinita Ramani Mohan, 34, who lives in a condominium even nearer the reserve, said she has had no problems with the monkeys.

"I find it puzzling and silly how people choose to move 'close to the green', and then are surprised when mosquitoes, monkeys, snakes and other inhabitants from the reserve areas wander into the condos."

In addition to catching monkeys, AVA lends traps to residents. Around 130 monkeys were caught in such traps last year, down from the 206 recorded in 2007.

The number of complaints about the "monkey nuisance" has risen lately.

AVA received 800 complaints in 2010, 730 in 2011 and 920 last year.

Assistant Professor Michael Gumert, who studies primate behaviour at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), pointed out that the rise in the number of complaints might not indicate an increase in monkey trouble.

Instead, it could be because AVA is doing more to reach out to residents. For instance, the agency started a 24-hour hotline in August last year.

It could also be because more people have moved into the area. The past few years have seen two new properties come up as well - Raintree condominium and Mont Timah cluster homes.

NTU research assistant Amanda Tan, who is working with Dr Gumert to study a troop of monkeys at Bukit Timah, said she spotted contractors two weeks ago with cages that contained oranges and bananas, just outside the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve near the Kampong Trail.

AVA said the monkeys are rehomed elsewhere whenever possible. The rest are euthanised, but AVA did not say what proportion of the monkeys caught were rehomed.

The National Parks Board (NParks) and AVA both urged the public not to feed monkeys. Doing so within nature reserves carries a fine of up to $50,000 or a jail term of up to six months, or both.

Residents should also keep food out of sight, tie garbage bags tightly, secure bin lids and close windows or install grilles.

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Is Jurong groundwater suitable for ‘fifth tap’?

Noel Chia Kok Hwee Today Online 29 Apr 13;

I refer to “Singapore’s new fifth ‘national tap’ may draw on groundwater” (April 27) and wish to express my concern over the possibility of drawing on “naturally occurring aquifers and groundwater” in the Jurong Formation area, given that Jurong has been an industrial estate for many decades.

Firstly, chemicals from things such as batteries, insecticides, medicine, paint and printer ink can eventually end up in our water supplies if we do not discard them properly.

Secondly, we need to be assured that factories dealing with chemicals are morally and legally responsible for not dumping harmful waste into rivers or burying them in the ground. Toxic waste seeping into the source of groundwater can cause a lot of harm if not carefully treated.

Thirdly, run-off or water from rain (or melted snow) not absorbed by the ground can run over the ground and loose soil, picking up pollutants and transporting them into ponds, lakes, streams and coastal areas.

Water can be polluted by urban, industrial or agricultural run-off which include pesticides and fertilisers from parks and gardens, oil and grease from our vehicles, and heavy metals and chemicals from construction sites and factories.

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Winning app offers car-pooling mums cleaner, greener ride

Rachel Tan Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

CAR-POOLING may not be new, but developing it into an online application to help mothers with children in primary schools is a prize-winning idea.

Parent Pool won first place at the first Government-led hackathon, which ended at the National University of Singapore yesterday.

"We wanted to look for a user group in Singapore which had a strong identity. So we picked the mums of primary school-going children," said 26-year-old co-founder Titus Seah, who works at PUB, the national water agency.

Parent Pool is an online programme that allows mothers to meet and assist one another in car-pooling kids to school. This service can save fuel and cause fewer traffic jams, said Mr Seah, who met the other two co-founders, Mr Anthony Chow, and Mr Chan Haoyee, both also 26, at Stanford University.

In the long run, the three hope the application will also build stronger community ties.

"We found out that parents want to get to know one another before their kids get into school," said Mr Seah after speaking to parents and teachers.

Parents of Primary 1 children are the key targets for Parent Pool as they need the most assistance when their children are starting school, Mr Chow said.

"I think the hackathon mentors helped us a lot because one of the key things was finding out what drives people to change their behaviour," added the SingTel data scientist.

The three men won $5,000 to further develop their app with the support of Samsung technologies.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) conceptualised the Clean and Green Hackathon last year.

About 170 participants - some as young as 17 years old - took part in the three-day forum, which started last Friday. Developers, professionals and students met to explore and create new eco-solutions through mobile or Web channels.

"More and more, you find that environmental problems are multi-faceted, so apps are able to address a few issues," said Ms Sueanne Mocktar, deputy director of the corporate, NGO and marketing department of the 3P network division at NEA.

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Hazy issues cast a pall yet again

Simon Tay and Nicholas Fang Today Online 29 Apr 13;

The Indonesian economy continues to do well, attracting Singapore investors to look southwards. Yet there was a cloud over the otherwise convivial bilateral retreat held last week between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The haze resulting from fires in the nearby Indonesian provinces cast a literal pall over the city even as the two leaders discussed cooperation.

Despite efforts over some 15 years after the worst fires in 1997 and 1998, the problem is recurring and has been getting worse of late. Last year saw the most prolonged spell for more than a decade and this year’s haze seems on track to be even worse.

The National Environment Agency of Singapore has begun hourly updates of the Pollutant Standards Index as the dry season, typically marked by heightened burning, approaches next month.

Singapore officials had earlier been working on the ground in the province of Jambi with some success, but the agreement has lapsed. President Yudhoyono responded positively during the meeting and promised to persuade provincial governors to resume cooperation. But with decentralisation and more autonomy in Indonesia, it remains to be seen if Jakarta can really deliver.


The province of Aceh provided a basis for scepticism.

Just before the announcements by the two leaders, it was reported that Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry is close to approving a plan by the Aceh government to rezone over a million hectares of protected forests into production forests. Such a move would open these forests to mining, logging and clearing for oil palm plantations.

Reports point not to Indonesian businesses but a Canadian mining company, whose chief executive praised the move while his company was “working closely” with Indonesian officials to implement the reclassification. The move has drawn sharp criticism from many non-government organisations (NGOs).

The troubling development has implications on efforts to contain the haze. Studies indicate that a large number of fires are set by plantation owners, especially palm oil and timber concessions.

It has also highlighted the assertion by many that attempts to address the haze are hampered when industry and corporations “capture” these efforts and render them ineffective: The previous Aceh government had committed to protecting these forests from being cleared, but its new administration is said to favour opening up forests for exploitation.

This problem goes beyond Aceh. A larger-scale difficulty may exist with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a well-intentioned effort to bring together the private sector, along with NGOs, to tackle the haze and other related issues.

A recent report by Greenpeace alleges that an RSPO member, a large palm oil company, has broken commitments and ignored the organisation’s standards by illegally burning and clearing large tracts of forest and peatland with impunity.

The report further contends that other RSPO members trade with this reportedly recalcitrant corporation. It questions the efficacy of the RSPO and suggests that industrial and commercial interests may have “captured” the initiative.

But other problems also exist. With the haze recurring year after year, there has been a notable lack of urgency and increasing fatalism towards the issue, putting a damper on political will and the capacity to address the problem.

Underlying this are deeper institutional problems. ASEAN inter-governmental cooperation on the issue is limited to environment ministers and does not include their counterparts in other relevant portfolios, which could explain in part how Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry was able to get away with the move despite promises by the country’s Environment Ministry to address the haze.


Given these obstacles, a holistic approach towards haze prevention is needed. For one, public awareness and support, which have the power to influence companies, should be promoted.

If the general public in the region are more aware of their role in haze prevention, they will be better equipped to back “greener” companies and make their own consumption more environmentally sound, feeding into a virtuous circle between consumer and producer.

The involvement of other departments beyond the environment ministries in initiatives on the ground should also be sought, to prevent another incident like what took place in Aceh. Moreover, any venture to combat the haze must consider the delivery of sustainable economic development and other benefits to local communities, who experience the impacts of haze-causing practices most keenly.

The re-emergence of the haze and the recent issue in Aceh are symptoms of the problems plaguing the region. This is not just about governments resuming previous measures that have worked, important as they are.

Addressing these issues requires the expansion of earlier successful efforts, and new holistic attempts to address this ever-persistent problem.


Simon Tay is the Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). Nicholas Fang is the Executive Director of the SIIA.

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Malaysia: 26 turtles found dead in Terengganu this year 28 Apr 13;

DUNGUN, April 28 (Bernama) -- The rate of turtles killed by fishing gear, including fishing nets, in Terengganu waters this year is worrying the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation and Information Centre.

Its spokesman said 26 Green turtles and an Olive Ridley turtle had been found dead on the Terengganu beach this year, with the latest, a Green turtle, found at Pantai Jambu Bongkok yesterday.

Last year, a total of 31 Green turtles and two Hawksbill turtles were found dead, believed killed by fishing gear, he added.

He told Bernama here today that more landing by the Green and Olive Ridley turtles were expected in Terengganu this year.

Since last month, we had found more than 500 nests and more than 47,000 eggs had been collected for hatching, he added.

26 turtles found dead on beaches
New Straits Times 29 Apr 13;

DUNGUN: The rate of turtles killed by fishing gear, including fishing nets, in Terengganu waters this year is worrying the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation and Information Centre.

Its spokesman said 26 green turtles and an olive ridley turtle had been found dead on Terengganu beaches this year, with the latest, a green turtle, found at Pantai Jambu Bongkok yesterday.

Last year, a total of 31 green turtles and two hawksbill turtles were found dead, believed killed by fishing gear.

He said yesterday that more landings by the green and olive ridley turtles were expected in Terengganu this year.

Since last month, they had found more than 500 nests and more than 47,000 eggs had been collected for hatching, he added.

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Malaysia Start Action Plan For Tapir Conservation For Next 20 Years

Bernama 28 Apr 13;

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 (Bernama) -- An action plan has been drawn up for the conservation of the Malayan tapir for the next 20 years, which also identifies the latest threats to the fully protected species.

The plan was drafted in collaboration between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Copenhagen Zoo.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Malaysian Nature Society said this in a joint statement, in conjunction with World Tapir Day, on Saturday.

"This included programmes to release tapirs to their natural habitat. Efforts and cooperation to promote tapir and its habitat as a national heritage will be continued for the coming generation," said the statement.

It said that close cooperation from government agencies, non-government organisations (NGO), educational institutions and the private sector was crucial because conservation efforts was a joint responsibility. The statement added, the World Tapir Day, celebrated worldwide on April 27, was to boost awareness on the conservation of the Mountain Tapir, Lowland Tapir, Baird's Tapir and the Malayan Tapir.

"The tapir is also fully protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. It is an offence to hunt or keep a tapir without a special permit and those found guilty would be fined up to RM100,000 or jail of not more than three years or both as stated under Section 68 Act 716," it clarified.

The statement said, the 2013 World Tapir Day was held for the first time in Malaysia at the National Park, Pahang which was the natural habitat of the species.

The programme was jointly organised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Perhilitan, Malayan Nature Society, the Forestry Faculty of Universiti Putra Malaysia and supported by the Malaysian Education Ministry's Mutiara Taman Negara, Tapir Specialist Group, Copenhagen Zoo and Leica, the statement added.


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Vietnam: Mangrove trees protect villagers from hard times

VietNamNet Bridge 28 Apr 13;

All their neighbours were cutting down trees, attracted by the prospect of making money quickly. But people in one village refused to let their forest be destroyed. Today, they're reaping the benefits of that bold decision.

When hundreds of hectares of mangroves in the central province of Quang Nam's Nui Thanh District were cut down to build shrimp ponds about 25 years ago, residents in Dong Xuan Village were determined to say no to a 'fast buck' because they realised the true value of their village's forest.

At the time the decision was viewed as backward, but in the end it has helped them to retain a "museum" of typical mangroves which provide them with sustainable livelihoods and protects them from natural disasters.

Tam Giang is like an oasis, just over 1km from the district's administrative centre.

It's 5am, and Do Thi Lieu is returning from the river that flows through the mangroves. Despite the dark rings around her eyes caused by lack of sleep, she looks cheerful.

"I've caught 2kg of shrimp since 1am, which I can sell for around VND150,000. Our villagers can make a living from the river because we refused to allow our mangroves to be cut down. Fish and shrimp disappeared from many parts of the river a long time ago," says the 49-year-old woman, who has been catching fish on the river since she was very young.

Pham Hong Danh, another fisherman, says: "Fortunately, the river near the mangrove forest still has lots of fish and shrimp for us to rely on during the months that we have to stay away from the sea during the stormy season. The mangroves are a shelter and breeding site for all kinds of shrimp, fish, crabs and snails. All we need is a net and a torch to catch some food."

Village's "protective wall"

The mangroves also provide protection from the fierce storms and floods that have ripped through the region in recent years.

Village chief Pham Van Nhi recalls that during the tropical storm in 2009, locals thought the western part of the village would be destroyed by the strong waves.

"That storm was so strong. In the eastern area, winds and waves were weaker, but a 150m dyke was devastated by waves.

"The western part of the village was untouched despite the fact there are no dykes because it was protected by the mangroves," he says.

Villagers were shocked when nearby areas cut down their mangroves to make way for shrimp ponds.

Huynh Ngoc Anh, 63, the then chief of Tam Giang Commune, recalls: "In 1990, the movement to cut mangroves to build shrimp ponds in Tam Giang began. People were attracted by the benefit of shrimp farming, and in 1992, they hired machines to destroy the mangroves. The noise of the heavy machinery rang out through the village day and night, and by the end of 1997, there were no more mangroves in the commune."

The former chairman says that just a few years later, shrimp farmers began to pay the price for their actions. Having enjoyed initial success, disease decimated their stocks, and the annual cost of flood repair work outweighed what they earned from breeding shrimp. They had lost the protection of the mangrove forests.

Seventy year old village chief Nhi says that his generation treasures the forests that their ancestors left for them.

The riverside village has few fields and the land here is particularly acidic making it difficult to grow crops, so the villagers have to rely on fishing in the river and at sea.
"Most of the households earn a living from fishing, and by preserving the mangroves, we can continue to do so for years to come, " he says.

Realising the value of the mangrove forest, residents have planted more trees to further increase the coverage and durability of them.

News of this reached Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, and a group of scientists from the university arrived in the village in March last year to study the local mangroves.

"They suggested we establish a mangrove conservation club to persuade people to keep preserve and develop the mangroves. The university also promised that they will help the club members raise shrimp and crab in natural conditions later this year," says Do Thi Lieu, head of the club.

The mangrove forest acts as "shield" to prevent flooding and storms, and the loss is conspicuous in areas where people have cut down mangroves to build shrimp ponds, says deputy chief of Tam Giang Commune, Pham Van Chau.

"We must replant the mangrove forests and learn from that lesson. Tam Giang this year will plant 31ha of mangroves on an area that people used to set up shrimp ponds. It will be expensive and it will take a long time for them to grow back, but we understand now that it was unwise to cut them down in the first place," he says.

Pham Van Quyen, the district's deputy chief, also agrees.

"Dong Xuan is my home village. In the days before the locals constructed shrimp ponds, the mangrove forest was like a shield that protected the whole commune. Many of the trees were very old and valuable. Destroying the forest was wrong and it's painful to think back on it. "Fortunately, Dong Xuan Village retained its mangrove forest.

To save the environment, especially during these times of climate change, the district has adopted the model to replant mangroves in Tam Giang. We have also asked provincial authorities to co-ordinate with the Catholic Relief Services in Viet Nam to implement a project to prevent and ease natural disasters in Nui Thanh District, including planting mangroves in three communes adjacent to Tam Giang," Quyen says.

Source: VNS

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