Best of our wild blogs: 1 May 13

Don’t Miss! May 4 Kampung Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Changi twice quickly is twice as rich!
from wild shores of singapore

Bryozoans and Hydroids Workshop Day 2
from wild shores of singapore

Malaysia may loan Indonesia rhinos to save species from extinction from news by Rhett Butler

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Wild greenery makes Singapore a global eco-city

Ho Hua Chew, for The Straits Times 1 May 13;

LOOKING at the Land-use Plan 2030 that came with the White Paper on population, it appears that almost everywhere outside the Tekong and Western Catchment military areas will be built up, leaving only about 9 per cent as parks and nature reserves.

The Government has made great strides on "brown issues" such as clean and recycled water and green buildings. And it has done well in "managed greenery", like public parks, golf courses and football fields. But a holistic and consistent commitment to environmental sustainability must not neglect the natural greenery - the remaining wild or "spontaneous" secondary forests, mangroves and scrublands, for example.

A recent satellite study found this natural greenery to still constitute 29 per cent of Singapore's total land area. The Land-use Plan's vision, unfortunately, regards this greenery largely as dispensable for development.

Much of this wild greenery is secondary forest. Of this, only about 5 per cent is protected as nature reserves. By 2030, going by the Land-use Plan, most of this unprotected greenery outside the military zone will be gone.

A sterile green facade

ROOF-TOP greenery, roadside trees, small neighbourhood gardens and public parks are no substitute for the massive loss of forested areas, with its rich biodiversity and free eco-system services; it will only mean a city in a sterile green facade.

The Punggol Masterplan is touted as the model of Singapore's green city vision. But how much of the wild greenery will be left after the entire Housing Board estate is set up? Looking at the display model, only the thin strip of trees along the old Punggol Road.

The mixed forest on the ridge in Punggol Avenue 17 will be sliced off by two new roads and what is left will be reduced to a public park. Also, the entire forest along the coast from Punggol Marina to Serangoon River will be wiped out. Coney Island will have half of its forest area planned for a housing estate. Punggol will then not be a green housing estate but a concrete jungle.

The Tengeh/Brickland area too seems slated for another massive HDB housing estate, leaving almost nothing of the extensive wild forest there intact.

A green plan needs to respect the natural environment. What is the point of controlling industrial and urban pollution if we then increase pollution and environmental degradation through destruction of our natural greenery?

We should make every effort not to add to global pollution by way of releasing more carbon dioxide (CO2) through the destruction of our existing greenery, especially the forests, which, because of the dominance and density of trees and hence plentiful woody structures, help to sequester CO2.

Forests are a vital help in greatly reducing ambient heat from the "urban-heat island effect" arising from massive use of concrete.

A report on a study by a National University of Singapore climatologist (The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2012) said that in the past 40 years, the difference in average night temperature between a rural area like Lim Chu Kang, which still has a lot of greenery, and the city area, had widened drastically - from 3 deg C to 7 deg C.

The demise of even more forests in Yishun, Brickland and Pasir Ris, and in the coming years in Tampines, Tengah, Punggol and Woodlands/Marsiling, will escalate this trend.

Forests are also critical to the long-term preservation of our national biodiversity. The Central Nature Reserves (Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature reserves) - our largest tract of forests - are increasingly surrounded by inhospitable concrete as more housing projects emerge around its borders, gradually turning this priceless biodiversity haven into a "habitat-island", with its wildlife locked up as in a fortress under siege.

Wildlife corridors needed

SUCH isolation leads over time to a decline in the genetic variability of species with small populations, leading to loss of resilience and even eventual extinction.

Hence, apart from the commendable creation of the Eco-link between the Bukit Timah and the Central Catchment Nature reserves, a wider and more comprehensive strategy to include "wildlife corridors" for the conservation of our biodiversity should be implemented nationwide.

The forest patches outside the central nature reserves serve as ecological corridors - a series of "stepping stones" for wildlife.

In the north, wildlife migrates from Johor to Singapore; in particular, forest species move into the Central Nature Reserves and rejuvenate its fauna. Stepping stones along the north-eastern coast comprise mainly the forested patches (including mangroves) of Pulau Ubin, the Pasir Ris Green Belt, Lorong Halus, Punggol and Khatib Bongsu.

For example, the oriental pied hornbill, thought to be extinct for decades but now seen in many forested areas of mainland Singapore, originates from Johor, but its dispersal can be said to be facilitated by the presence of this series of stepping stones.

There are also fragmented forest patches that become stepping stones, enabling forest wildlife to disperse from the central forest reserves to public parks like those along the Southern Ridges, for example, Mount Faber. Those along the railway corridor such as Clementi forest can also provide a link.

Moreover, forest patches close to the Central Nature Reserves, for example, Bukit Brown, can act as "extra habitat" or foraging ground for forest species, like the Malayan flying lemur and the chestnut-bellied malkoha.

With 29 per cent of our wild greenery still intact, the "garden city" or "city-in-a-garden" vision is not our only option. Why not have a global city that is not only a garden city but one with a lovely countryside and ample room for quiet recreation, making Singapore a global eco-city?

To achieve this, it is proposed that the 20 more new parks planned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority cover or accommodate these unprotected secondary forests, in particular the mature ones like Bukit Brown, Bidadari and Clementi, which are rich in biodiversity.

Before we decide how much population growth and its concomitant infrastructure development is required, we have to ask: How much of the remaining wild greenery should be left untouched? And this can be meaningfully sought only by a proper survey of Singaporeans' preferences.

The writer is a conservation activist and council member of the Nature Society.

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Malaysia: Tourists Contribute to Conservation Effort in Kinabatangan Corridor of Life

WWF 30 Apr 13;

30 April 2013, Kota Kinabalu: WWF-Malaysia recently handed over a cheque of RM261,759.70 to KiTA (Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association) to carry out conservation work in the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life (KCoL).

The money was the total amount collected from tourists since the inception of the Conservation Levy initiative in 2006 by WWF-Malaysia.

The national conservation organisation, upon realising the importance of conserving Kinabatangan, had initiated the Voluntary Conservation Levy (VCL) as part of effort to involve the tourism sector in restoring and rehabilitating the habitats and natural resources in Kinabatangan.

Under the VCL programme, participating lodges operating in and around the Lower Kinabatangan area invited their guests to voluntarily contribute RM20 (or USD 5) for conservation work. Tourists were encouraged to pay the levy upon checking out.

The participating lodges, comprising KiTA members, pooled together and channelled the monies collected into on-going or new conservation efforts in the Kinabatangan area. WWF-Malaysia was the custodian of the fund.

KiTA has nine members consisting of Abai Jungle Lodge, Barefoot Sukau Lodge, Bilit Adventure Lodge, Borneo Nature Lodge, Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge, Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi, Sukau Rainforest Lodge, The Last Frontier Resort, and Uncle Tan Jungle Camp.

In January 2011, KiTA decided to improve the collection mechanism of the VCL programme and implemented the Compulsory Conservation Levy (CL) whereby KiTA members would contribute RM10 for every guest who purchased a tour package to KCoL. Similar to the VCL fund, the collection from the CL would be used for the conservation and protection of KCoL’s natural assets.

“The Conservation Levy initiative has broadened funding sources for conservation as well as promoted sustainable tourism in the KCoL area. Some KiTA members match guest contributions during peak months” said Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia, Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma.

“Through the VCL mechanism, we found that tourists are actually happy and ready to contribute to conservation. They want to see that the Kinabatangan’s reputation as a premium wildlife viewing region is sustained. Through the Conservation Levy initiative, we have created an avenue for responsible tourism to thrive,” said President of KiTA, Alexander Yee.

The levy collection is expected to increase with continuous and proactive support from lodge guests and operators. The money will be used to fund various ongoing conservation and community projects implemented by KiTA in the area, including tree planting, river clean-ups, building of waste disposal sites, conducting medical camps for local communities and hosting environmental education programmes.

“The collection will contribute immensely towards the conservation of the KCoL. WWF-Malaysia hopes to see this initiative replicated in other ecologically sensitive areas within the state and beyond. Conservation efforts require funding. We need to continuously explore new financing mechanism to broaden funding sources for conservation,” Dr. Dionysius said.

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Indonesia: East Kalimantan’s Nature Reserves Under Threat From Villagers

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 30 Apr 13;

Balikpapan. Forest rangers have revealed that up to two-fifths of the combined area of two nature reserves in East Kalimantan’s Paser district are degraded as a result of the increased human presence there.

Darmanto, the chief ranger with the Balikpapan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said on Monday that the 53,800-hectare Teluk Adang and the 46,900-hectare Teluk Apar reserves, both home to ecologically important mangrove swamps, were slowly being taken over by people building villages and fish and shrimp farms there.

“They’ve even built schools and clinics inside the reserves, which is prohibited, and this has left up to 40 percent of the area badly degraded,” he said.

Darmanto added that there were now 14 villages inside the reserves, with a total population of 24,000 and growing. He warned that if the trend continued, human activities would destroy all vestiges of the reserves within just five years.

He said there were several factors for the proliferation of human activities inside the ostensibly off-limits area, among them the fact that a handful of villages already existed there before the two nature reserves were established in 1982.

“What the BKSDA and the Paser district administration have tried to do is propose that human activities be limited to a small enclave within the reserve area. The problem is that the Forestry Ministry has never approved this proposal,” Darmanto said.

He added his office had only five rangers to patrol a combined area of more than 100,000 hectares.

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Indonesia: Homeless Elephants Haunt North Kalimantan Village

Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 1 May 13;

Nunukan. Villagers in North Kalimantan’s Nunukan district say a group of elephants has been encroaching on their land and destroying their crops for the past five days, a claim that conservationists say indicates that the endangered animals are being driven out of their habitat.

Putra Sinar Jaya, the head of Sekaduyan Taka village in Simenggaris subdistrict, said on Tuesday that the group of three elephants had destroyed “dozens of hectares” of crops, including oil palms, banana trees ad cassava plants, since last week.

“For the past five days they’ve been coming here and destroying everyone’s plants,” he said, adding that they usually arrived at twilight and left before dawn.

“We fear that soon they’ll start destroying people’s homes. And we can’t defend ourselves otherwise we’ll be accused of killing wildlife.”
He said villagers had reported seeing the animals arriving from the direction of Serudong in Malaysia’s Sabah state.

Wiwin Effendy, WWF Indonesia’s East Kalimantan coordinator, said that if the reports of the elephant invasions were confirmed, then it would be the first time that the animals were known to have encroached onto human settlements in Simenggaris subdistrict.

“As far as we know, they usually stick close to the four rivers in the border region between Nunukan and Malaysia, which is in Tulin Onsoi subdistrict,” he said.

Wiwin added that the reports that they were now straying further indicated that they had been driven out because of the destruction of their primary habitat.

He said the elephants’ known habitat there was rapidly being lost to the expansion of oil palm plantations and logging concessions, since permits for commercial activities in the area began to be issued seven years ago.

Studies conducted by WWF Indonesia and the East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) over the past five years suggest there are only 20 to 80 Borneo elephants left in the area and that extinction is likely without efforts by the government and other stakeholders to preserve their habitat.

Borneo elephants are classified as an endangered species. Fourteen are confirmed to have died so far this year from suspected poisoning by villagers.

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