Best of our wild blogs: 24 May 13

The Singapore Spider Crab -- found only in Singapore!
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Anemone hunt on Day 5.5 at the Southern Expedition
from wild shores of singapore

Now is the appropriate time to engage on the Cross Island Line
from AsiaIsGreen

The Laws Relating to Biodiversity in Singapore
from Raffles Museum News

Humungous critters and six-legged crab on Day 4 of the Southern Expedition from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Random Gallery - Tawny Coster
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Treatment of wildlife: Teach kids the right values

Straits Times Forum 24 May 13;

IT IS ironic that the number of "monkey nuisance" calls has risen, when homes and commercial establishments are being built closer to our forests, edging out the animals that used to live there ("AVA explains monkey trapping video"; Wednesday).

It is ironic that we want to teach our children to be kind and gentle, to love and empathise, yet we sow in them the seeds of cruelty and disrespect for life when monkeys and wild boars are caught and probably will be culled because humans complain that they are a menace and destroy property.

These animals lived in the forests long before we started encroaching on their territory.

All life - human and animal - should be respected. We try to teach our young this basic tenet. Our children deserve more, for they will inherit what we leave behind; do we want cold, heartless, uncaring citizens, or those who will defend the weak and the voiceless?

We reap what we sow.

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

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Winds of change stirring in seaside park

Hidden in a secluded corner of Singapore, Sembawang Park is a quiet retreat for those who want a break from city life. But change is coming to the park, which is getting a facelift.
Sabrina Tiong, Lim Min Zhang And Cheng Jingjie Straits Times 24 May 13;

THERE was no electricity or water supply when Mr Lim Hock Lye first opened his restaurant in the quaint seaside bungalow in Sembawang Park.

That was 1981.

He had to set up a generator and lay his own pipes to draw water from the main road some 200m from his restaurant in Beaulieu House, which overlooks the Johor Strait.

The bungalow, which has Victorian-style ironwork and neo-classical plaster details, was built around 1910 as a seaside retreat. It was designated for military use when the Sembawang Naval Base was developed nearby in the 1920s to 1930s. From 1940 to 1942, it was the residence of the most senior British naval officer in Singapore, Vice-Admiral Geoffrey Layton.

The bungalow, now a conserved building, probably got its name from one of several sites with that name in Britain.

"We put in a lot of work to keep up this place," said Mr Lim, who has been running the restaurant that sells Chinese and Western fare for the past 32 years.

The 58-year-old, who was formerly in the civil engineering business, added that he decided on the career switch because he wanted a change. "I also like the serenity of this place and its architecture," he said.

Back then, Sembawang Park was marked by Beaulieu House, a jetty, a nearby shipyard and several kampungs surrounding the area.

More than 30 years later, the park - tucked away in the northern corner of Singapore - is undergoing a facelift.

The kampungs have disappeared, and the shipyard is about to be phased out.

New private residential projects have sprung up in the vicinity.

Loose floorboards on the jetty, which is more than 70 years old, have been replaced by sturdy ones.

The park itself is also in the midst of an overhaul.

Sections of the park have been cordoned off for upgrading works carried out by the National Parks Board (NParks).

New amenities will be added, including a promenade, fitness corner, barbecue pits, toilets and shelters, said NParks.

The park will also have a new children's playground modelled after a battleship, inspired by its maritime history.

These works are expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

Even the type of visitors who frequent the secluded park, which is at the far end of Sembawang Road, has changed over the years.

When The Straits Times visited the park this week, only four groups of anglers were on the jetty. There were also several couples who were taking leisurely strolls near the jetty, and joggers who had completed their evening run.

While it is usually quiet on weekdays, the place comes to life on weekends when visitors descend upon the greenery to take strolls, cycle, fish, or just soak up the sun, said Mr Lim, who lives nearby.

"The crowds that come here have changed over the years," he said.

"Before, there used to be more families; now, there are more youngsters and couples, as well as expatriates who live nearby."

The weekend crowd means business for Mr Lim, who said he pays more than $15,000 in rent each month to run the only eating place in the park.

The businessman, who signed a new nine-year lease to run the restaurant in December last year, hopes to attract more customers even though frequent visitors like the quiet ambience of the place.

Mr Lim said he hopes that the upgrading works at the park will be completed soon, because he has been getting fewer customers since the construction began about two years ago.

"But they're adding more facilities and carpark spaces which is good. Hopefully more people will come after it's done," he added.

Others share his sentiments.

"The renovation is a bit slow," said Sembawang resident Lu Poong Liang, 57, who takes brisk walks in the park almost every day.

"I look forward to it being completed," said Mr Lu, who is in the trading business. He goes to the park on weekends to jog with his two grown-up children.

Retiree Cher Hian Boo, 63, who has been visiting the park for the past 40 years, added: "The carpark should be extended because it cannot take the large weekend crowd."

While old-time park-goers welcome efforts to improve the park's facilities, they hope that the changes will not be too drastic.

Said Mr Lim: "I hope they won't make too many changes to the park. This was originally designed by a Japanese architect, and has unique qualities.

"I didn't like it when they changed the design of the pavilions."

Some visitors, like naval architect Jerome Lim, 48, are concerned that the phasing out of the nearby shipyard will change the park's identity.

"It is one of the last working remnants of the old naval base and it contributed so much in terms of employment and the economy of the area," said the Sembawang resident, who has been visiting the park since he was eight.

The history buff, who wrote a blog post about Sembawang Park in February this year, feels that developments, such as installing boardwalks along the beach and phasing out the shipyard, may cause the park to lose its appeal as a place that is "gentle" and has "less clutter" compared to urban Singapore.

"It is an old place that is full of character - partly because of its history, partly because of its physical structures like the kampung mosque, the seawalls and the jetty," he added.

Built in the 1920s, the shipyard served as part of the Singapore Naval Base to defend Britain's interests in Asia-Pacific. It was converted into a shipyard in 1968 and is one of the area's key landmarks.

On Jan 31 this year, the Ministry of National Development announced in its Land Use Plan that the shipyard facilities will be phased out, freeing up waterfront land for new business activities for future needs.

Ms Margie Hall, honorary secretary of Nature Society (Singapore), said: "It's important to keep Sembawang Park and the shoreline as it is because it retains memories for all the people who used to live in the villages here."

Mr Lim, the restaurant owner, said he hopes the park will retain its charm and not become too commercialised.

Said the businessman, who plans to hand over the restaurant to his 32-year-old son when he retires: "The environment here is quiet, you don't hear much of the traffic around, the trees are almost 100 years old - it's very peaceful and I hope they will maintain the greenery and serenity of this place."

Related links
Sembawang including Proposed land reclamation at Sembawang Park on habitatnews

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Early lessons in going green, keeping clean

Govt agencies team up with schools to teach 'green' habits, hygiene tips
Farah Mohd Ismail Straits Times 24 May 13;

FROM going green to keeping clean, the Government has been spreading such values to children as young as pre-schoolers.

On Wednesday, the National Parks Board (NParks) collaborated with 45 kindergartens to participate in the Green Wave movement to spread environmental awareness. At 10am, children here joined others around the world to plant trees in their school compounds and create a symbolic "green wave".

Mr Ng Cheow Kheng, NParks' director of horticulture and community gardening, said: "By having the pupils plant and care for the trees in their schools, we hope that they will come to feel a greater sense of ownership for our City in a Garden."

At the PAP Community Foundation's Fengshan kindergarten, 41 children took part in the shovelling and watering, reinforcing what they learnt in class about the environment.

Said principal Wong Woon Chian: "We would like to continue with this (programme) next year if possible, because it provides good exposure for the kids."

Yesterday, the National Environment Agency and Public Hygiene Council also launched the "I Am Your Green Champ" programme to spread environmental awareness and good personal hygiene in younger children. It previously targeted only primary and secondary school students.

Now, it will be conducted at 98 branches of My First Skool childcare centres, which are run by the National Trades Union Congress.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, the guest-of-honour at the launch, said in his speech that "sometimes, adults may not set good examples". This is why "it is important to inculcate good personal hygiene habits at a young age", he explained.

Relief teacher Tok Hwee Hwa, 37, was among parents who were present at the launch, held at My First Skool's Guillemard Crescent branch.

Her five-year-old son Tok Lee Feng was presented with the Green Champ award, which recognises children as ambassadors of the good habits they have picked up from the programme.

Mrs Tok gave the thumbs up to the programme. She said it helps to cultivate good habits such as picking up litter and returning dirty dishes in children, whom she described as "born helpers" who are more receptive to such advice.

The National Library Board also reaches out to young children to cultivate their interest in reading through a mobile library bus affectionately known as Molly. It brings books, audio-visual materials and online resources to childcare centres and kindergartens, where librarians conduct storytelling sessions and puppet shows.

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Indonesian forestry ministry sets hotspot reduction target

Antara 23 May 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian forestry ministry has set a target for reducing hotspots of forest and plantation fires in Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi by 59.2 percent in 2013 from the average number of hotspots during 2005-2009.

If the total number of hotspots during the 2005-2009 period was 58,890, so the reduction target will be 24,027, the forestry ministry said in a press statement here on Thursday.

Based on the monitoring by the ministry`s fire control directorate, the number of forest fire hotspots on Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi Islands occurring from January 1 to March 31, 2013, totaled 2,672 hotspots.

During January to March 2013, 929 hotspots were detected on Kalimantan Island (443 hotspots were found in West Kalimantan Province, 210 in Central Kalimantan), 35 in South Kalimantan, and 241 in East Kalimantan).

On Sumatra Island, 151 hotspots were found in Aceh Province, 163 in North Sumatra, 84 in West Sumatra, 666 in Riau, 29 in Riau Islands, 216 in Jambi, 161 in South Sumatra, 61 in Bangka Belitung, 39 in Bengkulu, and 34 in Lampung.

On Sulawesi Island, there were 139 hotspots, namely in Gorontalo Province (one hotspot), North Sulawesi (two), Central Sulawesi (38), West Sulawesi (21), South Sulawesi (63), and Southeast Sulawesi (14).

Some 664 hotspots or 23.9 percent were found inside forest areas, and the remaining 2,113 hotspots or 76.1 percent were in plantation and public garden areas.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Malaysia: 'Illegal land clearing threatens vital lake'

Predeep Nambiar New Straits Times 24 May 13;

BUKIT MERAH LAKE: It supplies water for drinking, irrigation

GEORGE TOWN: AN environmental interest group has sounded the alarm over rampant land-clearing activities at a piece of reserve land in Perak, raising concerns that it would impact water supply to homes and irrigation to padi fields.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) revealed yesterday that massive encroachment and illegal agricultural activities at the Bukit Merah Lake Reserve in the Kerian district would adversely affect water levels at the lake.

Investigations by SAM affiliate Kuasa Perak (Kuasa) revealed that trees in the 4,446ha (as of 2010) reserve had been felled illegally over the past 12 years and were "replaced" with oil palm plantations.

At a press conference here, SAM president S. M. Mohamed Idris said the situation was alarming, as the irrigation to 24,000ha of the rice bowl in the Kerian district in Perak and South Seberang Perai in Penang would be affected.

"Water from the lake is also used for domestic and industrial purposes, supplying 200,000 residents in the Kerian and Larut, Matang and Selama districts.

"The reserve is an important source of water supply to the lake. It also helps to control floods because a large portion of the reserve area is wetlands and lowlands, which act as flood plains."

Idris added that further exploitation of the reserve exposed the soil surface to excess runoff during heavy rains.

"This will lead to siltation, sediment deposition and other runoffs into the lake."

Idris urged the authorities to take stringent action against the encroachers in accordance with section 425 of the National Land Code 1965.

Meanwhile, Kuasa secretary Afandi Ahmad added that the water level in the lake was a cause for concern as the lake would become unstable as more land clearing took place.

"Currently, the lake's stable water level is at 8.68m and the minimum level is at 6.09m. If it rains continuously for three days, the level in the lake can hit 9.1m.

"If this happens, the water from the lake has to be released to avoid submerging of the Lake Town resort. However, in the end, the water would flow downstream to the Kerian district, causing flash floods, similar to the ones experienced in past years."

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UK hands down custodial sentence for coral smuggling

TRAFFIC 23 May 13;

Manchester, UK, 23rd May 2013—A man has been jailed for attempting to smuggle more than 750 kg of rare and endangered corals and clams through the UK’s Manchester Airport from Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam.

At Crown Square Crown Court, 23 year old Alex Montgomery from Manchester was sentenced to six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to smuggle the animals following his arrest by officers from the UK Border Force in May last year.

More than 650 live hard corals and around 60 live clams were discovered in 36 boxes labelled “Marine fish and Soft Corals” when officers examined a cargo that arrived on a flight from Viet Nam.

None of the undeclared items had the necessary permits and documentation required under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and consequently they were seized.

Further investigations revealed 120 protected species at Montgomery’s business premises. They were seized along with his computer, which had information regarding his business dealings with foreign suppliers.

“The issuing of a custodial sentence for smuggling corals is a sign the UK authorities are prepared to get tough on the criminals who are illegally exploiting the world’s wildlife,” said Stephanie Pendry, TRAFFIC’s Enforcement Programme Leader.

Under UK law, anyone convicted of contravening CITES regulations faces up to seven years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Vicky Allan, Assistant Director of Border Force, said: “Border Force takes its role in enforcing international agreements and prohibitions designed to protect the natural environment very seriously.

“Anyone trading in protected creatures and plants should ensure they have the right paperwork before they import exotic animals into the UK.”

The case is not the first time corals have been seized at Manchester airport. In October 2009, a consignment of live corals from Australia was seized after Border Force officers found it was not accompanied by the appropriate CITES documentation.

Hard coral species and clams are extremely slow growing and take years to reach reproductive maturity. The illegal removal of coral from reefs has a dramatic impact on fish stocks and the ecosystem they support.

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