Best of our wild blogs: 8 Jun 13

12 Jun (Wed): Talk on "Singapore’s Underwater Meadows" by Dr. Len McKenzie
from teamseagrass

Southern Expedition dive photos and stories by Debby Ng
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Surveying the Deep
from Pulau Hantu and Cryptic Critters on Whips, Crinoids, and in the Dirt

Spotted Wood-owl nesting at Dairy Farm Crescent
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Book Review: Hornbills of the World – A Photographic Guide
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Forests mostly secondary

Straits Times Forum 8 Jun 13;

I refer to the article, Green Gems, by Lea Wee (SundayLife!, June 2).

In it, she made several statements concerning the forests of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, referring to them as "primary forests".

For example, she writes: "These undisturbed primary forests have been called the green lungs of Singapore…"

This gives the impression that the whole catchment reserve is now covered with undisturbed primary forest.

As one who has worked as a professional forest ecologist and who carried out a quantitative survey of the reserve in 1992, I have to say that it is not correct to state that the forests are all primary forests. The vegetation there consists mostly of secondary forest, with some small patches of primary forest scattered here and there.

Wong Yew Kwan
Former commissioner for Parks and Recreation

Read more!

PUB on extracting groundwater

Straits Times Forum 8 Jun 13;

PUB, the national water agency, thanks Dr Wong Ming Keong for his letter ("Extracting groundwater could cause S'pore to sink"; Monday).

Even if groundwater was available, any extraction must be done in a safe and sustainable manner.

That is precisely why the PUB has commissioned a study of Singapore's hydro-geology.

We will also study both the negative and positive examples of other cities before making such a major decision.

For example, places that are using and managing groundwater in a sustainable manner include Orange County (California) and Perth (Western Australia).

The Orange County groundwater system currently provides approximately 70 per cent of northern and central Orange County's drinking water, while approximately half of Perth's drinking water will come from secured deep groundwater sources by 2022.

The PUB has appointed an international panel of hydro-geological experts to advise us on potential groundwater exploratory projects.

The experts have many years of experience in groundwater resource assessment and management in many countries, and will provide independent advice.

The public can send feedback through the PUB's 24-hour call centre on 1800-284-6600.

Young Joo Chye

Director, Planning and Policy


Read more!

Indonesia: Seawater intrusion grows in Jakarta

Theresia Sufa The Jakarta Post 7 Jun 13;

Environmental experts have predicted that Jakarta may suffer seawater intrusion in 10 years should the administration fail to take preemptive measures.

“Currently, seawater intrusion has reached Lapangan Banteng square in Central Jakarta and Blok M in South Jakarta. The administration should control the number of artesian wells and restore mangrove plants along the coast of Jakarta. Otherwise, in 10 to 15 years, Jakarta will face a groundwater scarcity,” Cecep Kusmana, head of the Environment and Natural Resources Management study program with the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), said on Wednesday.

He said the condition may also affect the structure of high rises because the metal used in the
construction of the building foundation would be corroded.

The uncontrolled use of groundwater for household and industrial purposes is blamed for the sinking of Jakarta. According to Cecep, the subsidence has reached 7 centimeters per year.

The IPB’s landscape management program head, Hadi Susilo Arifin, suggested the administration equip the city with more blue open spaces (RTB) such as lakes and dams.

“The administrations of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Bekasi and Cianjur should contain more rainwater in lakes and dams, and not only rely on green open space,” he said.

He added that almost all developers reclaimed or reduced the volume of blue open space due to houses and commercial premises.

“What people don’t realize is that the lakes or dams are actually represent added value for housing complexes because they give a beautiful view and better air,” Hadi said.

Read more!

Malaysia: No eating shellfish in Sabah due to toxic red tide

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 7 Jun 13;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Fisheries Department today warned the public to refrain from eating shellfish due to the high toxin level caused by the red tide phenomenon.
Sabah Fisheries Department director Rayner Stuel Galid said the level collected from the samples here was around 700 Mouse Unit (MU), where the lowest limit considered as dangerous for humans is 400 MU.

The red tide phenomenon traced at Sabah's west coast waters since late last year, is expected to continue for another month.

"While it has reduced from over 1,000 MU previously, it is still poisonous level and the health warning issued before this stays.

"We remind the people not to disregard this due to the health risks that could lead to fatality ... So please refrain from collecting and eating shellfish," he said.

Rayner added that the unpredictable weather between hot and wet spells is one of the contributing factors that the phenomenon lasted so long, as the algea related to the toxic thrive in this condition.

"We expect it to end by July but that depends on the weather. The monitoring will be done all year long to detect the toxin level," he added.

Earlier this year, three people in Sepanggar and Inanam died from red tide poisoning after eating cockles collected from Sepanggar Bay waters.

Symptoms of shellfish poisoning due to red tide include tingling of the lips and tongue, depending on the severity of the poisoning.

The symptoms may progress to a sensation of ‘prickling of pins and needles’ and then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by breathing difficulty.

Read more!

Malaysia: Bird watching from the garden

Yvonne Ang The Star 8 Jun 13;

When volunteers help to count birds, it helps scientists understand the health of the environment.

Mention conservation and everyone’s mind readily sprints to orangutans in lush rainforests or baby turtles clumsily making their way into the deep blue sea.

But how about sitting comfortably in one’s own garden for 30 minutes and counting birds? Next weekend, this is the very thing volunteers from all over Malaysia will be doing to help preserve our environment.

On June 15 and 16, MY Garden Birdwatch (MYGB) will be holding its annual survey of garden birds in Malaysia. Now in its fourth year, MYGB was initiated by the birdwatching chapter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Modeled after Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ Big Garden Birdwatch, this “citizen science” programme contributes to conservation through the observation of garden birds, utilizing the public as the muscle of the programme.

Citizen science is a term coined for conservation programmes that promote the involvement of everyday folk in observations of wildlife.

“I have been doing the MYGB count for three years and this will be my fourth,” quips Mark Ng, MNS’ Selangor Branch Bird Group coordinator.

“This is the little bit that I can contribute as a citizen ‘scientist’ to help gather data over the years. I will continue to count as long as the project is on.”

The wildlife of interest for MYGB are garden birds – especially (but not limited to) 28 birds from the 740 bird species found in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, and the environments being observed are the very places we all live in!

Many of the birds highlighted in the MYGB birdlist are frequently spotted in an urban setting, much like a garden in a typical Malaysian residential area.

Data submitted from the public goes through a verification process by a group of experts before it is accepted to ensure the quality of the data.

Half an hour might not seem like much, but every single MYGB observation is important because it contributes towards a better understanding of the surrounding environment and how bird populations react to environmental factors.

Birds have long been used as an indicator of the health of the environment as used by Birdlife International’s Important Bird Areas, where birds are used to identify key sites for conservation.

Anyone who is interested in being a citizen scientist on June 15 and 16 should visit and run through the “How To” section to understand the mechanics of the count (there really are only two steps!).

There are also some useful tips such as:

> Keep a low profile when you are counting for the survey. Standing in the middle of the garden in a bright red shirt might shoo the birds away.

> If you are counting in your own garden or backyard, station yourself at the window or porch so that your presence does not scare the birds away.

> If you are counting at a neighbourhood green patch, resist the temptation to walk to the other end of the park. Simply record the birds that can be seen from where you are.

Do you count the birds that fly overhead? Do you count the birds that keep chirping away but can never be seen? The answers are all in, a site from where you can also download a convenient count sheet and listen to the calls of birds.

After the survey, the number of birds observed can be submitted online at the MYGB website. Those who are taking part should remember that the 30-minute count time should be adhered to strictly as the consistency of the observation period is important when comparing the data throughout Malaysia.

Observations that exceed or are less than 30 minutes are disqualified from the count. Although it may seem harsh, it is a necessary step in ensuring the integrity of the data obtained.

The MYGB survey is suitable for people of all ages, and can be done with or without a pair of binoculars. Birdwatching can be a lot of fun when done in the company of friends and family or even as a way to relax on the weekends – after all, there’s nothing like the rejuvenating powers of the natural environment.

Tashia Peterson, co-coordinator of MYGB2013, believes that this will be a fun activity for the family and a good way to introduce birds to children. She and her family have themselves been involved in the bird survey for the last two years.

Participants are encouraged to spend a few minutes paying attention to their neighbourhood birds prior to the survey to make identification easier. A good time to observe birds is between 7am and 11am, and 4pm and 6pm, when the birds are most active.

What happens if birds decide not to grace your garden with their presence on the day of the survey? The submission of a survey result that says “no sightings of birds” is just as valid, if that is indeed what the participant saw!

Following concerted efforts to raise the profile of MYGB this year, many more volunteers have come forward to run their own activities across the country in conjunction with the MYGB survey.

“Since its inception some four years ago, MYGB has taken root nationwide,” says Mohd Rafi Kudus, MNS’ Bird Conservation Council chairman, under which MYGB is organised.

“The dream will be realised when a large portion of Malaysians do the count naturally as a habit. The ultimate goal will be the protection of birds in our towns and villages!”

In Kuching, birdwatchers from MNS’ Kuching Branch have held basic birdwatching talks and mock counts in schools.

In Cameron Highlands, a local NGO, the Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands (REACH) organised a picnic seminar to promote the survey and birdwatching.

Meanwhile, in Selangor, the MNS Selangor Branch Bird Group has also profiled MYGB at national events like the Youth Environmental Expo 2012, besides holding an introductory session at Taylor’s University College in Subang Jaya. Representatives from various states have also been working hard to recruit more counters for the survey.

“It gives me great satisfaction to see parents and their children participating in this project,” says Andy Lee, the Outreach Leader for MYGB 2013. “This motivates me to continue counting for many, many more years.”

In many ways, the MYGB survey is all about the public’s participation in conservation. Indeed, it’s only through the involvement of ordinary people that this survey, and the environment we all live in, can thrive.

Download your own handy pocket guide to some Malaysian birds at Many birds can be seen (and heard!) on YouTube. Just iSnap this page for an example.

Read more!