Best of our wild blogs: 13 Jul 13

Latest happenings at the Festival of Biodiversity 13-14 Jul (Sat and Sun) VivoCity from wild shores of singapore and Lazy Lizard's Tales

Water testing strips: a quick and easy way to monitor water quality
from Water Quality in Singapore

Community of Urban Red Junglefowl
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Bitten by snake? Check this phone app for guidance

Pearl Lee Straits Times 13 Jul 13;

THEY are creatures that inspire fear and fascination in equal measure.

But most of all, snakes are misunderstood.

Now, a new mobile application has been developed to help educate people in Singapore about the different varieties found on their doorstep.

For example, it tells users what to do if they have been bitten by a snake or seen one in their garden - with staying calm the most important thing.

Bite victims should also remain in a sitting position, with the bitten limb below the heart.

The app - to be launched by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) - also features photographs to help the public identify local snakes, including venomous ones.

But there is no need to be too worried as most of Singapore's species do not have poison in their bite.

The Republic has "an abundance of wildlife" - including about 70 types of snakes - said conservation and research director Sonja Luz of WRS, which manages attractions such as Jurong Bird Park.

"Being a rescued wildlife centre, we receive many snake donations throughout the year, many of which arrive in a state that suggests that they have been unnecessarily hurt by people who are scared of them," she said.

"We want people to understand snakes and their value in the ecosystem, and to know that they are not inherently dangerous when treated with respect."

The app will be launched today at the Festival of Biodiversity. The two-day event at VivoCity aims to celebrate Singapore's natural heritage and promote awareness of biodiversity in the city state.

It will end tomorrow.

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Animal crusaders

Animal rescue work is demanding but welfare groups here are dedicated to helping those in need
Cheryl Faith Wee Straits Times 13 Jul 13;

In the last three years, Ms Wendy Low has rescued at least 30 stray and abandoned dogs with injuries ranging from maggot-infested open wounds to broken limbs.

Such animals are often found near industrial or forested areas, where strays usually live.

Ms Low, who is in her mid-40s and runs her own business, is among a group of individuals here that work independently or with animal welfare groups to help animals in distress.

She is a rescue-work volunteer with Action For Singapore Dogs and is tipped off about injured dogs by members of the public.

She would line the back seat of her car with newspapers and drive the dogs to the veterinarian. Sometimes, blood, maggots and ticks are left behind, but she is unfazed.

"I just scoop up everything with the newspaper and throw it away. I wipe everything down and then spray disinfectant."

It is all in a day's work for the animal lover, who handles one to five dog rescues every month, ranging from those hurt in traffic accidents to sick strays.

Action For Singapore Dogs is among at least seven animal welfare organisations here that often receives calls and e-mail messages from people who come across animals in distress.

These groups, which include the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) and Hope Dog Rescue, will assess the situation and decide if they will take action.

SPCA, which operates a 24-hour emergency hotline for animal rescue, received 2,955 calls last year and helped 1,828 animals. These ranged from dogs that had fallen into drains to cats perched precariously on ledges of high-rise buildings.

As for the rest of the cases, Ms Corinne Fong, 50, SPCA's executive director, says: "There have been times when we weren't able to bring in the animals because they were no longer at the location by the time our officer arrived, as the callers were not able to help confine them.

"We are also not able to send rescue officers down for all the calls as they may be in the middle of another rescue. So when people call, we must ascertain the severity of the problem."

The animals have to meet one of three conditions - injured, sick or distressed - before SPCA sends someone down, she adds. The SPCA has full-time officers to handle animal rescue work, which volunteers say can be challenging.

Mr Ricky Yeo, 45, president of Action For Singapore Dogs, says: "Volunteers are not raring to take up rescue work. There is the mental stress of it. Some people who call or e-mail can be very demanding and have all kinds of expectations - they do not want to do anything but expect you to."

At Action For Singapore Dogs, three people handle rescue work - Mr Yeo, another staff member and Ms Low, who has been a volunteer since 2005 but started helping with rescue work only three years ago. They receive at least one call or e-mail message daily asking for dogs to be rescued, but they can manage only one to five cases every month.

The non-profit organisation, which was set up in 2000, has 36 regular volunteers who help take care of close to 100 dogs at its adoption and rescue centre.

Some animal welfare groups take a different approach. The Cat Welfare Society has a network of about 1,000 volunteers in various neighbourhoods who keep a lookout for cats in their areas, from feeding them to helping those that are injured.

The society receives about 50 e-mail messages daily about cats that need help. It then puts these people in touch with volunteers from the various neighbourhoods.

Its president, Ms Veron Lau, 42, says: "We do not encourage people to think they can call a number and their problems will be solved. Animal welfare cannot rely on just a few people, there needs to be a community effort."

One of the volunteers in the Cat Welfare Society's network is Madam Law Mui Eng, 56, a stall owner in a wet market. She lives in Clementi West and has been taking care of the stray cats in her neighbourhood since 1995. She feeds them daily and checks that they are not sick or hurt.

Every week, she takes at least three calls - sometimes at midnight - from strangers, friends or neighbours who have spotted cats in her neighbourhood that need help.

She usually makes a trip down to check on the situation. "These animals need someone to look out for them. They have a hard life."

She also helps to pay for the vet bills of some of these cats, which can cost a three- or four-figure sum. If she cannot afford the expenses, she seeks help from other volunteers in her neighbourhood.

Besides monetary costs, animal rescue work is also time-consuming.

Ms Mumtaz Begam Aziz, 36, a warehouse coordinator, has cared for stray dogs on her own at a cemetery for the last four years.

Every Saturday, she drops by to make sure the animals are in good health. She even feeds the dogs health supplements.

These supplements are sponsored by donors she finds through Facebook. Ms Mumtaz, who is single, says: "I love animals a lot. I name some of the strays and become quite attached to them."

She tells those who work in the area to call her if anything happens to the dogs, and receives at least one such call every week. Once, a dog was spotted walking around with just three legs.

Rescue work can also take an emotional toll on animal lovers.

Ms Lisa Goh, 42, who runs her own creative business, has been doing rescue work with welfare organisation Hope Dog Rescue since 2010.

Every day, the group receives about 20 e-mail messages and calls informing them of strays as well as injured, abandoned or abused dogs.

She recounts one unforgettable case last year - a stray dog was found with such bad open wounds that its entire body was covered with maggots. It was hiding under a truck and she had to push the dog out with her bare hands and legs. She and other volunteers then rushed it to the veterinarian but it had to be put to sleep in the end.

"I can tolerate the maggots and the wounds. The main thing I want to do is to help them."

Whom to call for help
Straits Times 13 Jul 13;


What: The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals helps sick, injured or distressed animals, including cats, dogs and birds. Response time ranges from one to three hours. Callers may be asked to stay with the animal until then or, in some cases, transport the animal to the vet themselves.

Info: Call 6287-5355 (extension 9) with the following details: the animal's condition, its location, your name andcontact number. Go to for more details.


What: Deals with wildlife, such as birds, squirrels, pangolins, monitor lizards and snakes, that are injured or outside their natural habitat. The group does not handle pets, stray dogs and cats. Response time varies between one and three hours. For non-urgent cases, e-mail Acres pictures of the animal, its location, your name and contact number.

Info: Call 9783-7782, e-mail or go to


What: Helps dogs with injuries or illnesses. E-mail pictures of the dog, its location,your name and contact number. Depending on the case, response time ranges from within a few minutes to a day. The group deals with severely sick and injured dogs.

Info: E-mail or go to


What: Offers guidance on how to help a sick or injured cat. The society has a network of about 1,000 volunteers spread across neighbourhoods here who keep a lookout for cats in different areas. Ask the society to put you in touch with the respective volunteers who live closest to you. You will get a response to your e-mail within two days.

Info: E-mail or go to

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Slower pace of life comes with trade-off, says Shanmugam

Elgin Toh And Robin Chan Straits Times 13 Jul 13;

IF SINGAPOREANS want a slower pace of life, they must also accept a trade-off in living standards, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said at a forum at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last night.

He painted a stark picture of the scale of the challenges facing the country, as pressures from an ageing society set in and the competition on its doorstep heats up.

There is also a fiscal challenge as public spending already outstrips revenue from taxes in this year's Budget, a situation that is likely to exacerbate in the coming decades. The only reason there is no actual deficit is the income stream from the reserves built up over many years.

Weighty realities like these "keep ministers up at night", he said, as they seek to maintain the focus on the long-term development of the country.

"Many people... assume that all other things will remain the same - I will have this lifestyle, I will have this job, I will have this quality of life, and I can afford to slow down," he said.

"But the real answer is: your lifestyle and quality of life and the state of society will be different. As long as we debate that and agree that that is an outcome that we are prepared to accept, yes, the answer is, we can afford to slow down."

Elaborating on Singapore's internal challenges, he cited population figures: Each retired person will be supported by just 2.1 working adults by 2030, down from the current 5.9, and 13.5 in 1970.

Furthermore, as the proportion of senior citizens grows, they will hold more votes and could potentially push politicians to spend more to benefit their age group - as is the case in Japan.

Such trends will affect the amount of taxes today's young will have to pay in future.

Turning his attention to Singapore's place in the world, the minister raised the possibility that making a living would become much harder for the country.

As Asian countries continue to rise economically, Singapore's status as an air, sea and financial hub, for instance, would come under threat if these functions were replicated in other cities in the region, he said.

He gave the example of how China was, for security reasons, developing a trade route that went through Myanmar, bypassing the narrow Strait of Malacca where its ships could be stopped by "a few submarines".

"And when China says it's going to do it, it will be done," he said, adding that this was a point of great concern for Singapore, since 150,000 jobs here depended on its sea hub status.

But beyond these threats and challenges to Singapore's prosperity, there were opportunities that could be seized, he contended.

He painted a vision of Singapore as the New York of Asean, a region with a combined economy larger than India's, he noted.

Already, through free trade negotiations, Asean countries have done away with three-quarters of tariffs on intra-Asean trade.

If Singapore maintained the rule of law, non-corruptibility and safety, it could become a services centre in the region, and reap enormous benefits, Mr Shanmugam said.

Asked about political competition, he said both one-party and multi-party systems can fail.

But Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China, he noted, succeeded post-World War II because they had good leadership and political stability.

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Indonesian govt to charge Malaysian company for haze fires

The Star 12 Jul 13;

JAKARTA: A Malaysian firm, believed to be responsible for forest fires in Sumatra, is set to face charges a day after the Riau administration lifted the haze disaster emergency status, the Indonesian National Police said, according to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Police spokesperson Insp Gen Ronny F. Sompie said that the Malaysian company allegedly carried out irresponsible burning practices in its concession area in Riau.

“The company is responsible for the fire and has been declared a suspect, but we have not determined the company’s employees who were responsible for the burning,” he said at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta.

Riau Police spokesman Adj Sr Comr Hermansyah said that they had questioned 16 witnesses in the case, from field workers to management-level employees.

“None have been named as the perpetrators of the fire in the company’s concession area.

"We do not want to rush the naming of the responsible parties,” he told The Jakarta Post in Pekanbaru on Thursday.

Hermansyah declined to mention the names and the positions of the witnesses.

If found guilty, those involved in the irresponsible practices could be charged under the 2002 Environment Law, the 1999 Forestry Law and the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of 10-years imprisonment and 10bil Rupiah (RM3.2mil) in fines.

Previously, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya suggested 14 companies were the source of forest fires in Riau, eight of those Malaysian-owned.
In June, the slash-and-burn fires created a severe haze that shrouded Singapore and Malaysia, prompting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue an apology to neighbouring countries. - ANN/The Jakarta Post

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