Best of our wild blogs: 15 Jul 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [8 - 14 Jul 2013]
from Green Business Times

27 Jul: Your chance to volunteer at Tampines Eco Park
from The Green Volunteers

Battlefield Tour July 28 Sunday
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History. and Green Activist Bhavani Prakash’s Plea

31 Jul Green Drinks: Mosquitoes and Dengue
from Green Drinks Singapore

Festival of Biodiversity 2013
from Butterflies of Singapore

Festival of Biodiversity 2013
from my gap year

A Naturalist Guide to The Birds of Singapore (Book launch)
from Rojak Librarian

Night Walk At Venus Drive (12 Jun 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG and Morning Walk At Durian Loop (13 Jul 2013)

Butterflies Galore! : Fluffy Tit
from Butterflies of Singapore

Bigfin Reef Squid
from Monday Morgue

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NUS, NTU complete studies on underground campus space

Feng Zengkun Straits Times 15 Jul 13;

Singapore's two largest universities have completed exploratory studies to see if they can tap their campuses' underground space for classrooms, libraries, sports halls and other facilities.

The National University of Singapore's two-month study was completed late last year while a research group at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will finalise its report by next month.

NUS' vice-president of campus infrastructure Yong Kwet Yew said delving underground would expand use of the Kent Ridge campus' land while conserving existing green and open spaces on the surface.

"In the exploratory study, some possible uses identified included sports facilities, classrooms, libraries, auditoriums, and even research laboratories, data centres and parking structures," he told The Sunday Times.

However further studies are needed, such as how to make the underground spaces more comfortable for people, for example through the use of natural lighting.

He added that the university is also exploring research areas related to the use and development of underground space, but did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile at NTU, students could eventually swim in a subterranean pool or borrow books from an underground library.

Its Nanyang Centre for Underground Space (NCUS) led a year-long study with an international team of researchers to outline how the university can expand underground.

The study was sponsored by NTU's Sustainable Earth Office and the researchers said it could complement the university's 15-year masterplan to develop the campus, which was unveiled in 2011.

Among other things, the NCUS report - which comes out next month - will provide preliminary designs for a four-storey underground learning complex and a three-level sports hall below the Jurong campus' surface.

The NCUS' interim director Zhao Zhiye said: "NTU may not build these underground facilities in the near term, but this concept study will be a good start for planning purposes."

For example, if the university wants to expand below the surface, it will need to set aside space above-ground for access shafts.

The report is based on available data about the NTU grounds' geology and topography, and sets out concept plans for caverns, tunnels and basements and how these could be linked to the surface.

The underground learning centre, for example, consists of 220,000 sq m spread over four levels, including space for libraries, function rooms, and a main concourse.

The three-storey sports hall would be located under the existing sports centre on campus, and feature a swimming pool and courts for indoor games such as badminton and basketball.

The researchers estimated the amount of rock that would need to be excavated for these two facilities, but not their price tags as these could change depending on the subsurface geology.

The report's principal investigator Zhao Jian, a rock mechanics and tunnelling professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, added that the report will include information from previous studies on underground facilities' safety and sustainability.

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Routine fogging harmful to health

Straits Times 15 Jul 13;

IN MY letter ("Ban routine fogging, focus on destroying mosquito breeding sites"; June 1), I wrote about the need to ban routine thermal fogging as it is ineffective, creates pesticide resistance in the mosquitoes, destroys the natural predators of the mosquitoes and pollutes the environment.
Put your hair in our hands. Watch it unbelievably restored.

I am glad that the National Environment Agency has noted that "some studies do not support outdoor fogging" ("NEA outlines dengue control measures"; July 5).

Routine fogging, besides being ineffective, is also harmful to our health and hazardous to vulnerable and at-risk groups.

Thermal fogging uses diesel as a carrier for the insecticide. This makes the constituents of the fog fat-soluble and, when absorbed into the body (by contact or inhalation), will accumulate and remain in the fatty tissues of the body - a process known as bio-accumulation.

With droplet sizes of 0.3 to 50 microns, and with most particles at less than 15 microns, the smallest droplets can easily be absorbed into the body through inhalation.

When this happens, it is not easily removed or broken down by the body's protective processes. The outcome is an accumulation of the pesticide and diesel, which is toxic and potentially carcinogenic in the long term.

Long-term diesel exposure is also known to damage the kidneys and affect blood-clotting. Repeated exposure will have a cumulative effect on the body.

Unfortunately, very little is known of the long-term dangers of pesticide and diesel exposure.

If we regulate outdoor smoking because of second-hand smoke and ban the burning of garden refuse because of the air pollution it generates, why do we allow routine fogging - the fog is far more toxic and hazardous than ordinary smoke or haze - to be carried out indiscriminately when it is of little help?

The pest-control companies need to redevelop their processes and services to provide alternatives that are effective and not hazardous to the population, instead of offering palliative services that are not helpful but harmful.

The NEA can play a critical role in this issue.

William Tok Gek Sun

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Malaysia: Elephant sanctuary to open soon

Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 15 Jul 13;

PHASE ONE: Sabah centre will treat animals and conduct awareness activities

KOTA KINABALU: THE first phase of the elephant sanctuary in Kinabatangan here will be opened in September, lifting hopes for the survival of the species in Sabah.

The opening phase of the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary was recently completed with a handling paddock, staff quarters and a store built at a cost of RM1.8 million.

Initiated by the Sabah Wildlife Department and non-governmental organisation Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT), the centre will serve as a rescue and treatment centre for injured or displaced elephants, as well as for conducting awareness programmes and activities.

This will be followed by the second phase, which will cost RM5.2 million, to develop a 25ha plot in the sanctuary. A forested area has also been identified for rehabilitated elephants to be released into.

Both were part of the Elephant Conservation Action Plan that will see a bigger area turned into a full-fledged sanctuary measuring more than 1,200ha, which will cost up to RM30 million to establish.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said the first two phases of the programme could cater to between 12 and 16 elephants.

"Injured elephants will be treated at this centre before being released into forests and wildlife reserves. Other wildlife will be accepted and treated at this sanctuary, such as sun bears, proboscis monkeys, orangutan, clouded leopards and banteng."

BCT conservation and research head Raymond Alfred said the first phase of the project was financially aided by BCT Japan, Asahiyama Zoo, Saraya, Hunting World, Tokio Marine, NTT Data Kirin, Taiseh and Yusen Logistics. Phase two is aided by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

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Vietnam lists itself among the countries with no more rhinos

VietNamNet Bridge 15 Jul 13;

The culprit who killed the Java rhino at the Cat Tien National Park three years ago remains unknown. No state official has been disciplined for the rhino death. This shows the serious loophole in the management work of the Vietnamese agencies in the protection the wildlife.

The death of the Java rhino in April 2010 has officially put Vietnam onto the list of the countries where there is no more living rhino.

As soon as the death of the rhino was discovered, WWF urgently asked to conduct an investigation in a large scale. Tran Van Thanh, Director of the national park then committed to closely cooperate with the competent agencies to take the investigation and clarify the death. The Cat Tien National Park then asked competent agencies to apply necessary measures to track down the rhino horn taken away by someone.

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen said at a press conference on May 17, 2010, nearly one month after the rhino’s death, that he just heard the news on that day.

An official of the Environment General Directorate then said he read the information about the rhino death in April 2010, but the Cat Tien National Park was put under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, not the Ministry of Natural Resources the Environment.

At the time when the press conference was held, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment carried out a lot of big activities to respond to the International Year of the Biodiversity. However, it still denied the responsibility for the rhino death.

Analysts have commented that the battle of preventing the trafficking of rhino horns from South Africa to Vietnam has been very tough, because Vietnam still lacks a “commander” who has the big power and responsibility enough to win the battle.

The rhino horn trafficking from South Africa to Vietnam has become more tragic. The rhinos in South Africa have been in a so big danger that the conservatives have to inject poison in rhinos’ horns. The poison would make people, who eat rhino horn powder, vomit and cause fits of convulsion. The horns have also been covered with a substance which allows competent agencies easily discover them in the travelers’ luggage at the airports.

However, Vietnamese traffickers still keep bringing rhino horns to Vietnam, though they know about the poisoning.

A lot of traffickers and the “money-bags” have been planning to import rhinos in a whole from South Africa to Vietnam, where they would legalize their existence by keeping them at farms.

According to TRAFFIC, in three years from 2007 to 2010, 657 rhino horns were legally imported to Vietnam. Meanwhile, CITES Vietnam reported 170 horns only. This means that the State of Vietnam failed to collect $2 million worth of tax because of the loss of the 74 percent of the rhino horn imports from South Africa during that time.

At a workshop in August 2012, Dr Ong Vinh An from the Vinh City University, said the trafficking can bring huge profits, about $4.2 billion a year.

At least two big workshops on preventing the wildlife trafficking have been organized by the Central Committee for Propaganda and Training, TRAFFIC and WWF since 2009.

Thanh Tra

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