Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jul 13

20% of monkey population exterminated in half a year, is this the way to go? from thelongtails

Sunday 4 Aug: Hill 4
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop, 31 Aug 2013
from Habitatnews

Hantu on the Rebound?
from Pulau Hantu

Kranji, less trashy?
from wild shores of singapore and More Beccari hunting from Kranji

Moulting - A Natural Wonder
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Sumatran Sunbeam
from Butterflies of Singapore

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker preening and territorial call
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Rare sea turtle spotted on beach at East Coast Park

Grace Chua Straits Times 30 Jul 13;

The turtle - believed to be a hawksbill - was spotted near East Coast Lagoon Food Centre on July 21. It heaved itself back into the sea about an hour later, without laying any eggs. Hawksbills and green turtles are the two species most commonly sighted here, and both are critically endangered. -- PHOTO: DAVID TAN

WHEN biology undergraduate David Tan got a call telling him that a sea turtle had been spotted at East Coast Park, he found himself wrestling with two conflicting impulses.

While he wanted a rare glimpse of the endangered creature laying its eggs, he was also wary of disturbing it.

"Excitement got the better of me," said the 24-year-old. After hearing of the sighting from a friend earlier this month, he headed straight to the spot, near East Coast Lagoon Food Centre.

When he arrived after midnight, the keen naturalist saw the creature being watched from a safe distance by several other people, most of whom were National Parks Board (NParks) staff.

The turtle - believed to be a hawksbill - heaved itself back into the sea about an hour later, without laying any eggs. But Mr Tan managed to take a photograph, without using a camera flash to avoid disturbing it. He said it had chosen a "weird spot" to nest, adding: "The sand is compacted and it's quite grassy."

NParks National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan said it had been notified of the nesting sea turtle at 11.25pm on July 21. It was the first reported sighting at the beach this year.

Sea turtles sometimes abandon their attempts to lay eggs if the ground is not suitable or if they are disturbed, said Dr Diong Cheong Hoong, 66. The creatures are generally spotted nesting in Singapore once or twice a year, added the retired National Institute of Education biologist.

Marine turtles have long flippers and are adapted to life at sea, returning to shore only to lay eggs. There are several species, with hawksbills and green turtles the two most commonly sighted here. Only the hawksbill has been recorded laying eggs on Singapore shores, perhaps because green turtles are more picky about nesting sites or more sensitive to light.

Both species are critically endangered. They have been losing their habitat to humans, who also harvest their eggs and meat.

Dr Diong said isolated areas such as Semakau should be set aside for hawksbills to nest.

"With fewer natural beaches, and beaches gradually being settled, it's dismal for turtles around the world," he added.

Members of the public who spot a turtle nesting should move away to avoid distracting it and call the police. Officers will then cordon off the area to protect the nest from poachers and animals.

Those who spot turtles or their eggs on Singapore beaches can also call the 24-hour NParks helpline on 1800-471-7300.

Related links
More about sea turtles in Singapore and other sea turtle sightings in our waters on wildsingapore.
David Tan also shared about his encounter on facebook.

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Recycling incentive schemes yet to gain widespread support

Grace Chua Straits Times 29 Jul 13;

EVEN as the Government considers a pay-as-you-throw system, the use of financial incentives to get Singaporeans to cut waste and recycle more has been a mixed bag so far.

Nearly four months after the start of the Save-As-You-Reduce pilot scheme in Punggol, some Housing Board blocks there have not reduced waste significantly, with some even throwing out more than they did last year.

This was despite the scheme letting households pay cheaper waste collection fees if they throw less.

At Pasir Ris, a different points-for-recyclables initiative also has few takers.

A straw poll of 10 households near Pasir Ris Park found that eight of them had not heard of the scheme, which began in 2011. Through the programme, landed households and HDB residents' committees get points - redeemable for vouchers - for every kilogram of waste recycled.

Retired accountant Simon Teo, 65, who lives in Pasir Ris, said he recycles on his own. "We are not taking part in the scheme as there has been no information on how to redeem points so far."

At Jurong East, however, a weekend Cash For Trash programme by waste collector Colex has no shortage of customers, it seems.

A single station at Yuhua Market gets between 2,000kg and 4,000kg of recyclables every week. In just half an hour yesterday, 25 people were seen stopping by with bags and piles of newspapers and plastic for recycling.

While money can be an effective incentive, Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond believes it may not be sustainable in the long run.

Instead, "the rate of household recycling can increase tremendously if we made it simple for residents to recycle", for example, by putting a recycling chute in every block.

That seemed to be the case at HDB's Treelodge estate in Punggol. The households at what HDB calls its first "eco-precinct" have thrown less than their neighbours at other Punggol flats - 40.4kg to 49.9kg per household each month, compared with 50.7kg to 77.2kg.

According to the Ministry of National Development, three times more recyclables are collected from Treelodge than from similar estates without recycling chutes.

Singapore has set itself a target of recycling 70 per cent of waste by 2030, up from 60 per cent last year.

But it does not make full use of new space- and labour-efficient technologies, and lacks household participation in recycling, industry players at a waste management symposium said earlier this year.

Members of the public have also written in to The Straits Times Forum page pointing out a lack of recycling culture here.

National Environment Agency waste and resource management director Ong Soo San said in response that the agency is "also exploring other waste minimisation and recycling options, including deposit refund schemes", but would have to weigh the costs and benefits.

At an industry fair in March, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu hinted at Singapore potentially charging households for waste disposal based on the amount they throw out.

"Many countries, including the United States and Japan, charge households according to the weight of waste disposed," she had said.

"To encourage households here to reduce their waste and recycle more, we are currently exploring the feasibility of moving towards a usage-based pricing waste disposal system that will allow households to directly reap the benefits of reducing waste."

Since 2011, public waste collectors have also had to provide households incentives to recycle under new public waste collection contracts.

But the key, said Mr Raymond, is education.

He pointed out that many households in European countries recycle despite a lack of incentives.

"Why can't people change their habits when it comes to recycling, just because it is the right thing to do?" he said.

Background story

Going green, with incentives

Grin (Grow Your Recycling Incentives Now)

The scheme is run by environmental services firm Veolia in Housing Board blocks and landed homes in the Pasir Ris-Tampines sector.

Recycling bins are tagged with chips, allowing collectors to track the amount each block or household recycles. For every kilogram of recyclables collected - a minimum 3kg is needed - a household or block gets one point. Points can be redeemed for gifts and vouchers from participating merchants like Nanyang Optical and Pet Lovers Centre. For HDB blocks, the respective residents' committees will distribute the vouchers.

Cash For Trash

This is run by various public waste collectors such as Colex.

Residents take recyclables like cans and newspapers to designated collection points.

In some cases, they get a small amount of cash. For instance, Colex pays between

five and 50 cents per kilogram, depending on the waste.

In other programmes, each kilogram of waste collected helps sponsor food items or energy-saving lightbulbs for needy families in the district.


This initiative by the National Environment Agency and SembWaste is being tested out in selected residences in Punggol and Bartley.

Households get rebates on their waste collection fees of 7.6 cents per kilogram when they throw out less than a baseline figure - which was calculated after averaging out the amount of waste thrown between last October and March. Rebates are given every six months. For instance, each household in Block 306B Punggol Place threw out 41.6kg of trash last month, less than the baseline average of 45.8 kg, so they will get a 32-cent rebate for the month.


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More litterbugs nabbed after NEA increases anti-littering patrols

Ng Lian Cheong Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE: Sixty per cent more litterbugs were caught in June compared to May, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) stepped up its anti-littering patrols.

It is an offence to flick cigarette ash onto the floor.

NEA told Channel NewsAsia that its 60 enforcement volunteers have the same enforcement rights as its officers, and they can ask litterbugs to clean up after themselves.

If they refuse, these enforcement volunteers then have the right to take down the offenders' personal particulars on behalf of NEA for further action to be taken against them.

Littering is an offence that carries a fine of up to $500.

NEA said it intensified anti-littering patrols from 24,000 patrol hours in May to 35,000 hours in June.

And the litterbugs it caught went up from 304 in May to 479 in June.

Channel NewsAsia understands that 50 other members of the public have expressed interest to be enforcement volunteers, and they will receive a two-and-half-day training over the next few weeks.

- CNA/de

More volunteers to squash litterbugs
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 31 Jul 13;

SINGAPORE — The number of trained volunteers empowered to book litterbugs will soon be almost doubled, with about 50 more volunteers having indicated their interest in being part of the scheme, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) as it issued authority cards to the first batch of 60 trained volunteers from various non-government organisations (NGOs) this month.

This comes as 479 litterbugs were nabbed this month by NEA enforcement officers, a 58 per cent increase compared to the 304 apprehended in May — a result of stepped-up enforcement hours from 24,000 man-hours to 35,000 hours per month since last month, according to the NEA.

The authorities have been stressing the importance of having more ground-up initiatives to keep Singapore clean, with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan first mooting the idea of empowering members of the public to help nab litterbugs last year.

As of mid-last month, the NEA had trained the 60 volunteers from five NGOs, namely; the Public Hygiene Council, Waterways Watch Society, Singapore Kindness Movement, Singapore Environmental Council and the Cat Welfare Society.

Said an NEA spokesperson: “These volunteers are in the process of being issued their authority cards via their NGOs, beginning from July 18.”

Under this community volunteer scheme, volunteers are trained in appropriate ways of approaching offenders to pick up their litter. If they encounter any uncooperative offenders, the volunteers have the authority to record down their particulars and hand the details over to the NEA, which will then investigate the cases before prosecuting the offenders.

Training is conducted over two half-day sessions in which the participants are familiarised with the legislation under which they are empowered, while going through role-playing sessions with NEA officers on typical scenarios they may be faced with on the ground. For exposure, the volunteers also accompany NEA officers on their enforcement rounds.

Added the spokesperson: “As this is a new scheme, we will review if there is a need for a refresher training for these volunteers, depending on their needs and feedback.”

The Singapore Kindness Movement is one of the NGOs which have distributed the authority cards to their 10 volunteers.

Its Secretary-General William Wan said: “The fact that we are authorised under the law gives (our volunteers) some sense of security, to be able to handle anyone who asks, why are you doing this?”

Ultimately, volunteers must also carry the right mindset when they approach members of the public, said freelance interior designer Andy Wong, who has been volunteering with the Cat Welfare Society since 2009 and was nominated to undergo the NEA training. “It is inevitable that some people might react negatively, but we have to reassure them that what we are doing is purely educational,” he said.

Added Dr Wan: “The end game is not about us becoming pseudo police officers. The point is, we are trying to get more people to take more ownership of the environment, so that when they see ordinary people asking others not to litter, when we start these conversations, eventually, we can create a culture that is opposite of being indifferent.”

The volunteers also said they have not needed to book any litterbugs so far, adding that most people will usually oblige and pick up their litter when asked to do so politely.

More keen on becoming volunteer litterbug-catchers
50 new volunteers express interest in joining NEA programme, joining current group of 60
Today Online 29 Jul 13

SINGAPORE — With 60 community volunteers from various non-governmental organisations empowered to catch litterbugs, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that another 50 persons have expressed interest in the scheme and will be undergoing training in the upcoming weeks.

Since mid-June, the 60 volunteers from NGOs such as the Public Hygiene Council, Waterways Watch Singapore, and Singapore Environment Council have been trained to follow a set of appropriate protocols to follow when they encounter litterbugs.

If they encounter any uncooperative offenders, the volunteers will record their particulars and hand the details over to the NEA.

These volunteers are in the process of being issued their authority cards via their NGOs, with the first batch receiving their accreditation cards on July 18.

In addition, the authorities have also stepped up enforcement hours from 24,000 man-hours to 35,000 hours per month since May. This has resulted in 478 litterbugs caught in June, a 58 per cent increase compared to the 304 apprehended in May.

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Indonesia, India named as biggest shark catchers

(AFP) Google News 30 Jul 13;

PARIS — Indonesia and India on Tuesday were named as the world's biggest catchers of sharks in an EU-backed probe into implementing a new pact to protect seven threatened species of sharks and rays.

Indonesia and India account for more than a fifth of global shark catches, according to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

They head the list of 20 countries that together account for nearly 80 percent of total shark catch reported between 2002 and 2011.

The others, in descending order, are Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Yemen.

The report was requested by the EU's executive European Commission following the listing of seven species of sharks and rays by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok last March.

The regulations will take effect in September 2014 to give countries time to determine what is a sustainable level of trade in these sharks and how their industries can adapt to it.

Shark numbers have been decimated by overfishing, caused in great part by a demand for shark fins in China.

The absence of this apex predator has a big knock-on effect on the main biodiversity chain. Some scientists believe that one of the consequences has been an explosion in jellyfish numbers.

TRAFFIC -- an alliance between green group WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) -- said it had identified other countries that were major hubs for the trade in shark meat or shark parts.

They include Bangladesh, Maldives, Oman, Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates as exporters of shark fins, and Namibia, South Africa, Panama and Uruguay as exporters of shark meat.

The report also gave a red-flag warning about the need to unravel a trade as complex as it is lucrative.

Some of the species are specifically targeted by fishing operations, but others end up as accidental, but valuable, catch when trawlers are looking for tuna.

"Key to implementing the CITES regulations will be the establishment of chain-of-custody measures, to facilitate enforcement and verification that harvest is legal," said Victoria Mundy-Taylor, who co-wrote the report.

The CITES controls will cover the ocean whitetip shark, porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead shark and two species of manta rays, which are all classified as endangered on the IUCN's Red List.

These species are all slow-growing, late to mature and produce few young, which make them highly vulnerable to overfishing. The decision in Bangkok moved them to Appendix II of CITES, which covers species that are threatened by trade or may become so without strict controls.

New study gets its teeth into shark trade regulations
WWF 30 Jul 13;

A new TRAFFIC study examines how tighter trade controls can ensure that seven species of sharks and manta rays are only sourced sustainably and legally before entering international trade.

The study, Into the deep: Implementing CITES measures for commercially-valuable sharks and manta rays, was commissioned by the European Commission and written in the wake of these marine animals being listed in by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in March this year.

The oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead shark and two manta rays, all of them subject to continued overfishing, were included in Appendix II which will regulate trade.

“There was great elation when these sharks and manta rays were listed by CITES, but although it was a significant moment for the conservation world, now comes the task of making these listings work in practice as time is running out for some of these species,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Marine Programme Leader.

“CITES listings do not take away the need for comprehensive fisheries management, they represent one critical part of that management through aiming to control trade and prevent international trade in products of these species being sourced from unsustainable or illegal fisheries.”

The new study aimed to identify which of the 178 countries signed up to CITES will be affected by the listings; the relevant existing international, regional and domestic regulations; the main challenges facing implementation of the measures; and any additional capacity building needs to ensure those countries catching and trading in these species can validate their sustainability and legality before issuing permits.

The study revealed a lack of basic information on the levels of catch and population status of the newly listed species, with an urgent need to improve the identification of species in trade, reporting of their trade and for further research, assessment and monitoring to determine the impacts of trade on populations. It highlighted the need to ensure domestic regulatory frameworks and administrative structures are adequate to support the implementation of CITES trade controls.

The study also examined the very different dynamics influencing the trade in the species concerned. Manta rays are chiefly traded for gill rakers, used in traditional Asian medicines. Of the sharks porbeagle is mainly caught for meat, hammerheads for local consumption of meat and international trade of fins and the larger oceanic whitetip is highly valued for fins, destined for markets in Asia, particularly Hong Kong.

Some of the species examined are specifically targeted by fishing operations, while others are a secondary, but valuable, catch when targeting other species such as tuna. Given the different markets involved in the trade and uses involved, this creates highly complex trade chains which the new study attempts to unravel.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF.

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Climate study predicts a watery future for New York, Boston and Miami

A significant number of people in 1,700 American cities are at greater risk of living below sea level than previously thought
Suzanne Goldenberg 30 Jul 13;

US sea levels rising : Florida Coast Line At Greatest Risk Of Rising Sea Level
For nearly 80 US cities, the watery future would come much sooner, within the next decade. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 1,700 American cities and towns – including Boston, New York, and Miami – are at greater risk from rising sea levels than previously feared, a new study has found.

The future of these 1,700 locations is "locked in" by greenhouse gas emissions already built up in the atmosphere, the analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday found.

The survey does not specify a date by which these cities would actually fall under water. Instead, it specifies a "locked-in" date, by which time a future under water would be certain. In other words, a point of no return.

Because of the inertia built into the climate system, even if all carbon emissions stopped immediately, it would take some time for the global temperature rises to ease off. That means the fate of some cities is already sealed, the study says.

"Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level," said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. Dramatic cuts in emissions – much greater than Barack Obama and other world leaders have so far agreed – could save nearly 1,000 of those towns, by averting the sea-level rise, the study found.

"Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," Strauss said. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere."

A recent study, also published in PNAS by the climate scientist Anders Levermann found each 1C rise in atmospheric warming would lead eventually to 2.3m of sea-level rise. The latest study takes those figures, and factors in the current rate of carbon emissions, as well as the best estimate of global temperature sensitivity to pollution.

This shows that the list of cities at risk of being "locked in" by 2100 spans Sacramento, California – which lies far from the sea but would be vulnerable to flooding in the San Joaquin delta – and Norfolk, Virginia. The latter town is home of America's largest navy base, whose miles of waterfront installations would be at risk of being locked in to future sea level rises by the 2040s. The Pentagon has already begun actively planning for a future under climate change, including relocating bases.

About half the population of Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston and home to Harvard and MIT, could be locked in to a future below sea level by the early 2060s, the study found. Several coastal cities in Texas were also vulnerable.

But the region at highest risk was Florida, which has dozens of towns which will be locked by century's end. The date of no-return for much of Miami would be 2041, the study found. Half of Palm Beach with its millionaires' estates along the sea front would be beyond saving by the 2060s. The point of no return for other cities such as Fort Lauderdale would come before that.

"Pretty much everywhere it seems you are going to be under water unless you build a massive system of dykes and levees," Strauss said. The study drew on current research on sea-level rise, now growing at 1ft per decade.

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We've been asking the wrong questions about conservation

Stop worrying about how species will respond to climate change – focus on how our adaptations are going to affect them
James Watson 29 Jul 13;

Climate change adaptation : Floods in Sichuan China: heavy flood waters sweeping through Beichuan
Heavy flood waters sweep through Beichuan in southwest China's Sichuan province. Extreme weather events are now occurring more frequently because of climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In looking at how best to protect wildlife from the growing climate change crisis, conservation scientists usually ignore the single most significant impact on fauna and flora: the changes warming drives in the behaviour of its dominant species – humans – and resultant effects on the living world and natural processes. Those effects are already driving many of the climate-related ecological shifts we are witnessing across the globe.

For example, the opening up of the Arctic for oil and gas, mining and transport routes as sea-ice retreats directly impacts polar biodiversity. Expansion of agricultural activities due to changing rainfall in the mountains of Africa's Albertine Rift and the valleys of the Congo Basin now threatens gorilla habitat there.

Elsewhere, the construction of ineffective seawalls in Papua New Guinea to slow down the impact of sea-level rise has led to the wholesale destruction of some of the most biodiverse and protein-productive coral reefs in the world. Increasing temperatures across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau likewise contribute to a shift in the formerly stable balance between indigenous herders and wildlife, both of which graze the delicate grasslands.

The list is endless but is it not all negative. For example, in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, efforts by local communities to control a growing number of wildfire incidents, associated with a drying climate, are having a positive impact on vulnerable populations of threatened species like jaguar.

Nevertheless, it would appear that in their work on climate change, conservation scientists have forgotten a basic tenet of our field: that conservation is fundamentally about people.

A survey of the literature shows that in 2013, more than 6,500 climate-change-related papers have been published in peer-reviewed conservation journals. The vast majority of these examine how and where future temperature and rainfall changes will make species more vulnerable.

While direct threats to species are often less challenging to identify, quantify and predict, indirect threats can often be far more significant and lasting. Nowhere is this more true than with climate change. For example, while hard to perceive on the ground, the risk that a national park will likely become the best place to grow food can be the most relevant threat to species found there.

The misdirection of conservation science when it comes to climate change is not due to a lack of data or a lack of time to undertake relevant research. It is more basic than that. We've been asking the wrong questions.

Understanding the ecology of species and their likely responses to climate change is helpful, but understanding how humans are going to be affected by climate and what this impact will be on those species is far more important.

As a conservationist who has spent his career looking at climate change impacts, I have largely stopped worrying about working out how species are going to respond and begun focusing on how human adaptations will affect those species. It is clear to me that this is what our immediate priority should be.

Failure to predict likely human adaptations to climate change commits us to a future of reactive, emergency responses likely to be wholly inadequate to the demands of the coming century. With greater attention to this subject, we can target conservation resources preemptively to meet more effectively and efficiently what many of us believe to be the greatest global challenge of our time.

Dr James Watson directs the Global Climate Change program for the Wildlife Conservation Society and is the chair of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) climate change specialist group. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland and has recently become president-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology.

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