Best of our wild blogs: 10 Sep 13

On stranger whorls
from The annotated budak

Reflections of Chek Jawa by the Senior High Student Council EXCEL Exposure by Songshan and Ming Quan and Yu Lian and Ruo Ting

Butterflies Galore! : Tree Yellow
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Pied Hornbill mating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Sat 14 Sept & Sun 15 Sept Guided Walks (English & Mandarin)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Europe importing more palm oil for biofuels, raising risks for rainforests from news by Rhett Butler

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Singapore's (costly) underground ambitions

Major hurdles mean hefty price tag for subterranean works, experts say
Daryl Chin Straits Times 10 Sep 13;

AS SINGAPORE developers start gearing up for a subterranean future, experts have warned of the pitfalls of going underground.

They say plans for a possible network of tunnels, malls and research labs could fall foul of the island's patchy soil formations and built-up landscape.

These factors could push up costs and make life difficult for planners, who would need to get even more businesses on board.

On the other hand, burrowing into the earth could provide valuable room to build in space-scarce Singapore."Our land boundary is finite," said Professor Yong Kwet Yew of the National University of Singapore's civil and environment engineering department.

"However, the only limit on underground space is the commercial viability of the project."

Earlier this month, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post that the Government was mulling over the possibility of an underground masterplan to make the city "even more exciting and liveable".

These developments could include malls, pedestrian links, cycling lanes and research facilities.

Yet, engineers and analysts say building them could be hard going in many areas due to the the varied nature of Singapore's rock and soil formations.

For example, Bukit Timah and Bukit Gombak have tough chunks of granite and norite, while stretches of West Coast Road sit on limestone deposits. These rocks can be harder than concrete, making excavating them a costly business.

In Jurong, the rocks and soil have been weakened by rain and high temperatures. Meanwhile, Kallang has loose sand, soft clay and silt, although these can be treated and strengthened.

Another hurdle is getting businesses, developers and the public to buy into the project.

This can be especially tricky in urban areas.

Malls in Orchard Road have made the news for saying "no" to basement walkways between buildings, despite a study showing that these could lead to higher profits in the long run.

"Once an area is built up, you would need to get more stakeholders on board if you want things to move forward," said Orchard Road Business Association executive director Steven Goh.

Then, there is the issue of what kinds of development will work best beneath the surface.

"Retail spaces, warehouses, industrial buildings and certain types of offices can be sited underground, where there are no windows and it's artificially air-conditioned," said DP Architects director Vikas Gore. "But putting homes in there would be problematic, as people might have difficulty adjusting to them."

With taking the subterranean route already an expensive option, factors such as unsuitable rock types could cause the price tag to rise. SLP International head of research Nicholas Mak said building one level underground costs about the same as building three on the surface.

Nevertheless, Singapore already has a number of subterranean developments such as the Jurong Rock Caverns, which store petrochemicals and oil.

There are also plans for an underground science city beneath Kent Ridge Park, with a street-type layout spanning 192,000 sq m of rentable space.

Prof Yong said more studies should be done to map out soil conditions. "Everything is a matter of cost," he added. "At the end of the day, it depends on whether the ground conditions are suitable for what you want to build."

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Indonesia: Javan Leopard Caught in Village Chicken Cage

Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 9 Sep 13;

Solo, Central Java. The Regional Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) for Surakarta evacuated an endangered Javan leopard after it was caught by residents of Tempur, Central Java, on Friday.

“We thank the villagers for reporting this to BKSDA and for not hurting or killing the Javan leopard, since this animal is protected by Indonesian law,” Johan Setiawan, head of Surakarta’s BKSDA office, said on Saturday.

The leopard was trapped by villagers using a modified chicken cage. The animal began appearing in the village after its habitat in the surrounding area was threatened by locals’ activities. It had since gained a reputation for preying on cattle at night.

BKSDA identified the leopard as a male juvenile about 3 years old.

Johan said BKSDA sent a rescue-and-evacuation team, including an animal expert and a veterinary surgeon, to check the leopard’s health. It was anesthetized prior to evacuation in a conservation cage.

The team found the leopard in good health, despite its entrapment. It is being held for observation at Batang Safari Park, Central Java, after which the conservation office will return the animal to its habitat.

The Javan leopard is an endangered subspecies that lives in Javanese forests from Ujung Kulon, Banten, to Alas Purwo, East Java.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified it as critically endangered in 2008.

At the time, there were no more than 250 Javan leopards alive, with no population rebound expected.

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Malaysia: Another bridge to Singapore being considered

The Star 10 Sep 13

JOHOR BARU: A third bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore to further improve connectivity and accessibility between the two countries is being considered.

Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said feasibility studies on the project are being conducted.

The studies, among other things, are looking into safety and security aspects, bridge design, and construction cost for the project that will involve both governments.

Johor Public Works executive councillor Datuk Hasni Mohamad welcomed the move.

“The idea of having a third bridge is not new and was proposed many years ago,” he said after the opening of an international conference and exhibition on highways and expressways at the Persada Johor International Con­vention Centre.

Hasni said Pengerang, Kota Tingggi has been identified as the potential site for the bridge.

The third bridge, he said, will help accelerate efforts by the Federal and Johor governments to transform Pengerang into a regional oil and gas hub.

Hasni said with the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex taking shape within the next few years, the additional link is vital because traffic volume in the area will increase.

Hasni also announced that the existing dual lane Senai-Desaru Expressway on Route 92 will be upgraded into a four-lane highway starting early next year.

The work on the 27km stretch after the bridge over Sungai Johor is expected to be completed in 24 months.

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Malaysia: 'Gangs smuggling in tusks'

Nuradilla Noorazam The Star 10 Sep 13;

NGO REPORT: Malaysia a prominent transit country for wildlife trafficking

KUALA LUMPUR: THE large amount of ivory shipped to Malaysia indicates that underworld elements are involved in the smuggling of the contraband.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic deputy director for Southeast Asia Dr Chris R. Shepherd said small-time wildlife traffickers would not have the capacity to ship such large consignments of ivory across many countries.

"Wildlife crime should be treated more seriously and given a higher priority as there are indications that organised criminals are involved in the trade."

Past seizures of ivory by Malay-sian Customs officers, such as the discovery of 1,500 pieces of African elephant tusks in wooden crates late last year, were proof that Malaysia had become a prominent transit country for wildlife trafficking.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists Malaysia as one of eight countries identified as countries affected by the ivory trade.

Shepherd said stern enforcement by authorities could hamper efforts by wildlife traffickers utilising Malaysia as a transit point in the future.

"An example would be the case where a man in Kedah was caught with 22 tiger skins and a number of elephant tusks in his house. He holds the key that could open up opportunities for further investigations, as it gives us a chance to find out who is behind the trade."

He said authorities should also punish traffickers equivalent to their crime.

Shepherd also proposed for seized ivory to be destroyed, to send a clear message to traffickers that it will not be tolerated.

"There still needs to be a lot of work done in investigating the trade, such as who is behind it, the end consumers and middlemen.

"Cooperation between source and transit countries, such as Malaysia and countries in the region of Africa, would benefit both authorities, as it would ensure that smugglers would not have it easy."

Shepherd said Traffic was in the midst of working with the Customs Department in strengthening its capacity-building programmes.

"We are holding two workshops with the department, where frontline officers would be exposed to the wildlife trade and how to detect ivory in shipments."

He said the first workshop was held in Klang, with another to be held later this week in Johor Baru.

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Indonesia: Forestry minister disappointed by US actor Harrison Ford

Antara 9 Sep 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has expressed his disappointment over US actor Harrison Ford`s behaviour during an interview on Monday.

Harrison Ford came to the Ministry of Forestry that day to interview the minister for his documentary film on global warming that also depicts pictures of a number of forests in Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan and Riau.

In a press conference, after the interview, the minister said the US actor viewed that Indonesian forests had been severely damaged, national parks encroached and actors behind them were not caught while permit for ecosystem restoration has not been issued.

"I understand the American man just came here to see Tesso Nilo (national park in Riau) and wanted violators to be caught the same day. It was not easy to explain it to him. He was very emotional. His temper was high during the interview. I could understand his love for the fauna, the environment and the rain forests in Indonesia," he said.

He said he had explained to Ford that the settlement of forest problems in Indonesia was done in stages. No force is used against the encroachers but it is done by improving their welfare by providing them with land for them to farm.

"The time was very short. I was only given an opportunity to speak one or two words during the interview. Discussion should have been done before so that there would be understanding despite the differences. I was immediately given a make-up and then acted for the interview," he said.

Zulkifli said he was not afraid if the result of the interview would be used to discredit Indonesia.

"Now people are free. If they are not allowed to cover it they could seek materials from other sources. We are not covering up anything," he said.

Regarding newsmen`s disappointment over their failure to interview Harrison Ford despite almost three hours of waiting the minister said that "we have signed a contract that Ford would not give any statement or a press statement." (*)

Editor: Heru

Indiana Jones explores Indonesia’s forests
Dwi Atmanta and Bagus BT Saragih The Jakarta Post 8 Sep 13;

Without fanfare, the Hollywood star known for his role in the Indiana Jones movie franchise, Harrison Ford, has been venturing deep into Indonesian forests and breathing the air of Jakarta in between.

Ford and his team are in Indonesia to work on their contribution to a documentary film on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, which is coproduced by James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie is set to premier in April 2014.

Ford, who snuck into Jakarta on Sept. 1 on a chartered jet at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta, aimed to interview a number of local environmental figures as well as provide the narration for the section on Indonesian rainforests — including information on forest fires, peatland conservation and oil palm plantations.

The list of Ford’s interviewees include President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto; Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan; plantation businessman Franky Widjaja, and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (Kadin) deputy chair for the environment and climate change, Shinta Widjaja Kamdani.

Presidential special staffer for disaster relief Andi Arief said on Saturday that Yudhoyono would be interviewed on Sept. 10. “But I am not sure if the President’s meeting with Ford will be included as part of the movie,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Andi also said the location of the interview with Yudhoyono had not yet been decided.

Shooting is already underway in Jakarta before the team moves to Riau. Ford recently filmed inclusive peatland conservation activities conducted by Dharsono Hartono and activists from international green groups, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace.

President Yudhoyono, who last week attended the G20 leaders’ summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, informed his ministers about Ford’s two-week trip to Indonesia four days before Idul Fitri.

During a Cabinet meeting, the President said Ford had asked him for a meeting and an interview.

After receiving the President’s nod, Ford, through Presidential Palace officials, asked if the President would like him to bring any of the movies that he had starred in.

“Indiana Jones”, the President was quoted as saying.

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