Best of our wild blogs: 15 Sep 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [9 - 15 Sep 2013]
from Green Business Times

Ramble Bukit Brown with Peter Pak (Sun 22 Sep’13 at 09.00am)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Mid-Autumn Festival Night Walk (Fri 20 Sep’13 at 19.00)
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

29 Sep "Love MacRitchie" FREE public guided nature walk
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

Alexandrine Parakeet eating rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)
from Bird Ecology Study Group

buffy fish owl @ pasir ris mangrove - 14Sep2013
from sgbeachbum

Family fun exploring Pasir Ris mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Rusty Millipede
from Monday Morgue

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RWS dolphins get full attention

With 36 trainers hired, level of care seems to exceed that at other parks
David Ee Straits Times 16 Sep 13;

RESORTS World Sentosa's Marine Life Park has employed 36 trainers for its 24 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins ahead of the imminent opening of its Dolphin Island attraction.

This level of animal care appears to exceed that at several other dolphin attractions around the world.

Hong Kong's Ocean Park at one point had 40 trainers caring for 40 marine mammals, including 18 dolphins. In 2009, the Dubai Dolphinarium had two trainers for its four dolphins.

Currently, each of the dolphins in Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has a primary trainer of its own, with the others assisting.

Speaking to reporters last Friday, the park's chief veterinarian Alfonso Lopez said that trainers, with their intimate knowledge of the dolphins, provide a crucial "first line of defence" in detecting anything amiss in mood or health.

"The bond between dolphins and trainers is very important. It's the key to preventing and managing problems."

Each morning, the dolphins are given full- body visual checks by trainers, who are taught to look out for problem signs in their behaviour or body language.

For instance, a dolphin with gastric flu might curl its pectoral fins closer to its body.

Trainers who sense that something is wrong will inform the park's four full-time vets.

Experts say that the stress while in captivity can make dolphins more susceptible to disease. Some of these diseases, such as bacterial infections, cannot be detected with the naked eye.

Three of the original 27 dolphins caught from the Solomon Islands in 2008 and 2009 died from such infections - two in October 2010 while being held in Langkawi, and one last November on the way from the Philippines to Singapore.

To guard against stress, trainers keep dolphins mentally stimulated with training routines, and by letting them roam the 11 inter-connecting lagoons.

Vets have also instituted a health-check system. Respiratory and faecal samples are taken weekly, and tested in an on-site laboratory. Blood samples are also taken when necessary to measure levels of cortisol, which indicates stress levels.

Dolphin Island is understood to be opening soon, although the Marine Life Park declined to reveal its opening date.

This coming Saturday, Singapore-based animal rights group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is launching a campaign in London to call for a boycott of Genting casinos. This is part of its efforts to pressure the company, which runs RWS, into releasing what Acres has labelled the "world's saddest dolphins".

As for the number of trainers at the park, Acres executive director Louis Ng said: "Working towards improving the welfare of the dolphins is a positive step.

"But we must remember that they should never have been captured in the first place."

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Khaw Boon Wan welcomes partnership to test-bed urban solutions in Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 15 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore welcomes partnerships to test-bed urban solutions here.

Singapore has been active in planning technology parks, building townships and developing entire eco-cities in foreign cities.

Mr Khaw, who was speaking at the 4th Binhai Forum and Expo in Tianjin, said Singapore like any city is a work-in-progress as the Singapore story continues to be written.

Mr Khaw cited the Suzhou Industrial Park, the Sino-Singaporean Tianjin Eco-city and Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City as prime examples of partnerships.

Mr Khaw said these help chart a practical development path towards improving people's welfare.

Mr Khaw also shared what Singapore is doing to build on the strong foundation after 48 years of development.

He said greenery in developments is emphasised in Singapore as part of efforts to make the country a "City in a Garden".

Mr Khaw gave examples of rooftop gardens, vertical greenery, and park connectors as ways to have more greenery in Singapore.

Another area is in intensifying land use. Besides reclaiming land from the sea, Mr Khaw said Singapore is tapping underground spaces and expanding their use beyond transport and storage.

Singapore is also doing more to conserve its rich biodiversity in the urban environment.

Mr Khaw cited the example of a successful conservation programme for the Oriental Pied hornbill which was once thought to be extinct in Singapore.

Now, there are more than 100 hornbills in Singapore.

Mr Khaw said the government is also working on getting smooth otters to flourish again in some of the rivers and wetlands in Singapore.

As for the built environment, Mr Khaw said all new buildings are now required to achieve the Green Mark. He said the target is to have 80 per cent of all buildings here, including existing ones, achieve Green Mark certification by 2030.

In addition, all land reclamation projects are required to be built at least 2.25 metres above the highest recorded tide level to protect against long-term sea level rise.

As for public transport, Mr Khaw said heavy investments are being made in this area so that commuters can progressively leave their cars behind at home.

He also said improvements are being made to the cycling infrastructure in the city, creating more car-free zones especially in the evenings and on weekends.

Mr Khaw shared how Singapore takes care to preserve the link to its past, heritage and memories.

Citing the example of the development of the Bidadari cemetery, he said the graves had to be exhumed for housing developments but added the heritage of the cemetery and pioneers will be commemorated through a Memorial Garden with selected tombstones and relics.

Lastly, Singapore is committed to long-term and comprehensive planning up to 50 years ahead, for example planning beyond 2030 for the airport and sea port.

He said this is to ensure the continuing relevance of Singapore as a global hub for international trade.

- CNA/fa

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LTA should encourage "cleaner, quieter, more energy efficient cars": Hri Kumar

Siau Ming En Today Online 15 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) lost the opportunity to put forward a meaningful strategy or provide a clear vision when it announced a change to the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system earlier this week, said Member of Parliament (Bishan-Toa Payoh) Hri Kumar Nair today (Sept 15).

In a Facebook post, Mr Hri Kumar criticised the move to impose a cap on the engine power of cars under Category A, as “an act of appeasement”.

On Monday (Sept 9), the LTA announced that a cap on engine power will be imposed on cars under Category A of the COE system where the cars must have an engine power output of not more than 130 brake horsepower, on top of having engine capacities of not more than 1,600cc. The change, which will kick in from February next year, will bump these cars to Category B, competing with other premium models.

“The question on most lips following the latest tweak to the COE system is whether it will lower COE prices for Category A cars,” he wrote. “That is no doubt LTA’s intention.”

“But it must know that price is largely driven by the market and the number of COEs on offer. So, the change was really directed at moving certain “luxury” makes from Cat A to Cat B. In short, it was an act of appeasement, But good policy?” he questioned.

Pointing out that “no matter how it changes the COE system, the LTA is not going to satisfy everyone”, Mr Hri Kumar said: “Appeasement never works. If a system has no backbone, it will wilt under pressure.”

Mr Hri Kumar added that differentiating cars by engine capacities and power output is “meaningless”, noting how this puts cars with more efficient engines at a disadvantage.

He suggested that the LTA should focus on “what type cars to promote on our roads”.

“Very few will disagree that we should encourage cleaner, quieter, more energy efficient cars. If 1.3l turbo-charged car is cleaner and more efficient than a 1.6l car, should we not encourage more people to buy the former? What has engine power got to do with anything?” he asked.

To ensure an element of social equity, Mr Hri Kumar said this could be achieved by allocating more COEs to cleaner cars and bringing down their prices “so that they are more affordable than the less efficient cars”.

Likewise, he added that Singapore can consider pursuing a vision with more electric cars on the road.

“We will need the infrastructure to support them. But we can easily mandate that all new public and private housing developments, malls and commercial carparks have sufficient charging stations etc,” he said.

He urged: “Make it easier to buy an electric car and provide the infra-structure, and more will make the change.”

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No fish story

Don Mendoza Today Online 7 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — Affected modern gastronomy aside, the concept of feeding the world has changed drastically.

It has grown from a romantic, albeit naive, notion into a mortifying epiphany of sorts. A little like when you realise that the extinction of sharks, thanks to our reckless indifference, has opened the doors to the global domination of the rabidly propagative (and highly predatory) giant Humboldt squid. (And while I’m all for a little grilled squid from time to time; I want my goby, grouper and four-finger threadfin, as well.)

The fear of collapsing ecosystems notwithstanding, the more immediately alarming truth to haunt my recurrent gastro hallucinations is that in a rapidly populated earth — 7 billion and counting — a sustained majority of the civilised market has developed a somewhat ravenous penchant for seafood.

According to the United Nations’ The State Of World Fisheries And Aquaculture 2012 report, fish affords about 3 billion of us with almost 20 per cent of our intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 per cent of such protein.

All in all, we are looking at about 148 million tonnes of fish (in 2010, that had a total value of US$217.5 billion), of which about 128 million tonnes were used as food for people, with preliminary data for 2011 indicating an increased production of 154 million tonnes, of which 131 million tonnes were destined as food.

And before we start excusing ourselves from the equation, let us recognise that Singapore is one of the biggest seafood consumers in Asia-Pacific, devouring an average of 100,000 tonnes of seafood each year, based on studies by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with fishing per se; it is fishing with the need to sustain not life but a lifestyle that has muddied the waters.


Like overfishing, particularly from over-exploited and poorly managed fisheries, by-catch (the netting of unwanted marine creatures while fishing for a specific species) remains a key dispute, especially when the option to eradicate such industries is far from a realistic resolution.

As part of a global push to promote real alternatives, experts have placed their faith in sustainable farming. This has its own set of environmental risks, but, thankfully, there are aquaculture industries committed to ensuring optimal environmental, social and economic sustainability leading by example.

Salmon, though, represents the most efficient use of marine raw materials for food production. In fact, when it comes to feed-to-meat conversion, the fish is twice as efficient as pig or poultry. Add that to the quality proffered by leading producers like Norway and it would be easy to fathom the constant growth in consumption. To wit, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), seafood from Norway’s model farms is an increasingly popular choice among Singaporeans. Import of Norwegian salmon alone has been increasing at an average of 17 per cent a year since 2005, which equates to 6,343 tonnes in 2012 (up from 2005’s haul of just 2,685 tonnes).

The trend does reflect a viable answer to our population’s growing appetite. But are the advantages lost in the influx? Compared to last year’s estimates, Singapore imported just three tonnes of halibut compared to 793 tonnes of trout and around 7,353 tonnes of salmon.


Still, progress made in eating local as part of efforts to reduce our carbon footprint has been encouraging. Major supermarkets are keeping up efforts, partnering with local fish farmers’ cooperatives, as well as acquiring fish from nearby Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

In September 2011, for example, Cold Storage became the first supermarket to roll out a sustainable seafood initiative. “(It) was also the first supermarket to start a ‘no shark’s fins’ policy in all the Cold Storage and Market Place stores in Singapore,” said a spokesperson for the company, who added that, as a member of the WWF Singapore Sustainable Seafood Group, Cold Storage is committed to improve how it sources sustainable seafood and promote responsible consumption in Singapore.

In addition, the company is working closely with NGOs like Friend Of The Sea, now a main international certification project for products originating from both sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

Meanwhile, all fish supplied to FairPrice Finest and FairPrice Xtra stores are tagged with QR codes, which customers can scan for instructions on how to best prepare the fish. These QR-coded fish are sold under the brand The Fish Farmer, which is owned by the Metropolitan Fishery Group (MFG), and includes Singapore farmed grey mullet, milk fish and black tilapia, as well as farmed California bass, seven-star sea perch and spottail bass from Taiwan.

MFG also has a new local farm rearing red and silver snapper and rabbit fish, which a FairPrice spokesperson confirmed will be ready next year. Another local farm, Rong Yau Fisheries, supplies the supermarket chain with golden pomfret, live seabass and pearl grouper.

Others like Barramundi Asia proffer a select range. Established in 2007, it is the first EU certified fish farm in South East Asia, and the first in Singapore to grow barramundi in large cages in sea water at Pulau Samakau, just south of the main island.

“The price is half of what the Australian air-flown product is; therefore we can price it accordingly on our menus,” shared executive chef Peter Rollinson of The Halia At Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Australian native also highlighted the fact that the fish arrive at the restaurant the day they are harvested. “They can’t get any fresher than that. And texture and taste is on par with the Australian product.”

The fish was also a recent highlight in the Singapore Farm Fresh edition of Project Food Prints by The Halia Group, in the third installation of a six-part dinner series aimed at encouraging transparency from farm to fork. Rollinson affirmed that the said barramundi will also remain on the menu, joining other sustainable ingredients, such as prawns from Spencer Gulf in South Australia.


It may have begun as a backyard experiment of sorts, but two-and-a-half-year-old OnHand Agrarian has quickly grown into a uniquely viable local enterprise, harvesting an organic ecology of some of our favourite seafood. The company uses what has been dubbed an “integrated multi-trophic recirculating aquaculture system”, or IMTRAS, for tropical marine species. The aim is to harvest seafood more efficiently, humanely, cleanly and profitably. “We will make seafood so cheap, only the rich will go fishing,” runs the tag by director and founder Shannon Lim on its Facebook page.

But the wonderful irony of this system is its ability to turn an understanding of natural waste into a winning business model. At a talk last year, Lim shared how it worked: “The weird thing about farming fish is that the more s**t something eats, the more valuable it becomes. So fish that don’t eat any s**t are worth about S$20 a kilogramme, and then you have the crustaceans that eat the fish’s (droppings) that are worth about S$40 a kilogramme. Eventually, you end up with urchins that eat a lot of s**t that are worth S$80 a kilogramme.”

This is not a new concept. But the main difference between an IMTRAS farm and every other farm is that for the price of producing one type of fish, Lim has proven that OnHand Agrarian can safely produce a platter, from quality organic grouper to crab, lobster and prawn.

Now that’s smart fishing in troubled waters.

For some cool fish recipes, visit


75 per cent of the fish sold at FairPrice are harvested, comprising 10 per cent locally produced fish. Only the remaining 25 per cent are wild catch, largely from the coastlines of South-east Asia.

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China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air

David Stanway PlanetArk 13 Sep 13;

China to cut coal use, shut polluters, in bid to clear the air Photo: Jason Lee
?Vehicles past apartment blocks during rush hour in Beijing July 11, 2013.
Photo: Jason Lee

China unveiled comprehensive new measures to tackle air pollution on Thursday, with plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, but experts said implementing the bold targets would be a major challenge.

China has been under heavy pressure to address the causes of air pollution after thick, hazardous smog engulfed much of the industrial north, including the capital, Beijing, in January.

It has also been anxious to head off potential sources of unrest as an increasingly affluent urban population turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has spoiled much of China's air, water and soil.

China published the plan on its official website (, also promising to boost nuclear power and natural gas use. Environmentalists welcomed the plan but were skeptical about its effective implementation.

"The coal consumption reduction targets for key industrial areas are a good sign they are taking air pollution and public health more seriously, but to make those targets happen, the action plan is a bit disappointing and there are loopholes," said Huang Wei, a campaigner with Greenpeace in Beijing.

Beijing has struggled to get wayward provinces and industries to adhere to its anti-pollution measures and there were few concrete measures in the new plan to help strengthen its ability to monitor and punish those who violate the rules.

"We don't see any fundamental structural changes, and this could be a potential risk in China's efforts to meet targets to reduce PM 2.5," said Huang, referring to China's plan to cut a key indicator of air pollution by 25 percent in Beijing and surrounding provinces by 2017.

Coal, which supplies more than three-quarters of China's total electricity needs, has been identified as one of the main areas it needs to tackle. China would cut total consumption of the fossil fuel to below 65 percent of primary energy use by 2017 under the new plan, down from 66.8 percent last year.

Green groups were expecting the action plan to include detailed regional coal consumption cuts, but those cuts appear to have been left to the provinces to settle themselves.

Northern Hebei province, China's biggest steel-producing region, has announced it would slash coal use by 40 million metric tons over the 2012-2015 period.

Other targets in the plan were also generally in line with a previous plans. It said it would aim to raise the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 13 percent by 2017, up from 11.4 percent in 2012. Its previous target stood at 15 percent by 2020.

To help meet that target, it would raise installed nuclear capacity to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2017, up from 12.5 GW now and slightly accelerating a previous 2020 target of 58 GW.

It would add 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas trunk pipeline transmission capacity by the end of 2015 to cover industrial areas like the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas in the east and southeast.


China has long sought to use tougher anti-pollution controls to tackle overcapacity in sprawling and ill-regulated industries like iron and steel, aluminum and cement. The iron and steel sector is the second biggest consumer of coal after power.

Thursday's plan said China would speed up the closure of old industrial capacity and "basically complete" work to relocate plants to coastal areas, as well as tackle pollution and overcapacity in the sectors by 2017.

It also said a 2015 target to close outdated capacity in industrial sectors would be accelerated to 2014, and it would also halt construction of all unapproved projects in industries facing overcapacity. Experts said the impact would be limited.

"For aluminum, a lot of the production was never approved by state government but was haphazardly approved by local governments, so what has already come online cannot be reversed," said Yongan Futures base metals analyst Zhu Shiwei. Zhu said the measures might at least curb new capacity growth.

China would also stop approving new thermal power plants and cut coal consumption in industrial areas, although Greenpeace's Huang said the target didn't appear to be mandatory.

Hebei would cut coal consumption by 40 million metric tons from 2012 to 2017, and Beijing had also promised to reduce its total consumption by 13 million metric tons to less than 10 million metric tons over the same period. Others, including the heavy industrial hub of Shandong and the manufacturing base of Jiangsu, both on the eastern coast, were likely to follow.

However, eastern coastal regions would be allowed to source more thermal electricity from other provinces through the power grid, raising the possibility that China's coal consumption would be moved inland rather than actually reduced.

"For (big coal-producing) places like Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, this might be a potential loophole for them to actually increase their coal consumption," Huang said.

Experts also said China's bid to tackle coal consumption could be stymied by its weak monitoring capability.

"Measuring is still a big problem. Even if you look at the provincial energy data and the national data, there is a massive discrepancy of around 200-300 million metric tons and it could be more than that," said Yang Fuqiang, senior Beijing-based adviser with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

(Additional reporting by Fayen Wong and Ruby Lian in SHANGHAI; Editing by Michael Perry and Paul Tait)

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