Best of our wild blogs: 20 Sep 13

Dan Friess on “Biophysical threats to mangroves” @ Singapore Science Centre, Tue 01 Oct 2013 from Otterman speaks

Where is the love?
from Nature rambles

ButterflyCircle Embroidered Patch
from Butterflies of Singapore

Yellow-vented Bulbul eating Murraya koenigii fruit
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Everyone can go green

Cheryl Faith Wee Straits Times 20 Sep 13;

With more than 300 parks and four nature reserves, the choices are bewildering for those looking to commune with nature. Life!Weekend checks out facilities that will appeal to everyone, from families to heritage lovers


Tired of jostling with the crowds at East Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park on the weekends?

Head to Bedok Reservoir Park (along Bedok Reservoir Road) or Kent Ridge Park (Vigilante Drive off South Buona Vista Road) for a workout instead.

At the reservoir, follow the gravel track around its waters for a route that is mostly flat with a few slopes. It covers a distance of about 4.3km.

Those who are keen on water sports can rent kayaks from the People's Association Wate-Venture (Bedok Reservoir) (tel: 9710-1697,

A tree-top obstacle course called Forest Adventure (tel: 8100-7420,, which is popular with schools and companies, can also be found within the reservoir park.

Kent Ridge Park is a well-kept secret of some fitness enthusiasts. It is equipped with 30 different types of exercise equipment for adults and the elderly across 20 fitness stations. These include cross trainers, rowers and Go!Bikes.

After exercising, cool off at the park's look-out points where you can spot off-shore islands such as Pulau Duran Darat.


Tucked in the verdant landscape of Punggol Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park are two eateries with roomy alfresco areas where you can enjoy nature while lounging comfortably on a terrace or deck.

Asian-Western fusion restaurant Wild Oats (tel: 6858-2087, in Punggol Park (at the junction of Hougang Avenues 8 and 10) has a 100plus-seater deck near the edge of a pond.

Relax in a family-friendly setting while dining on dishes such as Sarawak curry chicken shepherd's pie ($8.50+) and beer-battered fish and chips ($12.50+). Main courses range between $6.50+ for mee rebus and $17.20+ for a ribeye steak.

Wild Oats was opened by chef and restaurateur Willin Low who also owns Wild Rocket in Emily Hill.

Perched on top of Telok Blangah Hill is Italian fine-dining restaurant Alkaff Mansion Ristorante (tel: 6510-3068, which occupies a conservation building that dates back to 1918.

The two-storey colonial mansion, which overlooks a canopy of trees, was originally built as a family retreat for the late Arab merchant Syed Abdul Rahman Alkaff whose family was prominent in the sugar, coffee and spice trade.

Its breezy 60-seater terrace has a retractable awning that provides shelter against light passing showers.

Pastas start from $22++ and include spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil ($24++) and homemade potato dumplings with lobster, tomatoes and mint ($38++).

Alkaff Mansion Ristorante also offers a weekend brunch menu with items that start from $8.80++ for banana hotcakes.


Delve into the rich biodiversity of MacRitchie Reservoir Park and the Southern Ridges by following nature walking trails which are easy to navigate.

They will take you up close to the forest ecosystem. You might encounter wildlife such as kingfishers and monitor lizards.

Before you start, plan your route with maps and directions found online ( Choose from six routes of varying difficulties that take you into the nature reserve of MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

They range in distances between 3 and 11km and take up to five hours to complete.

For families with young children, there is a wooden boardwalk that goes along the Chemperai Trail. It is 1.5km long and takes you near the edge of the reservoir. Along the way, you can see the Chemperai tree, a small tree that is known as the olive of the East, and the sea apple tree which has white flowers that give off a strong fragrance.

Over at the Southern Ridges, there are do-ityourself guides with maps available online ( which can help you explore the area on your own.

Four guided tours (tel: 6471-5601, www.nparks. are offered by NParks around the Southern Ridges, which includes Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve. One of them is the Fascinating Forest Of Labrador Tour in which you can learn about the coastal cliff vegetation that is found only in the Labrador Nature Reserve here.

A minimum of 15 people are required for each guided tour which costs between $7 and $9 a person.


Nestled in the lush greenery of Fort Canning Park and Labrador Nature Reserve are relics that offer a glimpse of Singapore history.

There is a 2km-long ancient history trail in Fort Canning Park (70 River Valley Road, made up of 16 stops including one at a heritage tree and an old shrine that has a 14th-century Malay roof supported by wooden pillars decorated with carvings of Javanese origins.

You can also check out the colonial history, sculptures, spices and trees of the fort walking trails (

Remnants of the former fort that occupied the hill from 1861 to 1926 are scattered around the park, including at the Fort Gate, Fort Wall and the Sally Port, a small entrance to the fort.

Labrador Nature Reserve (along Labrador Villa Road) contains relics used in World War II, such as former machine-gun posts, and historical maritime landmarks including a red beacon overlooking Keppel Harbour and Sentosa which served as a navigational guide for ships.

Find these relics with the help of the Labrador Nature Reserve Walking Trail ( which takes you along the coastline and inside the secondary forest of the nature reserve.


Allow your pooches to run unleashed at the dog run corner in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (along Bishan Road and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1). It is open all day and is located close to the carpark along Ang Mo Kio Avenue1.

The 2,105 sq m area, which is surrounded by a fence, is divided into two sections - one for big dogs and the other for small dogs. There are benches within and just outside the perimeter of the fenced enclosure too. Owners are expected to clean up after their own pets.

This is not the biggest dog run in a park here. The largest is the 2.4ha one in West Coast Park, but Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park has an added incentive for animal lovers. It has several pet-friendly cafes and restaurants which are worth a visit once the canines, and their owners, are tired out.

The rule of thumb at the pet-friendly eateries in the park is that pets must be leashed at all times and are allowed only in the alfresco areas.

Australian-style bistro Canopy Garden Dining (tel: 6556-1533, is popular with families on weekends for its brunch with comfort food such as waffles ($12++) and classic eggs benedict ($13++). Its 60-seater outdoor area is partially shaded with sun umbrellas.

Its next-door neighbour, a vegan cafe called The Green Room Cafe (tel: 6556-1533,, has a 30-seater alfresco area which is sheltered.

Main courses at Canopy and The Green Room range from $12++ to $21++.

There is also the casual family restaurant The Cornerstone (tel: 6554-7230, which has a 30-seater outdoor space set aside for owners and their pets.

Main dishes start from $7++ for a two-piece chicken wing meal and goes up to $35++ for a fillet mignon and signature rack of lamb with garlic crust.


East and West Coast Parks, as well as the Singapore Botanic Gardens, are the best one-stop destinations for the whole family from adventurous youth to senior citizens.

The East Coast Park (along East Coast Parkway and East Coast Park Service Road) is one of the best developed and most popular park destinations here, and the range of its family-friendly activities is still unrivalled. Spend a laidback afternoon on a picnic mat facing the sea or take a leisurely cycle with your family on a four-wheel quad velo which takes up to four adults and two little children.

The park also has camping grounds, barbecue pits, inline-skates and bicycle rental shops and open areas where you can fly kites.

Those who crave more excitement can go for water sports such as cable wakeboarding at the cable-ski park Ski360degree (tel: 6442-7318,, ski passes start from $32 for a one-hour session on weekdays and from $42 for a one-hour session on weekends) or visit the free Xtreme SkatePark @ East Coast ( for skaters and bikers.

Over at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (1 Cluny Road), mark your calendars for free outdoor performances at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage (tel: 6471-7361,

You can sign up as a family for free heritage or nature tours at the gardens every month (tel: 6471-7361,

West Coast Park (parallel to West Coast Highway) offers a wide range of activities, especially for children.

There is a large playground with a flying fox and a 9m-tall pyramid rope structure for children to climb on.

Other highlights of West Coast Park include the largest public dog run here as well as pedal go-karts for rental (tel: 6776-6858, www.pedalgokart.

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Singapore warms up to closer Arctic ties

Straits Times 20 Sep 13;

OTTAWA - Singapore has expressed interest in exploring opportunities for closer Arctic cooperation during Canada's chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

In a statement, it said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam also expressed appreciation for Canada's support for Singapore's successful application for observership in the Arctic Council when he met his Canadian counterpart John Baird in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The council - a multilateral forum for discussions on Arctic shipping, energy, environment and security - allows observer countries to contribute to discussions that can influence the decisions of its permanent members.

Singapore is using its membership status to better understand and respond to the shipping challenges from the icy Arctic, in particular the emergence of the new Northern Sea Route, which may allow ships to bypass Singapore by shipping through the Arctic.

Mr Shanmugam, who was on his first official visit to Canada, also reaffirmed the longstanding warm and friendly relations between Singapore and Canada.

Mr Shanmugam discussed with Mr Baird ways to strengthen Asean-Canada cooperation during Singapore's coordinatorship of the Asean-Canada Dialogue Relations.

While there, Mr Shanmugam also met the chair of the Arctic Council's Senior Arctic Officials, Mr Patrick Borbey.

After Ottawa, Mr Shanmugam travelled on to New York yesterday to attend the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Toa Payoh's 'god tree': Fallen, but not forgotten

Landmark felled by storm, but site will remain a place of worship for devotees
David Ee And Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 20 Sep 13;

AS MODERN Singapore grew around it, the towering ficus tree stood firm.

For four decades, it bore witness to the prayers and dreams of devotees who worshipped at a Buddhist shrine at its foot.

That was until last week, when a storm brought the six-storey landmark in Toa Payoh Central crashing to the ground.

For worshippers drawn to its Goddess of Mercy statue and four-faced Buddha, the collapse of the great tree seemed to signal the end of an era.

But the area's residents are not ready to let go just yet.

Toa Payoh Central Merchants' Association told The Straits Times that it plans to erect a new shrine by Chinese New Year, with the remaining parts of the ficus as its backdrop.

''We will rebuild the shrine so residents here can continue to be protected by the gods,'' said vice-chairman Lim Kok Siong, 66.

Regarded by believers as a ''shen shu'' - or ''god tree'' in Mandarin - the ficus was said to be more than a century old. The mighty tree pre-dated Toa Payoh New Town itself, on which work began in 1965.

Its shrine, known as Ci Ern Ge, was added soon after the town was built.

Now, only a part of the trunk is left after the tree toppled during the storm - damaging cars but causing no injuries.

The Housing Board and Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council are helping to stabilise the tree's remains.

On Wednesday, residents continued to linger at the spot where it fell, some out of sheer habit and others to trade tales and memories.

They shared stories of how the tree stood the test of time, weathering the occasional thunderstorm and dodging the developer's axe.

Retiree Foo Ah Cheng, 78, remembered seeing bulldozers try in vain to fell the ficus as the new town was being built.

He said monks even offered prayers calling for the tree to give way.

''They wanted to get rid of it, but it wouldn't go,'' he said in Mandarin.

Residents believe the Government wanted to build a long row of shophouses, but split the development in two to accommodate the ficus.

From its precarious past grew longevity. Over the past decades, a steady stream of devotees have offered prayers for goodwill each time they passed the shrine. Some believe it was responsible for 4-D lottery windfalls.

Even the tree's leafy crown seemed to extend goodwill to residents. Mr Foo recalled how the ficus became so lush that its leaves kept the shrine and devotees dry when it rained.

He said the original caretaker was a monk who brought the statue of Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin from China and had a habit of sleeping under the tree.

When the monk died of a heart attack in 1975, his son Chen Zhou Rong took over.

Now 53, Mr Chen remains the caretaker. He has stayed on-site come rain or shine - greeting visitors who arrived at all hours to seek solace from the tree and the gods lining the shrine's altar.

Now that the ficus has toppled, however, Mr Chen believes his promise to his father has been fulfilled and he will be returning to his hometown in Malaysia.

''I do feel an attachment to the place and the people in the neighbourhood, having lived here most of my life,'' he said. ''But it's time to go.''

Most residents were wistful rather than downcast at the tree's collapse.

''People grow old and die,'' said Mrs Nan Xiao Mei, 76. ''It was the same for this tree.''

As well as attracting devotees, the shrine also used to elicit ''oohs'' and ''ahhs'' from curious onlookers and tourists from afar.

''The tree was very, very beautiful and many would take photos of it,'' said retiree Lu Siew Bao, 60, who lives in the block next door.

''Before it collapsed, pink flowers in full bloom fanned out across its long, hanging branches.''

Heritage enthusiast Jerome Lim, who grew up in Toa Payoh, said the shrine was a significant part of the estate's heritage.

The 48-year-old told The Straits Times it served as ''a link to the past when much of the area was occupied by farms and Chinese kampungs''.

For many, it was a meeting point, and praying there had become very much a part of their everyday routine.

Ms Agnes Pek, a 40-year-old sales assistant who works at a beauty shop a stone's throw from the site, said she used to pray for safety and a good day before starting work every morning.

Others, such as 65-year-old Yang Mei Hong, who grew up in Toa Payoh, felt the tree could have been saved had the authorities recognised its heritage value and placed supports to buttress it.

''They should have paid closer attention and preserved it,'' she said.

''It's really unfortunate that it's gone.''

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Four caught sneaking in live birds into Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 19 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Four Singaporeans have been referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for further investigations, after they tried to bring in six mata puteh birds, also known as the Oriental White-eye, into Singapore.

The men, who were in a Singapore-registered car, were stopped for routine checks at the Tuas Checkpoint on Tuesday at about 8:40pm.

Vigilant Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers noticed three toothpaste boxes inside the centre arm rest console, two in a passenger's waist pouch and one in a sling bag.

A mata puteh was found in each of the six boxes.

The men and the birds were then referred to AVA for further investigations.

The ICA and AVA remind travellers against bringing live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

They say such importation is a violation of the Animals and Birds Act, which carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: The environmental war - time for a Green Party

Rashvinjeet S. Bedi The Star 20 Sep 13;

PETALING JAYA: If you ask Azlan Adnan about saving the environment, he would say somewhat controversially that the human population has to be reduced from 7bil to 100mil.

That's an almost 99% reduction in the number of people.

He believes the sudden increase of the human population in recent times has caused lots of problems from species extinction, habitat disruption and spiraling food prices.

“These are just the symptoms of overpopulation. The human population has increased three times in the past 60 years and it has taken its toll on the planet,” said the Green Party of Malaysia founder.

Obviously reducing the population of the planet in an ethical way is a tall order, humans have to change their behaviour so that their impact on the environment is low said Azlan.

“We would have to rethink our whole lifestyle from manufacturing to producing food,” he said.

This is where the Green Party would come into the Malaysian landscape said 55-year-old Azlan.

“We need a green party because there are enough environmental NGOs. There is a need to take environmental issues into the political landscape. To put it bluntly, we need to politicise these issues,” he said adding that the idea for the party came after the 2008 general elections.

Over the past few years the Lynas and Rapid petrochemical complex in Pengerang issues are among the major environmental issues that have received lots of attention and traction in the political arena.

Azlan said the Himpunan Hijau has been doing a good job campaigning against Lynas, but that it should be taken to the next level.

“Environmentalists can scream and shout but if there is no political will, things will remain as they are,” said Azlan.

He cites examples of Rio De Janeiro and Copenhagen who have had bicycle lanes for decades and asks why there are none in Kuala Lumpur.

“There is no political will here to do such things. Most politicians are not environmentally conscious. That’s why we need to bring green issues to the attention of the policy makers. If they are aware of the environment and not driven by other interests, Lynas and Rapid would have been non-starters in the first place,” he said.

In its manifesto, the party seeks to unite all Malaysians under the banner of environmentalism. It intends to unite and give political clout to all the Environmental NGOs (ENGOs) in Malaysia embracing the whole spectrum of environmental ideologies from deep ecology, preservation, conservation and sustainable development.

Efforts to register the party however have not been successful said Azlan. They have tried registering a branch in Perak last year, but they have not heard anything from the Registrar of Societies (ROS) so far.

“We are seen as a threat,” he claimed.

He acknowledges it would be tough for the party to be registered, pointing out that the registration of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) that took 10 years.

He said once they are successfully registered, they would use the same constitution to register other branches in every state.

“A lot of environmental issues are local issues and the locals will have a stake,” he said.

Right now, there is no formal committee in the party but Azlan said he is trying to educate people by posting videos of green living on Youtube.

Germany, New Zealand, Australia, France, Sweden and Denmark are some countries where the Greens as they are known have a commendable presence.

In New Zealand for instance, there have been cabinet ministers from the party while in the Scandinavian countries they have formed governments with the social-democrat parties.

The presence of the green parties in Asia has been almost negligible but Azlan believes there is a place for the party in the Malaysian political landscape.

He said the party would be similar to Parti Keadilan Rakyat in that it intended to cut across racial and religious lines.

“We have to change our political model and be based on ideologies rather than race or religion. Our ideology is to save planet for the future,” he said.

The party’s other policies would include encouraging inter-ethnic marriages, having a minimum wage, anti-nuclear and building more universities that provided free education.

Azlan said the party would also encourage entomophagy or the eating of insects.

“It is a cheap form of protein and cost effective,” he said adding that grasshoppers tasted like prawns.

He urged people to join the Green Party if they were interested, but he made it clear he did not want any “professional” politicians from other parties.

“We don’t need any driftwood,” he said.

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Malaysia: Dead sea turtle in Sabah underwater clean-up

Divers remove 543kg rubbish
Muguntan Vanar The Star 20 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: An endangered turtle was found dead during an underwater clean-up at Sabah’s east coast Billean and Tegaipil islands.

“As we were removing a fishing net from the reef during the clean-up, it was so sad to find an adult Hawksbill turtle entangled and dead in the net,” said Dr Milena Salgado-Lynn from Danau Girang Field Centre.

The fishing net is believed to have been discarded by a fishing boat before it drifted and got entangled to the reef, said Dr Salgado-Lynn, one of the 35 participants from various organisations in the clean-up exercise.

The fishing net was among the marine debris consisting mainly of plastic drinking bottles, polystyrene lunch boxes, ropes, cigarette butts, slippers and glass bottles collected from beaches and the sea. A total of 543kg of rubbish was hauled up.

“People are still treating the ocean like a giant rubbish bin,” said Rashid Saburi from the Sabah Wildlife Department.

The Reef Guardian-organised project also involved the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Lankayan Island Dive Resort.

The clean-up at the Billean and Tegaipil islands that come under the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area was carried out in conjunction with Project Aware. It is organised worldwide to remove marine debris from beaches and the sea.

Reef Guardian emphasises a message to turn mere awareness into action to save the ocean from further pollution and destruction.

“The public is actually aware that our environment is in the process of degradation. However, only a few are taking action to stop it,” said event manager Radzi Abdul Kadir of Reef Guardian.

He said to protect and save Sabah’s natural resources, more action was needed from everyone to recycle and not pollute rivers and the sea with harmful materials.

Watery grave for rare turtle
New Straits Times 20 Sep 13;

SANDAKAN: More effort is needed to create greater awareness of marine conservation and pollution.

Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) officer Rashid Saburi said people were harming not only themselves, but also the environment and marine life by littering.

"People are still treating the ocean like a giant rubbish bin and they may not realise that whatever they throw into rivers, seas and beaches will end up on their dinner plates."

He was speaking during a beach and underwater clean-up, organised by Project Aware at Billean and Tegaipil Islands, at the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (Simca), near here, on Sunday.

In the clean-up, over half a tonne of debris were collected by 35 participants from Reef Guardian, Danau Girang Field Centre, SWD, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Lankayan Island Dive Resort.

Spearheaded by Reef Garden, a non-profit research outfit based at Simca, the programme was aimed at creating awareness and turning it into action.

Among items cleared from the beach and seabed were plastic drinking bottles, polystyrene lunch boxes, fishing nets, ropes, cigarette butts, slippers and glass bottles.

Reef Guardian event manager Radzi Abduk Kadir said: "The public is aware that our environment is degrading. However, only a few of them are taking action to prevent and preserve it."

Danau Girang researcher Dr Milena Salgado-Lynn said the carcass of a rare male adult Hawksbill turtle was also recovered, entangled in a fishing net.

"It was sad. The turtle may have been caught in the net after it was discarded from a boat. The turtle appeared to have drowned," Dr Milena said.

Uncaring fishermen
Ruben Sario The Star 25 Sep 13;

KOTA KINABALU: A clean-up in waters off two marine parks in Sabah’s east coast have revealed the killing of marine life due to carelessness by commercial fishermen.

A carcass of a Hawksbill turtle was found entangled in a fishing net discarded by fishermen during a clean-up of reefs around the Billean and Tegaipil Islands, that are part of Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) located some 80kms off Sandakan.

The fishing net was among the 543kgs collected during the Sept 15 clean-up in waters off the two islands that are part of the 46,317ha conservation area.

“It was so sad to find the adult Hawksbill turtle entangled and drowned in the net,” said Dr. Milena Salgado-Lynn from NGO Danau Girang Field Centre.

They believed the net was discarded by a fishing boat, drifted and got tangled to the coral reef.

“People are still treating the ocean like a giant rubbish bin, they may not realize that whatever they throw into the river, sea and beaches will end up in their dinner plates.” added Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) Wildlife Officer Rashid Saburi.

The clean-up involving 35 participants from NGO Teef Guardian, (DGFC), SWD, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Lankayan Island Dive Resort.

The event was carried out in conjunction with the Project Aware organised worldwide to remove marine debris from the beach and sea.

“The public are aware that our environment is in the process of degradation, however, only a few of them are taking action to prevent and stop it,” said event manager Radzi Abdul Kadir of Reef Guardian.

He said most of the rubbish collected during the one-day event comprised plastic drinking bottles, styrofoam containers, bits of fishing nets, ropes, cigarette butts, slippers and glass bottles.

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Malaysia: Royal Belum Park gets boost

Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 20 Sep 13;

UPGRADE: RM4.7m project provides more facilities at rainforest complex

TASIK BANDING: PERAK's eco-tourism product -- the Royal Belum State Park -- received a major boost with the launch of its camps and tourism project yesterday.

The RM4.7 million upgrading project was undertaken by the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA). It started in September last year and was completed in June.

The upgrading work was carried out on three of its four existing tourism camps as well as a host of other facilities in the world's oldest rainforest.

The three camps -- Sungai Tiang, Sungai Papan and Sungai Kejar -- are sited within the Aman Damai Orang Asli village.

The work also included the construction of new infrastructure such as chalets, roofed camp sites, a banquet hall, public toilets, a multi-purpose kitchen, office premises, a hanging bridge, surau, BBQ pit as well as a reception hall.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said the project was part of a blueprint prepared by NCIA last year to carry out low-impact development in the Belum-Temenggor rainforest complex.

Under the blueprint, NCIA is expected to plough in RM17 million to upgrade facilities in tandem with Royal Belum's growing fame.

"We expect more development to be carried out in the park.

"Among them is the extension of the Grik airstrip to enable more chartered flights to fly directly into Grik. "This way, more people can come and enjoy nature at its best in the park," he said after launching the base camp and village tourism project here.

Present were state Tourism Committee chairman Nolee Ashilin Mohamed Radzi and NCIA chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq.

Redza said NCIA would cooperate with others and continue to fund new initiatives in the park.

"The park is one of two thrusts under NCIA's care, the other being the Taiping heritage town."

Besides that, NCIA also cooperated with various agencies to carry out training programmes for the Orang Asli community.

The programmes focused on tourism and handicraft aspects, which is part and parcel of the community.

According to studies carried out under the Belum-Temenggor Tropical Forest Integrated Master Plan, there are more than 3,000 species of flora and fauna in the Belum-Temengor Tropical Forest.

As such, the Belum-Temengor rainforest complex has been identified as the country's mega bio-diversity hub, the home to various species of wildlife, currently under threat or facing extinction such as the tapir, Sumatran rhinoceros, seladang, Asia elephants and Malayan tigers.

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Despite experts' call to restrict numbers, no limit on divers at Phi Phi Island ahead of high season

Phuket Gazette 19 Sep 13;

PHUKET: A call by experts to restrict the number of tourists diving at sites off Phi Phi Island to reduce the stress to coral reefs went unheeded, as marine national parks along the Andaman coast ready to open for high season on October 15.

However, a top official at the Phi Phi national park has assured that efforts are ongoing to protect and rejuvenate sections of the park that were devastated by severe coral bleaching in 2010.

“Bleaching has affected up to 70 per cent of the coral reefs around Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. Of the affected corals, 47.52 per cent have died,” Songtam Suksawang, who heads the National Parks and Protected Area Innovation Institute, told an academic seminar earlier this year (story here).

Mr Songtam described the situation as “worrying”.

However, Boonnam Chuyradom, the assistant park chief at Phi Phi Island, yesterday told the Phuket Gazette that his office had received no order to restrict the number of divers at any operational dive sites in the park.

“We have yet to receive any order from the DNP [Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation] to limit the number of divers,” Mr Boonnam said.

“Regardless, the condition of the coral reefs around Phi Phi Island is fine. Most tourists who visit Phi Phi enjoy beach activities, and do not put any additional stress on the reef systems,” he said.

“Only a few reef areas around Phi Phi have suffered any damage. Nonetheless, we always keep an eye on the general conditions and take steps to make sure the corals are recovering,” he said.

However, other areas where the extent of coral bleaching is concerning have been closed to commercial diving, Mr Boonnam confirmed.

“Several dive sites scattered between Phi Phi Island, Koh Mai Phai and Ban Laem Tong have been closed for two years to treat severe coral bleaching,” he explained.

“We contacted tour companies and fishermen, and held campaigns to inform tourists not to enter the areas because we don’t want anything to disturb the recovery rate of the reef,” Mr Boonnam assured.

Many marine national parks did close temporarily in May, during the strong southwest monsoon season, so that corals could recover, he added.

“Such parks included Mu Koh Lanta National Park, Mu Koh Surin National Park, Mu Koh Chumphon National Park and Tarutao National Park,” Mr Boonnam explained.

“However, these parks will be open for the high season in October,” he said.

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