Best of our wild blogs: 22 Sep 13

Reflections from ICCS
from Reflections on Nature

Trashy Pasir Park and fish farms
from wild shores of singapore and Mysterious goings on at Pasir Ris

Butterfly of the Month - September 2013
from Butterflies of Singapore

Morning Walk At Durian Loop (21 Sep 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Black-naped Oriole eats Gnetum gnemon “fruit”
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

Leave nature trail alone

Netizens slam retiree Larry Quah, who asked for the path at MacRitchie Reservoir to be cleared after he tripped over a stone
Melissa Kok Straits Times 22 Sep 13;

Mr Larry Quah on a segment of a trail at MacRitchie Reservoir, where cookies are cemented onto the ground, and where he fell. Regular runners suggest that those who find the trail too tough can opt for safer routes such as the boardwalk (above) near the Lornie Trail. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A letter proposing to make a nature trail safer has riled some users of MacRitchie Reservoir, and the retiree who made the suggestion has now found himself the target of online abuse.

Mr Larry Quah, 65, wrote to The Straits Times Forum recently after taking a nasty tumble while brisk-walking along a trail near the reservoir's TreeTop Walk in July. An edited version of the letter, which proposed removing protruding stones and tree roots along the stretch, was published on The Straits Times website last Saturday. It quickly went viral.

It has been shared more than 18,000 times on Facebook and has drawn more than 100 comments, mostly from dissenters slamming his suggestion.

Many of the online comments, directed at MrQuah, told him to seek alternative places to exercise and to leave the nature trail alone.

Online user Leon Lim posted on the ST website: "Apparently the MacRitchie nature trail is too adventurous for you to handle. Don't change it because you cannot. Try treadmill instead."

The National Parks Board has since replied to say that while it carries out regular maintenance works, it is not possible to clear all the rocks and branches. Regular visitors to the reservoir also say the nature trail is safe and should be left untouched.

When SundayLife! met Mr Quah at MacRitchie Reservoir last Wednesday, the father of two expressed dismay over how his words have been taken out of context.

"I've been running at the reservoir since I was 16. I've had my fair share of tumbles here and I've never complained," he said. "I'm not asking for all the rocks in the entire reservoir trail to be removed."

What he wants is for a specific 100m stretch of the nature trail - a steep downhill slope which runs parallel to a service road at the neighbouring Singapore Island Country Club that leads to the TreeTop Walk - to be made safer.

It was there that he lost his balance and fell after his foot struck a stone. He fractured his left collarbone, cracked two ribs and suffered multiple lacerations on his body. He said it took five weeks for his fractures to heal.

Mr Quah, who used to walk at the reservoir six days a week before his fall, conceded that he slipped and fell as he was distracted while chatting with a friend. "I just wanted to highlight that all it takes is a split second, just a slip in concentration and you can fall."

Noting that segments of the nature trail, which is known to be extremely muddy, have been made safer in the past, he thought the board could make the steep slope safer too.

Over the years, parts of the path have been cemented and round pieces of wood, or cookies, placed on it so trekkers and joggers can walk on them when the trail gets slippery.

In the letter that was published, Mr Quah said: "I understand that the nature trail has to be left untouched as much as possible." But maintenance should be undertaken to remove protruding branches, stones and roots that may pose a danger to visitors, he added.

In a reply published on the ST website last Thursday, Mr Wong Tuan Wah, the board's director of conservation, said trail maintenance to remove large rocks and fallen tree branches is carried out regularly.

"But it is not feasible to remove all the rocks and cut all branches and roots of trees along a trail in a nature reserve," he added, and advised users to "take extra care when exercising at nature trails".

Mr Steven Lee, 62, president of the 400-strong MacRitchie Runners 25 club, whose members run at the reservoir regularly, agreed, saying the trail is safe for running.

He suggested that those who find the terrain too tough can opt for safer routes along the reservoir, such as the boardwalk that runs along the perimeter of the reservoir near the Lornie Trail.

But he cautioned: "If you're new, concentrate on your steps."

Mr Ford Lim, 26, founder of running group UltraRunning Singapore, said he respects Mr Quah's views but noted: "Trail running is about variety. Trail runners... like that the environment is constantly changing and that is part and parcel of the sport."

He added: "The entire route at MacRitchie reservoir is 10km, so it's not hard to manoeuvre. Just be wary of slopes."

Mr Jon Fong, 33, co-founder, head coach and lead sports scientist at Journey Fitness Company, which helps train runners and triathletes, noted that it is common to find potholes, sharp rocks, broken branches and slippery and unstable surfaces on most trails.

Unfazed by his accident, Mr Quah said he would return to the nature trail once he makes a complete recovery.

Despite his complaints, he said: "I still love the challenge of the trail, the undulating terrain and the fresh air on my morning walks."

Read more!

Golf course lease extension: Utilisation rate may be a factor

Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 22 Sep 13;

How well golf courses are being used and the number of members per course hole are among possible factors that may determine whether the leases of some golf courses will be extended.

These assessment criteria were briefly mentioned in a letter from Raffles Country Club's (RCC) president Simon Yuen to its members.

The letter was sent out after the club's management met with the authorities, including representatives from the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), on Thursday.

Mr Yuen also wrote that the club's management was "given to understand that there was no plan not to renew RCC's lease when it expires in 2028".

But he noted that the new lease might be subjected to a new set of terms and conditions which would be made clear "sometime in 2020".

In January, the Government announced that some golf courses may have to go in order to free up land for other uses.

Thirteen golf clubs on 30-year tenures were subsequently informed last month by the SLA that they will learn whether their leases will be extended by early next year.

Golfers speculate that the axe might fall on clubs with less than 10 years left on their leases.

These include Tanah Merah Country Club, Seletar Country Club and Singapore Island Country Club.

Mr Oh Kian Beng, 51, captain of golf at Warren Golf and Country Club, said his club also had a similar meeting with the authorities recently, but it did not result in anything conclusive.

"I understand that the authorities touched on utilisation rates when they met with our club's president. But nothing is set in stone and everyone is still taking a wait-and-see approach," he said.

Experts told The Sunday Times that a ratio of 100 members to each course hole typically gives a good rate of utilisation at a golf club.

And if utilisation rates are going to be a key issue, then every club may have to look into having more members or increasing accessibility to the public, said Mr Bob Tan, the president of the Singapore Golf Association.

Even then, a decision on lease extension will also depend on whether there is a more urgent need to set aside particular parcels of land for alternative use, he added.

There are a total of 18 golf clubs here covering a combined area of 1,500ha, which amounts to 2 per cent of Singapore's total land area.

Mr Tan said engaging the clubs will help policymakers understand the challenges involved.

"Learning about the difficulties and issues faced by each club will help them to reach a policy decision that is both pragmatic and practical," he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: 70 pangolins seized on boat

Audrey Dermawan New Straits Times 22 Sep 13;

LUMUT: AN Indonesian boat with RM412,000 worth of exotic animals and animal parts was detained in Malaysian waters by marine authorities here on Friday night.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officers found 70 live pangolins and 300kg of compressed snake skins hidden in various compartments inside the boat.

The four Indonesian crewmen, aged 27 to 44, were detained for questioning when they could not produce valid documents.

MMEA Lumut 3rd district maritime chief, Maritime Captain Abdul Razak Johan, said an MMEA boat, KM Nyalau, detained the boat about 38 nautical miles west of Pulau Pangkor.

"Checks showed that the boat, from Belawan, Indonesia had no registration number. The exotic animals from Indonesia were being smuggled into Malaysia."

Razak said the success was a result of cooperation between MMEA Perak and the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), which carried out surveillance and shared information on the matter. He said the boat was towed to the Kampung Acheh Customs jetty for investigation and the case would be handed over to Perhilitan for prosecution.

MMEA officers foil exotic animal smuggling bid by Indonesians
The Star 22 Sep 13;

IPOH: Seventy live pangolins and 300kg of compressed snake skin were found on an Indonesian-registered boat that was intercepted by maritime enforcers off Pulau Pangkor, more than 100km from here.

Four Indonesians, aged 27 to 44, were detained by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officers 38 nautical miles west of the island on Friday.

“We believe the cargo was meant for the market here,” said Lumut MMEA enforcement chief Maritime Capt Abdul Razak Johan.

He said the boat was towed to the Kampung Acheh Customs jetty near Lumut and the case had been forwarded to the Wildlife and National Parks Department to be investigated under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008.

Capt Abdul Razak said the cargo had a street value of RM412,000.

“My men were carrying out enforcement operations on KD Nyalau when they spotted the boat,” he said, adding that they proceeded to intercept and board it.

They found the pangolins and snake skin hidden in several compartments.

“The boat came from Belawan and our checks showed that the animals and the snake skin were being smuggled from Indonesia to Malaysia,” Capt Abdul Razak told reporters here yesterday.

According to him, the detained crewmen admitted that this was the second time this month they had smuggled exotic animals into Malaysia.

Read more!