Best of our wild blogs: 14 Oct 13

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [7 - 13 Oct 2013]
from Green Business Times

NUS U@Alive Speaker: Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: OUR ENVIRONMENT- Is it too late to save it?
from ECO @ COP

Reservoir Dogs
from Winging It

Cephaly, Fidderly and Tape Flowery at Semakau
from Peiyan.Photography

Plant more forest species for more biodiversity
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Mosaic Crab
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Fewer embarking on Kusu Island pilgrimage

John Leong Channel NewsAsia 13 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: Fewer and fewer devotees are embarking on the annual Kusu Island pilgrimage during the ninth lunar month.

This is according to figures provided by Sentosa Leisure Group, which tracks the numbers visiting the southern island during the pilgrimage.

Every year during this period, thousands of people take the ferry from Marina South Pier to a popular Taoist temple on Kusu Island.

At the temple, they traditionally pray for things like good health, happiness and prosperity.

This year's pilgrimage began last Saturday, and will last till the beginning of next month.

Although this year's numbers are not out yet, figures from the last three years have shown a downward trend.

Some 47,000 pilgrims attended the month-long event last year, compared to 52,000 in 2011, and about 57,000 in 2010.

Devotees say construction work around the ferry departure point, like the soon-to-open Marina South Pier MRT Station, has caused parking issues.

Temple helper Seet Lay Choo said: "Actually, there is also a shortage of parking lots, and I think there's only one bus that goes in.

“So people who drive, I think they have trouble getting a parking lot. If they take a cab, the cab can't actually go in all the way. So they have to actually stop outside. So hopefully, next year when the MRT is ready, it should be better."

The Maritime and Port Authority says there is alternative parking at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

It also provides free shuttle services during weekends and public holidays between the pier and the cruise centre.

- CNA/nd

Fewer going on annual pilgrimage to Kusu
Some say it is inconvenient to get to Marina South Pier to catch ferry
Walter Sim Straits Times 14 Oct 13;

IT MADE for an idyllic getaway off the south coast of Singapore.

Families frolicked in the waves and had picnics by the waterfront, while fishermen cast their reels, waiting to snag a good catch.

Elsewhere, a crowd gathered to watch a monkey hanging nonchalantly on a branch. Others were mesmerised by the tortoises swimming in a sanctuary.

Save for a faint whiff of incense lingering in the air, there was hardly any indication that the annual Kusu pilgrimage season was under way when The Straits Times visited the tortoise-shaped island yesterday.

The tradition, which coincides with the ninth lunar month and is ongoing from Oct 5 to Nov 2, appears to be losing its lustre over the years.

Some 47,000 devotees made the trip during last year's season, said the Sentosa Leisure Group, which manages the 8.5ha island 5.6km away from Singapore.

Mr Ryden Fang, general manager of Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services, which exclusively runs scheduled ferry trips to the island, said there has been a drop in visitorship of about 5,000 people each year since 2007.

More than 136,000 people reportedly made the pilgrimage in 2001, while in its heyday in the 1990s, more than 200,000 thronged the island during the season each year.

As of yesterday - nine days into this year's pilgrimage season - about 14,000 people have made the trip so far.

Upon disembarkation, devotees usually first visit the Da Bo Gong Temple, built in 1923 and which houses deities Tua Pek Kong (God of Prosperity) and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).

They then make a 152-step climb up a hillock, where three keramats, or holy shrines of Malay saints, reside.

At both sites, devotees pray for blessings for marriage, fertility, health, prosperity and peace of mind, among others.

Fish farm owner Lai Heng, 43, is a pious regular, having been making the pilgrimage annually for over 30 years.

He told The Straits Times: "I used to run a radio-modelling business.

"But I did not know whether to persevere in doing it, given the competitive industry.

"The divination stick I drew told me to move on and now, I am a happier man."

Johor native Koh Hai De, 40, has been visiting Kusu Island with his wife yearly since 1996 "out of habit", he said. On each trip, they pray for peace of mind. Now, they visit with a new addition to the family - a five-year-old daughter.

But for others, the inconvenience of getting to Marina South Pier, from where ferries have been departing since 2006, has put them off annual visits.

This is due to a lack of parking spaces, and dust and trucks from construction sites around the pier. Only one SBS bus, Service 402, plies between Marina Bay MRT station and the pier.

Previously, ferries departed from Clifford Pier in the heart of the Central Business District.

Homemaker Kuistin Yang, 52, said she would visit a temple in Hougang in years when her family or friends were not keen to make the Kusu pilgrimage.

Madam Usha Subrahmanyam, 39, finally visited Kusu yesterday after a break of 10 years, and did so after she learnt of an initiative led by her neighbourhood's residents' committee.

The story has been bleak for long-term observers who work on the island during the season.

National serviceman Isjacob Ishak, 22, whose father is a caretaker of the Malay shrines, has been helping out there since he was young.

He said: "In the past, the queues were so long they would snake all the way down the 152 steps, but this is no longer so."

Madam Chiam Pieh Tiang, 58, who has been managing a bazaar on Kusu Island during the pilgrimage season for 28 years, said business has plunged by half in the past six years.

But Mr Fang remains hopeful that the crowds will soon return.

"It will be much more convenient for visitors when the Marina South Pier MRT station opens next year," he said.

Read more!

Don’t let cultural tourism fade into the background

Today Online 14 Oct 13;

The Formula 1 race and Changi Airport’s strategic overhaul to reposition itself amid intense competition are timely and welcomed efforts to boost the Republic’s aspirations to become a choice hub and destination.

However, Singapore has a lot more to offer. Our historic war-remembrance sites do not pale in comparison with Gallipoli, the Normandy beaches and Pearl Harbor.

The collapse of Fortress Singapore was a seminal event of the war in the Asia-Pacific — Winston Churchill called it “the worst disaster and the largest capitulation” of the British military in history.

In a global conflict that ended imperial colonialism and changed the world order, the fall of Singapore to Japanese forces — which were smaller in number — is a compelling story.

In Kranji, the silent pathos of the rain-washed gravestones of British, Anzac and Gurkha soldiers speak of the immeasurable horrors experienced by the sons, husbands and fathers of people in the Commonwealth, who served what may now seem to be anachronistic notions of hegemony, God and country.

And often overlooked is the Japanese cemetery in Ang Mo Kio — the largest of its kind in South-east Asia — where 10,000 Japanese soldiers, including Field Marshal Terauchi Hisaichi, and civilians lie buried in mass graves. The reprisals following the surrender of the Japanese are testimony to the suffering endured by the casualties from both sides.

Cultural tourism is different from consumer tourism. It is about remembering and honouring the past.

Pilgrimages to historic war sites are undertaken so individuals may assimilate the meaning of events that have led their tribe and culture to the present.

The sunken ships off Pearl Harbor are not so much a tourist attraction as they are shrines to the American war dead and a “boundary marker” for when their country entered the most lethal war in history — one that eventually claimed more than 400,000 American lives.

Singapore has a lot to offer the cultural tourist. The coastal guns at Fort Canning and submarine tunnels off Labrador Park all have stories and secrets waiting to be told to a larger audience.

Likewise the maladaptive responses of the British, which led to the surrender of Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival to General Tomoyuki Yamashita at the Old Ford Factory, also offer important lessons in history to people of all cultures.

Tourism mainstays like the Merlionand the Chingay parade — as supported works of the Singapore Tourism Board — have been effective in attracting the tourist dollar. But we should also consider our cultural and historical attractions.

Asia has no shortage of glitzy malls, but the experience offered by Fortress Singapore is about human catastrophe, historic pivots and poignant narratives. Few cities in Asia have a better story to tell than how the “empire” was lost in seven days.

Read more!

Singapore must guard against going the way of Venice

In a 1988 speech, then-Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo compared the rise of Venice and Singapore. With two years to Singapore’s 50th birthday, the nation could probably learn more from Venice’s decline.
Tan Sheng Hui Today Online 14 Oct 13;

As our water taxi pulled away from the Rialto Bridge stop along Venice’s world-famous Grand Canal, our audio guide sounded a warning: “Venice is in decline. Once Europe’s largest financial centre, it dominated trade in the Mediterranean with a population of 175,000 at its peak. Now though, this historic city has under 60,000 residents with a quarter of these aged over 64. There could be no more full-time, native-born inhabitants by 2030.”

“Venice”, he added, “might be just a floating museum by then. A shadow of its glorious past”.

In a 1988 speech, Mr George Yeo who was then Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister compared the rise of Venice and Singapore. Two years to our nation’s 50th birthday, we could probably learn more from Venice’s decline.


Venice’s decline could be attributed to events after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. Its trade routes were under threat with Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492 and Vasco de Gama routing trades via the Cape of Good Hope to Asia in 1498.

These events significantly reduced Venice’s trade with the Levant or eastern Mediterranean and boosted the fortunes and relevance of emerging maritime powers such as Spain, Portugal and other nations west of Italy.

Singapore faces similar competition. Last month, a Chinese container ship became the first commercial vessel to travel through the Arctic via the Northern Sea Route (NSR). It skipped Singapore and reached Rotterdam from Dalian on Sept 10. The journey took 34 days — 11 days shorter than if it had used the Suez Canal.

If the NSR eventually becomes commercially viable, ships may bypass Singapore (a key shipping hub on the route via the Suez Canal). Singapore has responded by gaining a permanent observer seat on the Arctic Council and diversifying its port businesses.

Meanwhile, the potential construction of Thailand’s own “Suez Canal” across the Isthmus of Kra could save ships up to four days and render Singapore and the Straits of Malacca potentially irrelevant.

Venice also had to compete with neighbouring financial centres like Genoa and Florence. Although it had pioneered the issuance of government bonds and dominated finance and commerce in the 15th century, it was overshadowed by Genoa in the 16th century and, by the 17th century, Amsterdam, which had become the world’s leading financial centre having developed central banking, the stock market and financial derivatives.

In Asia, competition between Hong Kong and Singapore as regional financial hubs has been well-documented, but both should keep a keen eye on Shanghai’s emergence. On Sept 29, China launched a free trade zone in Shanghai with the goal of making it a world financial centre by 2020, going beyond greater trade liberalisation to include investment, financial services and free currency convertibility.


Fissures within society probably also contributed to Venice’s eventual decline. In Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argued that while upward mobility drove Venice’s wealth and power through the commenda (a partnership where capital-poor sailors and rich Venetians shared profits from voyages), this eventually threatened the established elite.

From 1315, the Venetian elite “pulled up the ladder” by instituting a political shift which led to Venice’s transformation into what the authors call an “extractive state”, where ruling elites extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Such states, they argue, are more inclined to fail than “inclusive states”, which give everyone access to economic opportunity.

Singapore must guard against such fissures and remain “inclusive”. We have done well to promote meritocracy in our society. However, as income inequality widens, society must play a bigger role alongside Government to prevent fissures from destroying our societal fabric.

Last month, speakers at a National University of Singapore forum advocated for more targeted measures to address poverty here. In a survey of 383 Singaporeans led by Associate Professor Irene Ng, 60 per cent felt the amount spent on assistance to the poor was inadequate and 70 per cent did not see poverty as the individual’s fault.

Assoc Prof Ng — who concedes her results are not fully representative — also found that less than half surveyed were willing to pay more taxes in return for greater government spending to help the poor. While there is no evidence to suggest that Singaporean elites are “pulling up the ladder”, the need to be “inclusive” is arguably greater than ever before, as the divide between rich and poor widens and our society ages.

Singapore will do well to learn from Venice’s decline or risk becoming irrelevant, broken and a shadow of what our forefathers worked so hard to build.


Tan Sheng Hui was an International and Global Affairs Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He now works in financial services in Singapore.

Read more!

Malaysia: Friends of the hawksbill turtle

Azhariah Kamin
The Star 14 Oct 13;

A group of dedicated young volunteers is protecting the hawksbill as best as they can, and this augurs well for the future of the reptile.

THEY come from different backgrounds, yet they have something in common: the desire to learn more about turtle conservation and protecting the environment.

One thing they admitted, though, was that before joining as volunteers at the Hawksbill Eco-Club, they knew little about turtle conservation. After they became part of the club, they learnt a whole lot more, and in the process, have fallen in love with their job.

Living along the coastline wasn’t something new for them. “Most of us were born and grew up here, so we already knew about turtles and marine life. However, it was only after we joined the club that we began learning much more,” said club chairman Nor Amri Zul, 26, in an interview with Star2 at the sanctuary earlier this year.

For the uninitiated, the Hawksbill Eco-Club was set up by a group of 12 youngsters (as full-time volunteers) who help man the Padang Kemunting Sea Turtle Sanctuary on a daily basis to create awareness and educate the public – particularly fishermen, chalet operators, schoolchildren and villagers– on the importance of protecting hawksbill turtles.

The Hawksbill Eco-Club is located at the Padang Kemunting Hawksbill Turtle Conservation and Information Centre in Pengkalan Balak, Masjid Tanah, Malacca.

Since the club’s inception in November 2011, its members have been busy with their daily routines at the centre and undergoing occasional training by WWF, assisted by the Fisheries Department, to equip them with all the necessary skills to become full-fledged, licensed eco-tourism guides. Indeed, one of the club’s aims is to empower the local community to benefit from local eco-tourism.

According to Nor Amri, one of the main activities of the club is assisting the sanctuary through its patrolling teams. During the peak nesting season from April to September, teams – comprising WWF-Malaysia’s staff members, assistants, interns and volunteers – monitor key nesting beaches from sunset to sunrise, sometimes covering distances of almost 40km. Amri himself joins in the patrolling every day.

“Our main aims are to stop poachers from stealing freshly laid eggs, and to transfer these new eggs into a protected hatchery, with the help of the Fisheries Department and licensed egg collectors. The patrolling teams cover beaches at Kem Terendak Tanjung Bidara, Padang Kemunting, Pasir Gembur, Pulau Upeh and Balik Batu,” added the passionate turtle lover.

Amri also said that at the sanctuary, they place satellite transmitters on selected turtles to monitor their movements, and so help scientists understand the migration patterns of the turtles. Such data is useful in identifying the potential threats to turtles, and helping conservationists to come up with ways to protect these reptiles. These turtles often swim over long distances and return to Malacca’s beaches to nest.

The Padang Kemunting beach is important as it houses the sole hatchery in Malacca. The club, monitored by the Fisheries Department, regulates egg collection by the local community by giving out a restricted number of licences. All eggs collected are required to be sold to the Department for incubation and are transported to this hatchery for incubation.

The eggs take 45 to 65 days to hatch, and the hatching season is from March to September. During these months, the sanctuary allows a limited number of tourists to release the hatchlings into the sea, under the guidance of WWF personnel.

Unfortunately, egg poaching along the beach is prevalent, according to Amri. The villagers’ houses are a stone’s throw away from the nesting beach, making it easily accessible. If that is not enough, this beach is also a popular recreational spot and is lined with endless rows of chalets.

“Lighting, human presence and tourist activity on the beach at night are big concerns in this area,” explained Amri.

But there is reason for some optimism as, in recent months, a chalet operator has indicated interest in changing its operations and practices. In return, the benefit could be additional revenue from guided turtle-watching activities and hatchling releases. Padang Kemunting surely has the potential to be a turtle-friendly belt where tourism is practised in a responsible manner to sustain the natural heritage within.

For 22-year-old Nur Atirah Abd Shukor, being a member of the club has been an eye-opening experience for her.

“Being born here, I knew about the the turtles but it was a friend’s idea that we should join the club. And I said yes immediately because I always wanted to do something different. And I have been enjoying my time here (at the sanctuary).

“There’s no one specific task for us to do at the club,” said Atirah, who is also the club’s treasurer. “On a daily basis, we just do things together, like manning the souvenir counter, cleaning the turtle pond, do night patrolling to watch the turtles come ashore, be in charge of the exhibition centre, and talking to visitors and tourists who come to the club to learn more about hawksbill turtles.”

She added that the club’s funding comes mainly from the sale of souvenirs and tour packages that include sighting the nesting turtles and witnessing the hatchlings’ release; 35% of the revenue is channelled into a special fund for hawksbill conservation.

“It has been a really exciting experience for me, meeting people from all walks of life and telling them what we do here at the club in protecting our treasure – the hawksbill turtles,” said Atirah.

Mohamad Hashim, a staff member of the Fisheries Department, also volunteers at the club. He deals mainly with corporate bodies and members of the public who want to participate in the club’s activities.

Mohamad said that when he first joined the department in the late-1990s, he was not really aware of turtles and their conservation.

However, as his new job started to grow on him, Mohamad, 44, began to learn about turtles and conservation efforts. He is now so involved that he has roped in his wife to be a part-time volunteer at the sanctuary.

> The Padang Kemunting Sea Turtle Sanctuary is open daily from 10am to 4pm, except on Mondays and public holidays. Admission is free.

Volunteers play a big role
The Star 14 Oct 13;

VOLUNTEERISM is extremely important in conservation efforts for the hawksbill turtle.

According to Low Min Min of WWF Malacca, volunteers are greatly needed as they provide invaluable manpower in its daily operations which include patrolling the nesting sites and collecting data.

WWF has been on hand since the formation of the Hawksbill Eco-Club in November 2011.

“I’m so happy to see how the club has progressed in these two years. I couldn’t be more proud!” said Low in a telephone interview.

She added that the club was formed with the aim of empowering the villagers, especially the younger generation, with knowledge of eco-tourism which has long-term benefits for everyone involved.

“What we do at WWF is give these young people in Padang Kemunting village ongoing training in eco-tourism, with strict guidelines. In doing so, the club will, in return, be a role model for the local community on how to carry out conservation efforts. They stand to reap financial benefits from it while preserving the environment. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Without the co-operation of the community, environmentalists, traders and the government, WWF Malaysia’s turtle conservation programme in Malacca would not have reaped the success it enjoys today, said Low.

According to her, Malacca’s coastline saw one of the highest numbers of nestings of hawksbill turtles in 2011, a success story made possible through collaboration between the state government, non-governmental organisations and members of the public. Over 500 nestings were recorded, an achievement comparable to that of Sabah Turtle Island, one of the main nesting sites for the hawksbill turtle in Malaysia.

The inception of the Hawksbill Eco-Club is a part of the Hawksbill Malacca Eco-tourism awareness programme, whereby operators are educated about proper practices when conducting tours, without disturbing the turtles or their habitat.

Low pointed out that the young club is still in the learning stage. It needs continuous support from corporate bodies and members of the public in order to function efficiently.

“We at WWF are giving them training in doing paperwork and soliciting funds from corporate bodies. At the moment, the club members are being paid by WWF, so it would be very nice if they could start earning extra income as a club.

“I’m so happy to know that these youngsters at Eco-Club are putting aside a percentage of the club’s revenue for a special fund for hawksbill turtle conservation.”

> For more details about the Hawksbill Eco-Club, e-mail: or go to its Facebook account (

Favourite nesting place
The Star 14 Oct 13;

MALACCA’S coastline – with its narrow beaches and facing one of the busiest shipping channels in the world – is not what one would typically consider prime turtle nesting habitat.

Nevertheless, it is the second largest nesting area for the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in South-East Asia, after Sabah’s Turtle Island. An average of 400 nestings (exclusively hawksbill turtle) are recorded yearly by the Fisheries Department, the country’s management authority for sea turtles.

At present, four prime rookeries are home to approximately 80% of the nesting population in Malacca: Pulau Upeh (Upeh Island), Kem Terendak, Padang Kemunting and the Tanjung Dahan-Tanjung Serai stretch.‎

The hawksbill turtle got its name because of its beak that resembles the eagle’s. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful species of marine turtles due to the striking golden-brown pattern of its carapace.

Hawksbill turtles have been hunted for decades for their shells and eggs. Their shells are used as decorations while their eggs are a delicacy among the locals.

The Fisheries Rule (Turtles and Turtle’s Eggs) was enacted in 1989 to protect these eggs from being over-harvested; only licensed egg collectors are allowed to collect the eggs.

All the eggs collected are then sent to the hatchery at Padang Kemunting Sea Turtle Sanctuary for incubation.

The nesting season is from March to September – with May, June and July being the peak months.

Read more!