Best of our wild blogs: 25 Oct 13

Clean & Green Hackathon in November
from Green Drinks Singapore

Getting to know our Singapore sotong
from wild shores of singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Colour Sergeant
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Culling doesn't tackle root of monkey problem

Straits Times Forum 25 Oct 13;

MR HAN Cheng Fong expressed concerns over the aggressiveness of macaques and recommended culling as a solution ("Do more to curb monkey population"; Wednesday).

While the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) understands his concerns, the reality is that culling is not an effective solution and also does not address the root of the problem.

The root of the problem is the readily available food sources in human areas.

In addition, the reality is that macaques are opportunistic animals which naturally live on the edge of the forest rather than deep in the forest. We have now built our houses on their natural habitat and as such, there will undoubtedly be an increase in human-macaque interactions.

It is, however, possible to co-exist with the macaques. Steps must be taken to actively manage the interactions between the macaques and humans, and residents must also take active steps to ensure that there is no readily available food source in their property.

Acres has now embarked on an awareness programme to create the much-needed awareness on how to interpret macaque behaviours and understand their language. This will undoubtedly help to reduce the aggressive interactions between the macaques and humans.

There is currently no need to curb Singapore's monkey population as there is no evidence indicating that there is an overpopulation of macaques here.

Culling is not endorsed internationally and is an unethical practice. This year, Gibraltar stopped culling its macaques and is now focusing on public education and legal enforcement against people who feed the macaques.

The key to resolving the human-macaque conflict is to learn to co-exist with the macaques.

We share residents' concerns about the current conflicts and Acres has recently established a Macaque Rescue Team to assist residents with any human-macaque conflict issues and also embark on public education campaigns. Members of the public can call our hotline on 9783-7782.

See Han Sern
Campaign Executive

Practical solution needed for monkey problem
Straits Times Forum 25 Oct 13;

I SHARE Mr Han Cheng Fong's concern on the monkey situation in Singapore ("Do more to curb monkey population"; Wednesday).

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority placed a monkey trap in our housing estate when my family member alerted it to a troop of monkeys plaguing our estate, although it is very far from forested areas.

The trap did not work as the monkeys have learnt to avoid such traps.

They move in packs and use overhead cables to enter the estate. They rummage through the closed disposal bins, creating a mess.

Once last month, I came face to face with two monkeys in the kitchen. They had come in through the narrow window grille. They opened the refrigerator and took the fruit drinks and fruits. They dirtied the kitchen and left faecal droppings behind.

Something constructive and practical needs to be done by animal activists and interested monkey researchers to tackle the real monkey problem in Singapore.

These monkeys need to be lured back to their natural habitat.

Ada Chan Siew Foen (Ms)

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BCA building regulation to include reflectivity requirements for all facade materials

John Leong Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will be updating its building regulation to include reflectivity requirements for all kinds of facade materials.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post that currently, such requirements only pertain to glass.

Mr Khaw said there has been some feedback on excessive glare from sunlight reflected from the metal roof of other buildings in Singapore.

He said it is an issue of concern as there are more buildings with glass and metal facades, and covered with metal roofs.

He noted that building designs are getting more complex and elaborate with more developers and architects exploring the use of less conventional materials.

Mr Khaw said there must be some form of check and balance to ensure that the building design does not come at the cost of comfort and safety.

He said the regulatory update is useful to ensure that new designs add to the neighbourhood, allowing residents, users and commuters to enjoy without causing any inconvenience or hardship to anyone.

Citing examples of similar cases overseas, Mr Khaw said certain buildings were in the news recently because their reflective surfaces had caused inconvenience to city dwellers.

A London building was dubbed "fryscraper" as it had reflected so much sunlight that its rays could even fry an egg nearby.

The tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre, was a subject of debate in their Parliament.

He cited how Sydney has responded to the use of reflective materials in building facades.

The Australian city regulates the daylight reflectance of all facade materials.

Sydney's regulation requires that light reflectivity from building materials used on external facades must not exceed 20 per cent.

There is an additional requirement for buildings in the vicinity of arterial or major roads and Sydney Airport, given the safety concerns.

Architect Lim Ching Tung has called for more consultations before the update of BCA's building regulation.

Mr Lim, senior project architect at ARCHURBAN, said: "It should be more widely consulted, so that the profession can be more aware, and then throw in more discretions or ideas on how to take care of these issues.

“I think there are already a lot of cases or a lot of regulations that have been very limiting of the creativity of the designers. Creativity is about getting around things, but of course, the choice of material is still very important."

- CNA/xq/nd

BCA to update rule on use of reflective materials in buildings
Sumita D/O Sreedharan Today Online 25 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — The use of reflective building materials, such as metal roofs and cladding, which can cause blinding glare and raise safety concerns, will soon come under greater scrutiny.

Calling it “an issue of concern” in his blog entry yesterday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will update its building regulation on the use of reflective materials, following feedback on unwelcome glare from sunlight that is reflected from the metal roofs of buildings.

“One resident said he has had to wear sunglasses in his own home!” said Mr Khaw.

Current regulation covers only the use of reflective glass.

With an increasing number of buildings with glass and metal facades, Mr Khaw said more developers and architects are exploring the use of less conventional materials, and “some form of check and balance has to be in place to ensure the building design does not come at the cost of comfort and safety”.

“This is a useful regulatory update to ensure new designs will add to the neighbourhood, allowing all residents, users and commuters to enjoy, without causing any inconvenience or hardship to anyone,” said Mr Khaw.

Last month, a London skyscraper was dubbed the “fryscraper” after sun rays reflected from the building reportedly melted parts of several cars, including a luxury Jaguar.

The tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre, also became the subject of much debate in the Hong Kong Parliament because the glare it created inconvenienced residents, said Mr Khaw.

He cited what Sydney had done in response to the use of reflective materials in building facades.

According to the minister, the city’s regulation covers daylight reflectance of all building-facade materials. There is also an extra requirement for buildings in the vicinity of arterial or major roads and Sydney Airport, given the safety concerns.

Responding to media queries, the BCA said it received feedback on unwanted glare from 18 residential and commercial buildings in recent years.

One such case involved the shopping mall myVillage at Serangoon Garden.

It had to apply an opaque finishing on its facade and have two-way tinted glass installed after residents complained that their homes were warmer due to the building’s reflection of sun rays onto their houses.

The BCA said the new regulation would include reflectivity requirements for all kinds of facade materials and be applicable to all projects in which building plans are submitted after the amendment of the rule. Existing buildings that do not meet the new regulation will not be affected.

BCA to take some shine off new buildings
Range of prohibited facade materials to be expanded, to reduce reflection of light
Charissa Yong Straits Times 25 Oct 13;

BEING dazzled by the glare from buildings that reflect too much light could soon be a thing of the past here.

Rules will be updated by the authorities to ensure that building facades are not too blinding, with metal roofs a likely early casualty.

The aim of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is to increase the types of materials banned for use as buildings' external surface because they are too reflective. Now, the only shimmering culprit disallowed is glass.

But the range of materials will soon be broadened to include "all kinds of facade materials", wrote National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on his blog yesterday.

Metal roofs, in particular, have been flickering too much for their own good.

"We are beginning to get some feedback on unwelcome glare from sunlight reflected from metal roofs of other buildings," said Mr Khaw, adding that one resident has even had to wear sunglasses in his own home.

To date, BCA has received feedback on 18 residential and commercial buildings on the glare from sunlight reflected from glass facades, metal roofs and metal claddings, which are coverings on a building.

Notably, myVillage in Serangoon Gardens darkened its floor-to-ceiling windows in 2010, after nearby residents complained that the glass reflected too much sunlight and heated up their homes in the evenings.

The neighbourhood mall subsequently replaced the reflective glass with two-way tinted glass a few months later.

The regulatory update is so that designs can be enjoyed by all without causing anyone inconvenience or hardship, said Mr Khaw.

It comes as building designs here are becoming more complex and elaborate.

"With an increasing number of developers and architects exploring the use of less conventional materials, some form of check and balance is necessary so that design does not come at the cost of comfort and safety," he said.

For example, he noted, London is home to a skyscraper which reflects so much sunlight that the rays have fried an egg nearby.

Nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie for its shape, it was in the spotlight a month ago, when a businessman complained that the reflected rays melted the side of his car parked near the tower.

Singapore Institute of Architects council member Lim Choon Keang said that building facades here generally reflect less light, compared to those in countries which do not prohibit reflective glass.

But he also suggested that the regulation be relaxed in less dense areas where the distances between buildings are farther.

"Then you can have slightly more varied designs and greater selection of materials," he said.

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Uniquely Singapore beach should be saved

John Lim Today Online 25 Oct 13;

I agree with the views expressed in “Would East Coast Park still be for all to have after redevelopment?” (Oct 21).

I wish to add that many foreign visitors, several of whom are Americans, have praised Singapore for the greenery on the stretch of East Coast Park, which is quite unlike California’s boisterous beaches, for example.

Due to this unique sense of being close to nature, many of them look forward to visiting the park each time they return to Singapore.

If the greenery were to be replaced by entertainment establishments, in the pursuit of commerce, I envisage the park becoming another Phuket or Pattaya, laden with litter and inebriated patrons.

Furthermore, the noise and potential overcrowding would create negative externalities for Marine Parade residents. In a nutshell, this uniquely Singapore beach should be saved.

Parks are more than just event venues​
Tay Yong Hong Today Online 25 Oct 13;

I agree with the writer of “Would East Coast Park still be for all to have after redevelopment?” (Oct 21).

I cycle on weekend mornings from eastern Singapore to the Central Business District. Watching a sunrise at Gardens by the Bay or Marina Bayfront is a joyful experience. I use the park connectors, as they are safer than the road, which means I pass through East Coast Park.

However, the increasing use of the park for paid events on weekend mornings, especially around the Lagoon food centre, is inconveniencing users. For example, while a recent triathlon there was no doubt a success for its organiser, many park users were upset that public paths — the beach path, footpath and cycling path — were closed to them.

There were one or two crossing points, but no proper indications for users, and members of the public had to wait for 20 to 30 minutes to pass. Some of them ran through at the expense of a possible accident or injury.

Even if the revenue from these events is being used for redevelopment of the park, the authorities could also find other suitable venues, such as the site slated for the Changi Motorsports Hub, for such activities.

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Singapore’s curious bicycle island

Steve Thomas BBC Travel 23 Oct 13;

Just a five-minute ferry ride from Singapore’s busy streets is Pulau Ubin, a near pristine island oasis with some of the best city-fringe cycling and mountain biking in Southeast Asia, perfect for those seeking a little respite from the city.

A slice of history

For many years Pulau Ubin – which mean “granite island” in Malay – was used as a quarry for the granite used in many of the nation’s major structures, including the causeway that links Singapore to Malaysia.

But quarrying started to decline in the 1970s and only small-scale operations exist on the island today. This withdrawal has left behind a slice of Singapore from 50 years ago: an overgrown and rugged landscape, a small number of wooden, old-style Malay and Chinese kampongs (villages), around 100 residents and little else.

Despite being earmarked for high-rise housing development and a proposed MRT tunnel link to the mainland, Pulau Ubin has managed to remain green and natural. There are no traffic jams or shopping complexes, not a single KFC or Starbucks, and very little urban stress, making it a favourite weekend retreat for both locals and visitors.

There are very few motorised vehicles on Ubin, and even fewer roads. Bicycles are the way to get around, and in 2007 a superb mountain bike trail network was put in place; the 45 hectare Ketam Mountain Bike Park, an all-weather, manmade route that has solidified the island’s unofficial title of “Bicycle Island”. The park even has International Mountain Bicycling Association endorsement, which pays testimony to its quality riding.

From gridlock to greenery

Stepping off the old “bumboat” ferry onto Ubin’s narrow wooden jetty is a relief, with the hustle and the stress of the city suddenly a world away.

Just a few metres from the shore is a tiny kampong with a few restaurants, all set in traditional, single-storey wooden shops. There are also bikes – hundreds of them – that are purely for visitors. Rent a bike (or bring your own) and follow the only pathway out of the village. This is the start of 10km of mountain bike trails.

Weaving through calming woodland and across open grassland on gently winding singletrack trails is a tonic to the heat and hurry of the city. For experienced mountain bikers there are demanding single sections, with short but tough climbs, hillside switchbacks and rocky sections.

For less-skilled riders, Ubin also has a network of rolling and flat gravel roads, and even the odd sealed stretch. By using the gravel roads you can reach the more remote areas of the islands, including the 100-hectare Chek Jawa wetland area, which has a walkway and viewing platform, affording great bird and marine life spotting opportunities.

Ketam’s master trail builders have also created a skills area with manmade obstacles to negotiate and a pump track (a BMX-style section for jumping) by the trails’ starting point, which can be great fun for those wishing to spice up their ride.

You can circumnavigate the entire island in half a day, and would be unlikely to hear the roar of a single engine. With its one-way directional ride system you can plod – or blast – away in peace.


Pulau Ubin is a short ferry ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Bikes are not allowed on the MRT or on local buses, so if you are taking your own wheels then it is best to ride to the terminal or to take a taxi.

Bike rental costs between eight and 14 Singapore dollars, depending on the rental duration and bike quality. The rental mountain bikes found on the island are well used and of reasonable standard.

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Indonesia: Plantations Winnow Tigers Down to the Hundreds

Thalif Deen Inter Press Service Reuters AlertNet 22 Oct 13;

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 22 (IPS) - The tiger population in the rainforests of Sumatra is vanishing at a staggering rate, reducing the number of the endangered species to as few as 400, warns Greenpeace International.

The primary reason is the expansion of oil palm and pulpwood plantations, which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the destruction of tiger habitat from 2009 to 2011, the most recent period for which official Indonesian government data are available.

In a new study released Tuesday, Greenpeace says such destruction fragments the extensive tracts of rainforest over which tigers need to range in order to hunt.

"It also increases their contact with humans," the study says. "This leads to more poaching for tiger skins and traditional medicines and more tiger attacks, resulting in both tiger and human deaths."

The decline of Sumatran tigers is a measure of the loss of rainforest, biodiversity and also climate stability, according to the study titled 'Licence to Kill'.

This summer, huge fires, both accidental and deliberate, raged across the Sumatran province of Riau, destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforests – including the deep peatland forests that are a last stand of tiger habitat in the province.

The fires released record amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollutants in a haze that stretched as far as Thailand.

There are no estimates as to how many tigers have been killed so far, although the figure could be in the thousands over the last decade.

Asked whether the United Nations is engaged in the protection of tigers, Bustar Maitar, the Indonesian head of Greenpeace's Forest Campaign and Global Forest Network, told IPS, "I don't see much U.N. activity on forests.

"The only thing I know is the U.N. Development Programme (UNPD) manages a one-billion-dollar fund from the Norwegian government for the U.N. collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)."

He said REDD was working closely with its Indonesian counterpart to accelerate REDD projects in Indonesia.

Maitar also said the U.N.'s focus is more on general sustainable development and democracy in Indonesia than on protecting the tiger, described as a critically endangered species.

"Or they might not really be clear as to how to fit in with this issue in Indonesia," he said, adding that the U.N. could provide more technical assistance and capacity building for government and civil society.

The U.N. REDD programme was launched in 2008 and encompasses the technical expertise of UNDP, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

It supports nationally-led REDD+ processes and "promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation", according to the United Nations.

Currently, about 85 percent of Indonesia's GHG emissions typically come from land-use changes (principally related to deforestation for plantations or agriculture), and around half of this is peat-related.

Even Sumatran tiger habitat in protected areas such as the world-famous Tesso Nilo National Park has been virtually destroyed by encroachment for illegal palm oil production, and government officials acknowledge that protection for such areas exists only on paper, says Greenpeace International.

The study also points out that forested tiger habitat in licenced plantation concessions has no protection at all. One million hectares – 10 percent of all remaining forested tiger habitat – remained at risk of clearance in pulp and oil palm concessions in 2011.

Over the 2009-2011 period, pulpwood suppliers were responsible for a sixth of all forested tiger habitat loss. And during the same period, the palm oil sector cleared a quarter of the remaining tiger habitat in its concessions.

"These failures expose how unregulated and irresponsible expansion, notably of oil palm and pulp wood plantations, undermines the Indonesian government's commitments to stop deforestation and to save the tiger and other endangered wildlife," the study says.

Greenpeace also says its investigations have revealed that household names, including Colgate Palmolive, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft), Nestle Oil, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and a host of other companies are linked to Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd and its international trade in dirty palm oil.

Wilmar is the world's largest palm oil processor, accounting for over one-third of the global palm oil processing market and with a distribution network covering over 50 countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon points out that forests are vital for human well-being.

In a message for the International Day of Forests last March, Ban said forests cover nearly a third of the globe and provide an invaluable variety of social, economic and environmental benefits.

Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas. Forests stabilise slopes and prevent landslides, while also protecting coastal communities against tsunamis and storms.

More than three billion people use wood for fuel, some two billion people depend on forests for sustenance and income, and 750 million live within them, he added.

Ban also said forests are often at the frontlines of competing demands. Urbanisation and the consumption needs of growing populations are linked to deforestation for large-scale agriculture and the extraction of valuable timber, oil and minerals.

Often the roads that provide infrastructure for these enterprises ease access for other forest users, who can further exacerbate the rate of forest and biodiversity loss.

"We need now to intensify efforts to protect forests, including by incorporating them into the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals," Ban noted.

"I urge governments, businesses and all sectors of society to commit to reducing deforestation, preventing forest degradation, reducing poverty and promoting sustainable livelihoods for all forest-dependent peoples," he said.

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