Best of our wild blogs: 26 Oct 13

Dan Friess on “Carbon policies such as REDD+ are doomed for coastal conservation” (Wed 30 Oct 2013: 4.30pm @ NUS E1) from Otterman speaks

Call of the Red Jungle Fowl this morning – in the Kent Ridge forest at NUS! from Otterman speaks

Butterflies Galore! : Purple Duke
from Butterflies of Singapore

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3m-long python snared in industrial park

Lim Yi Han Straits Times 29 Oct 13;

A PYTHON measuring 3m in length was caught yesterday morning at an industrial park in Ang Mo Kio after it was spotted by workers in the area.

Driver Ronald Ong, 29, told The Straits Times that he learnt about the snake from another worker there, who spotted it at Block 5048 in Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2 at around 8.15am.

The men alerted the police and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), an animal rights group.

About an hour later, two officers from Acres arrived and caught the snake, which was hiding under a container.

Mr Ong said: "I don't think this is the first time a snake has been spotted here. But we're not scared or worried. We'll just take care not to provoke them."

He noted that signs had been put up to warn people of snake sightings in the area.

The 10kg python had eaten a cat, said Ms Anbarasi Boopal, the group director of wildlife at Acres, who added that it would be released into the wild.

She noted that Acres receives about three to five calls a day about snakes, and they usually do not pose a public danger.

"Not all the snakes are rescued, because they are found in their natural habitats. People might be alarmed, not knowing that they can be harmless," she said.

"For example, pythons can be found in canals but it's all right to let them be."

Members of the public can call Acres' 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783-7782.

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New unit plays mediator on heritage issues

It studies impact of development and serves as link between Govt, activists
Straits Times 26 Oct 13;

THE National Heritage Board (NHB) has set up a new division to study the impact that development can have on the country's heritage, in the wake of rising civic activism.

Called the impact assessment and mitigation division, it comprises a small team supervised by Mr Alvin Tan, 41, the new group director of policy at the board.

He was previously in charge of three heritage institutions - the Malay Heritage Centre, Indian Heritage Centre and the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall - among other things.

When asked, NHB said the division was set up on July 1 as part of an "internal re-organisation". Its job is to "conduct impact assessments of redevelopment works on heritage sites and structures and work with the necessary stakeholders to establish mitigation measures".

There has been a growing, ground-up movement in recent years advocating for some of Singapore's built and environmental heritage to be preserved.

Civic groups and the authorities have locked horns in some cases, such as the Government's decision to build a road over Bukit Brown cemetery.

Since setting up, the team has played a mediator role between these civic groups and other government agencies, such as helping to negotiate the lease extension of the dragon kilns in Jurong.

Heritage groups said the establishment of the team has been a long time coming. It also signifies the Government's move away from a more "bulldozer" approach in the 1970s and 1980s to a more engaging one, said Mr Kwek Li Yong, 24, who founded civic group My Community, citing the loss of important buildings and landmarks such as the Stamford Road National Library and the National Theatre over the years.

"The new team serves as a link for civic groups and government agencies, and its assessment efforts help to bridge the expectations of statutory boards and the community," said Mr Kwek.

My Community submitted a paper to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in July to save 18 historic sites in Queenstown, Singapore's first satellite estate. The NHB team helped assess these sites on their architectural, historical and community merits. It found that eight were of "high heritage value" and three, including the Queenstown Public Library, were subsequently conserved by the URA.

Mr Benson Ng, 54, a managing partner at Focus Ceramic Services, which operates Jalan Bahar Clay Studios at 97L Lorong Tawas - where the 43m-long Guan Huat dragon kiln from the 1950s lies - said he appreciated the team working as an intermediary.

The site had been earmarked for the development of an eco-friendly business park. "Before the team approached us, we didn't know who to approach and how to state our case in terms of heritage value," he said.

The team has also worked on including certain heritage elements, such as the preservation of 20 tombstones of notable Singaporeans, at a 10ha park in the new Bidadari housing estate. It also contributed to the documentation and preservation efforts of Bukit Brown cemetery.

Heritage groups such as the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) said assessments should be "holistic", and not merely focus on historical research alone but consider both built and social heritage and a site's surrounding environment as well.

Singapore should also look towards common international assessment standards, especially since it has put in a bid to list the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a Unesco World Heritage site, said heritage conservation expert Johannes Widodo.

"This may give Singapore an opportunity to show its ability in nurturing our heritage at the global level and might set a good example for other nations in heritage preservation and management areas," said Professor Widodo, a jury member of the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards.

Dr Chua Ai Lin, president of SHS, said that while the society welcomes the new division, the assessment of vulnerable sites not protected by law is just one step in a larger process. The next step is to assess if a further level of legal protection is required.

This requires more than just input from NHB alone, but also an intra-agency effort on the part of the Government and community participation to come to a solution together, said Dr Chua.


The new team serves as a link for civic groups and government agencies, and their assessment efforts help to bridge the expectations of statutory boards and the community.

- Mr Kwek Li Yong, founder of civic group My Community


AFTER 42 years of being known as the Preservation of Monuments Board, this government department under the National Heritage Board (NHB) has a new name.

On July 1, it was renamed the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, to "more accurately reflect the division's expanded role of championing nationally significant heritage sites", said a spokesman for the NHB.

These sites include the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which has put in a bid to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The division was set up to gazette and preserve national monuments.

There are currently 65 of these. They include the former Supreme Court and Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

The division is responsible for identifying monuments worthy of preservation and disburses money for their restoration, repair and maintenance, among other things.

The division is also in charge of promoting 100 existing heritage sites, such as Alexandra Hospital and Changi Beach.


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Indonesian soldiers jailed over stuffed endangered tigers

(AFP) Google News 26 Oct 13;

Banda Aceh — An Indonesian military tribunal has jailed two soldiers for illegally possessing two stuffed Sumatran tigers and a stuffed bear, with the men forced to appear in court alongside the protected animals.

The court in Banda Aceh, on western Sumatra island, Thursday handed Chief Sergeant Joko Rianto a two-month jail term and Chief Private Rawali a three-month sentence.

Rianto was given a five million rupiah ($460) fine while Rawali, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was ordered to pay 2.5 million rupiah.

"Rawali and Joko Rianto have been found legitimately and convincingly guilty of illegally possessing dead protected animals," judge Lieutenant Colonel Budi Purnomo said.

Rianto, who was caught with one of the tigers and a bear in his house, argued he had purchased the critically endangered tiger to use its teeth to cure his sick wife.

Tiger parts are frequently used in traditional medicine in Asia despite the lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence showing that they have any medicinal benefits.
Rawali claimed a friend had given him the tiger to repay a debt.

Ratno Sugito, a local animal activist, welcomed the sentences: "Even though the sentence was weak, at least the military court showed its willingness to enforce the law."

The Sumatran tiger is critically endangered and there are only an estimated 400 to 500 still alive in the wild on the island from which the animal takes its name.

Its numbers are rapidly dwindling due to destruction of its rainforest habitat and poachers targeting the animals to sell their parts, mainly for use in Chinese medicine.

The court did not disclose the species of the bear although it said the animal was protected by law.

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Indonesia: 2 Malaysians suspects in Riau forest fire case

The Jakarta Post 25 Oct 13;

The Riau Police have named two Malaysian citizens as suspects for their role in starting forest fires, believed to be a way of clearing land for plantations in Riau province last June.

"The two suspects hold high-ranking positions in PT API, a subsidiary of a Malaysia-based company," said Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency.

"But they have not been arrested yet as we are still conducting an investigation in the case," Guntur said, adding that the suspects, who are identified with the initials TKY and DKRS, allegedly helped locals burn forested lands in Pelalawan regency to clear land for oil palm plantations.

Last June, Riau province was blanketed by thick haze due to large-scale forest fires, forcing thousands of people to move from the area. Even neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia filed complaints with Indonesia as the haze from the burning forests spread into their territories.

Previously, the police named seven other companies for their alleged involvement in setting off the forest fires, namely PT JJP, PT LIH, PT BMS, PT BBHA, PT RUJ, PT SPM, and PT SRL, according to Antara.

However, no individual suspects have been named from the seven companies yet. Investigations into the case are ongoing.

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Thai east hit by worst floods in 50 years

77 dead in Oct alone; govt struggling to respond to annual problem: Experts
Nirmal Ghosh Indochina Bureau Chief In Bangkok Straits Times 26 Oct 13;

IN ITS worst floods in 50 years caused by heavy rain and overflowing dams, eastern Thailand has seen 600,000ha of farmland in more than 20 provinces inundated and 77 people die this month.

This follows floods in 2011 that claimed 800 lives and inundated eight industrial parks just north of Bangkok, dealing a heavy blow to Thailand's export sector.

But the country is still groping for a response to the annual flooding cycle which, with erratic weather caused by global warming and overbuilding of urban infrastructure in low-lying flood plains, is only likely to get worse, said experts.

Government agencies and experts are wasting time arguing instead of basing decisions on sound scientific data, said one of the country's top climate scientists, Dr Anond Snidvongs, director of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency.

"We have to consider investing more to cope. But if we base our future on personal opinion and arguing against one another, it is not going to work. We need the data. But nobody really wants to discuss this, it's all personal opinion and emotion," he said.

The government launched a 350 billion baht (S$13.9 billion) national water management scheme last year, but it is still in the early stages and has run into opposition from many sectors, including local communities who do not want more dikes and dams.

Meanwhile this month, heavy rain from a tropical typhoon, on top of monsoon rains that fall from June to October, caused rivers like the Chi river in Chaiyaphum to overflow.

On Wednesday, the Moon river in Nakhon Ratchasima burst its banks, inundating rice-growing areas and houses in the north-eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The province of Chachoengsao, east of Bangkok, has been badly affected by waters from the Bang Pakong river and runoff from an overflowing upstream dam.

"People living near the river are in water up to their necks; it is higher even than in 2011," Chachoengsao Member of Parliament Thitima Chaisang told The Straits Times over the phone. "Industry is safe, but pig farms, rice farms and mango orchards have been affected," she added.

And last week, in an echo of 2011, Thailand's largest industrial park was partially flooded after 10 hours of heavy rain.

Located east of Bangkok, the Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate where around 700 factories provide close to 200,000 jobs, is in a low-lying area about 3km from the sea. It escaped the 2011 floods unscathed, but this time, 17 factories had to shut down for a day and a half when workers could not commute.

Government ministers, worried about Thailand's credibility with foreign investors, rushed to the park.

Army units were deployed to help create sandbag walls and pump water out.

To help factories stay open, the army also sent about 30 buses and trucks to ferry workers to and from flooded communities in the surrounding countryside.

Industrial park director Viboon Kromadit said no production lines were affected by the water. He added that the cost of the flood control operations had yet to be assessed.

He blamed road works and a dam under construction for blocking the flow of water to the sea.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the park on Wednesday, Minister for Industry Prasert Boonchaisuk agreed. "What we need to do… is build concrete walls or dikes as high as 60cm to 1m," he said.

And in a sign of the greater social and political complexities of the flood problem, Mr Viboon said: "We had to let some of the water into the park, using our roads as flood ways, to reduce the resentment of communities outside who would otherwise point at us and say we are privileged."

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Children urged to put away screens and play outside

Judith Burns, BBC News 25 Oct 13;

Children are being urged to take back their "wild time", swapping 30 minutes of screen use for outdoor activities.

The call to renew a connection with nature comes from a collaboration of almost 400 organisations, from playgroups to the NHS.

The Wild Network wants children to take up activities like conkers and camping.

"The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation," said chairman Andy Simpson.

The organisers argue that swapping 30 minutes of television and computer games each day for outdoor play would increase the levels of fitness and alertness and improve children's well-being

Marketing nature

"Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost," said Mr Simpson.

He referred to recent research by the RSPB which suggested only one in five children aged eight to 12 had a connection with nature.

"With many more parents becoming concerned about the dominance of screen time in their children's lives, and growing scientific evidence that a decline in active time is bad news for the health and happiness of our children, we all need to become marketing directors for nature," said Mr Simpson.

"An extra 30 minutes of wild time every day for all under 12-year-olds in the UK would be the equivalent of just three months of their childhood spent outdoors.

"We want parents to see what this magical wonder product does for their kids' development, independence and creativity, by giving wild time a go."

The campaign launches on Friday with the release of a documentary film, Project Wild Thing.

It tells the story of how, in a bid to get his daughter and son outside, film-maker David Bond appoints himself marketing director for nature, working with branding and outdoor experts to develop a campaign.

'Misty-eyed nostalgia'

"I wanted to understand why my children's childhood is so different from mine, whether this matters and, if it does, what I can do about it," said Mr Bond.

"The reasons why kids, whether they live in cities or the countryside, have become disconnected from nature and the outdoors are complex.

"Project Wild Thing isn't some misty-eyed nostalgia for the past. We need to make more space for wild time in children's daily routine, freeing this generation of kids to have the sort of experiences that many of us took for granted.

"It's all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road."

The campaign, said to be the biggest ever aiming to reconnect children with the outdoors, includes the National Trust, the RSPB, Play England and the NHS, as well as playgroups, businesses and schools.

Children told to go play outdoors in new nature campaign
Wild Network aims to get schoolchildren off their computers and outdoors to experience the wonders of the wilderness
Steven Morris The Guardian 25 Oct 13;

A campaign is being launched to encourage children to surrender 30 minutes of screen time a day to head for the great outdoors.

The newly formed Wild Network – a collaboration of nearly 400 organisations - is attempting to attract youngsters away from television and computer screen and into fields, woods and parks.

Organisers say it is the UK's biggest ever campaign to reconnect children with nature and outdoor play, and claim it could help improve fitness, mental alertness and general wellbeing.

A documentary film, Project Wild Thing, will herald the launch at more than 50 cinemas across the UK from Friday. It looks at the increasingly fragile link between children and nature.

Members of the network include the National Trust, RSPB, Play England and the NHS sustainable development unit.

Andy Simpson, chairman of the Wild Network, said: "The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation.

"Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost."

Suggestions of how to get more time in nature include collecting conkers, camping or snail racing, and observing autumn colour on trees.

From January, the network will aim to make suggestions to politicians on how government can do more to get children muddy and bright-eyed.

This is not the first time the message of less screen, more play has been brought up. Children in the 1980s were entreated to do the same by the BBC TV series Why Don't You, which somewhat confusingly called on its viewers to "switch off your TV set, and go do something less boring instead".

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