Best of our wild blogs: 28 Oct 13

Return of the Devil
from Pulau Hantu

Hedging Our Barbets
from Winging It

Red Junglefowl Roundup Part V. 5-toed Red Junglefowls
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Colonel
from Butterflies of Singapore

Striped Kukri Snake
from Monday Morgue

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Government to seek public's views on review of Sustainable Singapore Blueprint

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: The review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint will involve a public consultation exercise over the next three to six months.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said this on the sidelines of an Emergency Preparedness Exercise that involved some 500 residents in his constituency of Cashew.

Dr Balakrishnan said that as part of the review, the public would be asked for their feedback on how to enhance the penalty regime for littering and other anti-social behaviours.

The government has been pushing for ownership among individuals where environmental issues are concerned. This year, it kicked off its Community Volunteer Scheme -- where volunteers are trained to book and report litterbugs to the National Environment Agency for investigation.

Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry is also looking at amending legislation to establish the volunteer corps of environment protection officers.

Citizens in the volunteer corps will be trained and could even be issued the same warrant cards as regular NEA officers. This means they will have the powers to book and issue offenders with summonses on the spot.

This measure, as well as enhancing penalties for litterbugs, will be among the issues that will be included as part of the consultation exercise.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The penalty regime will be part of that consultation exercise. Quite honestly, yes, we can enhance the penalties, but I don't think that is the key. We need to educate, we need to bring people on board and we need to get people to take charge of the situation.

"That to me is more important than revising penalties, although we will of course have to do that. However, it will be a public consultation exercise, and we will do so in a consultative way."

Dr Balakrishnan added the next eight years will be important for the hawker centre building programme, with the government's commitment to build at least 10 new hawker centres, and renovate and refurbish 15 centres that were under the Stall Ownership Scheme.

He said: "We thought of using this period of time to engage in public consultation, to ask the public: 'what is your vision, what do you want, what do you expect of Singapore going forward?'

"For instance, whether its hawker centres, or any other facilities, how do we ensure that it is truly green at the conceptual level and actually operates efficiently and meets peoples' needs."

The environment blueprint will lay out Singapore's strategies for economic growth in a way that is environmentally sustainable.

- CNA/ac

Volunteer corps with power to fine litterbugs being considered
Jermyn Chow Straits Times 28 Oct 13;

ORDINARY Singaporeans may be given the power to issue a fine to anyone they catch dropping rubbish, under a plan to get the community more involved in the nation's fight against littering.

The Government is looking at creating an anti-litter volunteer corps from as early as next year.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his department could enlist and train members of the public and give them the same warrant cards as enforcement officers from the National Environment Agency.

This means they would have the power to issue fines to offenders on the spot.

The present Community Volunteer Programme involves 100 people from civic groups such as the Singapore Environment Council and Cat Welfare Society who have the power only to ask offenders to pick up and bin their rubbish.

If they refuse, volunteers can only take down their particulars.

The current composition fine for littering is up to $300. Recalcitrants can be fined up to $1,000 for the first conviction and up to $5,000 for repeat convictions. They can also be ordered to pick up litter in public for up to 12 hours.

Dr Balakrishnan said the proposal aims to remind everyone to take ownership of the environment. "The real objective of raising a call for volunteers is this sense of empowerment and sense of stakeholding. It's not just about having more people to issue more tickets. That's an almost trivial exercise."

The proposed volunteer corps will be "in terms of hundreds or more", he added at a community event yesterday.

The ministry will spend the next three to six months canvassing public feedback on the proposal.

Incidents of high-rise littering - when residents of tall buildings throw their trash to the ground - have been on the rise. Last year, the authorities received 8,152 complaints, up from 5,232 in 2011.

The move is also part of a review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines strategies to achieve economic growth and a good living environment.

Last Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the review will look at imposing stiffer penalties for litterbugs.

Dr Balakrishnan said stepping up enforcement and fines will "increase the probability" of catching those who behave in an anti-social way.

The review will also examine carbon emission reduction targets and the building of more environmentally-friendly hawker centres. The Government is planning to build at least 10 new hawker centres and renovate 15 existing ones.

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said this will "give us a chance to uplift the environmental ambience" and improve the dining experience.

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Indonesia: Jakarta Begins Crackdown on Monkey Buskers

SP/Fana FS Putra Jakarta Globe 23 Oct 13;

The city administration’s plans to put a stop to monkeys performances in the capital has caused a stir among buskers and owners of the animals who rely on the practice as a source of income.

“The government said they would give us jobs. But what kind of jobs, and how much will the salary be? That part is still not clear,” Sukarya, 31-year-old busker said at his home in East Jakarta.

Sukarya said he would willingly leave behind his profession as a monkey busker, which has been his calling for the past 18 years, and hand over his pet monkey to officials if the city government was prepared to give him a new job.

He emphasized that the job would also have to fulfill his family’s need for food and daily necessities.

“The work can be anything, as long as it is permanent and is enough to support my family. In that case, the government can buy my monkey for whatever amount of money they see fit,” he said, adding he had bought a trained monkey for Rp 1.5 million ($134).

Sukarya currently makes daily rounds in the Blok M and Senayan areas of South Jakarta. Other days, he walks from one kampung to another to find audiences to watch his monkey perform.

Sukarya earns between Rp 50,000 and Rp 70,000 for his monkey’s work each day, which he says he uses to support his wife and two children now in elementary school, as well feed his monkey.

“I divide my income between the family’s food, my children’s tuition, my rent and food for my monkey,” he said.

Another performing monkey busker echoed Sukarya’s concerns, saying he was prepared to resist Governor Joko Widodo’s policy should the government move to take away his monkey without first finding him a new job.

Ling, who dropped out of school in the second grade, said he had tried different jobs, but monkey busking was the last line of work which he deemed sufficient to support his family.

“I used to work at a wholesale market in Cipinang in East Jakarta. I have tried several other types of work after that, but it isn’t easy to find a job in Jakarta. If this monkey is taken away, we lose our jobs,” he said.

“We demand a new job in exchange, but what job is there that would suit someone like me, someone with a family who only went to school until the second grade?”

To start his monkey performance business, Ling said he had to save up to Rp 3 million to buy a trained monkey in Kampung Dukuh, East Jakarta, and accessories for performances.

“I have spent decades trying to train monkeys to no avail,” he said.

Ling said there were more than 700 people in East Jakarta whose livelihoods depended on monkey labor, most of whom used to reside at Gembrong Market, but had since been relocated by the city.

“Many are now scattered [around the city], but they still work as monkey buskers. And those are just in the East Jakarta area. There are others in other areas of the city,” he said.

Ling has been working as a monkey busker for over a decade, and says the work was not as easy as it looks. He said people he met along the way would sometimes be abusive toward Ling and his monkey, Saritem.

However, tough competition for jobs in the capital pushed him to settle with his current profession, which is roundly condemned as animal abuse.

Governor Joko Widodo announced plans over the weekend to eliminate monkey performances from the city by 2014, but did not elaborate on plans for the monkeys or their owners.

“We will take care of the buskers after [buying back the monkeys]. It should be done one by one, because most of them are not citizens of Jakarta,” Joko told reporters at the City Hall on Monday.

The governor said the administration would offer vocational training for the buskers without further elaborating.

On Tuesday, efforts to curb masked monkey performances began in several areas.

Ipih Ruyani, head of the city’s marine and agriculture office, said that as of Tuesday morning, his team had found two buskers, as reported by

“The places where they would usually be seen have suddenly become empty. We should look into the slums,” he said.

Ipih said confusion and fear among the buskers was understandable. He emphasized that the government would be paying them for their monkeys.

“We will give Rp 1 million to be used as capital for their business,” Ipih said, as quoted by on Tuesday. He added that the monkeys they seized would first be sent to the animal health center for medical treatment.

“After they are [declared] free from diseases and rabies, we will move them to Ragunan Zoo.”

Animal rights organizations have lauded the governor’s plan.

“The method by which buskers train their monkeys is very cruel,” Femke den Haas, wild animal protection coordinator with the Jakarta animal Aid Network, said as quoted by

“The monkeys are forced to work. Their teeth are cut. They are trained by starvation and forced to work very hard. They must be experiencing heavy trauma.”

Den Haas backed the government’s policy, saying the animals could become part of an education program for the public.

“The public, especially children, will understand that the monkeys used to be exploited, forced to work and dance. ”

She said there had been an increasing number of monkey performers since 2009, reaching 300 in 2012.

Shows involving a masked monkey, known in local parlance as topeng monyet , derive from an Indonesian tradition of a perambulatory small circus troupe also consisting of a dog, snake and a master.

Fiorello La Guardia, a former mayor of New York, famously outlawed monkey buskers — known as organ grinders — in the city in 1936, after being frequently mocked for a mustache resembling that stereotypical of the performers, themselves targets of anti-Italian prejudice.
Officials from Jakarta’s agriculture agency stop a busker and his indentured monkey performer on Jalan Ahmad Yani in East Jakarta on Tuesday. Jakarta’s governor says the animals are a health hazard. 

Jakarta clamps down on street monkey performances
Devianti Faridz Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 13;

JAKARTA: The Jakarta governor is putting a stop to street monkey performances, known locally as "topeng monyet".

Animal rights activists said the dancing monkeys are ill-treated by their handlers; others are concerned the animals may spread diseases.

With hands tied behind their backs, the monkeys are chained up -- often for hours and sometimes without proper food and drink – so that they can be taught to stand and walk upright.

This is how animal buskers train the monkeys before they are prepped and paraded for people's amusement.

But Jakarta’s Governor Joko Widodo said he wants no more of this monkey business, and that he wants the streets clear of dancing monkeys by next year.

The city's administration has begun rounding up the monkeys since Tuesday, and has sent them for health checks.

Dozens of dancing monkeys, some as young as eight months old, have been collected by local authorities across the city.

According to surveillance conducted by the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, there are around 350 of these dancing monkeys in Jakarta.

Animal activists said the performances not only violate animal welfare, but also pose a threat to public health.

Research showed that many of these dancing monkeys have parasites, rabies, hepatitis, or tuberculosis (TB).

Dr Aswindrastuti, a veterinarian at Jakarta Fish and Animal Health Centre, said: "Most of the monkeys have TB and hepatitis and suffer from some sort of infection. The monkey buskers don't treat the infection.

"The monkey's teeth are pulled out but they are not given antibiotics or medication. This leads to gum infection and inflammation."

Monkey buskers, on the other hand, can earn a healthy income of about US$220 a month -- equivalent to one-month's minimum wage.

Therefore, most are unwilling to give up their monkeys in exchange for a job that pays less than that.

Rusnadi, an animal busker, said: "I'm asking the governor to be wise and offer us an appropriate job that can help feed my family."

The governor is trying to lure buskers away from the trade by giving them job training and by buying the monkeys for US$100 each.

He plans to put the monkeys in a sanctuary within Ragunan Zoo.

But providing the animals shelter is the easy part.

Karin Franken, co-founder of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network, said: "The rehabilitation process is not easy because these monkeys come to us and they are basically messed up, they don't know how to behave like a monkey anymore and they are very traumatised as well."

Ms Franken added that rehabilitation is crucial, to reintroduce social skills to traumatised monkeys, to help them eventually regain a normal life in the wild.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network has rehabilitated 50 of Jakarta's dancing monkeys at their shelter in West Java since 2011.

- CNA/gn

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