Best of our wild blogs: 5 Nov 13

10 Nov Sunday Forum :Globalising the Local
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Sunday 17th Nov Battlefield Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

When did washing your face, brushing your teeth and scrubbing your body become an act of pollution? from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Is there a need to trap and kill monkeys in Singapore?

Jeanette Tan Yahoo Newsroom 5 Nov 13;

Is trapping and killing Singapore's long-tailed macaques the solution to what has become dubbed "the monkey problem" here?

Authorities say they have witnessed a spike in complaints about monkey nuisance from residents living in the vicinity of nature reserve areas between last year and this. They have received some 1,460 complaints between January and August this year alone with a further 200 added in September — more than double the number in 2011.

Where do the bulk of these complaints come from? Residents living near the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves, says the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). According to them, more than 100 of the complaints were reports of monkey aggression — this includes monkeys snatching belongings, chasing people, as well as biting, scratching or injuring children, the elderly or pets.

In response, the AVA says it conducts "targeted removal of aggressive or nuisance-causing individuals to address concerns of feedback providers". Additionally, AVA spokespersons said that it loans monkey traps to members of the public "bothered by monkey nuisance/aggression", or engages external contractors to conduct "monkey control operations, when necessary".

As for its last measure, the AVA says its hired contractors are required to adhere to specific locations where trapping can be conducted, and also follow a set of guidelines for handling, capture and transport of the macaques.

What happens after trapping?

Monkey trapper Jack Pang tends to a cage with a long-tailed macaque inside on Jacaranda Road. (Screengrab from …

What happens when the macaques are trapped or captured? The AVA said releasing the macaques into the forest will not resolve instances of aggression and nuisance.

"Indiscriminate release of aggressive/nuisance-causing wildlife back into the environment merely transfers the problem from one estate to the next," said the spokesperson. "Relocation options are also limited in land-scarce Singapore. As such, humane euthanasia is our last resort."

Just how many were killed in the first half of this year? According to Louis Ng, founder and executive director of wildlife society Acres, some 357 or an estimated 20 per cent of the existing population of macaques in Singapore.

"(It's) a very, very high figure, and it almost sounds like what the authorities are trying to do is to exterminate the whole population," he said in an interview with Yahoo Singapore recently.

The National Parks Board (NParks) is responsible for enforcing rules regarding contractors who are hired to capture and kill macaques in Singapore. Essentially, contractors hired by the AVA are allowed to trap macaques in designated areas outside of land that comes under the purview of NParks. NParks land includes nature reserves, parks and forested areas.

Yahoo Singapore understands that the contractors are paid per macaque caught — a possible reason for contractors occasionally straying out of areas designated by the AVA for them to set their traps up.

Members of the public have flagged these instances to NParks before, resulting in one contractor, Jack Pang, being fined by the board recently for setting up a large cage too close to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The green cage, which he placed bananas and oranges into, was, according to Nparks, photographed in July just 10m outside the reserve, in an area where a troop of macaques sleeps at night and play around on most afternoons.

According to a statement from NParks, Pang "had immediately removed the cage upon public feedback", and also paid the "composition amount" imposed for his offence.

"The composition amount is a matter between the contractor and NParks. Based on our records, the number of such offences is very small and we do not see growing trends in this type of offence," said NParks Director Yong Fook Chyi, in response to questions about how much Pang was fined, as well as how many times in the past such hired contractors had been penalised or caught for illegal trapping.

Feeding monkeys in Singapore

Animal researchers and activists have said previously that the aggressive behaviour of macaques towards humans — and their daring to venture into residential areas — have been progressively cultivated by humans.

Over the years, visitors to parks and nature reserves have fed them and lured them with food, teaching them that humans and human residences are sources of food. This has in turn resulted in their tendency to approach humans, grab plastic bags or containers of food off them, and if humans move too close to their babies, retaliate — in some cases, turning aggressive.

Feeding the macaques is against the law in Singapore, and NParks has in recent years erected signs in its nature reserves and parks warning against doing so. It has also conducted various outreach programmes over the years that included road shows, workshops and guided walks.

"We also carry out regular enforcement actions against people who feed monkeys," said Yong, who shared that a total of 451 notices of offence have been issued to people who feed animals (not restricted to macaques), and who fish illegally, between 2011 and June this year.

NParks said it does not break down this figure into specific offences, however, but for the first half of this year, 89 notices of offence were issued for all the above activities.

See pictures of some of the traps used for capturing macaques in Singapore, shared with us by residents, here:

Assisting NParks in its efforts to curb macaque-feeding in Singapore is Acres, which set up a macaque response team about a month and a half ago.

The team of two full-time rescuers responds to calls regarding macaques multiple times a day, and can receive up to seven calls on its hotline each day, with weekends and public holidays being busier.

Apart from dealing with reports or complaints about macaques, though, Acres is also making efforts to reach out to residents living near nature reserves, to educate them in how to behave around macaques as well as how to keep food sources inaccessible to them.

"The response has generally been very positive," said Ng. "When we try to explain and get their (residents') side of the story, they start to realise that okay, we are the source of the problem."

"So we need to cut our jackfruit tree down, or need to harvest the fruits; again we need to monkey-proof the bins, and then we need to retain the forest we are living in at this moment, and then this issue will be resolved," he added.

Ng also warned against the danger of AVA's practice of lending out traps to residents, because the latter are not trained to use them and when baby macaques get trapped in them, residents end up facing aggression from their angry parents.

"That's why we always stress it is very dangerous to loan out these traps," said Ng. "For a lot of the cases that we go down, we advise people and once they start to change their behaviour, try and have monkey-proof bins, we do see a decline in the number of conflicts."

If you spot any traps set up for macaques, or are experiencing difficulties with a macaque, please call the Acres hotline at 97837782. If you have feedback to share about the macaques, the AVA's hotline is 1800-476-1600.

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Other ways to tackle monkey problem

Straits Times Forum 4 Nov 13;

MR HAN Cheng Fong suggested culling monkeys because they have invaded our living spaces and deprived us of the comforts of our home ("Real root of monkey problem"; last Thursday).

The culling of monkeys has been taking place in Singapore for years, but the reality is that it has not resolved the issue of the human-macaque conflicts.

This is also the case in Gibraltar, where the government has been culling monkeys for years but has realised this year that this is not a solution and is now focused on more long-term and humane measures.

Mr Han stated that "the culling of wild animals whose populations have grown to menacing proportions is an accepted practice in Australia, Europe, the United States and many other countries".

This is not the case in Singapore. Studies on the population density of monkeys in Singapore were carried out by the Nanyang Technological University recently; the results reveal that there is no overpopulation of monkeys. There is also sufficient food in the forest for the monkeys.

Mr Han should note that the monkeys in Singapore do have natural predators such as pythons and raptors.

The real root of the problem is the availability of food in human communities and the building of human habitats closer to monkey foraging paths.

Simple methods such as closing one's doors and windows or installing grilles could prevent monkeys from entering our property, and keeping food out of sight will help as well.

For restaurants built close to monkey foraging paths, glass panels could be installed to keep the monkeys out.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) also agrees with Miss Wong Shiying's recommendations that legal enforcement to deter feeders is a better solution than culling ("Impose heavier fines on feeders"; last Thursday).

Acres would like to invite Mr Han to contact us on our hotline (9783-7782) so that we can provide him a detailed assessment and customised recommendations to resolve the human-macaque conflict he is facing.

See Han Sern
Campaign Executive
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society

Think outside the box to solve monkey problem
Straits Times 4 Nov 13;

THE real root of the monkey problem is human intolerance ("Real root of monkey problem" by Mr Han Cheng Fong; last Thursday).

Across the Strait of Johor, thousands of monkeys do not seem to pose a nuisance or threat to the kampung folk. There is no talk of culling, simply because monkeys and man have learnt to share a common habitat.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Singapore, I used to visit the Botanic Gardens, where monkeys used to roam. Today, I cannot find monkeys there. Were they culled or removed to a different part of Singapore?

Perhaps, too, the idea of turning Pulau Tekukor, a nearby deserted islet, into an eco-sanctuary for captured monkeys can be revisited and taken up by organisations such as the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, together with agencies such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and National Parks Board.

Many years ago, when my son was six, he was bitten by a wild monkey at the Singapore Zoo. He was taken to the hospital and needed 15 stitches.

To his credit, he grew up without any fear of or rancour towards monkeys. In fact, we adopted one with a fractured leg that wrapped itself around my leg when I was at MacRitchie Reservoir many years ago.

We could have surrendered it to the zoo or have it culled. But we gave it a home for 15 years before it died in 2008.

To this day, we are grateful to our neighbours and friends for their understanding, when they could have easily reported the "nuisance" to the authorities.

I am not encouraging any "illegal adoption" of wildlife in Singapore. Rather, my aim is to stress the importance of thinking "outside the box" to protect our dwindling natural heritage.

Patrick Low

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East Coast Park: Green areas are balanced with space allocated for lifestyle amenities

Today Online 5 Nov 13;
Tan Lai Kheng, Director, Lifestyle Business, National Parks Board

We refer to the letters, “Would East Coast Park still be for all to have after redevelopment?” (Oct 21), “Uniquely Singapore beach should be saved” and “Parks are more than just event venues” (both Oct 25).

We share the writers’ concerns about maintaining a serene park ambience and ensuring that our parks remain as green lungs of our city state.

East Coast Park is a popular recreational destination for all, and has been planned with zones to cater to different activities offering a range of experiences, whether for relaxation or high-energy sports.

The commercial outlets in parks complement their function as green recreational spaces and cater to the diverse needs of different park-goers. Events held at parks add vibrancy to green spaces.

To ensure that parks remain accessible for all and that the user’s experience is not compromised, we will continue to ensure proper space planning for commercial spaces and events. We will continue to work closely with event organisers to anticipate and address safety and logistical issues at parks.

For East Coast Park to remain an enjoyable place for visitors, we appeal to park users to practise good etiquette, such as giving way to others and helping to keep the park clean.

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Flash floods at several areas after afternoon heavy rain: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB said flash floods were reported at a number of locations following heavy rain on Monday afternoon.

The areas affected by floods were -- Dunearn Road (between Yarwood Avenue and Binjai Park), junction of Sunset Drive and Sunset Square, slip road from Clementi Road to Ulu Pandan Road, junction of Clementi Avenue 4 and Commonwealth Avenue West, and Lorong Kismis.

PUB said the heaviest rainfall was recorded at Ngee Ann Polytechnic rain gauge station, at 86.6mm from 3pm to 4.40pm.

It peaked between 3.30pm to 4pm, with a rainfall of 51.8mm.

The agency added that at Dunearn Road, intense rain had caused a section of Bukit Timah Canal to overflow, though the road remained passable to traffic, and the waters subsided within 25 minutes.

The slip road from Clementi Road to Ulu Pandan Road, however, was not passable to traffic for 15 minutes.

PUB advised the public to exercise caution as flash floods may occur in the event of heavy storms.

- CNA/nd

Flash floods reported in five locations: PUB
Today Online 4 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — Heavy rain fell over many parts of Singapore this afternoon (Nov 4), resulting in flash floods at five locations, said the national water agency PUB.

The heaviest rainfall was recorded at Ngee Ann Polytechnic rain gauge station with a total rainfall of 86.6mm from 3pm to 4.40pm. It peaked between 3.30pm to 4pm, with a rainfall of 51.8mm.

During the flash floods, the slip road from Clementi Road to Ulu Pandan Road was not passable to traffic for 15 minutes. Works to increase the size of the culvert across Clementi Road will be carried out in tandem with the Land Transport Authority’s road widening works for this area, said the PUB.

Intense rain also caused a section of the Bukit Timah Canal to overflow, causing a flash flood at Dunearn Road, between Yarwood Ave and Binjai Park. The road remained passable to traffic and flood waters subsided within 25 minutes, said the PUB.

“PUB has major drainage improvement plans for the Bukit Timah catchment which includes upgrading the section of Bukit Timah Canal (between Jln Kampong Chantek and Maple Avenue) and the Bukit Timah 1st Diversion Canal,” said the agency.

Upgrading work for Bukit Timah Canal was completed in March, while works to widen and deepen the Bukit Timah 1st Diversion Canal will be completed by end 2016.

Flash floods were also reported at the junction of Clementi Ave 4 and Commonwealth Ave West, junction of Sunset Drive and Sunset Square, and Lorong Kismis.

The PUB said it has ongoing drainage improvement works at the latter two areas. Both projects are expected to be completed by the middle of next year.

Related info
Tide for the day outgoing at 4pm (0.7m), minimum at 5pm (0.4m)
More photos on wildsingapore facebook

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Malaysia: Committed to 40% cut in carbon emission says Prime Minister

Ili Liyana Mokhtar New Straits Times 5 Nov 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA's land mass is forested at 56.4 per cent while its green cover stands at 74 per cent, a strong signal to the world that it walks the talk in reducing carbon emission.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said Malaysia was committed to a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emission per unit of gross domestic product by 2020, using the 2005 level as a baseline.
This, however, is subject to technology transfer and new additional funding from developed nations.

Najib, who is also the finance minister, added that the new economic model introduced in 2010 outlined the country's commitment to sustainability, not only in activities but the impact of development on environment and natural resources.

In his keynote address at a high-level forum on Biodiversity and Development Post 2015, he also said Malaysia was committed to striking a balance between environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Saying it had not always been an easy path to achieve the balance, especially for a developing nation, Najib added: "In Malaysia, we look for ways to achieve twin goals of development and environmental protection, realising fully well that it is a difficult and delicate equilibrium to achieve.

"If we look around the world, many high-income nations achieved prosperity at the expense of the environment, not in concert with it. We take lessons from the experience of others and we are dedicated to striking that delicate balance."

He said Malaysia was among 189 United Nations member countries that had met all the eight targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs were introduced during the UN Millennium summit in New York in September 2000.

Najib said Malaysia had done well, adding the development agenda under the MDGs needed a sustained commitment.

Malaysia balancing environs and development well
The Star 5 Nov 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is at the forefront in articulating the need for balance between the environment and sustainable development, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“For us, this is the crux of sustainable development – to achieve goals such as relieving poverty by availing ourselves of our natural resources without compromising the ability of future generations to do likewise,” he said in his opening address at the High Level Forum on Biodiversity and Development Post-2015 here yesterday.

The forum is organised by the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology and Office of the Science Advisor, supported by the Norwegian Envi­ron­ment Agency, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, and the UNEP-World Conservation Moni­toring Centre.

The meeting aims to advance the efforts of halting biodiversity loss by finding solutions as well as to strengthen measures to achieve the development agenda while highlighting key conservation targets.

According to Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, the new economic model introduced in 2010 included commitment to sustainability.

“Malaysia is committed to a 40% reduction in carbon intensity (as measured by tonnes of carbon emission per unit of gross domestic product) by 2020, using the 2005 level as a baseline, subject to technology transfer and new additional funding from developed nations.

“Today, our green cover is at 74%, and 56.4% of our land mass is forested – a strong signal to the world of how Malaysia walks the talk,” said Najib.

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Borneo: Borneo bay cat photographed in heavily logged region

Extremely rare sighting raises hopes that larger mammals are more able to survive in logged areas than previously thought
Jessica Aldred 4 Nov 13;

One of the world's most elusive wild cats has been captured on camera in a heavily logged area of Borneo rainforest together with four other endangered species, suggesting that some wildlife can survive in highly disturbed forests.

The Bornean bay cat (Pardofelis badia) has been recorded on camera traps on just a handful of occasions to date and was only photographed in the wild for the first time in southern Sarawak in 2003. The cat, extremely secretive and similar in size to a large domestic cat with a long tail and either a reddish or grey coat, had been classified as extinct until new images taken in Malaysian Borneo in 2009 and 2010 gave fresh hope for its survival.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Imperial College London have captured more a dozen images of this animal following a study in Kalabakan forest reserve, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, together with evidence of four other wild cat species in a heavily logged area of forest where they were not expected to thrive.

Dr Robert Ewers of the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, who leads the Safe tropical forest conservation project in Borneo, said the discovery of the cats was evidence that large species can survive in commercially logged forests: "We were completely surprised to see so many bay cats at these sites in Borneo where natural forests have been so heavily logged for the timber trade. Conservationists used to assume that very few wild animals could live in logged forest, but we now know this land can be home for many endangered species."

The area is only one of four forest areas in all of Borneo – the third largest island in the world and shared between Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia – that has so far been reported to contain all five species, including the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

All five species are important to the forest ecosystem because they are predators of a wide range of other animals. They are also highly threatened: four of the five species are listed as threatened with extinction on the IUCN's "red list".

Camera traps – an automated digital device that takes a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor – have revolutionised wildlife research and conservation, enabling scientists to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen and often globally endangered species, with little expense, relative ease, and minimal disturbance to wildlife.

The use of camera traps has led to major wildlife discoveries in recent years. They have shown an Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) in China for the first time in 62 years and confirmed breeding among a population of the world's rarest rhinoceros, the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus). It has also led to the discovery of new species including the Annamite striped rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi) of south-east Asia and the grey-faced sengi (Rhynchocyon udzungwensis), a species of elephant shrew endemic to Tanzania.

ZSL and Imperial College London PhD researcher Oliver Wearn said: "We discovered that randomly placed cameras have a big influence on the species recorded … The cameras record multiple sightings, sometimes of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spending years in an area. For example, I've seen the clouded leopard just twice in three years of fieldwork, while my cameras recorded 14 video sequences of this enigmatic cat in just eight months."

With rates of forest loss and degradation in south-east Asia exceeding all other tropical regions, and the majority of remaining forest in a highly disturbed state, scientists say there is now an urgent need for accurate assessments of the impacts on wildlife in the region.

ZSL and Imperial College London conservationists will continue to study the effects of logging on wildlife populations, looking more broadly at other mammal species, large and small. More detailed work aims to gather the information to help palm oil producers make their plantations more mammal-friendly, and assess whether saving patches of forest within such areas might be a viable option for saving Borneo's mammals.

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Emerging economies nearing half of global warming emissions

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 4 Nov 13;

Total greenhouse gas emissions by China and other emerging nations since 1850 will surpass those of rich nations this decade, complicating U.N. talks about who is most to blame for global warming, a study showed on Thursday.

Developing nations accounted for 48 percent of cumulative emissions from 1850 to 2010, according to the study by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, research group Ecofys and the European Commission's Joint Research Center.

"Somewhere in the current decade the share of the cumulative historical emissions of developing countries will surpass that of developed countries," a statement said.

Developing nations' emissions are rising fast and the report predicted that their share of cumulative emissions would reach 51 percent by 2020.

Almost 200 governments will meet in Warsaw from November 11-22 to discuss plans for a new, global deal to fight climate change meant to be agreed in 2010 and to enter into force from 2020.

"Discussions at the U.N. climate negotiations tend to focus on which countries have contributed most to climate change," the study said.

The biggest emitters since 1850, taken as the start of widespread industrial use of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases when burnt, were the United States, China, the European Union andRussia, it said.

China, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, argues that its per capita emissions since 1850 are still far below those of developed nations, meaning it has less responsibility to rein in emissions than rich nations.


Separately, the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said that world emissions of carbon dioxide rose by just 1.1 percent in 2012 to a record 34.5 billion tones, a slowdown from annual gains averaging 2.9 percent since 2000.

"This is remarkable, as the global economy grew by 3.5 percent," it said in a statement. "This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving."

The figures were similar to a report by the International Energy Agency in June, which said that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.4 percent in 2012, with gains by China offsetting falls in the United States and Europe.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Ron Askew)

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European Union seeks to reduce plastic bag mountain

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 5 Nov 13;

European Union seeks to reduce plastic bag mountain Photo: Petr Josek
A worker selects white plastic bags at a dumping ground in Uholicky village near Prague April 10, 2013
Photo: Petr Josek

European Union member states will be encouraged to tax or even ban plastic bags under proposals to tackle the tons of plastic waste that enters the water system and kills wildlife.

Some countries, such as Denmark, have greatly reduced the use of plastic bags by introducing mandatory charges. Monday's initiative aims to spur all 28 EU states into action.

The proposals, if adopted by member states and the European parliament, would require EU nations to cut their use of the thin plastic bags given away in shops. But they fall far short of an EU-wide ban.

It would be up to EU countries to decide how to limit use by introducing taxes, national targets or possibly bans.

"Some member states have already achieved great results in terms of reducing their use of plastic bags. If others followed suit, we could reduce today's overall consumption in the European Union by as much as 80 percent," Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.

In Denmark, where plastic bags are taxed, use of thin plastic bags has dropped to an estimated 4 bags per person each year, the lowest in the European Union, compared with 466 per person in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia.

In total, an estimated 98.6 billion plastic bags, mostly of the thin kind that are rarely reused and escape most easily into the environment, were placed on the EU market in 2010, the Commission said.

They have been found in the stomachs of endangered marine species, such as turtles and porpoises, and the Commission estimates the stomachs of 94 percent of all birds in the North Sea contain plastic.

Plastic bags can last for hundreds of years, meaning they accumulate in the environment.

(Editing by John O'Donnell and Janet Lawrence)

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