Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 13

RUN 350
from Zero Waste Singapore

Sharing the beauty of Changi shore
from wonderful creation

Chek Jawa Boardwalk with NHC (Nov 2013)
from wonderful creation

Milky Stork show opportunistic feeding behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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NEA exploring ways to improve waste collection

Today Online 24 Dec 13;

We refer to the commentary by Mr Richard Hartung, “Daily rubbish pick-up is out of sync with times” (Dec 5).

In Singapore, refuse from domestic and trade premises contains a high percentage of food waste which putrefies rapidly in our hot and humid climate. If left uncollected for more than a day, the refuse would give rise to public health issues including odour nuisance and pest infestation. Daily removal of waste from these premises therefore helps to maintain high standards of public health, especially in the context of Singapore’s highly-compact living environment.

The National Environment Agency has been exploring ways in partnership with other agencies to improve our waste collection system as better technologies and cost-effective solutions become available. One such example is a project by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to test-bed the Pneumatic Refuse Collection Systems (PRCS) in Yuhua under the HDB’s Greenprint project. The PRCS is designed to convey waste by air suction from a cluster of apartment blocks via piping networks to a central storage station. Apart from being a totally enclosed system which would mitigate the above-mentioned public health issues, the collection truck also need only collect waste from a single point rather than from individual apartment blocks, thereby reducing transportation and manpower needs.

We will continue to explore the use of better technologies and solutions to store and collect refuse in an efficient and effective manner, while maintaining our high standards of public health. We thank Mr Hartung for his interest.

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Space for street art along Rail Corridor

Melissa Chong Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's street artists will soon have a new space to practise their craft -- next year, an underpass along the Rail Corridor will be reserved for street art.

The underpass will join existing areas allocated for such purposes at *SCAPE and at the National Youth Council premises.

The area along the Rail Corridor is currently a recreational space, popular with joggers and cyclists.

But in 2014, park users can expect a touch of creative vibrancy at the underpass located near Buona Vista MRT station at the junction of Commonwealth Avenue and North Buona Vista Road.

Graffiti art has always been a common sight there, but authorities usually remove the work as soon as it appears, and this is set to change.

The two walls beneath the bridge will soon become a canvas for local street artists -- one of the few spaces in Singapore for them to showcase their work and practise their craft.

It will be curated by RSCLS, a local art collective which promotes street art.

Zul Othman, street artist and founder of RSCLS, said: “There are not really much spaces if you consider the number of artists that we have, maybe about 100 or more.

“Especially being in a country like Singapore, where there is a lot of restriction and red tape here and there.

“The core matter for RSCLS is giving more space for people to paint. It is something that you cannot do on a canvas -- I mean you can use spray paints on a canvas -- but the feel, the scale of it is different."

RSCLS hopes to invite both local and international street artists to use the space, and even hold 'art jamming' sessions for different artists to collaborate on larger pieces.

Discussions are also underway to hold an international graffiti event called "Meeting With Styles" in Singapore -- a first for the country.

Tan See Nin, senior director, Physical Planning at Urban Redevelopment Authority, said: “The Rail Corridor today is a recreational space, you have people walking, jogging, cycling, down the rail corridor. And they enjoy the green spaces along the way.

“But I think the green corridor can be more than just a green space. It can also be a community space. And certainly having artists in the underpass along the viaduct is very interesting, because it creates an art space that doesn't exist today, and hopefully over time, more people can participate in such activities along the Rail Corridor."

The interim art space will only last for a year, but more activities could be planned if the project is successful.

- CNA/fa/nd

New space for street artists along Rail Corridor
Tiara Hamarian Today Online 24 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — Street artists will have a new and, possibly, largest space yet to showcase their works: The walls underneath the Commonwealth Avenue viaduct, which is along the Rail Corridor.

The two 40m by 5m walls beneath the viaduct, which street artists can use to hone their skills for one year — starting in January — are much larger than other existing spaces, such as the 30m by 2m space at the National Youth Council or the 9m by 2m panels at Somerset Skate Park.

Urban art collective RSCLS will be curating the space. Its founder Zul Othman, who goes by the moniker Zero, hailed it as a “great move ... especially for younger artists who are just starting out and are looking for space to practise their art”.

“They might not have contacts or even know the areas where they can do their graffiti, so providing this space will help them develop their skills,” the 34-year-old said.

The idea behind setting aside this space, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), is to “inject more vibrancy and community involvement into the Rail Corridor and provide a unique experience for users of this public space”.

Involving the community in enlivening public spaces through good design and programmes was one of the initiatives the URA launched in its Draft Master Plan 2013 released last month.

Said URA Senior Director for Physical Planning Tan See Nin: “The Rail Corridor is currently a recreational space with many people strolling, jogging and cycling along the trail and enjoying the green landscapes along the way. We would like the Rail Corridor to be a place for shared experiences and community bonding as well.”

Agreeing, Mr Zul said there will be more opportunities for street artists using the new space to interact with those who frequent the Rail Corridor. To raise awareness among the public about street art, RSCLS will also organise activities such as a street art jam.

National Arts Council Director of Arts and Youth Kenneth Kwok noted that street artists and their work “are an exciting part of Singapore’s diverse and vibrant arts scene”.

By providing street artists with such dedicated art spaces, it is hoped that they can express themselves and practise their craft, he added. “This is critical to the development of the Singapore street art scene, which the council will continue to support through grants, spaces and public engagement about the value of street art.”

The Rail Corridor has been the venue for several community events, such as mass runs and carnivals, so far. Last year, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was converted to host a fashion event by Female and Nuyou magazines. The second edition of the Green Corridor Run, scheduled to be held in May next year, will start at the railway station.

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Sinkhole forms on Commonwealth Avenue West

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: A sinkhole was formed on a section of the road along Commonwealth Avenue West in the direction of the city on Monday morning.

Singapore Power said this happened while a SP PowerGrid-appointed contractor was laying electricity cables.

The sinkhole is about two metres in diameter.

No one was injured in the incident and the affected area was immediately cordoned off.

SP said its priority was to ensure public safety.

SP said it is investigating the cause of the incident and its engineers are on site to access the situation.

Two lanes of the affected road have been closed to facilitate repair works.

A third lane is still open to traffic.

It remains unclear how long the repair works will take.

- CNA/fa

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Indonesia: Conservationist Laments Fast Decline in Indonesia’s Small Rhino Population

Jakarta Globe 23 Dec 13;

Indonesia has seen a dramatic decline in the number of Javan and Sumatran rhinos over the past eight years, according to a director of an organization dedicated to preserving the animals.

“Rhinos can no longer be found in Jambi, South Sumatra and Bengkulu — places that were once the main habitat for those populations,” Indonesia Rhino Foundation (YABI) executive director Widodo Ramono said, as quoted by

According to him, the rhino population not in captivity in Java and Sumatra has fallen from 800 eight years ago to an estimated 100 now. Thirty of them are in Way Kambas National Park, Lampung.

The remainder, he said, now live in South Bukit Barisan National Park, spanning the Sumatran provinces of Lampung, Bengkulu and South Sumatra.

Speaking at a workshop and socialization event for law enforcement against the killing and trade of protected animals, Widodo called on the government and public to make serious efforts to protect the animals, which are on the brink of extinction.

Rhino horns remain a sought-after ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and demand for it in countries such as China and Vietnam has led to thousands of the animals being killed across Africa and Asia in recent years.

“Rhinos are part of what supports humans’ ecosystem,” he said. “Poaching and forest encroachment have become the main cause of their decline.”

Widodo said YABI was committed to ensuring local rhinos were well protected.

“It is such a shame conservation efforts cannot balance out the speed at which they are going extinct,” he said.

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Indonesia: Thousands Displaced as Floods, Landslides Devastate Central Java Province

Jakarta Globe 24 Dec 13;

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), 3,929 people are still evacuating Purwerejo, Central Java over the weekend following floods and landslides that have killed five people.

Purwerejo police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Roma Hutajulu said three people died after being swept away by rushing waters, while two lost their lives in a landslide triggered by the torrential rain.

“We are still on alert, 400 police officers have been mobilized to help victims and we have set up a soup kitchen to provide food for the evacuees,” Roma said on Sunday.

Floods and landslides caused by heavy rains raging from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, struck 63 villages and 13 subdistricts, reported the BNPB.

Four people were found dead while one was declared missing and is feared to be dead.

The Kebumen Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), military and police have rescued the injured and ushered them to the nearest hospital.

Kebumen regional government declared a state of emergency until Jan. 3.

Landslides also blocked access to Madurejo village in Puring subdistrict, isolating at least 150 villagers.

The agency was only able to distribute aid by boat as roads are still inundated.

The torrential rain also caused the Gentang River embankment to collapse and flood nearby villages.

However, road access to Butuh subdistrict, which was previously cut off, has been restored.

On Thursday, a landslide triggered by heavy rain in the west end of the West Javan province Bandung killed at least one person and forced dozens to evacuate.

The landslide damaged houses in three subdistricts and buried the road connecting West Bandung and Cimahi district. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of BNPD, reminded residents of the area to stay alert between December and January, when rainfall is expected to remain high.

Earlier this month, torrential rain in the North Sumatran town Berastagi, located near the still-erupting Mount Sinabung volcano, led to a landslide that killed nine people.

Rain fell in the hills around Berastagi on Saturday afternoon and evening. The first landslide struck at 7 p.m. in the villages of Gundaling and Laununggap.

First responders found two people dead: Leni Wulandari, 22, and her 2-year-old son, who were found in their house, buried beneath the landslide. Leni’s husband was said to be away, working in Malaysia at the time.

In Gundaling village, authorities identified six more fatalities while the body of 10-year-old Rosalina Siboru was discovered in Laununggap.

Sutopo urged everyone living in landslide-prone regions to be especially vigilant over the coming months as the rainy season increases the risk of destabilizing soil layers.

Earthquakes and heavy rain are common causes of deadly landslides throughout the country.

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Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China

As political instability since the 2009 coup revives the illegal logging trade, precious bois de rose trees are now hard to find
Tamasin Ford 23 Dec 13;

Blood-red sawdust coats every surface in the small carpentry workshop, where Primo Jean Besy is at the lathe fashioning vases out of ruby-coloured logs.

Besy and his father are small-scale carpenters in Antalaha in north-east Madagascar, and are taking advantage of a recent resurgence in demand for wood from the bois de rose tree, prized for the extraordinary coloured streaks that weave through its centre.

"It's easy to sell because the wood is so famous," said Besy, whose skin glistens with red powder. "People from [the capital] Antananarivo come here [to buy goods]. They like it because they can sell it to foreigners."

The father and son pair are just the tip of the booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned.

The wood is being smuggled out of Madagascar at an alarming rate, said Randrianasolo Eliahevitra, regional director of the church-based development organisation SAF/FJKM."People are afraid to talk [about who is behind the smuggling]," said Eliahevitra, adding that he feared for his life if he named any of those responsible.

He said continuing political instability in Madagascar, a country reeling in poverty after four years of military rule and crippling economic sanctions, allowed the multimillion-dollar industry to flourish.

"At this time we don't have yet a legal government, so everyone is taking advantage of the situation and they are doing what they want," Eliahevitra said.

In the village of Cap Est, a nine-hour journey from Antalaha along a sandy coastal track interrupted by wide rivers, which motorbikes and 4x4s have to cross by precariously straddling canoes, residents say the once tiny fishing community is almost unrecognisable. Deep muddy troughs made by the constant convoys of pick-up trucks line the sandy path that cuts through the smattering of small wooden houses; crates of beer, sacks of rice and mattresses stream in on a daily basis.

Anita, 22, who is too afraid to give her real name, moved here two months ago. "It's all because of the bois de rose," she said, sitting in front of a table laden with cigarettes, bottles of beer and batteries that she sells. Cap Est has become the unofficial smuggling capital, and thousands of people have descended on the village to take advantage of trading opportunities. "Business is booming here," said Anita.

It is not hard to find men who have recently come back from bois de rose foraging expeditions in the forests.

"After I found out how much money you can get, that's when I started logging," said Randeen, 22, who also did not want to give his full name. He joined a logging team in April. He said he had to walk for two days deep into the forest before even seeing one tree big enough to cut, claiming there are at least "1,000 men" doing the same thing.

Jam Lamouche, 34, has been in the bois de rose trade for more than 10 years, and employs 20 loggers. "From October, the business has boomed," he said, explaining each man gets 3,000 Malagasy ariary (£0.81) for every kilo of wood they log, while he gets 2,000 ariary. "Yes, we are making money," he said with a smile.

Lorries weighed down with rosewood logs make their way to the port day and night, where they are loaded on to boats in full public view. "The final destination is China," claimed Guy Suzon Ramangason, director general of Madagascar National Parks (MNP), the state body tasked with managing the country's protected areas. He said the government was aware of the problem but had failed to intervene, allowing the illicit industry to flourish.

"There is a network of mafiosi of bois de rose," he said. "Money in this type of network is very, very powerful." He said the wood was first shipped to intermediary countries, where false papers were drawn up legalising the cargo. "But we have no proof," he added.

The illegal logging and smuggling of bois de rose in the Masoala and Marojejy national parks in the country's north-east exploded after the coup in 2009. An investigation by two non-governmental organisations, Global Witness and the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency, documented the illegal harvesting and trafficking of the wood, destined mainly for China. In addition, the US guitar manufacturer Gibson reached a settlement over claims it had used illegally sourced Madagascan bois de rose.

The transitional government reinstated a ban in early 2010 and all seemingly went quiet until the runup to the first round of presidential elections this October, when rumours spread of a bois de rose revival. An internal MNP report documenting the movement of bois de rose for November concluded that trafficking had almost returned to 2009 levels.

Mamonjy Ramamonjisoa, from the ministry of environment and forests in Antalaha, said everyone knew what was going on but "they close their mouths and they close their eyes". But while carpenters, loggers and smugglers are profiting, the precious bois de rose is rapidly vanishing from the island.

In 2009, up to £300,000 worth of bois de rose was being shipped out of Madagascar each day. There are no figures for the levels it has reached today but Ramangason said that from what he had heard, it was "worse than in 2009".

"If we don't take measures to reduce this phenomenon then maybe after 20-25 years it will be disastrous," said SAF/FJKM's Eliahevitra.

Additional reporting by Iloniaina Alain Rakotondravony

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Virus kills over 1,000 bottlenose dolphins along U.S. east coast

Barbara Liston Reuters Yahoo News 24 Dec 13;

ORLANDO (Reuters) - More than 1,000 migratory bottlenose dolphins have died from a measles-like virus along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in 2013 and the epidemic shows no sign of abating, a marine biologist said on Monday.

The death toll exceeds the 740 dolphins killed during the last big outbreak of the then-unknown virus in 1987-88.

"It is having a significant impact and that is something we're monitoring closely," said Erin Fougeres, a marine mammal biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

An estimated 39,206 bottlenose dolphins populated the eastern seaboard, to a depth of 25 feet, from New Jersey to Central Florida in 2010, according to the latest NOAA census.

Scientists are trying to determine why the morbillivirus resurged this year. The dolphins, which migrate south for the winter, have been stranded or found dead on beaches from New York to Florida since June, Fougeres said.

An unknown number of affected dolphins likely died offshore as well, she said.

A record number of manatees have also died in Florida waters this year, mostly from a toxic algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission's research institute said it documented 803 manatee deaths in state waters between January 1 and December 13, the most for any year since record-keeping began in 1974.

The morbillivirus virus outbreaks could be natural and simply cyclical, said Fougeres.

"The last occurrence of this was about 25 years ago and the animals that survived that would have natural antibodies. But as those animals slowly die out and new animals are not exposed, they may not have that immunity," Fougeres said.

But other as-yet unproven theories related to global warming or pollution also are being investigated, she noted. "There could be underlying causes that made them more susceptible this year versus other years."

Scientists in the late-1980s estimated that the morbillivirus wiped out 50 percent of the coastal migratory dolphins. As a result the bottlenose dolphin was designated as "depleted" under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, a status it retains today.

Since then, scientists have learned more about dolphin populations, and believe the morbillivirus is endemic in the marine environment where other deep-sea species such as pilot whales may be symptom-free carriers, Fougeres said.

Fougeres said something in the environment might have caused dolphins to interact more closely with the whales recently.

An unrelated study released last week by NOAA showed that some dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico are gravely ill from injuries consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure. The study looked at dolphin from Louisiana's Barataria Bay heavily impacted by British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

(Editing by David Adams and Richard Chang)

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