Best of our wild blogs: 31 Oct 14

Resorts World Sentosa says Singapore has no wild dolphins: NOT true!
from wild shores of singapore

Registration for Dec public walks at Sisters Island opens tomorrow
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

New volunteer guides at the Sisters Islands Marine Park
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

Humane Beehive Removal in Singapore
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) anyone?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Four fish farms first to be certified under new AVA scheme

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 30 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — Every day, the workers at Rong-Yao Fisheries’ fish farm off Pulau Ubin meticulously track the amount and type of feed dished out to each species of fish reared.

They track the mortality rates, amount of fish harvested and the batches they belong to.

Twice a day, they take readings of water temperature, pH (a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution), and dissolved oxygen levels off the farm’s water-quality monitoring system.

And at the end of each day, they send the information back to the company’s headquarters.

The farm has been keeping data since it began operations four years ago as it makes business sense, helping to track how much it costs to rear and harvest each batch of fish, said Rong-Yao’s business development manager Alawn Koh.

But the data now serves another purpose: To assure retailers such as NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong, as well as consumers, of the quality and safety of the fish.

Rong-Yao is among the pilot batch of four farms under a new Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) certification scheme, called Good Aquaculture Practice for Fish Farming. Announced last week, the scheme aims to raise the profile of local fish farms and set the benchmark for the production of quality fish, the AVA said.

The scheme’s guidelines cover farm structure and maintenance, management, feeding and harvesting practices. They also cover fish health management and safety at work.

Certification costs S$600 for the first time, and yearly renewals cost S$300. An AVA spokesperson said it consulted some farmers and felt the rates to be reasonable.

Certified farms have in place a more systematic approach to fish farming, with farm maintenance schedules, feeding protocols and net maintenance systematically followed and documented.

These protocols will ensure the traceability of the farmed fish from source to retail, and translate into more efficient production, the spokesperson said. The other certified farms belong to Barramundi Asia and Marine Life Aquaculture, and AVA is working with a second batch of farms towards certification.

Rong-Yao produced 100 tonnes of fish last year from one hectare, and is expanding by half a hectare. It rears pompano, red snapper and sea bass, and Mr Koh said expansion would be fuelled by increased demand from Singaporeans for local farmed fish.

“A lot has to do with the confidence we give to retailers. Last time, the perception was that Singapore farmers are not very consistent. So for the past one to two years, we’ve shown to retailers we’re able to perform and supply them consistently,” he said.

New certification scheme to ensure safety and quality of local fish produce
Janice Lim Channel NewsAsia 30 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has introduced a certification scheme in a bid to ensure the safety and quality of local fish produce.

Four fish farms have been certified under the Good Aquaculture Practice for Fish Farming scheme for adopting good aquaculture practices. This pilot batch comprises farms under Barramundi Asia, Rong-Yao Fisheries, and Marine Life Aquaculture.

Consumers can support these certified fish farms by buying their produce with this logo, which AVA CEO Tan Poh Hong describes as a "mark of quality".

Better feeding management and harvesting techniques are some of the practices Rong-Yao Fisheries has adopted to ensure the survival of its fish, and to raise productivity. Workers are trained to use computers, simplifying the process of keeping farm records on matters such as water quality.

Rong-Yao's business development manager Alawn Koh feels that more can be done to support the industry. "I would say currently our challenge is to raise awareness among local consumers of the quality and safety of local farm produce."

- CNA/xy

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Semakau landfill to get green power grid

Feng Zengkun, David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Oct 14;

The world's prettiest landfill will soon become greener.

Singapore will start building a power grid at the lush Semakau Landfill next year, to show how renewable energy from the sea, sun and wind can be combined with other technologies to provide a stable source of electricity.
The hybrid micro-grid is the first in the region and is believed to be the largest in the tropics.

It will produce about 1MW of power for a start, which will be used on Semakau. That amount of power is enough for small islands and villages, and can act as an emergency power supply for cities.

In Singapore, it would be enough to power about 250 four-room Housing Board flats.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran announced the project yesterday at the opening of the inaugural Asia Clean Energy Summit, which is part of this year's Singapore International Energy Week.

He said the project could allow Singapore and its partners to provide electricity to island communities and remote villages. The research could also be used to improve cities' power grids.

"All of these are acute needs in Asia... and Singapore aims to play a meaningful role in Asia's clean- energy journey despite our geographical limitations," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will invest a total of $8 million in the grid infrastructure, and the project is expected to attract some $20 million in investments from clean-technology companies in the next five years.

NTU will build the grid and develop the technologies with 10 multinational companies, for a start. These include some of the world's biggest renewable-energy players, such as Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer and installer of wind turbines.

The National Environment Agency and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore will also support the project.

The grid will use energy storage systems and algorithms to tackle renewable energy's traditional limitations. Sunlight is needed to produce solar power, for instance, but storage systems can store the power for later use.

Professor Hans Puttgen, senior director at NTU's Energy Research Institute, said that a key research area will be technology that converts power to fuel.

One method uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide, and the two gases are converted to methane, which is then fed into a natural gas power grid. This also helps to reduce carbon dioxide's impact on the environment.

EDB executive director of clean technologies Goh Chee Kiong said such power-to-gas technology "is a very exciting frontier for a lot of major companies today", and that the Singapore project could catalyse research here in the field.

Prof Puttgen said that the work will evolve as new technologies and partners come on board.

"It will never be finished, and it has been designed to be that way," he said.

S'pore powers towards energy target with new solar project

Singapore is on track to start projects by the end of next year to produce five to six times more energy from the sun, as the Government chases its target of having solar power meet about 5 per cent of electricity demand by 2020.

These projects will add 80 to 100 more megawatts-peak (MWp) of solar power, revealed Building and Construction Authority chief executive John Keung yesterday.

On top of the current capacity of nearly 20MWp, the nation would be roughly a third of the way towards its goal of 350MWp.

Part of the new boost in tapping the sun's energy comes from the Housing Board.

HDB has closed its tender for a 20MWp solar leasing project, which will see solar panels placed on the rooftops of 500 more HDB blocks, enough to power more than 4,000 four-room flats.

It is a significant jump from the 176 HDB blocks with solar panels as of August.

By 2020, HDB will contribute 220MWp of solar power with panels at 5,500 blocks.

There are also plans to install solar panels in army camps and in schools.

"In Singapore, the solar-power adoption movement is gaining strong momentum, driven by the competitive costs of solar energy and pervasive sustainability practices," said Dr Keung at the Solar Pioneer Awards, which are part of the Singapore International Energy Week that ends on Friday.

Such growth can be seen in this year's award winners. While past winning projects were in the range of 1MWp, this year's honourees had much larger system sizes, he noted.

He added that the solar energy market's centre of gravity has shifted from the West to Asia. "Consequently, we are seeing many global solar companies increasing their focus on Asia, which includes markets in China, Japan, India and South-east Asia," he said.

Meanwhile, a solar research institute based in the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be testing a unique Swiss-made white solar panel unveiled in Singapore yesterday.

A world first made possible by applying a coat of nanomaterials to solar panels while still maintaining a workable efficiency, it is a dramatic departure from the standard blue-black colour intended to maximise sunlight absorption.

Its creators at private Swiss research centre CSEM hope this will pave the way for using more visually appealing solar panels in a variety of colours on entire building facades rather than just on rooftops.

The Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS will test these panels for at least six months to see if they are suitable for Singapore's climate.

CSEM selected Singapore for the panel's unveiling as it hopes to market it in Asia, said the director of CSEM's Photovoltaics Centre, Professor Christophe Ballif.

"If we are serious about using more renewable energy, we should make buildings net energy producers," he said.

"One day, we should really consider that buildings be covered entirely with photovoltaic panels."

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Dynamic future in power generation

Euston Quah And Christabelle Soh The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Oct 14;

It takes a certain degree of courage to try to envision what Singapore's environmental landscape will be in the far future. By this, we are referring to at least 30 to 50 years' time - and this is sufficiently distant not to be too bothered if the predictions do not pan out.

In the energy sector, three developments will converge to create two shifts in the way energy is obtained here.

The first shift will be in fuel mix. Currently, the bulk of Singapore's fuel comes from natural gas piped in from Malaysia and Indonesia. However, with improvements in technology to harness and store electricity, we expect to see a greater reliance on renewable energy, specifically solar energy. Already, it was announced yesterday that Singapore will be able to produce five to six times more energy from the sun by the end of next year, as the Government chases its target of having solar power meet about 5 per cent of electricity demand by 2020.

Singapore is well-suited for solar energy, given the perennial sunny climate. Prices of solar panels have also fallen dramatically since China's entry as a producer into the solar panel market.

The obstacle that has prevented more widespread adoption of solar energy has not been price, but dependability - the difficulty of storing cheap solar energy produced in the day for use at any time. As electricity storage technology improves, we foresee a shift away from natural gas to a greater use of solar energy.

The other development that will drive the shift in Singapore's fuel mix away from piped-in natural gas is developments in clean technology regarding burning coal and shale gas extraction. Coal and shale gas are very similar in that both are abundant and, therefore, extremely cheap.

However, concerns about their environmental impact have limited their growth. For shale gas, the concern is over the pollution - such as groundwater poisoning - caused in the "fracking" extraction process. For coal, it is over the large amounts of carbon emissions when it is burnt. With technology that mitigates pollution from fracking, and improvements in carbon capture technology, we expect to see a migration towards these cheaper energy sources. Singapore is already exploring importing shale gas from the United States.

The third development is the trend towards a more cooperative world as Singapore's neighbours become prosperous. As the region grows from greater trade and investment links, friendlier ties will enable the full implementation of a smart energy grid with every ASEAN nation plugged in.

This will allow for more stability in electricity supply as energy deficits in one country can be made up for by surpluses of another, and more energy efficiency as more will be produced by the one with the lowest marginal cost. For Singapore, this also means a general shift in energy generation from internal to external sources.

Policy-wise, we expect a broadening of markets where the economic principle of taxing negative externalities (costs to third parties that are unaccounted for) are applied. A number of these taxes are already in place - cigarettes are taxed for the health cost imposed on passive smokers; road usage is taxed (via electronic road pricing) for the congestion caused; and car emissions are taxed for the pollution created.

For some existing markets, the taxes will be expanded to include the whole market. For example, to deal with congestion, every road will be priced. "Smart" gantries will adopt dynamic pricing - the greater the congestion, the higher the price for using it, adjusted instantly.

For other markets, taxes will be increased or introduced to correct for other externalities, such as those related to waste generation and noise creation. Carbon taxes will be introduced.

In the case of climate change, while carbon taxes will help reduce carbon emissions, adaptations will be made to accommodate the reality of an already warmer world.

Existing policies, such as higher building bases to prevent flooding and regulation on coastline development, will be expanded. Buildings will be built further inland in response to higher expected sea levels and land reclamation may be curtailed until it becomes clear that it does not contribute to flooding. Similarly, for waste management, policies will be developed to complement taxes. Closer relations with Singapore's neighbours will
enable it to lease land from Malaysia and Indonesia for landfills for non-toxic waste.

A holistic approach

There will be a fundamental paradigm shift that will influence Singapore's population size, in that policy will be guided by the concept of an optimal population that can maximise the quality of life.

Systems will be established to elicit the public's preference for environmental goods. One part of this would be requiring all proposed public projects to be accompanied by environmental impact analyses (EIA). Perhaps even as early as 10 years from now, the combination of increasingly developed valuation techniques and the shift towards more holistic welfare will promote the use of EIAs.

Singapore's environmental landscape in the far future will be a dynamic changing one that utilises modern technology, pragmatism as cost-benefit analysis and efficiency-based decision-making.

Euston Quah is professor of environmental economics and head of economics at Nanyang Technological University. Christabelle Soh is a former teacher now working with the Ministry of Education.

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Skin-eating Asian fungus imperils world's salamanders

Will Dunham Reuters Yahoo News 31 Oct 14;

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A skin-eating fungus that infiltrated Europe through the global wildlife trade is threatening to inflict massive losses on the continent's native salamanders including extinction of whole species and could do the same in North America, scientists say.

An international research team said on Thursday the fungus, first detected in Europe last year, has killed salamanders in the Netherlands and Belgium and is expected soon to reach other European nations. They said it is closely related to another fungus that already has wiped out some amphibian species.

The scientists have found no sign of the fungus in North American amphibians but worry that it is only a matter of time before it surfaces via a pet trade that has funneled millions of Chinese fire belly newts to the United States.

The researchers tracked the origins and geographical presence of the fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, by examining about 5,400 samples accounting for about 150 varieties of amphibians in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa.

They also exposed 35 amphibian species to the fungus to learn which were vulnerable. The study, published in the journal Science, found it can kill numerous kinds of salamanders and newts, a subgroup of the salamander family, but not other amphibians including frogs, toads and snake-like caecilians.

The fungus was discovered by scientists probing a die-off of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. It invades a salamander's skin, an organ vital to its respiratory system, causing ulcers.

"There is little we can do to stop further spread on mainland Europe other than preventing people from moving infected salamanders between countries," said Matthew Fisher, a professor of fungal disease epidemiology at Imperial College London who was one of the researchers.

"If (the fungus) arrives in the USA then millions, if not billions, of salamanders are likely to die and species extinctions may occur."

The findings illustrate the threat posed to native creatures by pathogens spread through the international wildlife trade. Asian salamanders and newts are sold worldwide in huge numbers.

"The uncontrolled trade of animals should be regulated worldwide, and traded animals should be tested for the presence of pathogens that can affect wildlife with special emphasis to prevent introduction of (the fungus) to islands and regions where it is currently absent," said An Martel, a veterinarian at Ghent University in Belgium who led the study.

The fungus appears to have originated in Southeast Asia 30 million years ago, reaching Europe recently through the trade in Asian newts.

Using museum specimens, the scientists determined the fungus was present in amphibians from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan as early as the 19th century without causing disease. That indicates creatures in the region have developed resistance but those from other regions may be highly vulnerable.

University of Maryland ecologist Karen Lips, another of the researchers, underscored the danger in North America, saying, "The impact on our native salamander diversity might be very high because the U.S. is the world's greatest biodiversity 'hot spot' for salamanders. We have more species and families here than anywhere else in the world."

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Plans for giant Antarctic marine reserve falter for fourth time

Countries unlikely to reach consensus on plan to protect vast swath of ocean off Antarctica as CCAMLR meeting draws to a close
Associated Press 30 Oct 14;

A plan to protect a vast swath of ocean off Antarctica by creating the world’s largest marine reserve appeared headed for failure for the fourth time.

The countries that make decisions about Antarctic fishing finish a 10-day meeting on Friday in Hobart, Australia.

Most favor a US-New Zealand proposal to ban most fishing in a sanctuary sprawling across 1.34m sq km (517,000 square miles) in the Ross Sea.

But all countries must agree, which they have failed to do at three previous meetings.

US delegation leader Evan Bloom said Thursday a consensus once again appeared unlikely.

“It’s very disappointing from the US perspective,” he said.

He said a “small number of countries” opposed the proposal, but he declined to name them as the closed-door negotiations were continuing.

Russia was a key holdout in the past among the 24 nations and the European Union that comprise the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Political tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine have likely only added a further hurdle this time.

Russia is one of several nations that have fishing interests in Antarctica’s waters. The Ross Sea is home to the Antarctic toothfish, a lucrative species that is often marketed in North America as Chilean sea bass.

Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Southern Ocean protection project for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said it might be time to consider new approaches, such as consumers, or nations, refusing to buy fish that has been caught inside the proposed reserve boundaries.

“It’s crushing that for the fourth time in three years this hasn’t gotten through,” she said.

The US-New Zealand proposal had been a decade in the making and has received strong support from US secretary of state John Kerry. The proposal would ban fishing from most of the reserve while allowing for limited scientific catches in some areas.

A second proposal by Australia, France and the European Union to create four smaller reserves off the coast of the East Antarctica also appeared headed for failure.

Mark Epstein, the executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition environmental advocacy group, said that while geopolitical issues were likely a factor this time, it was too soon to give up on the consensus approach.

“Our profound hope is that all the members will come back to the original reasons and meaning for creating the convention,” he said.

The convention was established in 1982 with the express objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.

The Russian delegation could not be immediately contacted for comment on Thursday.

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Fresh from the sea to the doorstep

Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Oct 14;

Instead of jostling in a wet market or going to the supermarket, some people are getting the daily catch sent to their homes.

Several coastal fish farms here have started or are starting home deliveries of seafood to cash in on demand and keep abreast of rivals from Malaysia.

Ah Hua Kelong, off Lorong Halus in the north-east coast, introduced the service in April this year; a group of nine other coastal fish farms plan to launch an online store offering home deliveries by next March.

These new services are partly to help the Singapore farms compete against Malaysian peers, which can sell seafood cheaper to Singapore wholesalers as they have lower operational costs.

Industry players say farms in Malaysia can sell their seafood at wholesale prices several dollars lower per kg than local farms.

Ah Hua Kelong business development manager Wong Jing Kai, 25, said: "Highly price-sensitive intermediaries and restaurants expect the same prices from us."

Home deliveries also help the kelong diversify income sources.

Said its creative and marketing manager, Mr Bryan Ang, 25: "In the past, we relied heavily on exports. A big ship from Hong Kong would berth at our farm and buy almost everything we had annually. However, in 2014, this ship did not arrive... We realised we needed more distribution channels."

According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, there are 116 local coastal fish farms and 6,775 tonnes of seafood were produced here last year. Seafood from elsewhere make up a big part of the supply here, with 140,348 tonnes imported last year.

At Ah Hua Kelong, orders have nearly doubled over the last six months for its home deliveries, placed online or over the phone.

Flower crabs, mussels and four main types of fish, including sea bass and golden pomfret, are delivered within 12 hours of their being harvested. Delivery is free, except for orders below $40, which incur $8 for the trip.

Prices go from $10 to $20 per fish, about 600g in size on average. Live mussels cost $8 per kg, while live flower crabs cost $30 per kg. The prices can sometimes be around 40 per cent higher than those found in markets.

For example, a 600g golden pomfret costs $6.30 from a FairPrice outlet and $6 from a wet market in Toa Payoh. Ah Hua Kelong sells it at $10.

But some are willing to pay more for convenience and freshness. Said Mr Ivan Aw, 40, a vice-president at a local bank: "When I go to wet markets, I am likely to rush into buying something because everyone is crowding around and jostling. When I shop online for the fish, there is no hassle."

Ms Celine Tee, a headhunter in her late 30s, described the seafood she had bought from Ah Hua Kelong as "very sweet" and fresh.

"There is also that personal touch because they tell you how to keep the seafood fresh and give suggestions on how to prepare it. It is kind of like how mothers form relationships with wet-market sellers," she added.

Besides Ah Hua Kelong and the nine farms, others have expressed interest in home deliveries.

Metropolitan Fishery Group, which runs four coastal fish farms, has had queries on home delivery every month, from one to two for the whole of last year.

Mr Malcolm Ong, 51, who runs the group, said: "We are not really distributors, we are farmers.

"Right now we are focused on our core business, but we are considering having an online store, possibly not too far in the future."

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More opting for fuss-free burial at sea

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Oct 14;

He has spent more than three decades of his life navigating the sea and, when the time comes, Mr Ong Kai Cheng, 63, hopes he can do the same in death.

The Buddhist bumboat operator has instructed his three children to release his ashes into the sea after he dies.

"I do not wish to trouble my children by making them pray to me after my death," he said in Mandarin.

Mr Ong's sentiments are echoed by a growing number of individuals whose last wishes are to have their ashes scattered at sea, rather than having them stored in niches at columbaria.

Undertakers here have seen an increase in the number of sea burial requests, with the majority coming from Buddhists and Hindus.

Singapore Casket, for example, oversees more than 20 sea burials a month, compared with fewer than 10 five years ago.

At Serenity Casket, for every 50 funerals, about five to eight are sea burials. This, said its funeral director Elson Chong, is more than the two to four the parlour conducted five years ago.

The bumboat operator, Mr Ong, is also taking more people out to sea to scatter the ashes of their loved ones: from once or twice annually 10 years ago to the current minimum of four a month.

The growing popularity of sea burials is due to a number of reasons, funeral directors told The Straits Times.

The main concern is to not burden their offspring or family members during the annual Qing Ming Festival, said Mr Nicky Teo, director of Funeral Solutions. During the festival, Chinese families pay their respects to their departed loved ones at the cemetery or columbarium.

Others opt to have their ashes scattered at sea so that their descendants have more freedom in where they can pay their respects.

Said Mr Roland Tay of Direct Funeral Services: "Some people have children who live abroad, so by scattering the ashes at sea, they believe the future generations can complete their prayers any time, anywhere."

Some people also wish to "travel" the world in the afterlife, and sea burials meet that desire, said Singapore Casket chief executive Goh Wee Leng.

Sea burials are cheaper compared to storing ashes in a columbarium, but undertakers pointed out that this is usually not a determining factor for those who choose sea burials.

The scattering of ashes can cost from $80 to more than $1,000, depending on the religious rites.

This compares to the minimum $1,180 for keeping one's ashes in a niche at a columbarium. Depending on where the niche is located at the columbarium, and whether there is air-conditioning, the cost could go up to $100,000.

In Singapore, the scattering of small amounts of ash can be done at a designated site located about 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau, off southern Singapore, according to information on the National Environment Agency's website.

The Straits Times understands that ashes are also scattered in open waters off Changi. No permits are needed for sea burials.

Typically, the rite is performed by a monk or priest with props including flowers or bread crumbs, umbrellas and plastic trays. These items are usually released into the sea along with the ashes, held in white or red cloth, after a short prayer session.

Recently, a biodegradable urn for storing ashes was introduced here, a result of growing environmental consciousness among the young. Made of recycled paper, the urn slowly disintegrates when placed in water.

But the urn has yet to take off, said Funeral Solutions' Mr Teo.

"Some family members feel that it is not good to keep the ashes 'trapped' in a vessel," he said.

"But I would advise them not to throw out items that can pollute the waters, such as food offerings, joss sticks and incense paper."

For Mr Ong, his preference for sea burial goes beyond practical reasons.

"My children grew up on my earnings from the sea, so, of course, I would hope to make it my final resting place," he said.

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MHA will not expand definition of animals under Road Traffic Act

Today Online 29 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is standing by its decision to not expand the definition of “animals” under the Road Traffic Act (RTA), despite objections from animal welfare groups.

In response to media queries, the MHA said today (Oct 29) that it agreed with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) that all animals should be protected.

The two groups had earlier appealed to the MHA to reconsider its decision not to proceed with any amendments to the Act.

Currently, drivers who hit animals listed in the Act — such as a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle — are required to stop and help them. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to S$3,000 or a jail term of up to a year. However, the Act is silent on other animals such as cats, monkeys, birds and rabbits.

The MHA noted that the Act’s “primary intent” is to ensure the safety of the roads, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

“The specific provision for ‘animals’ in the RTA was confined to farm animals of commercial value so as to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur,” it said.

“MHA has studied this provision on animals in the RTA very carefully and decided not to expand the definition. Nonetheless, we encourage all motorists who hit animals on the road to stop and provide help when it is safe to do so. The motorist should then contact the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) or SPCA for assistance,” the ministry added.

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Malaysia: Caviar farm won’t harm environment, says Felda

New Straits Times 30 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed sturgeon farm and caviar production project in Kuala Tahan, Pahang, will not be harmful to the environment.

This assurance came from the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), which said strict measures would be in place to ensure the project satisfied the necessary legal requirements.

Felda strategic resources deputy director-general Muhammad Sufi Mahbub said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was being conducted and the report was expected to be ready in four months.

“If the EIA report found that the area is not suitable, we may find an alternative location.”

Sufi said the 50ha Caviar Park to be located in Kuala Tahan would rear Siberian Sturgeon, Amur Sturgeon, Sterlet Sturgeon and Bester Sturgeon via an aqua-farming technology from South Korea.

“The fish survives mainly on Spirulina and it is not a predator.”

Sufi said the main complex would have breeding ponds with a temperature of 16°C and below, which is suitable for the fish to lay eggs.

“The land given by the state government is 100m above sea level. The ponds will be built at 95m above sea level to avoid flooding.”

He said pending approval from the Felda board of directors, satellite farms would be set up in Felda settlements under its Sentuhan Kasih project to raise the Sturgeon fry until it reached egg-laying age of between 3 and 4 years. It will then be transported to the main complex.

On a related matter, Sufi said only 60 per cent of logging activities would be carried out on the
50ha site. Each tree felled will be compensated to the Pahang

Department of Fisheries Malaysia aquaculture development division director Dr Mazuki Hashim said although sturgeon was listed on the Prohibited Fish Species For Import Into Malaysia, the department had carried out an Import Risk Analysis.

“We take into consideration the risks of disease and risks to the environment.”

He said currently, there was no decision from the government to allow imports of the fish until they were satisfied with the system to be adopted by Felda for the project.

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Malaysia: Government to have Taman Negara listed as world heritage site

ISKANDAR TAJUDDIN New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

JERANTUT: The government will intensify its effort to have Taman Negara listed as world heritage site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), said Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Sri Dr James Dawos Mamit.

He said the government had already submitted the application to Unesco for the listing of Taman Negara - which comprises the world's oldest tropical jungle in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan - as one of the world's heritage site.

At the same time, he said various agencies and institutions had also conducted researches that could help support Malaysia's effort to get Taman Negara listed.

"We will ensure that Taman Negara fulfil all the requirements that will enable it to be included in the list," he said adding that Taman Negara is also a leading eco-tourism product in the region.

On the protection of Taman Negara from encroachment, he said 13 foreigners were arrested in the protected area.

He said special operations in Taman Negara, previously known as Ops Jelai, have now codenamed as 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Network (1MBEON).

"The 13 foreigners were arrested during five 1MBEON operations held from February this year. Since 2002, we have arrested 152 foreigners who encroached Taman Negara," he said when officially launched the 1MBEON at Kuala Tahan near here today.

He said 1MBEON involved the cooperation between the Wildlife and National Parks Department man Negara and the Armed Forces.

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Indonesia: Environmental degradation triggers drought -- Walhi

Antara 29 Oct 14;

Kupang (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) explained that drought occurs almost throughout the country, especially in NTT, as a result of environmental degradation of the buffer zone.

"For that, there must be willingness from both the government and all elements, including the people of this region, to reevaluate the area of forests acting as a buffer zone," Director of Walhi NTT Heribertus Naif noted here on Wednesday.

He elucidated that the current drought impact, apart from the effect of the El Nino weather phenomenon, coupled with the declining quality of the buffer zone, are affecting the ecological unity.

He noted that the drought that occurred almost evenly throughout the country, including in NTT, was a proof of environmental degradation due to the increasingly deteriorating quality of the buffer zone.

The condition, exacerbated by global warming, was felt across the planet.

"Human life with the development of technology has contributed to global warming," he pointed out.

In the local context, the government and all stakeholders, including the community, must come together to undertake steps for saving the existing environment.

According to Heribertus, through adaptation and mitigation efforts, the NTT provincial government should take steps to monitor and evaluate the condition of forests in this area, to find out the real on-field conditions.

"What is still improving or getting worse and needs treatment quickly," he affirmed.

Furthermore, the government of NTT and districts or cities, need to conduct a thorough evaluation of the existing natural resource management models, to check whether they are oriented towards ecological justice or merely for catering to vested market interests, while overlooking the environmental quality standards.

He was also hopeful that the government will implement processes to save the forests through ecological restoration efforts, which are in harmony with nature.

"It means that the process was carried out to create more green spaces and planting trees to increase the ground water level rather than growing trees for commercial gains such as Sengon, Mahoni, and a type of Ampupu. It should be noted that trees planted in the upstream region help to increase the level of ground water," Heribertus noted.

Heribertus emphasized that community participation is also crucial and should be driven by the cosmocentric pattern that imbibes local wisdom and focuses on the preservation of nature by the public.

"Nature should be the focus of attention. We should not be homo-centric, considering objects of nature to be irritants that we wish to forget," he remarked.

He said that Walhi hoped for cooperation across sectors in order to make the forest a source of life, in the context of governance and ecology, so that they can jointly maintain and preserve it.

"Not only for the sake of profits by implementing the concept of the forestry industry," he added.

(Reported by Yohanes Adrianus/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/O001)

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New study raises alarm over bear bile farming in Lao PDR

TRAFFIC 29 Oct 14;

Cambridge, UK, 29th October 2014—The number of bears in farms supplying the widespread and expanding bile extraction industry in Lao PDR has tripled in recent years, with strong evidence the animals are illegally sourced from the wild, a new study published in Oryx finds.

According to credible records, the number of captive bears in the farms increased from around 40 in 2008 to 122 animals by 2012. There was no evidence of breeding facilities at any of the locations. The study also documented an increase in the number of bear farms in Lao PDR, with the first appearing in 2000 and the number rising to 11 by 2012.

The lack of bear breeding facilities, together with an absence of paperwork to show legal procurement of the bears led to the conclusion that bear farms in Lao PDR are acquiring and keeping bears illegally, with some facility owners even admitting as much to the report’s authors, independent researcher, Emily Livingstone and TRAFFIC’s Chris R. Shepherd.

The increase in bile farms and number of captive bears coincides with a rapid increase in the price for wild sourced bear bile and bear cubs, say the authors.

According to their study, Bear farms in Lao PDR expand illegally and fail to conserve wild bears, if allowed to continue, “…this industry is likely to contribute to the decline of national wild bear populations by further stimulating the market for wild bear bile and increasing the incentive to poach wild bears.”

The hunting, capture and possession of wild bears and the removal and trade in their bile and other parts is illegal under national legislation, while international trade in wild bears and their parts for commercial purposes is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Lao’s Wildlife and Aquatic Law, 2007 allows trade in second generation captive-bred bears and parts thereof within the country, but poor monitoring and record keeping of bears in bile extraction facilities allows this provision to be used as a loophole by farmers hiding the illegality of their operations.

The study highlights the discovery that most, if not all, facilities illegally acquire live bears and trade in bile and other parts. The low likelihood of being punished, together with the high potential for profit making and rising market prices for bear parts have all encouraged the poaching of wild animals, according to the study.

The study recommends the closure of all illegal bile extraction facilities in Lao PDR and closer co-operation with the main bear bile consumer countries to halt smuggling, echoing a motion passed at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea that encouraged range State governments to close down illegal farms as soon as possible and to take increased measures to ensure that no more bears from the wild enter farms. The Congress also recommended that “Parties to CITES fully implement legislation to prevent illegal international trade in Asiatic Black Bears and Sun Bears and their parts and derivatives, and promote greater public awareness of these issues.”

“The open and ongoing bear bile trade involving Lao PDR clearly illustrates the failure of the Laotian and other governments in the region to comply with and enforce the rules of CITES,” said Dr Chris R Shepherd, Regional Director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

Currently, few countries even have adequate CITES legislation in place, which seriously undermines the effectiveness of the Convention.

“The Government of Lao PDR needs to lead the way in ending the illegal bear bile trade through effective implementation and enforcement of CITES regulations and national legislation,” said Shepherd.

The Abstract of Bear farms in Lao PDR expand illegally and fail to conserve wild bears is available at:

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Oct 14

Pink-necked Green-pigeon failed nesting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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62 Lim Chu Kang farms affected by change in land use

Chng Kheng Leng Channel NewsAsia 28 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: 62 farms in the Lim Chu Kang area will be affected by land use changes, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) confirmed on Tuesday (Oct 28).

The western part of Lim Chu Kang will be needed for military purposes. This tract of land will replace the current training grounds that Mindef is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, according to an AVA statement.

The affected farms in this area, whose leases or tenancies expire between 2014 and 2021, were informed in September of these developments. The farms whose leases or tenancies expire between 2014 to early 2017 will be given an extension till June 2017. Those whose leases expire after June 2017 can remain till the end of their current leases, said the AVA. Those who wish to continue their farming businesses can then bid for new sites at Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah from next year.

“Given our limited land for farming, the new sites will have a smaller land area compared to the existing sites. This is why we are helping our farmers to raise their productivity and intensify the use of limited farmland through the adoption of technology and automation,” said AVA.

Earlier this month, the authority launched a S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to help the famers invest in new and high-tech farming equipment and systems.

But the affected farms will not receive compensation, "as the leases would have run their course till expiry", said AVA. "We have communicated clearly and as early as we could to the affected farms so that they can make alternative plans ahead of the expiry of their leases.” AVA will also help facilitate the farms in applying for the final extension to Jun 30, 2017.

Farmers we spoke to said they were concerned about whether they would be able to obtain new sites, as competition for these tenders is expected to be fierce. The Government has also increased the percentage of land use for production purposes from 70 per cent to 90 per cent for production purposes. Farmers we spoke to said they had been told that farms at these new locations must meet production quotas, or risk losing the site.

Mr John Hay, Managing Director of Hay Dairies goat farm said if the farm was expected to meet production quotas with the help of high-tech equipment, it would have to invest at least S$4 million to S$5 million.

Those at Jurong Frog Farm also felt that the strict restrictions of land use could limit the exposure of the younger generation to the industry. Said the farm’s manager Ms Chelsea Wan: “It means that we have very little flexibility on how we can try to attract local tourism into this area."

- CNA/xy

Lim Chu Kang farmers in limbo as land leases run out
Farms in Lim Chu Kang waiting for new plots
AW CHENG WEI Straits Times 1 Nov 14;

The future hangs in the balance for farmers in Lim Chu Kang, who will not have their leases renewed as their farms have to make way for army training grounds.

A total of 62 farms, ranging from vegetable plots to frog breeders, will have to move out between 2017 and 2021, after their leases expire.

Despite being told of the decision by the Singapore Land Authority in September, they have yet to get details of exactly where they will move to, and the size of the plots available for tender.

Said Mr Alan Toh, 50, who owns the 4ha Yili Vegetation that produces Chinese cabbage and baby bok choy: "We cannot decide whether to bid on the new land plots or not because we still do not know much at the moment."

However, farms whose leases run out between this year and early 2017 will be given an extension until June 2017 to move. The land has been slated to replace the Defence Ministry's current training grounds, which it is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Ten farmers The Straits Times spoke to said they had expected to have their leases extended.

Orchid farmer Lim Kah Hin, 54, for instance, built a $500,000 greenhouse last year, and had expected at least two more three-year renewals on his lease, which expires in 2017, because nearby farms had been approved to stay on until 2021 or longer. "I would not have built it if I knew I was going to move," he said of the greenhouse.

Fish farm Apollo Aquaculture Group's chief executive, Mr Eric Ng, 41, has started talks with architects, but is still waiting to hear details of available plot sizes. "We are prepared to move and pump in money at the new place," he said. "But we still do not know the type of land we are going to get."

The planned move has also shaken the confidence of farmers who hope to pass on the family business. Previously, they held the land for 20 years, but now will be given only a 10-year lease after they secure a new site, with the possibility of extending for another decade.

Farm 85 director Tan Koon Hua, 46, said: "I am reluctant to ask my children to take over when I am not sure of the future of my farms." He has three affected vegetable farms totalling 10ha.

The AVA said farmers who demonstrate a good track record with consistently high productivity will be assessed favourably in their bids for new land. It said the new sites in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be smaller, and will be available for tender from next year.

To help farmers manage with less space, the AVA has launched a $63 million fund to help them invest in high-tech farming equipment and systems, which should help "raise their productivity and intensify the use of limited farmland".

Still, farmers say they have only a few months to decide if they want to move or leave the business. Mr John Hay, 60, of Hay Dairies, which produces goats' milk, said: "That is not enough time. It is a multi-million-dollar investment."

Added frog farmer Chelsea Wan, 31: "We will move if the return on investment makes sense... but it is hard, with only a 10-year lease."

62 Lim Chu Kang farms to move out
Judith Tan The New Paper AsiaOne 2 Nov 14;

Singapore's frog princess, Chelsea Wan, 30, will soon be kissing her farm goodbye.

Her Jurong Frog Farm (JFF) is one of 62 farms that will have to move out of Lim Chu Kang when their leases expire between this year and 2021.

Another farm affected is Hay Dairies, home to almost 1,000 goats.

The tract of land in the western part of Lim Chu Kang will be converted for the military, replacing the current training grounds that the Defence Ministry is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a statement yesterday.

The affected farms in the area whose leases or tenancies expire between this year and 2021 were informed last month of the changes.

Those farms whose leases or tenancies expire between this year and early 2017 will be given an extension until June 2017, AVA said. But the farmers will not be getting compensation as the leases will have expired.

"This means that my whole family will have to move out of our home," Ms Wan told The New Paper.

Her father, 62-year-old Wan Bock Thiaw, set up the farm in Jurong in 1981 and moved to the 0.6ha patch in Lim Chu Kang Road in 1997. The lease is due to expire in early 2017.

"I understand the plot of land offered would be much smaller, but I don't know how small or what the lease and payment would be like," Ms Wan said.

In its statement, AVA said that given the limited land for farming, the new sites will have a smaller land area than the existing ones. To help farmers raise productivity and optimise the use of limited farmland, the agency launched a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund this month.

But Ms Wan said that with the decreased land area, JFF will no longer be able to hold the educational tours or community outreach that "we have been organising for the past few years".

"It means that we will have very little flexibility on how we can try to attract local tourism into this area. We will just have to concentrate more on our food-processing business," she said.

Ms Wan intends to appeal for an extension so JFF can stay at the current place until 2021.

"The four extra years mean a lot. We will have more time to make more concrete plans for the business," she said.

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Singapore has potential to be natural gas trading hub: Panel

Dylan Loh Channel NewsAsia 28 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has the potential to develop into a regional, and perhaps global, natural gas trading hub, given its reputation for stable regulatory framework as well as existing trading and financial infrastructure.

That is the view of the Ministry of Trade and Industry's International Advisory Panel (IAP) on Energy, which advises the Government in preparing for future developments.

The panel's members include Dr Dan Arvizu, director and chief executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Dr Choo Kang-Soo, honorary chairman of the Korean Gas Union; Ole Enger, chairman of REC Solar; and Dr Claude Mandil, former executive director at the International Energy Agency.

The panel, which released its recommendations on Tuesday (Oct 28), said Singapore should develop trading mechanisms and standards to facilitate the growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) market.

The IAP noted that the global LNG market would likely double in the next two decades with strong growth in Asia . The panel said there is an emerging need for supply flexibility and market efficiency in gas trading, and believes that if Singapore plays its cards right, it can be a reference point for gas pricing.

It also recommended that Singapore take a long-term view and continue to expand its infrastructure and develop supporting services.

Mr S Iswaran, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and chairman of the panel, said: "We have certain advantages by virtue of our reputation for regulatory standards, our connectivity to the region and also the supporting infrastructure that we have here because we already are a major trading hub for oil, for example. And some of these services, ancillary support services can easily also support the activities for gas."

However, the panel said it will take time for Singapore to develop as a gas hub.

The panel also identified renewable energy as an area where more research and development can be explored. It supported Singapore's efforts to facilitate greater deployment of solar energy, welcoming in particular the decision not to subsidise deployment and the country's commitment to liberalised markets.

Solar energy is at present Singapore's only technically and economically-viable renewable energy source, the panel said. To make solar energy viable, continued research and development is needed to reduce costs and develop attractive financing models.

"So it's all about using, in effect, more renewable energy, developing more efficient energy use and a better development pattern," said Mr Peter Schwartz, Senior Vice President of global relations and strategic planning for "And one particular important area is energy storage. And that's where Singapore is beginning to invest in, and the potential there to change the game is very large."

Innovation will also be key to capitalising on opportunities in the energy sector, and the panel backed Singapore's strategy to direct investments towards developing solutions on both the demand and supply sides. It also encouraged strong collaborations between research institutes and industry players, so that solutions can be delivered from the laboratory to the market.

- CNA/ac

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SG Changi settles motorsports hub debts

IAN DE COTTA Today Online 29 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — Three years after its contract to build Singapore’s first permanent track was cancelled by the Government, SG Changi has finally drawn a line under an ignominious chapter that began with hope and ended in financial disaster.

Its slate was wiped clean on Oct 21, when it finally paid S$6.9 million owed to piling contractors CS Construction & Geotechnic (CSCG), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of CSC Holdings. Work done to reinstate the 41ha of land near Changi Airport that had 1,000 piles driven into it has also been completed and was returned to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) three weeks ago.

What was left of the S$40 million SG Changi paid for the land on a 30-year lease and returned to the Japanese consortium remains confidential under the terms of their contractual agreement with the country’s sports authorities.

In response to queries from TODAY, Sport Singapore assistant director (communications and engagement division) S Parameswaran said no public money was spent during the entire process.

“Sport Singapore has returned the land to Singapore Land Authority on Oct 9, and has refunded some of SG Changi’s paid-up capital on Oct 21 after deducting the costs of the reinstatement of the land, which includes the holding period of the land and administrative costs related to the Changi Motorsports Hub project,” he said.

“No public subsidies were required for the reinstatement of the land as the Hub was a commercial project originally arranged to be fully funded by SG Changi.”

SG Changi won a bid in March 2009 to build Singapore’s first permanent track at an estimated cost of S$380 million. But construction stopped after only a month in January 2010 when it failed to pay the full amount of S$10 million of an advance payment due to CSCG.

Sport Singapore, trading as Singapore Sports Council then, finally pulled the plug on the project in December 2011 after SG Changi failed to raise funds to continue with construction and subsequently missed key milestones. After waiting for more than four years for accounts to be settled, See Yen Tam, group chief executive officer of CSC Holdings, is relieved the entire episode is over and said they did not levy any interest on the outstanding sum.

“We at least got the principal sum back,” said See. “It was a long wait, but it looks like Christmas came early for us this year. To be fair, I think SG Changi did their best, but they were caught during a time when the economy was not good and had difficulty raising funds.”

He said SG Changi chairman Fuminori Murahashi and director Moto Sakuma kept CSC updated on the progress of their termination agreement with Sport Singapore, which came to a close after they received what was left of the S$40 million they paid for the land.

Said Moto: “We got some money back. I’ve been travelling back and forth between Japan and Singapore to help settle this problem and it is a burden off our shoulders now. We are into other business but have washed our hands of motorsports.”

SG Changi also had to bear the cost of conducting a Request for Information exercise during a seven-month period in the second half of 2012 to gauge whether the project should be re-tendered. It was also billed for work, costing “several hundred thousands of dollars”, to shave off about 2m from each of the 1,000 piles below the surface before the land was given back to the SLA.

Experts told TODAY it would have been a massive job, costing up to S$10 million, to remove all 1,000 piles completely, but there was also the risk many would break in the process, leaving large parts embedded in the soil.

Chua Tong Seng, vice-president of the Association of Consulting Engineers, said that depending on the nature of a project, the land can be redeveloped for other uses. “It is rare to leave the piles in, but they can still be re-used if new projects share the same structure,” he said. “If the footprint is different, engineers will have to work around them.”

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Malaysia: New MoU to tackle haze

New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

THE Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said yesterday Malaysia and Indonesia are working on a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) to resolve haze issues.

Its deputy minister, Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit, said the MoU would allow the countries to share experience, expertise and information to tackle the problem.

“The Indonesian Parliament has agreed to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on Sept 16, 12 years after signing it,” he told Dewan Rakyat.

He said this was following discussions and pressure from Asean members, including Malaysia, for
it to expedite ratifying the agreement.

James was answering a question from Datuk Liang Teck Meng (BN-Simpang Renggam), who wanted to know the outcome of Malaysia and Indonesia’s negotiation in seeking measures to reduce and tackle haze.

James said the fact that Indonesia had agreed to ratify the agreement showed that the republic was committed to solve the problem more effectively.

“It is a positive move and we welcome it.”

James said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel would attend the 10th Conference of Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Laos tomorrow and would push the Indonesian government to ratify the agreement.

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Malaysia: Logging supervisors charged in Sarawak

ADIB POVERA AND SYLVIA LOOI New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

SIBU: TWO logging company supervisors detained under Op Tukul for their alleged involvement in corruption and illegal logging activities were charged at the Sessions Court here yesterday.

Lee Hock Liang, 63, who is an assistant camp supervisor, pleaded not guilty to offering a RM10,000 bribe to Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission senior assistant enforcement officer Sendry Ugi at a log pond in Sungai Antu Pala, Kanowit, near here at 2.05pm on April 25.

The bribe was for Sendry to not take action against Lee for allegedly transferring 300 logs from the log pond at Sungai Antu Pala via a tug boat without a permit.

Judge Nixon Kennedy Kembong set RM5,000 bail in one surety and fixed four days for hearing beginning Dec 9.

Earlier in the same court, Law King Chai, 47, was charged with offering RM2,000 to Inspector Mohamad Dzakriya Abdul Kader, who is attached to the Batu Kawa General Operation Force, at a logging area in Kampung Boyan, Jalan Selangau-Mukah, near here on Sept 8.

Law, who is a camp supervisor for another logging company, was alleged to have offered the bribe to Dzakriya as an inducement to not take action against him for an offence under the Sarawak Forestry Ordinance 1958, following his alleged involvement in illegal logging.

Nixon set bail at RM8,000 in one surety. He set the hearing within five days from Dec 15.

MACC prosecuting officer Katherine Nais prosecuted while Lee and Law were unrepresented.

The duo was among 12 individuals, including a district criminal investigation division police chief, who were apprehended during the operation, which was launched four months ago to investigate illegal logging activities in the state.

In Ipoh, Perak Forestry Department director Datuk Roslan Ariffin said efforts taken by the department to stem illegal logging had borne fruit with a significant drop in the activity.

He said illegal logging were rampant in Taiping and Hulu Perak, but they but were now under control.

“With our operations to keep loggers in check, illegal logging has slowed down,” he told the New Straits Times here yesterday.

He did not provide specific details about the drop.

Roslan said the department recorded its latest success with the arrest of three illegal loggers in Taiping on Monday evening.

“The trio, in their 40s, were picked up around Taiping town for encroaching the Changkat Niru Permanent Forest Reserve at Pondok Tanjung in Taiping,” he said, adding that 600ha of the forest reserve had been cleared.

Roslan said the department was building up a case against the three men and papers would be submitted to the legal adviser soon.

State MACC director Datuk Noraziah Abdul Manaf could not be reached for comment.

The New Straits Times front-paged a report on Monday that the Sarawak state government had lost RM45 million to illegal logging activities within just four months between May to August, and that billions of ringgit worth of losses were incurred by federal and state governments because of illegal logging.

BALQIS NASIR New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) believes that illegal logging activities in Sarawak which have so far led to the arrests of 10 people, including a senior district police officer, are carried out by organised syndicates.

Graft-busters from the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya carried out intelligence works for nine months, including setting up fake logging companies and surveillance before zooming in on the syndicates-cum-loggers.

It believes that the syndicates which have been raking millions from the activities, have been active for many years.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (investigations) Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull said investigations into the involvement of syndicates in logging activities in the state is almost complete.

It is believed that thousands of hectares of forest reserves in Sarawak have been cleared by illegal loggers.

Shukri, however, cautioned the state government and Forestry Department to continue monitoring despite the end of Sarawak’s Op Tukul.

Op Tukul is MACC’s most comprehensive operation in recent times, with an all-out crackdown on illegal logging expected to last a few years.

Last week alone, MACC arrested 30 people, — 20 in Johor and 10 in Sarawak.

MACC also frozen 30 bank accounts containing RM18 million, belonging to more than 10 companies suspected of being involved in illegal logging.

Shukri said the authorities and state governments must take charge and carry out their own initiative to address the problem, which had caused losses in billion of ringgit to the federal and state governments.

“If they do not have enough manpowe, they should hire more people.

“And if there are loopholes in the regulations, review them,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Shukri said the MACC would recommend better and effective systems and procedures to the state governments to put a stop to the activities which, if not curbed, would result in massive ecological destruction.

Meanwhile, two suspects were charged in Sibu yesterday under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 for offering RM10,000 and RM2,000 of bribes, respectively, to enforcement officers.

They were arrested last Wednesday and Saturday.

Another two are to be charged for allegedly committing a similar offence at the Miri Sessions Court today.

Two logging company workers claim trial to corruption charges
ADIB POVERA New Straits Times 28 Oct 14;

SIBU: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) prosecuted another two individuals detained under Op Tukul at the Sessions Court here today.

In the first case, a 47-year-old camp supervisor of a logging company was charged with offering a RM2,000 bribe to Inspector Mohamad Dzakriya Abdul Kader (CORRECT), who is attached with the Batu Kawa branch General Operation Force, last month.

Law King Chai claimed trial to committing the offence at a logging area in Kampung Boyan, Jalan Selangau Mukah here at 7pm on Sept 8.

According to the charge sheet, the money was an inducement for Dzakriya from taking any actions against the accused for his alleged involvement in illegal logging activities.

Judge Nixon Kennedy Kembong set court bail of RM8,000 with one local surety who had a minimum of three years of employment. He also fixed hearing for five days beginning Dec 15.

In the same court room, an assistant camp supervisor for another logging company also pleaded not guilty to offering RM10,000 bribe to MACC senior assistant enforcement officer Sendry Ugi at a log pond in Sungai Antu Pala, Kanowit near here.

Lee Hock Liang, 63, was accused of committing the offence at 2.05pm on Apr 25.

The bribe was an inducement for Sendry to not take actions against Lee for allegedly transferring 300 timber logs from the log pond at Sungai Antu Pala via a tug boat without a permit.

For this case, Nixon fixed bail at RM5,000 in one surety.

He also fixed Dec 9 and Dec 10 as the hearing date.

Both of the accused were charged under Section 17(b) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries the maximum 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of not less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever higher.

MACC prosecuting officer Katherine Nais prosecuted while both of the accused was not represented.

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A year on, typhoon-devastated Philippine city fails to rebuild homes

Manuel Mogato PlanetArk 29 Oct 14;

The mayor of the central Philippine city worst hit by a super typhoon a year ago said on Tuesday fewer than 100 of 14,500 promised permanent homes had been built and that thousands were still living in danger zones.

Typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on Nov. 8, 2013, with seven-meter storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.

Haiyan killed or left missing close to 8,000 people and displaced as many as four million.

"Building more permanent homes is very slow and takes time. Hopefully, by January next year, the pace will pick up," Mayor Alfred Romualdez, nephew of the Philippines' former first lady, Imelda Marcos, told reporters.

He blamed the lack of suitable land where houses which could withstand 250-kph (155-mph) winds could be built but said he hoped the 14,500 homes would be completed by 2017.

"There are still 3,000 people in danger zones, many in tents and we want them all transferred to transitional shelters by next month," Romualdez said.

"...One year after typhoon Haiyan, we are back but only about 50 percent," he said, saying the recovery effort was slowed down by bureaucracy, shortage of manpower and resources and other delays.

Construction materials, like galvanized iron sheets, were also scarce, he said, forcing people to use fallen coconut trees to build temporary shelters.

Romualdez did not mention graft as a factor in one of Asia's most corrupt countries.

The Philippines came in at 94 out of 175 countries in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index last year.

The Aquino government has a six-year 170 billion pesos ($3.80 billion) master plan to rebuild devastated areas, building about 200,000 homes and providing more sustainable jobs for 2.6 million people who living below the poverty line.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Protection plan 'will not save Great Barrier Reef'

BBC News 28 Oct 14;

Australia's Academy of Science says an Australian government draft plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef will not prevent its decline.

The group said the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan failed to address key pressures on the reef including climate change and coastal development.

Much bolder action was needed, said Academy Fellow Professor Terry Hughes.

"The science is clear, the reef is degraded and its condition is worsening," said Prof Hughes.

"This is a plan that won't restore the reef, it won't even maintain it in its already diminished state," he said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"It is also more than disappointing to see that the biggest threat to the reef - climate change - is virtually ignored in this plan."

Public submissions on the draft plan - an overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef from 2015 to 2050 - closed on Monday.

The plan will eventually be submitted to the World Heritage Centre in late January, for consideration by Unesco's World Heritage Committee mid-next year. Unesco has threatened to place the reef on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

According to scientists, another major threat to the reef's health is continual expansion of coal ports along the Queensland coast.

In a controversial move earlier this year, the Australian government approved a plan to dredge a port at Abbot Point in Queensland, and dump thousands of tonnes of sediment in the sea.

Prof Hughes is one of the authors of a submission by the Academy to the Australian and Queensland governments.

The scientists argue the plan fails to effectively address major factors driving the reef's decline, including climate change, poor water quality, coastal development and fishing.

But a press release from the office of Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the plan was based on the "best available science".

"We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient - and we are making strong progress," Mr Hunt said.

"Water quality in the World Heritage area is improving as a result of a partnership between farmers and governments to stop fertilisers, chemicals and sediments running off farming land and into the rivers and creeks along the Queensland coast."

He said the government had also worked hard to eliminate the disposal of capital dredging - to deepen existing facilities - in the reef's Marine Park.

Great Barrier Reef
=Stretches about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) along the eastern Queensland coast, covering an area the size of Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.
=Made up of a network of 3,000 individual reef systems, islands, islets and sandbars
=Home to more than 1,500 different species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusc and hundreds of bird species.
=Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
=A Unesco World Heritage site - Unesco is also considering listing it as endangered.

Great Barrier Reef protection plan 'ignores the threat of climate change'
Scientists warn the government’s strategy is likely to prove ineffectual as ‘unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left’
Oliver Milman The Guardian 27 Oct 14;

The Australian government’s multimillion dollar plan to halt the worrying decline of the Great Barrier Reef does nothing to address the leading threat of climate change and is likely to prove largely ineffectual, scientists have warned.

In its formal response to the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, which was drawn up by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Australian Academy of Science states the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef”.

Although a recent government assessment found climate change is the leading threat to a declining reef, the Australian Academy of Science states there is “no adequate recognition” in the 2050 plan of the importance of curbing greenhouse gases.

The academy’s submission is also critical of what it sees as the plan’s lack of specific funded goals to restore the reef’s condition, along with a failure to properly tackle issues such as poor water quality, coastal development and illegal fishing.

“The draft 2050 plan represents business-as-usual in terms of how escalating pressures on the reef are adequately regulated [or not], when much bolder action is required to restore the values of the reef and prevent further degradation,” the submission states.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow, said the plan was focused on the sustainable development of four “mega ports” adjacent to the reef, rather than conservation of the reef itself.

“There’s no questioning in the report of whether two or three ports would be better than four,” Hughes told Guardian Australia.

Ports such as Abbot Point, near the Queensland town of Bowen, are being expanded to allow for larger exports of fossil fuels.

“There’s nothing in the plan on addressing climate change,” Hughes said. “The science is quite clear that you can’t keep the Great Barrier Reef in good condition if you’re going to develop huge coal reserves. We are already on our way to 2C warming and unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left.

“We need a plan to transition away from fossil fuels well before 2050. Australia’s emissions reduction goal is very, very weak by international standards. We have stewardship of one of the world’s premier reef systems and also stewardship of a huge reserve of fossil fuels – it’s a conflict of interest, really.”

Key threats to the reef, aside from climate change, include pollution flowing onto the ecosystem from agriculture, cyclones and a plague of coral-eating starfish. The reef has lost around half its coral cover in the past 30 years.

The Reef 2050 plan sets a target of a 50% reduction in nitrogen and a 60% drop in pesticides flowing onto the reef by 2018. There is also a plan to protect dugongs and turtles. However, there is no new funding mentioned beyond the $40m Reef Trust program announced in the budget.

The plan includes no specific ban on the dumping of dredged seabed spoil into the reef’s waters, which scientists say can smother and badly damage coral and fish. A proposal to dump dredged spoil into the Great Barrier Reef marine park for the Abbot Point project was recently reversed, although a similar dumping plan is in place to facilitate the expansion of other areas, such as the Townsville port.

“The proposed dredging is unprecedented and will swamp the reef,” Hughes said.

“The government has spent around $400m on reducing by about 10% the amount of sediment flowing out onto the reef but this is completely overtaken by the amount of sediment being dumped.

“There are literally hundreds of reports saying mud dumped on your head isn’t good for you. It isn’t really rocket science. The government needs to engage with scientists more than they did when putting together this draft plan.”

Unesco’s world heritage committee will decide next year whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “in-danger” list. Unesco has called for port expansion to be limited in order to safeguard the health of the reef.

“There’s no doubt the short-term goal of this report is to keep Unesco happy,” Hughes said. “I’m not sure if that will succeed or not but in terms of this being a plan for the next 35 years, there are missing targets that need to be in there.

“It would be a terrible outcome if the Great Barrier Reef is placed on the in-danger list; it would be very damaging to Australia’s reputation. I haven’t met anyone who wants that to be the case but I wouldn’t be surprised if Unesco went ahead and did it.”

On Monday, Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, unveiled new guidelines to increase the number of divers able to lethally inject crown-of-thorns starfish, which are munching their way through the reef’s coral.

A spokesman for Hunt said the 2050 reef plan is based on the “best available science to ensure it responds to new and emerging issues”.

“We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient – and we are making strong progress,” he said.

“The Great Barrier Reef remains an incredibly diverse and rich marine environment. We know the reef still retains the values for which it was listed as world heritage.

“The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $180m a year in the reef’s health – that’s billions of dollars over the next decade.”

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Global overpopulation would ‘withstand war, disasters and disease’

National Academy of Sciences says even brutal world conflict or lethal pandemic would leave unsustainable human numbers
Mark Tran The Guardian 28 Oct 14;

The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain, according to a study.

Rather than reducing the number of people, cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling would have a better chance of achieving effective sustainability gains in the next 85 years, said the report published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We were surprised that a five-year WW3 scenario, mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the first and second world wars combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century,” said Prof Barry Brook, who co-led the study at the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

The second world war claimed between 50 million and 85 million military and civilian lives, according to different estimates, making it the most lethal conflict, by absolute numbers, in human history. More than 37 million people are thought to have died in the first world war.

Using a computer model based on demographic data from the World Health Organisation and the US Census Bureau, the researchers investigated different population reduction scenarios. They found that under current conditions of fertility, mortality and mother’s average age at first childbirth, global population was likely to grow from 7 billion in 2013 to 10.4 billion by 2100.

Climate change, war, reduced mortality and fertility, and increased maternal age altered this prediction only slightly. A devastating global pandemic that killed 2 billion people was only projected to reduce population size to 8.4 billion, while 6 billion deaths brought it down to 5.1 billion.

“Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14% of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today. That’s a sobering statistic. This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment,” said co-author Prof Corey Bradshaw, also from the University of Adelaide.

He added: “We examined various scenarios for global human population change to the year 2100 by adjusting fertility and mortality rates to determine the plausible range of population sizes at the end of this century. Even a worldwide one-child policy like China’s, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100.”

Brook, now at the University of Tasmania, said policymakers needed to discuss population growth more, but warned that the inexorable momentum of the global human population ruled out any demographic quick fixes to our sustainability problems.

“Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term,” he said. “Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”

Bradshaw added: “The corollary of these findings is that society’s efforts towards sustainability would be directed more productively towards reducing our impact as much as possible through technological and social innovation.”

With its echoes of Thomas Malthus, who warned of the unsustainability of rapid population growth in the 18th century, the report warned that the current demographic momentum means that there are no easy policies to change the size of the human population substantially over coming decades, short of extreme and rapid reductions in female fertility.

“It will take centuries, and the long-term target remains unclear,” said the report. “However, some reduction could be achieved by mid-century and lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed. More immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources.”

In the absence of catastrophe or large fertility reductions (to fewer than two children per female worldwide), the study said Africa and south Asia are likely to experience the greatest human pressures on future ecosystems.

A report released last week by researchers from Lund University, in Sweden, said the ability to produce food in the Sahel region in Africa is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance.

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Best of our wild blogs: 28 Oct 14

Common Palm Civet: Request for sightings, samples of poop, etc.
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A pair of Peregrine Falcons
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

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Underwater World Singapore criticised for ‘sub-standard’ animal living conditions


SINGAPORE — Animal welfare groups have called on Underwater World Singapore (UWS) to cease all animal shows and have called on the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) to respond, noting that UWS appeared to have violated laws by making an injured dolphin perform in shows.

In its 30-page report, Wildlife Watchers (Singapore) — in collaboration with Sea Shepard Conservation Society (SSCS) — also questioned the health conditions of the dolphins and the welfare of the otters housed in Dolphin Lagoon and Underwater World Singapore respectively.

“WW (SG), SSCS and the supporting groups are concerned about the future of the animals housed in UWS and Dolphin Lagoon, and is doubtful of its capabilities to maintain the animals’ physical and psychological health with proper husbandry, medical care and ethical conservation efforts,” said the report.

Tipped off by members of the public, WW (SG) and SSCS subsequently initiated their own investigations, conducted on two separate occasions in July and August, which culminated in the report released today (Oct 27).

Pictures include in the report showed dolphins housed in “degrading conditions” where corrosion of pool beams were clearly visible to the audience. Pictures also showed an adult dolphin named Han with a visible infection on the top of her name and another wound on her bottom left jaw.

The report also said high volume of music and noise generated by the audience during the shows were causing stress to the animals. An un-named newborn calf and its mother, Pan, were housed in the same pool throughout the shows and were observed swimming in repeated circular motions.

“The health of the dolphins held captive in Dolphin Lagoon are in appalling and deteriorating conditions which clearly show that adequate care of these animals have not been not met,” the report said. “The display and usage of sick/injured animals for shows is in clear violation of the law as well as contradicts UWS’ stand on conservation and education.”

In the course of their investigation, the groups also found the otters in UWS housed in “sub-standard conditions, indicating an obvious lack of welfare and serves no education and conservational purpose.” Investigations found three otters were separated in two enclosures with a lone otter in a single enclosure.

“It is well established that this otter is a sociable animal; it is not recommended or considered ever acceptable to keep a lone animal,” said the report.

Adding that the otters’ enclosures were below the minimal standard in animal welfare requirements, the report said: “The otters are only given small exhibition spaces with insufficient sheltered area and a small shallow pool with little water in each enclosure in which … disallows the natural behaviour of otters diving and swimming to hunt for their food as well as bonding through play with other otters in the family group.”

In addition to ceasing the animal shows, the list of recommendations WW (SG) included in the report called for AVA to respond to UWS’ violations of the Animals and Birds (Pet Shop and Exhibition) Rules 2004.

Other suggestions also include immediately starting a rehabilitation-and-release programme for all dolphins housed in Dolphin Lagoon back into the wild, improve housing and husbandry for the otters, as well as for UWS to indicate future plans for the newborn dolphin calf and its mother.

Responding to TODAY’s query, Underwater World Singapore has clarified that the dolphin mentioned in the report was diagnosed with a form of non-contagious skin cancer and is being treated by a marine mammal veterinarian.

Health checks are conducted regularly and the results show that, apart from the cancer, which is being specifically treated, the dolphin is generally in good health,” said a UWS spokesperson, adding that it does not participate in any performance or programme.

UWS also said its trainers have minimised the appearance of the dolphin in public at the main pool but have no intention of isolating it from interacting with other dolphins, given their active and friendly nature.

Dolphins at Underwater World in 'satisfactory' condition: AVA
Channel NewsAsia 27 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Underwater World Singapore (UWS) responded to allegations by animal welfare groups that their animals were kept in "sub-standard" conditions, saying on Monday (Oct 27) that a pink dolphin at Dolphin Lagoon was actually suffering from a non-transmissable form of skin cancer.

"The dolphin mentioned in the Wildlife Watchers’ report was diagnosed skin cancer, which is not transmissible, and is being treated by our marine mammal veterinarian," said a spokesperson from Underwater World Singapore.

"It is under the attentive care of our team of marine mammal trainers," added the spokesperson. "Health checks are conducted regularly and the results show that, apart from the cancer, which is being specifically treated, the dolphin is generally in good health."

Underwater World Singapore also said that appearance of the dolphin in public at the main pool was "minimised" and that it does not participate in any performance or programme. The public are informed of its condition whenever they are asked about it, UWS added.

The oceanarium also said that the dolphin still enjoys playing with the other dolphins and is not being isolated from the others.

Responding to comments that their otters are being kept in "sub-standard conditions", Underwater World Sentosa said it offers the otters the "opportunity to explore different stimuli in different enclosures at both the front and the back of the house".

"Our trainers observe the otters closely and frequently, and vary the enrichment activities according to the otters' interest," added the oceanarium. "All enrichment items provided and the method of delivery are reviewed to make sure that our otters interact safely and positively with their enrichment toys."

The facility complies with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) licensing conditions for animal conditions, the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson was, however, not able to comment on the other dolphins and animals mentioned in a report by Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.


Animal welfare groups Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Sunday published a report, detailing the "appalling" health of dolphins held at the Dolphin Lagoon as well as "sub-standard" conditions of other animals at Underwater World Singapore.

The report featured seven points detailing the investigations, including that of infrastructure degradation and wounds seen on the dolphins itself. Of the former, the report stated that "corrosion of pool beams were visible from audience's viewpoint".

As for the health of the dolphins, the report noted: "One of the adult female dolphin named 'Han' has a visible infection on top of her head and another distinct wound on the left side of her bottom jaw. From pictures take in July and August, both injuries show no signs of improvement and appear to have worsened over time.

"Our investigators also found fresh scratch marks on another adult dolphin, suspected to be bite marks inflicted by other dolphins kept together in the facility," the report stated.

Other points in the report included dolphins and fur seals made to display and perform "unnatural acts for entertainment", while the Asian Small-clawed Otters were housed in "sub-standard conditions, indicating an obvious lack of welfare".

Members from both groups looked into the conditions and welfare of the pink dolphins at the Lagoon in July and August by sitting in on programmes featuring the animals. Through these sessions, they logged seven hours of observation, videos and photos during the two days - Jul 23 and Aug 17, 2014 - they were at the tourists attractions on Sentosa.


AVA said in a statement that following feedback from Wildlife Watcher, it inspected UWS and found the dolphins to be in "satisfactory condition". It noted that one of the dolphins is being treated for non-contagious skin cancer and that it is not used for animal performances.

An AVA spokesperson added that UWS is required to comply with AVA's licensing conditions and guidelines to ensure animal welfare and professional standards for the accomodation, management and acquisition of animals.


Commenting on the findings, ACRES Chief Executive Louis Ng said ACRES is "appalled by the conditions of the dolphins at Dolphin Lagoon". He added that it supports the campaign by Wildlife Watcher (Singapore).

"Dolphins clearly do not do well in captivity and belong in the vast open oceans. The global movement to end the keeping of dolphins in captivity is growing. ACRES hopes that companies in Singapore will make a moral and ethical decision to end the confinement of dolphins in captivity.”

Mr Ng also cited Switzerland as an example, noting that the keeping of dolphins or whales in zoos or waterparks will end, while India, too, banned the keeping of cetaceans, or marine mammals, in captivity.

- CNA/kk

Pink dolphin at Underwater World Singapore has non-contagious skin cancer
Straits Times 27 Oct 14;

One of the pink dolphins at Underwater World Singapore, diagnosed with a non-contagious form of skin cancer. -- PHOTO: WILDLIFE WATCHERS AND SEA SHEPHARD CONSERVATION SOCIETY

SINGAPORE - A pink dolphin kept at Underwater World Singapore is suffering from a non-contagious form of skin cancer, the attraction's spokesman has clarified.

"Health checks are conducted regularly and the results show that, apart from the cancer, which is being specifically treated, the dolphin is generally in good health," she told The Straits Times. It is now being treated by a marine mammal veterinarian.

The spokesman was responding to concerns raised by a local wildlife group here about the welfare of the pink dolphins kept at Underwater World Singapore. One of them - a female dolphin called Han - had a "visible head and mouth injury with skin problem", the wildlife group had charged in a 31-page report.

Other findings mentioned in the report included the rusty enclosures, dolphins being made to perform unnatural acts, such as balancing a basketball on its snout, and the marine mammals being made to perform to excessively loud music.

These observations were made after investigators from the group, Wildlife Watcher, together with representatives from global environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, bought tickets to attend two shows in July and August.

The report was sent to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Haw Par Corp - the organisation that manages Underwater World Singapore - in early October.

The AVA told The Straits Times that it has inspected the facility and "found the dolphins to be in satisfactory condition".

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, or pink dolphins, are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This means the animals are threatened with extinction and that commercial international trade in them is prohibited.

UWS rebuts wildlife group’s report on health, treatment of dolphins

SINGAPORE — A wildlife group here recently released a 30-page dossier — complete with pictures of a dolphin with skin problems, corroded play pens and otters being housed in small enclosures with shallow pools — alleging that the health of the pink dolphins at Underwater World Singapore (UWS) was “appalling and deteriorating” and that sick or injured animals were being exhibited or used for shows, which are against the law.

Their allegations were rejected by UWS, which clarified that the sick dolphin was suffering from skin cancer and was being treated by its marine mammal veterinarian. Given that the condition is not transmissible, the trainers decided not to isolate the sick dolphin and to instead allow it to play with the other dolphins in the main pool. The dolphin does not participate in any performances or programmes, UWS said.

In response to media queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that following feedback from Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) — which had prepared the report in collaboration with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — it has inspected UWS and found the dolphins to be in satisfactory condition.

“However, one of the dolphins has been diagnosed with a form of non-contagious skin cancer and is currently undergoing treatment by UWS’ team of animal healthcare professionals ... The affected dolphin is being monitored closely by the team and is not used for animal performances,” the authority said.

The report stated that a member of the public had alerted Wildlife Watcher (Singapore) and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on July 1 to the condition of the dolphins kept in the Dolphin Lagoon at UWS.

The report — which was supported by Indonesian groups Animal Friends Jogja and Jakarta Animal Aid Network — was prepared over two visits to UWS on July 23 and Aug 17. Over a total of seven hours, the investigators visited the enclosures and recorded their observations of animal shows and programmes for the public.

“The display and usage of sick/injured animals for shows are in clear violation of the law as well as contradict UWS’ stand on conservation and education,” the report said.

Apart from the health of the animals and the condition of their enclosures, the report said the dolphins and fur seals were made to perform “unnatural acts for entertainment”. The loud music before and during the show — measuring between 90 and 101 decibels — also caused stress to the animals, it added.

Among other things, the report called on UWS and its owner Haw Par Corporation to cease all animal shows with immediate effect and start a rehabilitation-and-release programme for all its dolphins. It also sought a response from the two parties as well as the AVA on the findings.

When contacted, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), which has spoken out against the keeping of dolphins in captivity, said it supported the campaign by Wildlife Watcher (Singapore). Adding that he was appalled by the conditions at the Dolphin Lagoon, ACRES executive director Louis Ng said: “ACRES hopes that companies in Singapore will make a moral and ethical decision to end the confinement of dolphins in captivity.”

In response to media queries, UWS clarified the condition of the sick dolphin and provided a picture of it taken more recently on Oct 17 — seemingly in better condition.

“Given that the sight of the dolphin’s skin condition may cause discomfort to some of our guests, our trainers have minimised its appearance in public at the main pool, while still allowing it the chance to interact with the other dolphins at times and without restraining its fun-loving nature,” UWS said. “We share its condition with the public whenever asked about its appearance and thus far, our guests have responded with empathy and acceptance.”

UWS said health checks were regularly conducted on it and the results showed that, apart from the cancer, which is being treated, the dolphin is generally in good health.

On the otters, UWS said their health and welfare were a top concern for their trainers. “Whenever possible, we offer our otters the opportunity to explore different stimuli in different enclosures at both the front and back of the house. Our trainers observe the otters closely and frequently and vary the enrichment activities according to the otters’ interest,” it added.

The AVA reiterated that UWS was required to comply with the licensing conditions and guidelines to ensure animal welfare and professional standards, which include the accommodation, management, acquisition or disposal of the animals and breeding management.

The authority said it conducts inspections as part of the licensing regime and in response to public feedback to ensure compliance with the licensing conditions.

Download the investigation report here

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