Best of our wild blogs: 9 Jan 14

Launch of the Faith & Nature Eco-Guide!
from The Green Bush

Welcome Swallow adult picks up faecal sacs from chicks
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Common Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

Requiem or recovery?: the Sumatran rhino 200 years after its description from news by Jeremy Hance

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Govt to review priorities, plans related to environmental sustainability

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 8 Jan 14;

SINGAPORE: The government will embark on a national exercise this year to review Singapore's priorities, plans and projects related to environmental sustainability.

It will do so in two phases, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the inaugural Singapore Sustainability Symposium on Wednesday.

The symposium is organised by the Nanyang Technological University's Sustainability Earth Office.

The two-and-a-half day symposium will see some 120 local and international participants discuss sustainable solutions to overcoming challenges faced by cities.

The first phase is expected to begin by March and will involve public consultation to set out the country's vision and common values.

Dr Balakrishnan said the exercise aims to involve all Singaporeans, and the government will also be working closely with non-government organisations.

He said the next phase will take place from the middle of the year and will involve mapping out projects and programmes. This will contribute to the revised Sustainable Singapore Blueprint by the end of the year.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "If you look at the global climate change, the impact on our weather, you look at epidemics, you look at floods, droughts, trans-boundary haze -- these are all early warning signs.

“I believe we need to get ahead of that, and we need to embark on a consultation exercise because the solutions cannot just lie with the government.

"The solutions have to be generated in laboratories; they need to be upscaled so they become economically viable. Policies and legislation may need to be adjusted.

“By the end of the year, you will see a revised Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, one which will sketch our priorities (and) plans, and will provide guidance for the projects in the years to come."

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Massive plans to develop Sipadan

Muguntan Vanar The Star 9 Jan 14;

KOTA KINANABALU: A China-based company is looking at a massive RM2.5bil integrated tourism development project in an area around the world-renowned diving haven of Pulau Sipadan.

The company – China’s Diving Best – is in discussion with Sabah Economic and Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) to facilitate their proposed development of a large scale development of a tourism project in the Semporna area.

SEDIA chief executive officer Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Johari said they had met the officials of the company a second time on Monday as follow up to the first meeting in June last year.

He said the China group had expressed strong interest in developing a large area in Sipadan into tourism-based resort, commercial and high-end residential areas with a focus on marine activities.

Under their proposal, he said that the project would be developed under five zones - residential area; commercial development; high-end resort; diving school and administrative centre at total investment cost of RM2.5bil.

He said under the proposal of the company they expect to receive one million tourists annually; provide 4,000 employment opportunities; house a population of 12,000 people; and have a construction scale of 700,000 square metres.

Dr Yaakub said that the meeting with the company’s delegation involved SEDIA, Tawau Municipal Council, Sabah Tourism Board, and Immigration department.

The meetings served as for SEDIA to answer key enquiries from the foreign investors, including fiscal incentives; immigration policies; real estate and land policies; available resources; advantages of investment in Sabah; and project construction management policies.

Diving Best, is known more for its Sanya Diving Training Centre business in Sanya City of China’s Hainan Province.

It has been certified by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS), Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and International Scuba diving school (SSI), with qualified professional divers engaged in diving tourism and leisure sport.

The company is also known for working with various international hotel brands such as the Ritz Carlton, Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, and also China’s Horizon Resort and Spa group in opening several sea tourism-based hotels and resorts in China.

Sabah is well-known in China as an eco and marine-based tourism destination that has raised interest in the company to to enter Sabah.

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Malaysia: Weatherman forecasts strong winds, rough seas up to Monday

The Star 9 Jan 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Category Two strong winds and rough seas occurring in the waters off Kelantan and Terengganu are expected to prevail up to Monday, according to the Meteorological Department.

It said in a statement that the winds of between 50 and 60 km per hour and waves exceeding 4.5 metres in height were dangerous for all beach activities and shipping, including ferry services.

It also forecast Category One strong winds and rough seas in the waters off Pahang, eastern Johor, Sarawak, the federal territory of Labuan and Sabah (in the Interior, West Coast, Kudat and Sandakan divisions).

The winds of between 40 and 50 km per hour and waves as high as 3.5 metres were expected to prevail from tomorrow up to Monday, it said, adding that this situation was dangerous for small boats and sea sports and recreational activities. - Bernama

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Indonesia: Rethink needed on turtle conservation

University of Queensland 9 Jan 14;

Green turtle populations have expanded so much in Indonesia’s east coast islands marine protected areas that they are adopting new feeding habits, degrading the ecosystem and threatening their own conservation.

Scientists and conservationists had believed that marine protected areas would be key to enhancing the recovery of protected species and ecosystems.

But a new international study by The University of Queensland and Radboud University Nijemegen in the Netherlands has shown this conservation method may have the opposite effect.

Lead scientist Dr Marjolijn Christianen from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and her collaborators, including Professor Peter Mumby from The University of Queensland, have shown that destructive grazing of high numbers of green turtles concentrated in a small number of marine protected areas leads to on-going degradation and imminent collapse of seagrass habitat.

The study found that when the turtle numbers increased to about 20 turtles per hectare their foraging habits changed from eating only seagrass tips to digging up and consuming the roots and rhizomes, creating abundant bare gaps and increasing erosion and reducing seagrass regrowth.

Dr Christiansen said the study used a combination of experiments, monitoring and computer models to determine that the increasing grazer density of the turtles would cause a sudden collapse of their own habitat.

“We discovered that turtles adopted a new grazing strategy and started to dig for roots after they had already removed 100 per cent of the plants that lie above the seabed,” Dr Christianen said.

“This is primarily because turtles from the area concentrated inside the reserve and reached unprecedented population densities.”

UQ’s Professor Mumby said recent protection efforts had been successful in many areas worldwide, but green turtles still remained highly threatened.

“The protection of major nesting beaches, tightened hunting restrictions, and additional conservation measures have led to population increase, including inside marine protected areas,” Professor Mumby said.

“At the same time, however, their feeding grounds – sea grass meadows – have been declining worldwide at a fast rate as a result of poor management of coastal pollution.

"As a result, seagrass beds – the turtle’s favoured habitat – have declined."

He said it was alarming to see turtles using such desperate strategies to find food and that the real conservation problem was not the marine protected areas but the lack of good seagrass habitat in unprotected areas.

“We really need to do more to protect coastal areas and the quality of their habitats, and this means controlling development and agricultural chemicals, and preventing mud entering rivers,” he said.

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Nature Society slams land-use plan

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times 8 Jan 2014;

THE Nature Society (NSS) has taken issue with the Government's latest land-use draft masterplan, calling it "embarrassingly negligible" in its commitment to conserving biodiversity.

In a strongly worded document posted on its website last Friday, the society said that only 4.4 per cent of Singapore's projected 76,600ha land area in 2030 was seriously committed to preserving the country's wealth of plants and animals.

This falls well short of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which Singapore ratified in 1995. The UN recommended that by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas should be conserved.

A draft of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's masterplan, which guides land use over the next 10 to 15 years and is revised every five years, was unveiled last November. It will be finalised by June after taking in the public's feedback.

It included a pledge to expand green spaces, introduce more than 60km of "nature ways" by next year to link green spaces for birds, butterflies and small animals, and build a new eco-corridor through the future Tengah town to connect the Western Water Catchment and the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves.

While plans to create more public parks are laudable, they cannot count towards serious efforts to preserve flora and fauna, as parks are created mainly for people, said NSS.

"With the exclusion of the public parks and the so-called nature areas... we have only 4.4 per cent of Singapore's total land area (in 2030) committed seriously to biodiversity conservation."

The NSS's 4.4 per cent figure includes nature reserves, which are protected from development by law, but excludes reservoirs as well as previously announced "nature areas", such as a 20ha natural greenery patch in Admiralty Park, which are left alone only if there is no need for development.

Although ratification of the UN convention does not mean "total adherence" to it, Singapore's 4.4 per cent is a "shocking, niggardly contribution" to the benchmark, NSS said.

Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment chairman Lee Bee Wah said Singapore is a country and city with competing land uses. "We should not harp on the percentages. It is more important to strike a balance," she said, adding the 17 per cent target may be more achievable in other places with more land.

The URA said it has received NSS' feedback and is assessing the suggestions.

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