Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jan 14

My love for TMSI-SJI
from Peiyan.Photography

CMBS Dive at Lazarus & Tekukor
from Pulau Hantu

lone otter at breakfast @ SBWR 26Jan2014
from sgbeachbum

My First Outing in 2014
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Red Junglefowl eggs
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Oriental Whip Snake
from Monday Morgue

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Many things unchanged on quiet St John's

Janice Tai And Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jan 14

BORN, bred and wed on St John's Island, 67-year-old Mohamed Sulih and his wife make up half the villagers left on this haven south of Singapore.

And over the years, he has seen the island transform from a kampung of 150 villagers, to a holding area for political detainees and later, a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.

"I feel lucky to be able to see all these changes up front," said Mr Sulih, the island's former caretaker who has stayed on even though most other villagers had left for the mainland by 1975.

The other two villagers are the current caretaker and his spouse.

There was also a reclamation project started in 2000 to build a causeway to the neighbouring Lazarus Island, and then a $120 million effort to bring water, electricity, gas and phone services from Sentosa to the Southern Islands.

More change is coming for the 39ha island with the only marine station for academic research, located in the south-eastern corner of St John's, possibly slashing operations by March next year.

The National University of Singapore's Tropical Marine Science Institute's (TMSI) coastal facilities, which opened in 2002, has been beset by high operating costs - driven by the diesel needed for generators, the boats to transport employees and security.

Its impending closure has drawn several visitors, including writer Alex Yang, to the island.

"I wanted to see the work they do as it is one of a kind," he said of his trip on Wednesday.

But plenty of things on the island have not changed, and that is why it continues to reel in a small but steady stream of nature lovers.

They include tourists, picnicking migrant workers from the Philippines and Bangladesh, Indian and Myanmar expatriates, and fishing enthusiasts.

Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), which manages the island, said it averages 28,000 visitors every year.

Kusu Island, in comparison, gets 104,000 visitors annually.

Visitors have the option of chartering their own boats or taking a public ferry from Marina South Pier.

The service, run by operator Singapore Island Cruise, costs $18 for a two-way trip (for adults, and $12 for children), including a stopover at nearby Kusu Island.

On weekdays, the island can get as few as two visitors, said SDC's executive officer on the island, Mr Eddy Ali. But it wakes up during weekends, the island's busiest period.

More than 170 people, for instance, made a trip down to the island last Sunday.

The allure of the hilly island lies in its pristine swimming lagoons, pockets of mangroves and stretches of natural rocky shores ringed by coral reefs.

Shoals of dolphins are sometimes spotted off the island's jetty in June and August, while bird watchers go to observe the majestic dives of birds of prey such as Brahminy kites.

Said TMSI director Peter Ng: "Jumping in the water, chasing after crabs, is something you can do here, unlike a more manicured place, and you can see a lot of different animals that used to be there along mainland shorelines such as Changi."

It is also a popular camping ground for students and church groups, as well as cyclists or joggers willing to rough it out on the island's rugged slopes.

"The landscape is less organised and quite raw, and I really enjoyed the breeze and blue waters," said undergraduate Timothy Ng, 23, who cycled around the island for the first time on Wednesday.

Anglers Keano Chua, 34, and Raymond Chua, 27, went home with a haul of 13 squid after five hours of fishing on Wednesday.

"The catch is much better than on the mainland," said Mr Keano Chua, who goes to St John's to fish every week.

Other anglers such as Mr Ng Teck Seng even stay overnight by pitching makeshift tents along the coastline.

"You don't have to rush for the last ferry, which leaves at 2.45pm, and the groupers are more active at night," said the music researcher, 54.

History buffs are also enamoured by the island's past.

Naval architect and heritage enthusiast Jerome Lim, 49, who enjoyed exploring a now-exhumed graveyard there as a young boy, said: "There was always that air of mystery about the place, and as a schoolboy, it always felt like an adventure."

TMSI's Professor Ng hopes the place will retain its rustic vibe in years to come.

The authorities said there are no immediate plans for St John's Island, and it will remain accessible to the public for recreational use.

It is the quiet life there that keeps Mr Sulih, who retired in 2010, on the island - mending nets in the day, catching squid along the jetty at night, and surrounded by a clutch of free-roaming chickens and cats.

"It is peaceful and not busy like on the mainland," said Mr Sulih, whose three grown-up sons live on the mainland.

"It is like my own secret place."

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Malaysia: Cold weather may not cause rain

New Straits Times 27 Jan 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The ongoing cold weather that has caused shivers among Malaysians in some parts of the country may not result in heavy rains.

Malaysian Meteorological Department director-general Che Gayah Ismail said there was no indication of heavy rain in the next few days.

"The department is closely monitoring the weather changes and if there is an indicator, we will issue an advisory," she told The New Straits Times.

She said the standard operating procedure was to issue an advisory between 24 and 48 hours before such an event.

"We are still in the northeast monsoon period and it is normal to experience a few episodes of heavy rain."

On the possibility of heavy rains causing floods, she said it depended on the monsoon surge.
On the changes in temperature, she said Kuala Krai in Kelantan broke the record with its temperature dropping significantly from the 32oC on Jan 7 to 17.2oC on Jan 22.

Several countries in the region were also experiencing colder weather, with northern Vietnam snowing last month and Thailand's capital, Bangkok, hitting 15oC.

A local daily reported an oceanographer had advised Malaysians to watch out for heavy rain that could cause floods in the next few days following the cooler weather.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's Institute of Geospatial Science and Technology Associate Professor Dr Maged Mahmoud Marghany said the cold monsoon wind could get trapped in the warm atmospheric front once it hit the land mass in the east coast, Sabah and Sarawak.

He said in June 2006 forest fires in Indonesia resulted in increased humidity and heat in the atmosphere and due to the slow, weak wind above Johor, the heat hovered in the area during the monsoon season.

When the cold northeast monsoon wind converged with the heat, it resulted in heavy rain and floods in Johor, the state nearest to the forest fire, he said.

According to a statement in the Meteorological Department's website, January and February are when the minimum temperatures are relatively low compared with that of the other months.

The cooler than normal temperature in most areas, especially in the eastern and northern areas of the peninsula, was due to the strong north-easterly winds from mainland China, which was currently experiencing winter.

In addition, less cloud coverage throughout the peninsula this week also helped to lower the temperature at night and in the early morning.

Based on the weather conditions and wind direction for the next few days, the cooler weather was expected to continue until early this week.

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