Best of our wild blogs: 5 Feb 14

Butterflies Galore! : Tailed Jay
from Butterflies of Singapore

Remembering the Battle of Pasir Panjang
from Otterman speak

World Pangolin Day
from sundapangolin

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Oil spillage clean-up and containment efforts continue - Update 3

MPA 4 Feb 14;

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) continues to coordinate the containment and clean-up of the oil spillage in Singapore's waters following two collisions south of Jurong Island and off Marina South on 29 and 30 January 2014 respectively.

The clean-up efforts have resulted in significant improvements to Singapore's port waters, except for minor oil patches in the vicinity of the Southern Islands, and a few patches of oil at Pulau Seringat shoreline which are being removed by response craft and personnel using oil booms and skimmers.

MPA continues to work closely with the National Environment Agency and the Sentosa Development Corporation on the landward clean-up operations.

MPA is monitoring the situation in case there are undetected patches of oil.

Members of the public who spot any oil patches in our waters or coastlines can also contact MPA's 24-hour Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325-2488/9.

Vessel traffic in the Strait of Singapore and port waters remain unaffected. Port operations are also not affected.

Investigations on both incidents are on-going.

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Water supplies ramped up as dry spell hits S’pore

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 5 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — The dry spell in Singapore over the past few weeks has prompted national water agency PUB to ramp up the supply of NEWater and desalinated water to maintain water levels in the reservoirs.

For the past two weeks, 20 to 25 million gallons per day (mgd) of NEWater have been pumped into reservoirs to top up water levels, a PUB spokesperson said in response to TODAY’s queries.

Over the past 19 days, only 0.2mm of rainfall — which fell in Jurong on Sunday — was recorded across the island, the National Environment Agency said.

Skies were overcast yesterday afternoon, but no rain fell. Last month, only 75.4mm of rainfall and five “rain days” — defined as having a minimum rainfall of 0.2mm — were recorded at the Meteorological Services Singapore’s Changi climate station. In comparison, the long-term average rainfall for January is 242.4mm and there are, on average, 15 rain days in the month.

The NEA said the Republic is in the dry phase of the Northeast Monsoon season, which is characterised by generally windy conditions, cooler temperatures and drier weather. The phase set in earlier this year, and is expected to last till the end of this month or early next month, the NEA said.

For the next two weeks, “generally fair and occasionally windy conditions” can be expected on most days while some passing showers can be expected on a few days towards the end of next week, the NEA said. The rainfall for this month is expected to be below average, it added.

The NEA said Singapore last experienced similar dry periods between Jan 26 and Feb 10 in 2009, and between Feb 3 and 18 in 2011.

NEWater and desalinated water are two of Singapore’s four national water sources, meeting up to 30 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, of the country’s water needs. The other sources are imported water and water from local catchment areas.

During dry months, the PUB works closely with the NEA to monitor weather conditions and the implications on reservoir levels, the PUB spokesperson said.

She noted that, as with previous years, water usage increased slightly — by about 10 to 15 mgd — two weeks before Chinese New Year due to activities such as the traditional spring cleaning. After the festivities, it returns to the usual level.

Nevertheless, the spokesperson called on the community and industries to “play their part to save and conserve our precious water resource”.

Meanwhile, due to dry weather conditions in the region, fires and hot spots were detected yesterday in central Sumatra, the NEA said.

A total of 108 hot spots with “a few isolated plumes” of smoke were visible over northern and central Sumatra, it added.

Nevertheless, the NEA said that Singapore is not likely to be affected by the smoke from the fires in Sumatra due to prevailing winds blowing from the north-east. It will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary, the agency added

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Govt to release granite stockpile to mitigate supply disruption

Chitra Kumar Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The government will release the national granite stockpile from Wednesday to main contractors who have on-going projects that require granite for concreting works.

This comes after a temporary disruption in the supply of granite from Indonesia.

The Building and Construction Authority said in a statement on Tuesday that it has briefed various industry groups about the situation.

The release of the national stockpile will tide the industry over as supply from other regional sources is ramped up.

The BCA also urged the industry to continue to diligently look for alternative sources and diversify.

- CNA/al

National granite reserve released as Indon supply disrupted
Today Online 5 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is activating the release of its national stockpile of granite, in light of the temporary disruption in the supply of granite from Indonesia.

The national stockpile for granite was last activated in 2007, when there was a short disruption. In the same year, the Government activated the national stockpile of sand after the Indonesian government issued a blanket ban on sand exports.

Last month, Indonesia imposed an export ban on a range of mineral exports globally, which has reportedly affected some construction projects here. Yesterday, the BCA said it would activate its granite stockpile from Feb 5 for main contractors who have ongoing projects that require granite for concreting works.

“The release of the national stockpile will tide the industry over, while it ramps up supply from other regional sources. The BCA urges the industry to continue to diligently look for alternative sources and diversify,” the BCA said.

The authority is also helping importers and other stakeholders in the industry to ramp up supply from other sources of granite.

Granite supply disruption expected to have little impact on S'pore construction
Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 5 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The temporary disruption of granite supply from Indonesia is expected to have minimal impact on the building and construction industry in Singapore.

Industry players said that is because contractors are likely to have other regional sources of the material - such as Indochina and China - that they can count on to tide them over.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the construction industry has been diversifying its granite sources since 2007, when there was a similar disruption to the supply.

Kenneth Loo, first vice-president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: “BCA had encouraged suppliers to procure from a distant source as part of their policy... it's very easy for us to ramp up supply to ease the shortage."

Mr Loo is also the executive director of Straits Construction Singapore.

Early last month, the Indonesian government imposed a global ban on a range of mineral exports that include forms of granite.

Contractors in Singapore cautioned that turning to alternative sources could lead to higher shipping costs, which could push up the price of granite slightly.

But they do not expect building projects in Singapore to be impeded.

They are also optimistic that supplies of granite from Indonesia will resume soon.

The BCA said the national granite stockpile will be released to main contractors who have ongoing projects requiring granite for concreting works, to mitigate the impact of the disruption.

HDB said on Wednesday that it does not foresee the disruption having a major impact on the progress and completion of its projects.

Mr Loo said: "Even though the situation is not that bad, actually the move by BCA to release the stockpile is actually very good. I would say it's a gesture that will put the confidence level back in place. People won't panic and there won't be any disruptions."

- CNA/xq

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Singapore Botanic Gardens progresses in UNESCO World Heritage Site bid

Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's first bid for a UNESCO World Heritage Site moves ahead with the submission of the official nomination dossier for Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The dossier details the gardens' historical, economic and socio-cultural importance.

It also includes a proposed site management plan, which outlines the nation's long-term commitment towards the site's protection, if it is successfully awarded World Heritage status.

The submission to UNESCO follows four months of public consultation led by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and the National Parks Board (NParks).

In a statement on Tuesday, NHB said over 200 feedback submissions were received for both the nomination document and the site management plan.

Most participants contributed memories or pledged their support for the bid.

Many fondly recalled their visits to the gardens, band performances, feeding of the swans, as well as romantic walks.

The statement said the rich heritage of Singapore Botanic Gardens will continue to be shared through various activities organised by NHB and NParks, including learning journeys for students, musical performances, and an exhibition focusing on the use of plants in the Malay culture.

In March 2014, NHB will present an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore that traces the progress of Singapore from a colony to a garden city through the historical development of Singapore Botanic Gardens.

- CNA/gn

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New Sumatra hotspots and volcano ash not likely to affect Singapore: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: 108 hotspots with a few isolated plumes were visible over northern and central Sumatra on Monday

Giving this update on Tuesday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the fires were due to dry weather conditions over the region.

It said isolated hotspots were also detected in Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, but no smoke plumes or haze were observed there.

The NEA said with the prevailing winds blowing from the northeast, Singapore is not likely to be affected by the smoke from the fires in central Sumatra.

The agency will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates where necessary.

In a separate update, the NEA said that volcanic ash from Indonesia's Mount Sinabung, which continues to erupt intermittently, is unlikely to affect Singapore.

An eruption on 4 February resulted in an ash plume of 3.6km.

Based on dispersion model simulations by the Meteorological Service Singapore as well as Australia's Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, the volcanic ash is expected to move southeast, and be confined to the northern half of Sumatra for the next 48 hours.

The NEA added that three other volcanoes are currently classified at Level III by the Indonesian Centre for Volcanology and Geologic Hazard Mitigation, indicating that there could be an eruption, or that an eruption has occurred with little threat.

As these volcanoes are at a much greater distance from Singapore than Mount Sinabung, the NEA said there is no immediate concern.

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Sumatra volcano ash blowing towards Malaysia

The Star 5 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: A thin layer of ash from a Sumatran volcano located 271km west of Pulau Pangkor is expected to arrive in parts of southwest peninsula Malaysia by this morning.

National Weather Forecast Centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the affected areas could include coastal regions of Negri Sembilan, Malacca as well as Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian and Kulaijaya in Johor.

“The amount of ash is not that much at the moment, probably a thin layer. It may be a bit hazy but it will be difficult to say how much,” he said when contacted.

He added that an advisory about the volcanic ash had been sent to the aviation industry.

The Meteorological Department in a statement on Monday had said that volcanic ash from Mount Sinabung, which erupted over the weekend and again on Monday, could be blown towards the southern states due to a northwesterly wind that is expected to persist until tomorrow.

“This condition may cause the volcanic ash to move towards the southern part of peninsular Malaysia, which may interfere with flight operations and reduce visibility,” the department said.

The peak of the volcano located in north Sumatra is 2,460m above sea level.

AFP reported 15 people were killed when Sinabung erupted over the weekend, shooting hot ash and rocks into the air. Authorities had evacuated about 30,000 people.

Sinabung, which had been sporadically erupting since September, is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

When contacted, an official from The Department of Civil Aviation said that flight operations throughout Malaysia were currently unaffected.

“The important thing for aircraft to be able to land is visibility, which remains good in all our airports.

“If there is a deterioration in visibility, we will put our standard operating procedures into effect to ensure smooth flight operations,” said the official.

The Jakarta Post reported that the Indonesian government had raised the status on another 19 volcanoes in the country to alert level, which is the second-highest category in the wake of the Sinabung eruption.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency issued the raised status on Monday for the 19 volcanoes, which are scattered across the archipelago, but had yet to call for the evacuation of residents nearby.

In Johor Baru, state Department of Environment (DOE) director Mokhtar Abdul Majid said they would be taking Air Pollutant Index (API) readings every hour to assess the air quality.

“All this depends on the direction and speed of the wind but we will issue updates accordingly,” he said.

“Currently, (as of 5.30pm yesterday) there is no need to worry as the API reading for the state is an average of 50,” he said.

Any API reading between 51 to 100 is considered as moderate, 100 to 200 as unhealthy, 200 to 300 as very unhealthy and 300 and above as hazardous.

Mokhtar said if the layer of ash hits districts here, it would be advisable for the elderly, children and those with respiratory diseases to refrain from heading outdoors.

Haze alert in Johor
New Straits Times 5 Feb 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Districts in Johor will be hit by slight haze following the eruption of Mount Sinabung in the Karo district in North Sumatra, Indonesia, the Malaysian Meteorological Department said.

Its central forecast division director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah yesterday said the current north westerly wind caused the ashes from the eruption to move towards the south of Peninsular Malaysia.

"The wind direction will cause the ashes to move to districts in Johor namely Batu Pahat, Pontian, Kulaijaya and Johor Baru."

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Malaysia: Over half of Kedah’s forest reserves can be logged

Embun Majid The Star 5 Feb 14;

ALOR SETAR: More than half of Kedah’s 300,000ha forest reserves is suitable for logging activities, said state Forestry Department director Ku Azmi Ku Azman.

He said 180,000ha can be gazetted as production forest and allowed to be logged while the rest would be gazetted as protected forest.

Of the area – almost six times the size of Penang island – 80% is secondary forest.

Ku Azmi said some of these areas had already been logged between 30 and 35 years ago.

He said the size may seem huge but the concessionaries would only practise selective logging and replanting of the area.

He added that the size was only an estimate as the state government would need to provide a feedback on the matter.

“A logged area cannot be touched for between 30 and 35 years to allow the replanted trees to grow.

“The protest on several logging areas during the Pakatan Rakyat era was due to no clear indicators on the status of the logged land.

“Since Barisan Nasional took over the state administration last year, no new logging licences have been issued except for those already approved by the previous government,” he said, adding that the department had completed a detailed study on the matter including a new guideline on logging in the state and would submit the report to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir today.

On the allegation of rampant logging activities near the Pedu water catchment area, Ku Azmi said the logging tender was approved during the Pakatan era.

Also present were state Local Government, Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy, Housing and Human Capital Committee chairman Badrol Hisham Hashim and Pedu assemblyman Kama Noriah Ibrahim. Badrol Hisham said the department would hold a special briefing for villagers in the Pedu and Kuala Nerang areas about logging activities being carried out there. He said the briefing was to clear any misconception about logging activities that were highlighted by several Opposition blogs.

He added concessionaries had their permits approved by the previous state government.

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Indonesia: Leopard detected in conservation forests in East Java

Antara 4 Feb 14;

Tulungagung, E Java (ANTARA News) - The East Java chapter of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) has detected Javanese leopards (Panthera Pardus Melas) in four conservation forests in the region, stated its head, Hartoyo.

He released the statement here on Tuesday, in response to a declaration on saving the endangered Javanese leopard issued at a Javanese leopard conservation conference in Bogor, West Java, on January 29-30, 2014.

"So far, we have come to know about it, based on the reports indicating the existence of the wild animal and also from some eye witnesses," he remarked during a telephonic conversation, when asked to give confirmation about the existence of the Javanese leopard.

He admitted that the existence of the Javanese leopard was not properly documented as it is not included as species whose protection must be prioritized based on the ministerial regulation.

The Javanese bull (Bos Javanicus), Javanese eagle (Nisaetus Bartelsi), and cockatoo (cacatua galerita) have been identified by the ministry as three rare species and their monitoring has been prioritized.

The Javanese leopard is not included in the BKSDAs monitoring priority list as it is not included in the list of protected animals, although its existence in the forests is almost extinct.

"We are awaiting a legal decision to declare the Javanese leopard as a protected animal before we can make any protection plans," he emphasized.

He explained that the existence of the big cat has been threatened by the loss of habitat due to deforestation as well as conflict with humans and diseases.

In the past five years, the Javanese leopard has been spotted in the Ijen (Bondowoso), Sempu (Malang), Sigoho, and Picis (Ponorogo) forests, he claimed.

However, their existence had yet to be confirmed based on the research and scientific monitoring data, he added.

"Now, confirmation of its existence is based on an ocular analysis and general information obtained from the witnesses. There has been no direct contact between the BKSDA officials and the animal, except in Ijen, some time ago," he stated.

Leopard observer Hendra Gunawan pointed out that the Javanese leopard is the only big cat that still exists in Java after the Javanese tiger (panthera tigris sondaica) was declared extinct in the 1980s.

"Thus, unless serious efforts are made to protect the leopard, the fate of this big cat will also follow suit," he remarked at the conference in Bogor.

The Javanese leopard has been categorized as critically endangered species and put in the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature under the category Appendix I in CITES.

No exact data is available on the exact numbers of the Javanese leopard existing in the forests of Java.

"Since mapping was conducted four years ago, the animal was mostly found in Halimun-Salak or Pangrango Mountain (West Java)," Hendra reported.

Reporting by Slamet Agus Sudarmojo

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Indonesia: ‘Savage’ Bear Mauls Farmer in Rare Attack

Jakarta Globe 4 Feb 14;

A wild bear attacked a 52-year-old farmwoman on Monday in Salak Baru, an island in central Sumatra’s Jambi province.

“It’s true, a resident of Salak [Baru] island was the victim of a savage animal, and the victim has been taken to Sarolangun hospital,” Sarolangun Police Chief Adj. Sr. Cmr. Ridho Hartawan told news portal “We will coordinate with the BKSDA [Natural Resources Conservation Agency] to handle it, as the animal that attacked the resident is a protected animal, so we need to coordinate with related institutions.

The victim, Nursijah, 52, received treatment for severe wounds.

The state-run Antara news agency reported that Nursijah, a farmer, was fetching wood underneath her traditional rumah panggung [stilt house] at 8:00 a.m. when she noticed the bear in a moment of mutual surprise.

The bear mauled her and tried to bite her head, she said, while she lay on the ground screaming.

When local residents came to help, the bear fled into the jungle. Nursijah suffered wounds on her head and body. Residents took her to a nearby public health center, whereupon she was transferred to the hospital.

The attacker was likely a sun bear, which are native to Sumatra. Sun bears eat mostly fruit and insects and are known for their unslakeable lust for honey.

Although they are the smallest of bears, they sometimes attack without provocation, according to the BBC.

Like slow lorises, orangutans, and other Sumatran mammals, sun bears face habitat loss, which can lead to human-animal conflict.

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