Best of our wild blogs: 7 Feb 14

Fri, 07 Feb 2014, 4.00pm @ CR1: David Bickford on “Discovering Biodiversity and Exploring Extinction” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Toddycats are back with Love MacRitchie Walks 2014!
from Toddycats!

Black Baza casting pellet?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Man fined S$41,000 for illegally keeping 32 wild animals in HDB flat

Today Online 6 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — A man has been fined of S$41,000 for the possession of illegal wildlife, the highest penalty that has been sentenced to a private individual for this offence.

Acting on a public tip off, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) had seized 32 wild animals from the man’s HDB flat on June 3 last year. The animals seized included a slow loris, black-tailed prairie dogs, ornate horned frogs and yellow-footed tortoises.

Investigations showed that all the animals had been imported into Singapore without the relevant import permits. Nineteen of them were endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and would require additional CITES import permits from the AVA.

As Singapore is a signatory to the CITES, it is an offence to be in possession or to trade in any illegally imported or acquired CITES species. The penalty is a fine of up to S$50,000 per specimen (up to of S$500,000) and/or jail of up to two years.

The AVA has asked members of the public who have information on illegal wildlife activities, to contact AVA at 6325 7625.

Man fined record amount for illegal wildlife possession
Channel NewsAsia 6 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: A man was fined S$41,000 on Thursday for the possession of illegal wildlife.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore said in a statement that the fine was the highest penalty that had been imposed on an individual for the offence.

Acting on a public tip off, AVA inspected an HDB flat on 3 June 2013, and seized 32 wild animals from the unit.

AVA's investigations showed that all the animals had been imported into Singapore without the relevant import permits.

Furthermore, of the 32 animals, 19 were classified as endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which would require additional CITES import permits from AVA on top of the import permit.

A permit is required for the import and export or re-export of animals to and from Singapore.

As Singapore is a CITES signatory, it is an offence to possess or to trade in any illegally imported or acquired CITES species.

Those found guilty of the offence face a fine of up to S$50,000 per specimen, not exceeding an aggregate of S$500,000.

A jail term of up to two years may also apply.

- CNA/al

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NHB launches tour of abandoned war site in Marsiling

Today Online 7 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — With no walking tracks in sight, the dense Marsiling jungle is one area many city slickers would probably give a miss.

But amid all the thick vegetation lies an abandoned war site that was once used as a fuel depot by the British Royal Air Force, and later the Imperial Japanese Army for their aviation fleets during World War II.

To commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Singapore this year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has launched the guided Marsiling Tunnels Tour covering the site, which has several sealed tunnels.

Those who join the tour assemble at Kranji MRT Station and are taken by bus to the jungle. They then trek a 100m to the site.

Although the site has several tunnels, tour participants will not able to explore them since they have been sealed.

The NHB said the tunnels were last seen open in 2008. It is not known who sealed the tunnels.

When asked if the board is planning to unseal the tunnels for future use, NHB Group Director for Policy Alvin Tan said: “The NHB is presently embarking on a fact-finding exercise, and will explore the possibility of opening the tunnels with the relevant agency (or) agencies, subject to an assessment of the tunnels’ structural integrity and other safety considerations.”

Based on wartime intelligence reports and declassified documents obtained from the United Kingdom’s national archives, NHB researchers found that the Marsiling site, despite its close proximity to a British naval base, was used as a fuel reserve facility for the Royal Air Force and not for the Royal Navy.

During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in the early 1940s, the Imperial Army modified the facility and included five tanks to store fuel.

While most war structures built by the Japanese were destroyed after they surrendered in 1945, the facility at the site is still intact because of its remote and isolated location, said Mr Tan.

Apart from the Marsiling Tunnels Tour, four other tours will be available to the public between Feb 8 and 15. They include a visit to the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter and a night tour at Opium Hill, where a battle between the Malay Regiment and Japanese soldiers raged. All the tours are free of charge.

For more information on the Battle of Singapore Tours and registration details, visit and

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Chance of El Nino conditions seen after Northern Hemisphere spring: U.S. forecaster

Chris Prentice PlanetArk 7 Feb 14;

U.S. weather forecaster Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said on Thursday there was an increasing chance of the El Nino weather pattern after expecting neutral conditions through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.

In its monthly report, the CPC maintained its outlook that El Nino was unlikely through the spring, but noted that a change in temperatures "portend warming in the coming months."

That represented a change from the CPC's previous outlook of neutral conditions through summer 2014.

El Nino can cause flooding and heavy rains in the United States and South America and can trigger drought conditions in Southeast Asia and Australia.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Sea wall 'eco-engineering' can help boost biodiversity

Mark Kinver BBC News 6 Feb 14;

Slight modifications to sea defences - at little or no extra cost - can boost the level of biodiversity found in intertidal zones, a study has shown.

Researchers found that attaching artificial rock pools to the structures created habitats suitable for mobile creatures, such as starfish or crabs.

They added that they hoped the results would encourage future designs to incorporate "ecological engineering".

The findings have been published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal.

"When we looked into the economics, more than 80% of money that is spent to protect coastlines from climatic changes is spent building new sea walls, increasing the height, stability and length of existing ones," explained co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist based at the US-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

"This is because we want to protect human lives and we also want to protect the important infrastructure," he told BBC News.

"But when we looked at how those seawalls were being built, they were being built according to engineering and financial criteria, not really on their capacity to support marine life."

Dr Browne, who was based at the University of Sydney for the research, said colleague and co-author Prof Gee Chapman had spent many years examining how plants and animals found in the intertidal area of shorelines were affected by engineering.

"The overwhelming evidence she had was that there were major differences between the types of organisms that you find on seawalls compared with those on natural shorelines," he said.

"One of the major differences was the absence of mobile organisms - such as limpets, starfish and crabs."

So the researchers set up an experiment to find out why this was the case and what could be done to mitigate the impact of the structures.

Previous studies had shown that when artificial shorelines replaced the natural ones, there was usually a change of species locally as sedimentary habitat was replaced with hard materials.

"Although many native species live on the hard substratum, they are not usually the same species that live in or on soft substratum," they wrote.

They suggested that the changes to the composition of organisms living on or near the structure may be the result of the steep sides of the sea defences, limiting the intertidal area available to species.

"Alternatively, the walls may lack important intertidal habitats microhabitats," they added. "The most obvious are rock pools."

In order to test the idea whether simple additions to otherwise featureless sea walls in Sydney Harbour would make the structures more biodiversity friendly, the researchers installed a number of large, concrete flowerpots to create artificial rock pools.

They observed: "The size of the pot, its height on the wall and its location affected the assemblages that developed, with greater abundances and diversity of organisms in shallower pots and those at mid-shore levels."

Dr Browne explained: "We have shown quite clearly that you are able to improve levels of biodiversity by more than 110% and the size of the pot and the location it is situated matters.

"If we are going to be spending more than US $144bn each year to build new [flood defences] or increase the height or stability of existing ones and 80% of those funds on coastal defences, we really need to be starting to think about how we can put these types of ecological engineering approaches into practice.

"The measures can be added to the work with little or no additional cost without diminishing the integrity of the structure."

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