Best of our wild blogs: 3 Mar 14

2014 - Free Chek Jawa Boardwalk trips on the 4th Saturday of each month from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Biodiversity for kids during the March school holidays
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Don’t be THAT Guide! (Reflections on Guiding)
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Happy wild boars at Chek Jawa (01 March 2014)
from Psychedelic Nature

Chek Jawa, 1st Mach 2014
from teamseagrass

Territorial fight of Libellago lineata, the Golden Gem damselfly
from Bird Ecology Study Group

“The Ecological Benefits of Restocking Giant Clams” – Presentation from Neo Mei Lin and Conservation of Giant Clams in Singapore

Can palm oil move past its bad reputation?
from news by Rhett Butler

Blue Ring Angelfish
from Monday Morgue

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Singapore may experience occasional slight haze: NEA

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: In its latest haze advisory, NEA said the prevailing northeasterly winds will keep the haze from Sumatra away from Singapore “for the next few days”.

But it cautioned the island may experience slight haze occasionally due to the accumulation of particulate matter, especially in the mornings.

The National Environment Agency said 70 hotspots were detected in Indonesia's Sumatra island on Sunday, with smoke plumes and haze visible in Riau province.

NEA said fair and warm conditions are also expected to persist over the next few days.

It added it will continue to monitor the situation closely, and provide updates.

- CNA/xq

SCDF calls for public to be alert amid rise in vegetation fires
Seet Sok Hwee Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore is in the midst of a dry spell, and the number of vegetation fires has increased.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force is calling on the public to be on alert, and help prevent fires during this period.

Meanwhile, the Nature Society is recommending that the government close some trails in the nature reserves – like how it is done in countries like Australia.

Tony O’Dempsey from Nature Society Singapore said: "In Australia, we have regular dry season and regular bush fire season. Our parks get closed in various stages, depending on the severity of the drought.

“So during the initial drought, we'll close some trails. When the drought becomes extreme and the fire hazard is extreme, then we'd start to close some of the nature's reserves and parks - for the protection of flora and fauna, as well as the human population."

There have been 99 vegetation fires across Singapore in the first seven weeks of the year.

This is compared to 25 fires in the same period last year.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked to conserve water and to use only what is needed.

He said: "Luckily we now have desalination and NEWater, otherwise our reservoirs would be emptying out, and we might be in real difficulty."

Mr Lee noted that the "submerged boardwalk at MacRitchie Reservoir is high and dry. At Lower Seletar, you can see where the water has receded, and the bottom is exposed. The Istana grounds too have not been spared. "

He also posted a link to PUB, the national water agency, for tips on how to save water.

- CNA/xq

Slight haze expected in next few days: NEA
Today Online 3 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The Republic may experience “occasional slight haze” for the next few days, particularly in the mornings, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In its latest advisory last night, it said 70 hot spots were detected in Sumatra, down from 138 last Friday.

Despite the Air Pollution Index in Port Klang, Malaysia, entering the unhealthy level of 121 yesterday morning, the NEA said the prevailing north-easterly winds will keep the haze from Sumatra away from Singapore. However, there might be occasional slight haze due to the accumulation of particulate matter under stable atmospheric conditions, it added, noting that fair and warm conditions are expected here for the next few days.

Last Friday, Indonesia’s meteorological agency warned that Singapore may soon be choking on the same haze that has cloaked Riau province for nearly a month as wind directions change — a prediction at odds with the NEA’s. Forest fires began to burn in Riau last month, prompting Riau Governor Annas Maamun to declare a State of Emergency last Wednesday.

As at 10pm last night, Singapore’s three-hour Pollutant Standards Index was 31 — in the “good” air quality range.

Singapore may get ‘occasional slight haze’ over next few days: NEA
Today Online 2 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE – Singapore may experience “occasional slight haze” over the next few days, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said today (March 2).

The NEA said 70 hotspots were detected in Indonesia’s Sumatra island today, with smoke plumes and haze visible in Riau province.

However, the prevailing northeasterly winds will keep the haze from Sumatra away from Singapore for the next few days, said the NEA, although there may be occasional slight haze due to the accumulation of particulate matter under stable atmospheric conditions, especially in the mornings.

Fair and warm conditions are expected over the next few days.

The NEA added it will continue to monitor the situation closely, and provide updates.

Town councils get on board with saving water during dry spell
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 1 Mar 14;

Some town councils have started water conservation measures in light of the dry spell, with one suspending monthly block washing at its housing estate.

Chairman of the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council Zainal Sapari said in a post on his Facebook page: “I have asked the town council to suspend the monthly block washing to conserve water. (A) dirty block is an irritation, but using precious water for this purpose is not wise, given the dry spell we are experiencing.”

Over at Jurong Town Council, its Chairman David Ong said he is looking at the possibility of getting the blocks washed every six weeks instead of four.

However, rubbish chutes will continue to be flushed twice a day to maintain hygiene.

While Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council will still be carrying out block washing using high-pressure jet on a monthly basis, its multi-storey car parks will be washed “as and when required” instead of monthly, said its spokesperson.

At Moulmein-Kallang Town Council, water-saving measures it has adopted include mopping the common areas, “where feasible”, instead of washing, and reminding workers and contractors not to leave water running when using high-pressure jets during block washing, said its General Manager Justin Lim.

The town council will be reminding residents to defer activities such as spring cleaning.

“We will continue to explore ways to save water, while ensuring that doing so does not hamper the provision of services to residents,” Mr Lim added.

While Punggol South’s grassroots organisations will be holding their annual charity car wash today, their grassroots adviser, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, said they are mindful of the need to conserve water during this dry season.

“We will be adopting the best practices to cut down on water wastage, just as we have done every year, such as hand-washing the cars instead of using hoses,” he said. WOO SIAN BOON and SUMITA SREEDHARAN

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Thin haze from Riau reaches Singapore, Indonesian Meteorology Agency says

The Jakarta Post 2 Mar 14;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, says thin haze caused by land and forest fires in Riau has reached Singapore, due to a change in wind direction.

“At 7,000 to 10,000 feet of elevation in the atmosphere, there was a vortex that altered the direction of the haze,” BMKG Pekanbaru staff member Ardhitama said as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said the haze heading toward the Malacca Strait would likely be thicker, as there was a typhoon potential in the northern part of the Philippines, which could affect the wind direction.

"So far, the wind is still blowing northeast to southwest so the haze is moving to West Sumatra and Bengkulu,” he said.

The BMKG predicts the chance of rain falling in Riau over the next three days is very slim. Local rains of light intensity are likely to occur only in the western regions of Riau.

Terra and Aqua satellites identified on Sunday morning 98 hotspots in Riau. Thick haze has continued to blanket Pekanbaru, disrupting flights.

Authorities at Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport said 12 flights had been delayed as the haze had reduced visibility to only 800 meters. (idb/ebf)

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Indonesia: Govt Turns to Water Bombers as Riau Fires Continue

Jakarta Globe 2 Mar 14;

A Medan construction worker watches sunset through a smokey haze created by Riau fires on March 1, 2014. (AFP Photo/Sutanta Aditya)

Pekanbaru. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Sunday began using aerial firefighting methods in an effort to quell blazes that continued to burn in 12 Riau subdistricts and municipalities.

“The latest data gathered shows that fires have spread across 7,972 hectares of land,” Riau Haze Emergency Relief Taskforce head Brig. Gen. Prihadi Agus Irianto said in Pekanbaru, the capitol of Riau, on Sunday.

Riau Governor Annas Maamun declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, when 6,000 hectares had burned.

Prihadi said on Sunday that fires were burning in Bengkalis, Dumai, Indragiri Hilir, Indragiri Hulu, Kampar, Kuantan Singingi, the Meranti Islands, Pelalawan, Rokan Hilir and Siak.

Bengkalis and the Meranti Islands were the hardest hit, with 3,513 hectares and 2,648 hectares burning on Sunday, respectively.

Prihadi said ground and air efforts were converging on the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve, where fires allegedly lit by careless villagers had burned for weeks.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites detected 98 hotspots in Sumatra on Sunday — a drastic drop from the 700 seen on Wednesday.

Dry weather in recent weeks had proven to be an obstacle for firefighters, Prihadi said.

“When we’ve managed to extinguish fires in two spots, for example, two other hotspots appear in another area,” he told state-run Antara News Agency.

Despite concerns that water dropped from above might not snuff sufficiently the underground roots of fires, the BNPB began flying two airtankers on Sunday.

“Today, two airplanes dispatched by the BNPB dropped water bombs from the air because we’re still deprived of rain,” Riau administration spokesman Fahmi Usman said.

He said that four helicopters would soon join the aerial efforts, including two owned by pulp and paper companies.

Fires were spotted in a Jakarta-based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) concession and in Tesso Nilo National Park in Pelalawan.

“We’re coordinating with Riau’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency [to fight the fires] in Tesso Nilo,” Fahmi told Indonesian news portal

The Riau fires, started by slash-and-burn agriculture techniques and exacerbated by weather, have burned since early February, destroying great swathes of land, displacing people from their homes, forcing schools to shut down, threatening the respiratory health of thousands, disrupting flights and raising the ire of Singapore, where legislation is under deliberation that could result in harsh penalties for Singapore-listed entities found to have contributed to the haze problem.

North Sumatera hase delays 28 flights
Antara 2 Mar 14;

Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - A total of 28 flights at Kualanamu Airport, North Sumatra, were delayed on Sunday due to thick smock covering the airport.

"Up to 9 pm on Sunday, a number of flights at Kualanamu airport were delayed. There was also a plane flying from Aceh province which was forced to land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia," Kualanamu Airport Duty Manager Djamal Amri said here on Sunday night.

He said that the delay of flight departures happened with all flight routes, particularly flights to Pekanbaru, Riau province.

At least 24 flights were delayed for hours at Bakanbarus Sultan Syarif Kasim II (SSK II) Airport due to thick haze blanketing the Riau Provincial city of Pekanbaru on Saturday, an airport official said.

"The longest delay, reaching nine hours, happened with a Lion Air plane from Kuala Namu airport, North Sumatra, to Pekanbarus SSK II airport," Hasnan, the airport duty manager, said here on Saturday.

The Lion Air plane was scheduled to arrive at SSK II airport at 7 am, but due to thick smoke the plane did not land until 4 pm.

He said other flights had an average delay of about three hours.

"Visibility happened to drop to 800 meters because of the smog that covered the airport," he added.

Baiquni, who took over as airport duty manager on Saturday night said, on average, there were 10 scheduled flights that were disrupted every day.

Thus, over the past three weeks about 210 flights were delayed at the SSK II airport in Pekanbaru.

Those flights included domestic and international flights.

The Terra and Aqua satellite has detected 1,046 hotspots from forests, plantations and peatland fires across Sumatra Island, it was reported Saturday morning.

"Of the total number, 963 were found in Riau Province. The number is significantly up from those on the previous day," Sugarin, the head of the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology and geophysics agency, said here on Saturday.

The NOAA 18 satellite, however, detected only 138 hotspots across Sumatra on Friday, including 70 in Riau province, according to the Riau disaster mitigation office (BPBD).

So far this month, the NOAA 8 satellite revealed 2,208 hotspots on Sumatra Island, including 1,272 in Riau Province.

In Riau, hotspots were found in Bengkalis (312), Pelalawan (198 titik), Dumai (174), Siak (147), Indragiri Hilir (130), Rokan Hilir (110), Meranti (91), Kampar (49), Indragiri Hulu (29), and Kuantan Singingi (16).

Also, Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif stated that some 99 percent of forest and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan were deliberately set.

"There should be sanctions to stop recurrences. Slash-and-burn farming methods exist in Sumatra and Kalimantan, but the most important thing is that they should be controlled," Maarif noted in a statement on Feb. 28.



Editor: Suryanto

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Malaysia: Unhealthy API readings recorded in two states

The Star 3 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: Unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings were recorded in several areas in Selangor and Negri Sembilan as folks complained about the hazy sky.

Port Klang saw unhealthy levels of haze for the entire day yesterday, with a final reading of 118.

Seremban recorded an API reading of 111 as of 5pm, while Selangor’s Banting hit 108.

Putrajaya, too, was smog-ridden with a reading as high as 127 in the afternoon. It improved to 112 later.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE), an API reading of below 50 is regarded as good, 50-100 is moderate, 100-200 is unhealthy, 200-300 very unhealthy, and above 300 hazardous.

Other states in Malaysia were in the moderate and good range.

The Meteorological Department’s forecast director, Mohd Helmi Abdullah, said the haze was a normal occurrence during hot and dry seasons.

“It would probably stay on this level until the dry season ends,” he said, adding that the hazy condition was due to fires.

In George Town, the API readings for both Prai and Seberang Jaya at 5pm was at 64.

The DOE monitoring station at Universiti Sains Malaysia recorded 59 at 5pm.

Visibility in Bayan Lepas and Butterworth was at 6km at 7pm.

A DOE spokesman attributed the haze to smoke caused by forest fires on the mainland.

Bush, peat fires in Pahang under control
New Straits Times 3 Mar 14;

KUANTAN: Tireless efforts by firemen have helped control most of the bush and peat fires in several hot- spots here and in Pekan and Rompin yesterday.

Despite the past few days' sweltering heat and strong wind, firemen managed to contain the bush fires in Jalan Kuantan-Pekan near Penor here, which had destroyed more than 50ha of peat land.

A state Fire and Rescue Department operations centre spokesperson said less than 10ha of the areas were still on fire following continuous efforts by firemen to battle the bush fires.

"Strong wind and low-water pressure are the main challenges since firemen entered the affected area on Wednesday.

"They also have to use machetes to clear the path to enable fire engines to reach the areas," he said yesterday.

As of yesterday, other hot spots in Pahang were spotted along the Kuantan-Kuantan Port bypass road, near Sungai Ular here; Ne-nasi and Kampung Serambi (Pekan); and Ladang Sungai Penor (Rompin). Firemen were called in to douse the fires.

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Despite govt efforts, high-rise littering refuses to go away

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 3 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The problem of high-rise littering appears to be rearing its ugly head again, with the number of offenders being caught each month doubling since December.

Figures from the National Environment Agency (NEA) show that 17 people were caught for tossing things such as cigarette butts, tissue paper and food waste out of flats in the span of two months — Dec 4 last year to Feb 13 this year, an average of 8.5 cases per month.

This is up from 4.3 cases per month on average, or a total of 73 such cases, in the previous 17 months, starting from August 2012 when surveillance cameras were installed to curb high-rise littering.

Worryingly, potential killer litter remains a concern — half of the 2,200 or so complaints on high-rise littering that the People’s Action Party (PAP)-run town councils get every year are related to this.

Notably, there were three such cases in the span of one week in December, when items such as a dustbin, a microwave oven, bricks and a water dispenser were flung down from flats.

Speaking to TODAY, Dr Teo Ho Pin, who is Coordinating Chairman of the PAP Town Councils, said high-rise littering remains a problem despite many years of education and public awareness efforts. “This is something we still need to address, as it poses hygiene problems and safety hazards to the public,” he said.

In response to queries, the Housing and Development Board said that, since January 2008, it has served warning letters to 51 households who were convicted in court for throwing potential killer litter. The HDB and town councils have also issued more than 267,000 warning notices to lessees and tenants for placing and/or hanging objects in a precarious manner.

The Environmental Public Health Act was amended last month, doubling the maximum penalty for littering-related offences to S$2,000 for first-time offenders — the first revision since 1987. Fines were also increased to S$4,000 for second-time offenders and S$10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.

During the parliamentary debate on the legislative amendments, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that high-rise litterbugs are difficult to nab. Only 19 offenders out of the more than 1,300 complaints it got last year were prosecuted, after the NEA’s “effort and considerable expenditure”.

The highest penalty meted out thus far was a S$4,800 fine to an offender for committing multiple acts of high-rise littering, said the NEA, in response to queries.

Meanwhile, the NEA said surveillance cameras targeting litterbugs have been put up at around 700 locations and helped to address the problem in about 80 per cent of these places.

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Malaysia: Water rationing begins

The Star 3 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: While some Klang Valley and Putrajaya folks are well-prepared to face the month-long water rationing, some first-timers scramble to adjust to the days when the taps run dry.

Water rationing started yesterday for hundreds of thousand of households to tide over the shortage during the dry spell.

P. Thangamma, 55, who works at a clinic near her house, said she only found out about the water rationing from her neighbour at the Kampung Muhibah low-cost flats on Saturday night.

She had to scramble to store water for herself and her 19-year-old son, who is currently suffering from chicken pox.

“The heat is already unbearable and it is causing my son to feel more itchy. Now with the water rationing, it is making life even harder,” said Thangamma.

She was disappointed that no proper notice was put up in her area.

“If there were notices on the board near the lifts, people would have read it and would be prepared, instead of finding out at the eleventh hour,” she said.

Fellow resident, Zaidah Arshad, 36, said she too found out only on Saturday night and managed to store some water.

“This is the first time I’m experiencing water rationing so I am not sure how to plan for my family,” said the anxious mother of four.

Kanan Muniandy, 38, a lorry driver, had to fill up buckets with water from the firefighters’ hose reel.

“The water is murky and dirty, how can we use this for cooking, drinking and cleaning? I’m using this for my toilet,” said Muniandy, who lives on the 17th floor of the low-cost flats.

In Taman Sri Sentosa, people were seen buying water from the vending machines nearby.

Restaurant operator Amin Kassim, 60, said this was the first time he was experiencing water rationing, despite living there for several years.

With a restaurant in operation, Amin said he may need to fork out at least RM50 more to ensure his restaurant has ample water.

In Taman OUG, retired couple S. Balakrishnan and wife Annie Elizabeth said up to noon yesterday, they still had water supply.

The couple were prepared for dry taps and said the water tank supply in their home should be enough.

“I feel instead of two days, it should be every alternate day. That way it will not be difficult for us,” said Balakrishnan.

His neighbour, Goh Bee Choo, 50, said her family of seven, including two children would be spending less time at home due to the water rationing exercise.

“We will need to send our two young children to the nursery more often because of the water rationing. The nursery is situated in an area not affected by the rationing.

“At least the children will not be affected by this,” said Goh, adding that her family was also forced to eat out more.

Rains bring relief tofolk in Klang Valley

DAM LEVELS STILL FALLING: However, they will not stop water rationing, say experts

KUALA LUMPUR: DOWNPOURS and, in some cases, thunderstorms occurred in several areas in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and here yesterday, raising hopes among those experiencing water shortage.

However, water and meteorological experts agreed this was a temporary reprieve from the dry spell which would not end water woes, especially the rationing exercise being carried out in several parts of Selangor and here.

For the rationing to be lifted, Drainage and Irrigation Department water resources and hydrology director Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor said water levels at the Batu 11 and Klang Gates dams, the two main sources of supply to the affected areas, must at least rise beyond their normal levels.

This means that the dams have to receive 9.47m of rain, combined, to reach this optimum level. The water level at the Batu 11 dam in fact dropped yesterday to 100.42m from 100.54m on Friday. Its normal level is 102m.

Klang Gates, which had 89.94m of water on the same day, dipped to 89.89m yesterday. It needs 94m to function at optimum level.

Klang Gates covers an area of 77.16 sq km while the Batu 11 Dam covers 50 sq km.

"The rain yesterday sadly did not fall anywhere near the water catchment areas as we had hoped for," Hanapi told the New Straits Times last night.

A National Water Services Commission (SPAN) official said water rationing would continue.

However, she said, the end of water woes for those in the Klang Valley could come earlier than March 31.

This could happen by middle of this month when the inter-monsoon sets in and brings continuous heavy rain with it.

The official said prolonged downpour during the inter-monsoon season could spell an end to the water crisis in the country. However, it would be a gradual process.

"The situation will only end if the heavy rainfall occurs in the water catchment areas, especially in critical spots such as rivers in the Klang Valley, especially Sungai Selangor."

Selangor Water Management Authority director Md Khairi Selamat said for the water at the dams to increase significantly, heavy rain must fall upstream of the two dams (Hulu Gombak upwards).

"Most dams in the Klang Valley are located upstream. Hence, rain in downstream areas will not make a difference to the dams' water levels."

Meteorological Department atmospheric science and cloud seeding division director Azhar Ishak said the rains which fell in the Klang Valley yesterday were isolated showers, and that they had minimal impact on water levels in the dams.

He said the department would most likely carry out cloud seeding to induce rainfall at water catchment areas in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor today, if there were suitable clouds (towering cumulus).

Azhar said the operation could be carried out between 1pm and 2pm or tomorrow, as the required atmospheric conditions of unstable, light and variable winds were readily present.

He told the NST that the clouds would induce "moderate rainfall" for no more than an hour, some 20 minutes after the seeding.

"The process will also increase the intensity of rainfall if carried out on existing rain clouds."

In Seremban, residents welcomed the rain, even though it lasted less than two hours.

Apart from Seremban, parts of Senawang and Rembau also experienced downpours yesterday.

There, and in various parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, many were seen playing in the rain.

Within an hour of the New Straits Times' Facebook page putting up two pictures of rain falling in the Klang Valley, some 130 comments were received.

Facebook user Johnny Yeow was one of those who commented, saying: "Hope heavy and non-stop rain around Klang Gates (dam) to fill up the dams so no need water rationing around Selangor."

Saw Goo Moo Kajang, meanwhile, said: "Rain come ahead. Heavy and darken the whole sky. Our prayer has been answered. More of rain! Oh more of rain, just fill the drying dam. Woohoo." Additional reporting by Maizatul Ranai

Read more: Rains bring relief tofolk in Klang Valley - General - New Straits Times

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Malaysia: Wildlife Dept's 'war' on illegal trade and poaching pays off

stephanie lee The Star 3 Mar 14;

KOTA KINABALU: About 160kg of bush meat were seized from rural markets in Sabah over the past few months.

Sabah Wildlife Department deputy director Augustine Tunga said the seizures were made following the start of its “war” on the illegal wildlife trade and poaching in Decem­ber.

“Since we launched the war against the illegal wildlife meat trade and poaching, 160kg of sambar deer and barking deer meat have been seized in the interior district of Nabawan,” he said during the World Wildlife Day event at Gaya Street here yesterday.

Augustine said the department was working hard to protect wildlife in Sabah and hoped that there would be more crackdowns on poaching and the illegal trade with the public’s participation in the programme.

In this respect, head of Conservation Unit for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Sabah, Bernard Tai, said the World Wildlife Day was an opportunity for people to appreciate the beautiful and diverse forms of protected animals and to learn more about the seriousness of wildlife crime.

Sabah bush meat is highly sought-after not only by international syndicates for its supposed medicinal properties, but also by local buyers for its exotic taste.

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Malaysia: '400 percent spike in dengue cases'

New Straits Times 3 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: According to statistics by the Health Ministry, there has been a 400 per cent increase in dengue cases in the first two months of this year, compared with the same period last year.

There were 18,047 dengue cases with 36 deaths in January and last month, compared with 4,250 cases with eight deaths in the same period last year.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S Subramaniam said the public were advised to take the spike in cases seriously. They should take necessary measures to wipe out breeding grounds of the Aedes mosquito.

"With the present water woes, the public should make sure stored water does not become breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitos. It is important that water containers are closed and added with abate to kill any larvae."

Dr Subramaniam said the public could get their supply of chemical to kill Aedes mosquito larvae from health offices nationwide.

A total of 110 hotspots had been identified in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan from January to Feb 22, involving 46 locations in Petaling, 39 in Hulu Langat, 15 in Seremban, six in Gombak and four in Klang.

During this period, Selangor recorded 8,936 dengue cases with 11 deaths, Perak (1,133 cases with three deaths), the Federal Territories and Putrajaya (1,561 cases with three deaths), Negeri Sembilan (1,066 cases with one death), Johor (1,064 cases with five deaths), Kelantan (652 cases with one death), Penang (376 cases with three deaths), and Kedah (142 cases with one death).

Dengue cases rise fourfold
florence a. samy The Star 3 Mar 14;

KAJANG: Dengue cases have increased by more than fourfold so far this year, as compared with the same period last year.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said as of Feb 28, 18,047 dengue cases and 36 deaths were reported throughout the country compared with 4,250 cases and eight deaths for the first two months of 2013.

“This concerns us a great deal. We are increasing the awareness and steps to eradicate dengue,” he said here yesterday after launching the Jom Hapus programme aimed at wiping out Aedes breeding grounds.

MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who is the Barisan Nasional candidate for the Kajang by-election, was among those present to lend support.

Dr Subramaniam said the number of cases was higher because of the change in the variation of the dengue virus.

“The current serotype, DEN-2, discovered last year, is more virulent,” he said.

Selangor recorded the highest number of deaths (13), followed by Johor (seven) and Perak, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya that had three deaths each.

Selangor also had the highest number of cases from January until Feb 28 at 9,946 compared with only 1,877 for the same period last year.

This is followed by Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with 1,697 cases compared to 250, Perak with 1,247 compared with 347 and Johor with 1,148 against 374. Penang recorded 404 cases, as compared with 140 previously.

He said all states recorded a jump in cases.

Dr Subramaniam, who joined in the gotong-royong to help clean the drains and the Taman Seri Jenaris neighbourhood, said civic consciousness among the public needed to be increased.

“We must know what to do and what not to do. Some think that their neighbourhoods are rubbish dumps. They throw rubbish everywhere especially into drains, causing problems.

“The Government can help to clean them but we need the public’s cooperation as well,” he said, adding that stagnant water was the breeding ground for mosquitoes.

He said proper infrastructure, clog-free drains and scheduled solid waste management could help eliminate breeding places.

“It is important for rubbish especially large items to be picked up according to schedule so that residents can plan properly. It also prevents rubbish from being left out in the open for too long.

“All need to play their part, including local councils, the community and those working in construction sites,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam also urged those storing water to cover containers to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

For those using mosquito sprays or repellents, he said the ideal time to do so was between 6am and 8am and between 5pm and 8pm.

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First World Wildlife Day an opportunity for hope and action

WWF 2 Mar 14;

World Wildlife Day is an opportunity for the international community to celebrate the globe's wild plant and animal life while redoubling efforts to protect them. WWF welcomes recent achievements to safeguard wildlife, laments the losses, and looks toward a future in which people can truly live in harmony with nature.

The United Nations General Assembly set aside March 3 to raise awareness of the intrinsic value of wildlife and its contributions to sustainable development and human well-being. The day, which marks the signing in 1973 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is also being used to underscore the need to fight wildlife crime.

“The Earth’s wild creatures – from the tiger to the monarch butterfly – bring wonder and beauty into our lives. They are also a vital part of the forests, meadows, rivers and oceans on whose services our economy and society depend. Wildlife needs our appreciation and protection," said Jim Leape, director general of WWF International.

The last year has recorded numerous achievements in the fight against wildlife crime. Several countries disposed of ivory stocks, the United Nations imposed targeted sanctions, and the recent London Conference resulted in strengthened commitments aimed at poaching and illegal trade.

While progress has been achieved, illegal wildlife trade continues to pose a grave threat to our natural world. In South Africa alone, over 1,000 rhinos were poached in 2013. More than a statistic, it’s a somber reminder that wildlife crime is real, that it interrupts economic opportunities, and that it poses a threat to security and stability.

Despite these setbacks, WWF is pleased to mark the first World Wildlife Day by recognizing Nepal for achieving zero poaching of rhinos, elephants and tigers for the year period ending in February 2014. Successes such as these translate into a more secure future for wildlife, with Nepal’s tiger population increasing by over 60% since 2009.

“We congratulate Nepal on reducing poaching to zero within its borders,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, president of WWF International. “This achievement serves as a model for WWF’s goal of drastically reducing wildlife crime worldwide – with a combination of brave policymaking, determined implementation and robust enforcement.”

By working with civil society, government and business, WWF helps safeguard wildlife on World Wildlife Day and everyday. For more on the innovative ways WWF is protecting wildlife and supporting communities visit:

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Europe's flood losses to soar by 2050, research shows

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 3 Mar 14;

Europe's flood losses to soar by 2050, research shows Photo: Cathal McNaughton
Gravestones are partially submerged in water in the flooded Somerset village of Moorland February 13, 2014.
Photo: Cathal McNaughton

The study said instances of very extreme floods, which now occur about once every 50 years, could shorten to about every 30 years, while cases of extreme damage now occurring once every 16 years could shorten to once every 10 years.

With shorter cycles of extreme floods and damage, the European's current average losses of 4.9 billion euros a year could reach 23.5 billion euros by 2050, a rise of almost 380 percent, said the study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Scientists at several universities and research centers in Europe and Australia used climate change models, economic data and river discharge data to form their conclusions.

"Due to climate change and GDP growth, by 2050 a one-in-fifty-years-flood might be one in 30 years so the frequency of such losses increases dramatically - almost doubling," said co-author Brenden Jongman, researcher at the IVM Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University Amsterdam.

Extreme damage can more than double the average damage rate used in the study's calculations. In June last year, extensive flooding resulted in 12 billion euros ($16 billion) of losses in nine countries across central and eastern Europe, according to reinsurance company Munich Re.


The study said investment in flood protection measures could help reduce the magnitude of overall flood losses in the future.

By investing around 1.75 billion euros in such measures, Europe's annual flood losses could be reduced by around 7 billion euros, or around 30 percent, by 2050, it estimated.

Rising costs from flood damage are due to several factors such as changes in climate, land use, population and wealth.

The European Environment Agency said last year that costs from flooding were also rising in part because more housing was being built in flood-prone areas.

Better reporting of floods has also contributed to the rising overall cost of these inundations.

A U.N. panel of climate scientists has said the Earth is set for more heat waves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts as greenhouse gases built up in the atmosphere.

Other bodies, such as the European Environment Agency, have said it is likely that rising temperatures in Europe will change rainfall patterns, leading to more frequent and heavy floods in many regions.

Britain is currently experiencing its wettest winter on record, resulting in the worst floods for the country in 50 years.

Accountancy firm Deloitte said on Friday there were nearly 200,000 insurance claims in Britain in the last three months of 2013 due to storms and floods - the highest number of such claims over a fourth-quarter financial period for 10 years.

It has also estimated that the cost of repairing the damage caused could reach 1 billion pounds ($1.66 billion). Insurance companies such as Aviva and Swiss Re have urged for more action and investment to manage flooding.

The paper is available at: here ($1 = 0.7317 euros)

(Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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UK: Badger cull failed humaneness test, independent panel finds

Blow to plans for further culls as report reveals killings were neither humane nor effective at curbing TB in cattle
Damian Carrington 28 Feb 14;

Badger cull A third of the badgers were shot in the wrong part of the body and two out of nine had to be shot twice, having not died instantly, report says. Photograph: Alamy

Controversial badger culls in England aimed at curbing TB in cattle failed on both humaneness and effectiveness, according to independent expert assessments obtained by the Guardian and the BBC.

A significant number of badgers were not shot cleanly, while the total killed fell far short of the number required to ensure TB was not spread further by badgers disturbed by the culling.

The revelations are the most damaging yet and will make it challenging for ministers to justify their aim of rolling out further culls across the country.

Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, said: “It would be outrageous if ministers now sought to dismiss the advice of their own independent expert panel and press on with further culling of badgers regardless. The environment secretary should come back to parliament on this issue and there should be no roll-out of the government’s badger cull policy without a full debate and vote in parliament. These culls have been a disaster for taxpayers, farmers and wildlife.”

“The government’s boast that all badgers were killed cleanly and killed instantly is clearly not true,” said Mark Jones, vet and executive director of Humane Society International/UK. “We fear many badgers may have suffered significant pain and distress.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy adviser to Care for the Wild, said: “David Cameron should now be taking a long hard look at this policy which has shamed his government. It was conceived for political, not practical reasons. It was carried out in an arrogant and careless fashion which has now been officially branded a failure.”

Pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset in autumn 2013 were intended to demonstrate that a minimum of 70% of badgers could be killed within six weeks in a humane way. However, despite the badger population estimates being sharply cut and the culls being extended, both failed to meet the minimum 70%.

Monitoring reports from England’s wildlife watchdog, Natural England, seen by the Guardian, show that a third of the badgers were shot in the wrong part of the body and two out of nine had to be shot twice, having not died instantly. The reports also show that on many occasions the marksmen failed to follow biosecurity protocols aimed at preventing disease spread, such as not using disinfectants.

The information leaked to the BBC and verified by the Guardian is from a report by an independent panel of scientists and based on the government’s own monitoring. It showed that between 6.4% and 18% of shot animals took more than five minutes to die, depending on the assumptions made. The standard to be met was that no more than 5% of the shot badgers should take more than five minutes to die. The report also concluded that fewer than half the badgers were killed in Somerset in the first six weeks, lower than the government’s own estimate of 58%, which was calculated using a different methodology. The report has yet to be submitted to ministers.

Andrew Guest, from the National Farmers Union, said of the revelations: “It doesn’t sound good.” But he said it was important that a significant number of badgers had been removed.

A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs said: “We knew there’d be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls which is why we’re looking forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations for improving the way they are carried out, because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease.” About 30,000 TB-infected cattle a year are slaughtered at a cost to taxpayers of about £100m.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, who worked on a landmark 10-year study of badger culling, said the conclusion to be drawn was simple: “The pilot culls have not been effective.” She also questions the multi-million pound cost of the culls and argues that badger vaccination would be cheaper.

The badger culls were condemned as “mindless” in 2012 by Lord John Krebs, who commissioned the 10-year study. The extensions to the culls were criticised by Natural England’s lead scientific director, Sir David Attenborough and the National Trust.

Ministers had been expected to decide whether to roll-out further culls by the end of February. Natural England, which licences the culls under terms dictated by government, has already received dozens of applications for culls, should more be allowed.

Badger culls were 'ineffective and failed humaneness test'
Pallab Ghosh BBC News 28 Feb 14;

The BBC's Pallab Ghosh reports on both sides of the cull row

An independent scientific assessment of last year's pilot badger culls in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset has concluded that they were not effective.

Analysis commissioned by the government found the number of badgers killed fell well short of the target deemed necessary, the BBC understands.

And up to 18% of culled badgers took longer than five minutes to die, failing the test for humaneness.

The pilot culls were intended to limit the spread of TB in cattle.

They were carried out to demonstrate the ability to combat bovine TB though a controlled reduction in the population of local badgers.

Contracted marksmen, paid for by farming groups, were employed to shoot the animals at night.

The Independent Expert Panel was appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help ministers evaluate the effectiveness, humaneness and safety of the Gloucestershire and Somerset pilots.

Prof Rosie Woodroffe, a scientist at the Zoological Society of London, said that the panel's "findings show unequivocally that the culls were not effective and that they failed to meet the humaneness criteria.

"I hope this will lead to the Secretary of State (Owen Paterson) to focus on other ways of eradicating TB in cattle," she told BBC News.

Robin Hargreaves, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said it was the BVA that had taken a lead in calling for the controlled shooting to be tested and critically evaluated before it was rolled out.

"We are unable to comment in detail on the findings of the IEP until we have seen the report," he told the BBC. "But if these figures are true then they would certainly raise concerns about both the humaneness and efficacy of controlled shooting.

"We have always stated that if the pilots were to fail on humaneness then BVA could not support the wider roll out of the method of controlled shooting."

The pilots were authorised by Defra and licensed by Natural England.

The target for marksmen was to kill at least 70% of badgers in the cull areas within a six-week period.

Extensive research carried out by Prof Woodroffe in earlier trials in the 1990s had shown that a failure to kill this percentage of badgers in a narrow window of time could actually worsen matters as disturbed and diseased animals took the TB into new areas.

When both trials duly failed to kill sufficient badgers within the specified period, they were extended on the advice of the Chief Vet, Nigel Gibbens. The panel in its report, though, concerns itself only with the initial six weeks.

First assessments had suggested that, in those six weeks, 58% of badgers had been killed in the Somerset cull and 30% in the Gloucestershire pilot.

However, BBC News understands the independent panel's analysis, which used more precise methodology, found that less than half of badgers were killed in both areas over the six-week period.

Defra had also agreed a criterion with the expert group for how the trials could be deemed humane.

The standard set was for no more than 5% of the shot badgers to take more than five minutes to die.

But the expert group found the time limit was exceeded by between 6.4% and 18% of shot animals, depending on the assumptions made.

Professor Rosie Woodroffe, from the Zoological Society of London, said the only benefit from the trial was "better evidence"

The expert group, however, held back from describing the trial as "inhumane" on the grounds that there may be some circumstances in which greater suffering of badgers might be justified. An example would be if the spread of TB was causing more problems than otherwise anticipated.

Prof Woodroffe was among 32 scientists who wrote to Mr Patterson in 2012 expressing fears that the culls risked increasing TB in cattle rather than reducing it.

"Our predictions have been borne out," she told the BBC. "It has cost a fortune and probably contributed nothing in terms of disease control, which is really unfortunate."

The assessment also found a wide variation in the effectiveness and humaneness of the contractors brought in by farming groups to kill the badgers.

The expert panel said that if culling was to be extended to other parts of the country, the marksmen recruited would need to be closely monitored.

On the issue of public safety, the panel found no problems.

Andy Robertson, director general of the National Farmers' Union, said he could not comment on the contents of the IEP report until it was officially published. However, he stressed the threat TB in cattle posed to his members.

"More than 30,000 cattle were killed in the first 11 months of 2013 because of the disease. It is vital that we do everything we can to tackle the disease. Badgers play a key role in spreading bovine TB and so it's essential that any TB eradication policy must include a targeted cull of badgers in those areas where TB is rife."

Defra said that it did not know when the report would be submitted by the IEP or when it would be published, stating only that "no deadline had been set". A spokesperson added: "We knew there'd be lessons to be learned from the first year of the pilot culls which is why we're looking forward to receiving the panel's recommendations for improving the way they are carried out, because we need to do all we can to tackle this devastating disease."

More than 1,700 badgers were culled in total in the two counties, according to Defra.

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