Best of our wild blogs: 24 Mar 14

Fed up about marine litter? Here's how you can DO something
from wild shores of singapore

12 Apr (Sat) evening: Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Mangrove cleanup at Sungei Api-Api (Pasir Ris Park), 19th April Saturday from The Green Volunteers

Nesting behaviour of the Spotted Dove
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Snapper @ Changi
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Seagrass meadow in danger

The Star 24 Mar 14;

WE are concerned over the report on “Country Garden, KPRJ plan massive reclamation development for luxury homes”.

The approval of this plan means that Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass meadow measuring 1.8km in length covering over 38ha will be permanently buried.

The project has since begun with sand barges dumping sand while the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) has yet to be made available to the public.

Being the largest seagrass ecosystem in the country, it harbours a unique biodiversity and the densest seahorse population in the country comprising two species, and is a rich nursery ground for seafood resources.

The seahorses are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, thus destroying their habitat will add further impact to their plight and conservation status.

On top of being the home of various marine organisms and an important nursery ground for commercially important food fishes and marine invertebrates, the seagrass meadows also serve to prevent soil erosion, and act as a carbon sink and wave buffer zone (dissipating wave energy which can cause damage to coastal infrastructures).

Local fishermen depend heavily on the seagrass meadow to support their livelihood. Removal of this unique area will have an adverse impact on the environment as well as those who depend on it.

We urge for the reconsideration of the massive reclamation project for the sake of the great diversity of marine life, livelihood of the locals and survival of the Meram­bong seagrass meadow, Malaysia’s largest intertidal seagrass treasure.


Petaling Jaya

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Four in 10 Singaporeans think govt is responsible for taking action on climate change

Channel NewsAsia 23 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: A survey commissioned by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) has found that 40.1 per cent of Singaporeans think the government is mainly responsible for taking action on climate change.

This is up sharply from the 2011 figure of 26.3 per cent.

39.2 per cent felt that individuals have the main responsibility to tackle climate change, down from 56.3 per cent in 2011.

The survey, conducted in 2013, interviewed 1,000 Singapore residents aged 15 and above.

70.2 per cent of respondents polled said they were concerned about climate change, a 3.6 percentage-point fall from 2011.

In terms of how Singapore would be affected by climate change, the 65.6 per cent cited frequent and severe extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and dry spells.

54.4 per cent were concerned about the impact on public health, such as increased heat stress and the spread of some infectious diseases.

62.7 per cent were of the view that climate change will affect them personally. Their top concerns were health impact and hotter weather that climate change could bring about.

One in two respondents thought of climate change as an urgent problem, but 47.5 per cent felt that individuals could make a difference in dealing with climate change.

26.4 per cent said they were not willing to pay more to support products and practices that address climate change, while 41.5 per cent said they are willing to pay up to 10 per cent more.

NCCS said contrary to public perception, there is much that an individual can do in addressing and adapting to climate change.

It launched the 2014 National Climate Change Competition on Sunday with the theme #change4future, which highlights the need for Singaporeans to take action to address climate change and learn to deal with the changing climate that affects them and the environment they live in.

It is calling for the public to submit short videos that could inspire Singaporeans to tackle climate change.

"Scientists have affirmed that human activities are one of the main causes of climate change, and this could lead to extreme weather events, such as more frequent and intense rainfall, heat waves and cold spells becoming more frequent," said Mr Yuen Sai Kuan, director of 3P Network Division from NCCS.

He added: "We hope that the competition will help raise awareness on such issues and produce inspiring videos that will help spread the message on the need to change our habits which affect the environment."

Students and members of the public can register to take part in the competition at by April 22.

- CNA/fa

Survey shows fewer Singaporeans worried about climate change
Joy Fang Today Online 24 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Even though Singapore has been hit by unprecedented environmental issues in recent times, such as the prolonged dry spell in the last two months and the severe bout of haze last year that saw the Pollutant Standards Index reading hit a record 401, a survey has shown that people here seem less concerned about climate change than before.

The survey, which was conducted by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), found that about 70 per cent of respondents were concerned about climate change, down from 74 per cent in 2011 when a similar study was conducted.

Also, fewer feel that individuals are responsible for taking action to tackle the issue. Only about 39 per cent — down from 56 per cent in a similar survey two years ago — said it is up to individuals to address climate change.

In contrast, many more now think the responsibility lies with the Government — 40 per cent, sharply higher than the 26 per cent in 2011.

This is despite almost four in five respondents saying Singapore will be affected by climate change — with most of these citing extreme weather events as well as impact on public health as examples of possible effects.

Nevertheless, about 63 per cent felt they were doing their part in tackling climate issues. Turning off electrical appliances at the main power source when they are not in use and taking public transport or car-pooling were the most commonly-practised habits, survey results showed.

The poll also found that the desire to save money was the key motivator for many respondents’ actions. For instance, about 91 per cent said they turn off electrical appliances when they are not in use because of cost savings, while 54 per cent said they do so to protect the environment.

Although 74 per cent of respondents were willing to pay more to support green products, most of them — about 42 per cent — were only willing to pay 1 to 10 per cent more, while 26 per cent were not willing to pay more at all.

The NCCS survey polled 1,000 Singapore residents aged 15 and above from September to October last year through face-to-face interviews to find out their knowledge and attitudes about climate change, as well as their practices.

The NCCS hopes to create more public awareness on climate issues and encourage the public to do their part, for example, by sharing ideas on how to tackle climate change on its Climate Change SG Facebook page and participating in its National Climate Change Competition.

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Long interview: Man of science and dreams - Prof Leo Tan

Susan Long The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 14;

Pushing 70, Professor Leo Tan has seen most of his dreams come true. Some were his own, others were thrust upon him.

He wanted to be the first Singaporean to graduate with a marine biology PhD from Singapore. And he did, against the odds. He spent 40 years fighting for the preservation of Labrador Park - Singapore's only rocky coast - and succeeded. It was gazetted as a nature reserve in 2002. He spent the last six years canvassing for our very own natural history museum. It is slated to open by the end of this year at the National University of Singapore's new University Town.

Along the way, he breathed life into the sleepy Singapore Science Centre, overhauled the teaching of science in schools, infected a generation of teachers at the National Institute of Education with his love of learning, and, as chairman of National Parks Board, championed Gardens by the Bay.

His former student, Professor Peter Ng, 54, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS, says: "His is a world dominated by a very simple philosophy. Just do it if it is right. Never mind if it is difficult."

Never mind that he may be just a footnote in history. For the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Prof Tan bears no official title, not even as patron or adviser, though he is widely hailed as its visionary.

As a schoolboy at St Joseph's Institution, then in Bras Basah Road, he often visited the nearby Raffles Museum in Stamford Road, with its large natural history collection of mammal, bird and amphibian specimens. It was housed at the National Museum of Singapore until 1970, when the collection of animals and artefacts was thrown out to focus exhibits on art and ethnography.

Then a marine biology doctorate student, Prof Tan remembers making this solemn promise to himself: "If I could, one day, I'd like to restore the old Raffles Museum."

The prized collection languished without a permanent home and in poor condition for years. But he never forgot it. He visited the dust-lined specimens in random storerooms through the years until, in 1998, part of the collection found a home at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, a research and teaching museum at NUS.

Not content with that, Prof Tan returned to the NUS faculty in 2008, after 26 years away, continuing his charge that Singapore's oldest natural history collection had not been "returned to the people of Singapore" for public viewing.

He pushed through his idea for a natural history museum through sheer strength of will, by getting permission from NUS to raise funds. He and his team were given the near impossible target to raise $35 million in the aftermath of the 2009 financial meltdown. But he rationalised: "If I've done some near impossible things in the past, why not try?" Within six months, he helped raise $46 million from an anonymous donor, foundations and individuals.

Then three dinosaurs were offered to the museum, and he raised another $10 million for that and other exhibition costs. Now he is focused on trying to double the endowment fund to $100 million, from its current $50 million, to ensure the museum can sustain itself beyond the first three years.

He's hard at work making sure the museum's impact extends far beyond its walls. From next month, it will have a teaching lab and run courses for biology and other students at NUS. When it opens, it will have a volunteer outreach crew doing guided walks and leading discussions on how to have a sustainable Singapore, what its priorities and values are, what is worth preserving and how to create room for all.

He wants people to go out pondering: "I am a Homo sapien living on this planet. Would I be that 500-million-year-old species that is still alive, or would I be like the other animals that have come and gone?"

What he wants is to start "a chain of thinking". "If people go out asking, 'How did that happen?', that is the success of a museum," Prof Tan enthuses, his face lit up with possibilities.

Nature his playmate

Growing up, a lizard-eating snake slept under his bed. He had jars of fighting fish and four pet cats. At five, he came head-to- head with a cobra in the garden of his family's rented Mount Faber pre-war bungalow, but backed off in time.

The second son of an auditor and nurse, he was a loner who often retreated to his imaginary world with nature as his playmate. The SJI "thoroughbred" - he was there from Primary 1 to pre-university - idolised French oceanographer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau for "going to places people never went, doing things people never did".

He was told he would never get a job but applied to study zoology anyway at the then University of Singapore. When a lecturer asked the class what was their ambition, he raised his hand and ventured: "Marine biologist."

Everyone sniggered. He slunk off red-faced. "There were no Asian marine biologists then. We were still very colonial in 1965. No Asian would be employed at the university unless in exceptional circumstances," he recounts.

In his honours year in 1968, on a class trek to Genting Highlands, he fell 30m down a waterfall. "I fell into the deep end of the pool and I couldn't swim. When I surfaced, there were jagged rocks all around," he remembers.

He had an abiding fear of water, yet clung on to his dream to be a tropical marine biologist. After he scored a second upper, he won the first research scholarship offered by the university. There was much consternation on the part of his professors when he insisted on doing his PhD locally.

"I was laughed at because they said, 'First of all, we're not a great university. Why do you want to do your PhD here?' Second, I was offered a PhD in Canada with a scholarship, with permanent residency. I said, 'No, this is home.' All my friends were going abroad. They said, 'SU has no reputation. You will be looked down upon.' I said, 'So be it'."

So he chose a fisheries professor to supervise him as the university didn't have a marine biology department then. He planned to run a mussel and oyster farm upon graduation.

But reality bit when he tried - without success - to secure land and bank loans. He then lectured at SU for nine years, telling students: "If you believe in what you want to be, dream the future and make it a reality."

Gems in brown paper

In 1982, he was offered the job to head the Singapore Science Centre, which seven others had declined. "All cleverly said 'No, thank you' because they saw it as a children's museum, just recently established, not much cachet, in an isolated part of Singapore," he recalls of the centre in Jurong.

The eternal optimist said yes, convinced that "since so many people said no, there must be something good about it that no one else had seen yet".

His first day at work, he herded his staff to a toilet stall. They were shocked. He instructed them to saw open the opaque plastic covering of the water cistern, and replace it with transparent material so that visitors could "see everyday science" when they flushed. Then he told them to keep the toilet floors dry because public opinion would not be about how exciting the Science Centre was but how dirty the Science Centre was.

Within 10 years, the Science Centre was hailed as one of the world's top science museums.

But he was scathing about how teachers would escort pupils to the Science Centre, only to ditch them with his staff, and hightail it to the canteen to rest. He was also reproving of the "mechanical" teaching of science in schools - till he was asked to be dean of the National Institute of Education's school of science in 1991.

By then, his experience with the Science Centre had taught him not to spurn a challenge, so he took on the task of improving the quality of teachers.

He started by picking up litter on campus and sprucing up the then sloppy image of student- teachers through fashion shows. He encouraged teachers, then mass-trained to deliver standard content, to be more "entrepreneurial" in the classroom.

"Heaven help us if anybody can come in and teach without the right attributes. They don't have to be that smart but they must love children," he says.

NIE senior lecturer Shawn Lum, 50, recounts how when an opportunity arose to establish a national award for outstanding teachers, Prof Tan created the Caring Teacher Award.

"He said let's recognise teachers with character, those who show concern for their students. There are rewards enough for success in more conventional, quantifiable aspects of teaching. NIE went for a quality so fundamental to being an educator, but one so easily overlooked."

Prof Tan left NIE as director 15 years later, in 2006. "In the beginning, for every five candidates who presented themselves, we offered six places," he says, only half in jest. "Ten years later, out of every five candidates who presented themselves, we only accepted one."

He believes he also restored some pride in the teaching profession. "The biggest sea-change was the attitude of parents. When I first went to NIE, my friends avoided me if their children wanted to teach. They were shy. Ten years later, people would come up to me at parties and say, 'Leo, my daughter is going to join you very soon'."

Saved for a cause

IN 2006, the man who was named after his mother's star sign and calls himself a "cat with nine lives", had a heart attack. After six days in the intensive care unit, he sprang up, asking: "How come I'm still alive? That means I have another mission."

After two more years as an NIE consultant, he returned to NUS in 2008, as director of special projects. He came back to set up a Master of Science in Communications course to help "scientists talk, write about and sell their products", as well as try to resurrect the Raffles Museum. Six years on, he is now writing a book on science communication, which will soon be a compulsory module for all science undergraduates.

Today, his greatest joy is playing with his one-year-old grandson. A Catholic, Prof Tan is married to Chor Chon, an ophthalmologist, and they have two sons, an engineer and a doctor. He also collects stamps and combs beaches.

In retrospect, what gave the most fulfilment in his life were the jobs spurned by others. "I always tell people don't be disappointed if your boss bypasses you. Don't be disappointed if you didn't get the job or the girl you wanted in life. There is a reason for everything. Just accept, be happy and content and don't look over your shoulder."

Having said that, he's not nearly done with dreams.His next one - to see one of our Southern Islands, such as Pulau Semakau, preserved as a nature park.

"You must always look forward to something," he muses, without giving away more.

Then he bids you stay tuned for his next endeavour.

Prof Leo Tan on...

Why Singapore needs a natural history museum

"We always talk about heritage in terms of people and society. Science is culture, just as art is culture. It is our heritage, our natural heritage. It's not just nostalgia or keeping something old. It actually allows us to learn why animals went extinct, how climate change affected biodiversity, and has lots of data that can be mined for our study of the future of humankind."

What motivates him

"Always remember, we do things for selfish reasons. When people ask 'Who do you work for?' I always say 'I don't work for the Government, I don't work for my institution, I work for the future of my generations to come'. "

His worries for Singapore

"Our young students have unrealistic expectations of life. They expect things, like manna, to fall from heaven. We live in a very affluent society. Parents are doting. They even sue, so teachers are frightened of parents, which is sad. In my time if my teacher caned me, my parents caned me a second time. Today, no, the lawyer will come."

Why he championed Gardens by the Bay

"I learnt from the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. The psychiatrists and doctors treated as best they could all the people who were traumatised. Finally they said: 'We've given you all the medicines and help we can. There's only one thing left to do: go and sit in Central Park.' Many did, and The New York Times wrote an article saying that nature heals, which is the truth. That's why I joked we need to put Gardens by the Bay near Marina Bay Sands, so that gamblers, instead of hanging themselves when they lose money, can walk into the park and get their sanity back."

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Firms gear up for haze in 2nd half after warning

Grace Chua and Melissa Lin The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - If the haze hits hard in the second half of this year, it will be a boon for some businesses and a bane to others.

Travel agencies are anticipating a surge in bookings while retailers are looking into promotions to attract shoppers. Healthcare providers, pharmacies and landscaping firms say they are also gearing up for the haze.

On Thursday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said a combination of dry weather and south-westerly winds, both typical of the June-October south-west monsoon, and the projected El Nino phenomenon in the second half of the year might lead to haze. This is if land burning continues in Riau and other parts of Sumatra.

At the media briefing, the Manpower Ministry also reminded employers of the need to identify workers who could be affected by hazy conditions and to define what sort of outdoors work should be reduced.

Landscaping firms said they are more prepared this year to handle the haze.

Nature Landscapes, where more than 80 per cent of the 500 employees do some outdoors work, "had to scramble to get protective equipment" last year, but now has a ready stock of N95 masks, said director Philip Teh.

Organisers of running events such as the Sundown Marathon in late May and June's Heroes Run said they will keep tabs on air quality.

"Depending on the forecast levels, we might consider putting masks in the race pack," said Heroes Run organiser Brandon Lee.

With enough warning, Singaporeans will have more time to put aside a few days of leave to go abroad if haze strikes, said ASA Travel's manager of marketing and communications Iris Kok.

The agency experienced a sudden increase in last-minute bookings last June after the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index hit a record 401, and is expecting a similar rise in bookings this year.

Meanwhile, appliance retailer Gain City has tripled its orders of air purifiers with suppliers and expects a "mad rush" if the haze worsens.

"Last year's haze was so sudden, we ran out of stock. We are much more prepared this year and are bringing in stocks earlier," said a spokesman.

Both NTUC Unity Healthcare and Guardian pharmacies have stocks of N95 masks, with the former also having supplies of other haze remedies such as eye drops, lozenges and nasal sprays.

But food and beverage outlets are worried that the haze will keep customers at home.

During last year's haze, the Casa Verde cafe at the Botanic Gardens suffered a sharp drop in business, said manager William Cheng.

"There's nothing much we can do. Once the worst was over they started coming back," he said. Air purifiers have little effect in large outdoor spaces, said cafe managers.

And with the football World Cup to be held in June, bars and restaurants planning to screen the matches on their premises are also getting concerned.

Mr Jason Pope, owner of Dallas Restaurant and Bar, which offers outdoor and indoor dining at Boat Quay, expects most people to watch the matches at home if the haze hits unhealthy levels.

"We're crossing our fingers and hoping that it won't be that bad," he said.

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Singaporeans can soon compare water usage with their neighbours

Siau Ming En Today Online 24 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Are you and your family using more or less water than your neighbours? The authorities will soon provide households with this information, as part of a new tactic to spur water conservation.

Currently, water utility bills give information on the average water consumption of households of the same housing type across Singapore. But in the second half of this year, national water agency PUB will include data on the average water usage of households of the same housing type in your block or on your street.

Said Mr Chong Hou Chun, Director of the PUB’s Water Supply (Network) Department: “We believe allowing consumers to contrast their consumption patterns with those of their neighbours will create social motivation and encourage water conservation.”

The initiative will be rolled out on an ongoing basis to those who use Singapore Power’s My Utilities Portal or subscribe to the agency’s electronic billing service, although those who do not have a “sufficient number of neighbours” will not be able to access the service, to ensure the privacy of personal data, said the PUB.

The authorities have been encouraging users to conserve water, particularly during the dry spell that gripped the Republic recently.

In April 2012, for instance, the PUB started a pilot programme involving an automated meter-reading system (AMR), which allows the agency’s officers to read water meters remotely, instead of visiting households in person to take the readings. The 400 households in Toa Payoh and Punggol involved in the pilot could also monitor their daily water consumption via the Internet.

But the capital and operating costs of the AMR system remain high, said Mr Chong, and the PUB is currently examining more cost-effective technologies for widespread adoption.

Mr Kavickumar Muruganathan, Resident Environmental Engineer at the Singapore Environment Council, said the PUB’s initiatives were a move in the right direction, but noted that water consumption habits might not necessarily improve. “Households might use it to monitor spikes in water consumption patterns while still adhering to their mean water consumption levels,” he said.

He added that some countries, such as the United States, have shifted to Advanced Metering Infrastructure, which enables them to monitor additional details, such as leaks and tampering in the system.

Senior IT Executive Eric Sng conceded that he might not be swayed to change his water consumption habits just because his neighbours have lower water utility bills. The 29-year-old noted that some neighbouring homes have fewer occupants and, therefore, use less water. He suggested that the number of occupants in each household be considered when calculating average water consumption for a better gauge of the amount of water used.

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Malaysia: Cloud seeding to be conducted over west coast dams

News Straits Times 24 Mar 14;

MALACCA: Cloud seeding will be conducted by the Meteorological Department from next month over all dam areas on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah said among the dams involved would be the Muda Dam and Pedu Dam in Kedah; Klang Gates Dam in Kuala Lumpur; and Jus Dam in Jasin near here.

He said cloud seeding would also be carried out following demands from dam operators.

"We use Cessna aircraft for the job and will start in the north, namely, in Kedah, to the south in Johor," he said after launching a 2014 World Meteorological Day celebration and opening the Malacca Meteorological Department office here yesterday.

He said cloud seeding was only 85 per cent successful.

Gunung Jerai hit by bush fires
New Straits Times 24 Mar 14;

GURUN: The dry spell has triggered a series of bush fires near the peak of Gunung Jerai in the past week.

The latest blaze occurred yesterday morning and affected some 15ha near the mountain peak.

Guar Chempedak Fire and Rescue Department chief Abdul Muin Ayob said a team of firemen was dispatched to the scene after being alerted at 8.30am.

"Seven firemen took more than seven hours to control the fire," he said yesterday.

Abdul Muin said firefighters had to use the fire beater technique to put out the fire as water supply could not reach the spot.

He said firemen were in the midst of containing the fire and preventing it from spreading to other areas.

In Perak, the surrounding areas of Gua Tempurung in Gopeng was given a good clean-up by local celebrities in conjunction with "Perak Hijau dan Bersih Bersama Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian (ABPBH) 2013" programme yesterday.

The presence of 14 celebrities and finalists of ABPBH 2013 added a star- studded feel to the programme which was part of Berita Harian's corporate social responsibility programme.

Families reduce Qing Ming burning due to haze
The Star 24 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: The haze and long dry spell will have an effect on the upcoming Qing Ming Festival (Chinese All Souls Day) as well – families observing the festival this year are choosing to burn fewer joss sticks and less paper in an effort not to worsen the air quality.

Mechanic Choong Chee Leng, 35, said his family chose to be more environmentally friendly as the past two months had been very dry and hot in Johor and other parts of the country.

“We will keep the burning to a minimum this year and will only burn necessary items like hell notes, paper clothing, paper houses and cars for my grandparents,” he said when met at the cemetery in Tebrau here yesterday.

Factory supervisor Giam Yee Wei, 46, said her family usually spent about RM500 on prayer items to burn for her ancestors but they cut this down by half this year.

“Our country just had rain a week ago, so we do not want to do much open burning and contribute to any bush fires,” she said.

She said her family arrived at the cemetery from Gelang Patah at 7.30am yesterday and noticed that other families were also burning fewer items this time round.

Singaporean Joseph Phua, 55, also encouraged his family to cut down on the items they burned so that they would not harm the environment.

“Burning fewer items can help save the environment and money. I am sure our ancestors will understand,” added the father of three.

The festival, where families will clean their ancestors’ tombs, give offerings and burn prayer paraphernalia which replicates dollar notes, cars, clothes and houses, falls on April 5 this year.

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Malaysia: Clouded leopard found dead in Tawau

The Star 24 Mar 14;

KOTA KINABALU: A protected clouded leopard was found dead in Sabah’s east coast town of Tawau.

The Bornean leopard is believed to have been hit by a vehicle while crossing the Kuhara road after it came out from a secondary forest about 2km from the town in search of food.

A Tawau resident, who uploaded a picture of the dead cat on Facebook, said that it was spotted dead on the road at about 9am on Saturday.

Conservationist estimated that there are about 5,000 to 11,000 of the leopards within the forests of Borneo island and they believe that their numbers are fast dwindling.

The Sabah government has placed the leopards in its protection list under the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said that the leopards were found in most forest areas around Sabah and it was not surprising to find them close to secondary forests near urban centres.

“They usually search for preys like rats. It is a pity that the cat was knocked down,” he said, urging motorist to drive slow in areas frequently used by the animals.

“We also hope that people will just leave the animals alone and let them roam freely within their hab­itats,” he said, adding that the cats were also seen in oil palm estates, as well as secondary forests close to human settlements.

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Malaysia: 'Orangutan safe in Sarawak havens'

New Straits Times 24 Mar 14;

SIBU: Sarawak has dismissed claims and criticism by international non-governmental organisations of the state's orangutan being threatened by logging and new oil palm plantations.

The state's Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the two orangutan habitats in the state, in Batang Ai in the Sri Aman Division and Sebuyau, had been turned into totally protected areas (TPA).

"Logging and agricultural activities are disallowed in these TPA, and this is totally controlled. In fact, we have even expanded the areas for the orangutan in the TPA.

"As such, any criticism of the orangutan being under any threat is based purely on assumption,"

Awang Tengah said logging and oil palm plantations were confined to areas outside its habitats.

"Under the Sarawak land utilisation policy, the state government had allocated one million hectares as TPA, which included national parks, and six million hectares as permanent forest reserve.

"Altogether, seven million hectares have been allocated for forestry, which is almost 60 per cent of the 12.4 million-hectare acreage of Sarawak." Bernama

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Malaysia: Poaching of sea turtles 'rampant'

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 24 Mar 14;

READY MARKET: High demand for turtle meat from neighbouring countries

KUDAT: THE poaching of sea turtles at Pulau Tiga here is rampant because of the high demand from China and Vietnam, said a researcher from Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

Economist Dr James Alin, who has been doing research on the economic activity at the area for the past seven years, said the price for fresh turtle meat was RM300 per kilogramme and RM100 for dried meat.

"Middlemen usually buy the live sea turtles from islanders. They hide the turtles on Balambangan island before bringing them to Balabac Straits in the Philippines.

"From there, poachers will ship the sea turtles to either China or Vietnam."

Alin said there were claims the poachers were locals and people from nearby islands.

"A village head here complained there was a decline in the number of sea turtles coming to the beach since illegal immigrants started occupying neighbouring islands five years ago.

"Several times, the community saw pirates in their speedboats hunting turtles at the sea," he said, adding that reports had been lodged with the authorities.

Last year, the Philippines National Police Marine Group arrested local and foreign fishing vessel for possessing sea turtles.

"The arrest of poachers is a clear indication that the underground market is functioning well.

"Poaching in Pulau Tiga here is just one trail of the long supply chain extending from the islanders to middlemen at the bottom, up to the consumers in other countries."

Alin hoped the island, which was part of the proposed Tun Mustapha Park, would be gazetted soon to protect the biodiversity and prevent further environmental damage.

Senseless Loss of Endangered Sea Turtles in Pulau Tiga
WWF 26 Mar 14;

WWF-Malaysia is enraged by the recent senseless loss of endangered sea turtles in Pulau Tiga, an island under the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in Sabah. Despite all efforts taken to protect the endangered species, and to raise awareness and build capacity of local communities in the area, poaching activities are still happening.

The discovery of the 60 slaughtered turtles reinforces the urgent need for a concerted effort to eradicate poaching activities in the proposed TMP, and Sabah, in general. The discovery reveals gaps in the enforcement of our laws on turtle protection; both the Sabah State Wildlife Enactment and the Federal Fisheries Act have provisions for turtle protection.

The needs as observed are as follows:

1. Sabah Wildlife Department needs to have assets and capacity to protect and enforce laws for marine species;

2. Enforcement agencies need to conduct more surveillance work;

3. Bureaucracies around the gazettement of TMP need to stop. As a multiple use and collaboratively managed park, TMP should provide a platform for collaboration among agencies and concerted effort for conservation and management of the area;

4. International and regional forums such as the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Tri-National Programme and the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reef, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) need to strongly address issues such as poaching and encroachment into our waters. Through these programmes, Malaysia needs to take the initiative to lead discussions on resolving issues on turtle poaching.

Over time, WWF-Malaysia has received reports from the local community on poaching activities and reported these to the relevant authorities, but to no avail.

WWF-Malaysia believes that the authorities should take seriously information received from the local community. Their information is credible as the water surrounding them is where they depend on for their livelihood. They are aware of what goes on and around them, especially when foreigners or outsiders encroach into their area. They have a community system where they look after each other’s welfare, including protecting their surroundings. It is also to their benefit to ensure their resources are not exploited by outsiders. These islanders are very concerned about encroachment because it can be dangerous for them.

WWF-Malaysia is also working closely with the local community in organizing training of Honorary Wildlife Wardens (HWW) so that they can be deputized in the enforcement of the Wildlife Enactment. We have also helped build support groups of HWW within selected villages or islands who take on the responsibility of monitoring and patrolling their surroundings.
In Kudat, we believe that there is a large turtle smuggling syndicate involving international and local groups that engage coastal and island communities to poach turtles in our waters. It is said that the turtles are being smuggled to China, Vietnam and other eastern countries. These poachers managed to get through the country borders by associating with various local counterparts who smuggle for them. Poaching is illegal, and poachers are criminals. The authorities should take serious and immediate actions against all poaching activities, especially those performed by organised syndicates.

Sea turtles fulfill important roles in marine ecosystems. One of the functions is to maintain the seagrass beds. Removing sea turtles from the ecosystem will have impact on the marine ecosystem. In Malaysia, all turtle populations have declined based on historical data. The Leatherbacks and Olive Ridleys have declined by more than 99% in Malaysia. In Terengganu, the Green turtles, by far the most common species in Malaysia, has declined by more than 20% and Hawksbill turtles by approximately 70%. However way we look at it, the populations for all species have not yet recovered to historical figures.

WWF-Malaysia advocates for amendments to be made to the Federal Constitution or any other means stipulated in the Constitution. The objective is allow Federal Laws to be enacted to enable the implementation of comprehensive and holistic laws governing turtles throughout Malaysia. Comprehensive means to identify all measures (scientific and legal), and management and enforcement regimes (such as development guidelines and protected area management) needed to protect turtles in a holistic way. Holistic denotes that the approach to turtles is from a conservation viewpoint which addresses every threat that impacts turtles.

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Shifts in rainfall, not warming pause, slow sea level rise

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 24 Mar 14;

Shifts in rainfall, not warming pause, slow sea level rise Photo: Bob Strong
Icebergs are reflected in the calm waters at the mouth of the Jakobshavn ice fjord near Ilulissat in Greenland in this photo taken May 15, 2007.
Photo: Bob Strong

Sea level rise has been one of the clearest signs of climate change - water expands as it warms and parts of Greenland and Antarctica are thawing, along with glaciers from the Himalayas to the Alps.

But in a puzzle to climate scientists, the rate slowed to 2.4 millimeters (0.09 inch) a year from 2003 to 2011 from 3.4 mm from 1994-2002, heartening skeptics who doubt that deep cuts are needed in mankind's rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday, experts said the rate from 2003-2011 would have been 3.3 mm a year when excluding natural shifts led by an unusually high number of La Nina weather events that cool the surface of the Pacific Ocean and cause more rain over land.

"There is no slowing in the rate of sea level rise" after accounting for the natural variations, lead author Anny Cazenave of the Laboratory for Studies in Geophysics and Spatial Oceanography in Toulouse, France, told Reuters.

In La Nina years, more rain fell away from oceans, including over the Amazon, the Congo basin and Australia, she said. It is unclear if climate change itself affects the frequency of La Ninas.

Rainfall over land only temporarily brakes sea level rise.

"Eventually water that falls as rain on land comes back into the sea," said Anders Levermann, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was not involved in the study. "Some of it goes into ground water but most of it will drain into rivers, or evaporate."


The apparent slowing of sea level rise coincided with what the U.N. panel of climate experts calls a hiatus in global warming at the Earth's surface, when temperatures have risen less sharply despite record emissions of greenhouse gases.

"The slowdown in sea level rise ... is due to natural variability in the climate and is not indicative of a slowdown in the effects of global warming," Nature Climate Change said.

Many scientists suspect that the "missing heat" from a build-up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is going into the deep oceans as part of natural variations in the climate.

But, because water expands as it warms, that theory had been hard to reconcile with the apparent slowdown in sea level rise.

Sea levels have risen almost 20 cms since 1900. The U.N. panel of climate experts expects an acceleration, with gains of between 26 and 82 cms over 100 years to the late 21st century.

Melting an ice cube with sides 7 kms (4.3 miles) long is roughly the equivalent of adding a millimeter of water to the world's oceans.

Last year, another study said that unusually heavy downpours over Australia in 2010 and 2011 had curbed sea level rise, before a rebound reaching a rate of about 1 centimeter a year globally, partly as water flowed back into the sea.

"It has tailed off in the past 12 months or so" to above 3 mm a year, said John Fasullo of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research who was lead author of the Australia study.

For the Nature Climate Change study:

(Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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