Best of our wild blogs: 26 Mar 14

Over a Decade of Celebrating Singapore Waters!
from The Hantu Bloggers

Collaborating to Save the Reefs of Pulau Hantu
from Challenge

Blooming after Prolonged Drought
from Mountain and Sea

#17 Bishan Park
from My Nature Experiences

Butterflies Galore! : Yellow Flash
from Butterflies of Singapore

The Professor Who Helped Raise SGD$46m to Establish the New Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum from Raffles Museum News

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Little fuss over loss of golf club land

Rachel Scully The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - One month after the Government's keenly watched move to take back some golf course land for homes and other uses, there has been little public reaction.

Many Singaporeans seem to agree that the move is a step in the right direction - or they simply cannot be bothered to make a fuss.

Last month, the Law Ministry said Keppel Club will not be able to renew its lease when it expires in 2021. Orchid Country Club in Yishun will face a similar fate come 2030, and Marina Bay Golf Course will lose its greens when its lease runs out in 2024.

The three sites occupy about 220ha in total, equivalent to a third the size of Ang Mo Kio town. They have been zoned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for residential and commercial uses, although residential use includes more than just homes.

"Land zoned for residential (needs) will not be used for housing alone," said a URA spokesman.

"The land is usually planned to include other amenities and local services - such as parks and schools that will benefit future residents in the area."

The lack of an outcry over the land use decision may signal that golf, once the business world's sport de rigueur, could be losing its lustre here, observers say.

Associate Professor Sing Tien Foo of the department of real estate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) cited the relatively small numbers of people playing golf today.

"The latest land use decisions affect only an exclusive group of club members," he said.

There are about 36,360 golfers with registered handicaps here, according to data from the Singapore Golf Association.

He also suggested that Singaporeans are pleased to see the land being put to more productive uses. There are 17 golf clubs and public courses in Singapore occupying about 1,500ha, making up 2 per cent of Singapore's total land area. This does not include the five driving ranges that take up another 31ha (see box).

"The intention of converting golf course land at Keppel Club into housing areas may attract higher economic values," he said.

Of the 308 people who responded to an online survey by The Straits Times, more than half wanted the golf course land to be converted into public spaces and parks.

"We must protect Singapore's natural greenery and history and by removing all these golf courses for other uses, it will only make Singapore more of an urban jungle that has lost its history," wrote one respondent.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck, an avid sportsman, believes that another reason for the absence of an uproar is the availability of other options for golfers.

He told The Straits Times that the various government agencies "had also been engaging the different clubs, so the constant communication and early notification" helps with planning purposes.

Another active sportsman, Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng, said the golfers affected by last month's announcement may hold memberships at other clubs or go golfing overseas, and would not find the decision as drastic.

Meanwhile, other sports have been gaining traction with businessmen.

These include cycling, running and tougher sporting activities such as triathlons and marathons.

Mr Baey, the former managing director of public relations company Hill and Knowlton, said he has noticed that C-level executives are picking up a flurry of other sporting activities.

"Other than cycling and running, there are those who are also into dragon boating and other extreme sports," he said.

"While playing a nine- or 18-hole golf game still remains a viable option for bonding and networking, it is time consuming, and that is why I didn't pick up golf," he added with a laugh.

Mr Baey also noted that some politicians are cutting down on golfing sessions, but declined to mention names.

Sociologist Daniel Goh of NUS said that "new business and professional elites here are more likely to take up marathon running and cycling than golfing".

Golf is on the rise in China, but "has been on the decline in the Anglo-American world", he said.

Instead, more professionals here are opting for fitness and wellness regimes, using gyms and spas and doing yoga, noted Mr Goh.

Financial institutions have also contributed to this trend by sponsoring non-golfing events here.

For instance, Standard Chartered Bank has been the title sponsor of a marathon in Singapore since 2002. Last year, 54,000 runners signed up for the event.

OCBC Bank has been the title sponsor of a cycling event now in its sixth year. Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC's head of group corporate communications, said cycling encourages teamwork and bonding, and this resonates with the bank's corporate values of people and teamwork.

"It is also a sport that anyone can take up - from toddlers to seniors and from novice riders to serious ones," she added.

Cost-wise, owning a golf and country club membership seems to be losing its lustre among young middle-class Singaporeans.

"The high housing prices have got the attention of younger Singaporeans, who have placed the dream of owning a condo in a higher order of priority than a country club," said Prof Sing. "Higher certificate of entitlement prices have also put pressure on them to set more realistic targets in their dream to acquire the five Cs."

While being members of a club indicates a level of societal status, the tangible nature of owning a condominium home and car will be prioritised before that, he said.

Mr Teo has also noticed the shift of interest in the younger generation.

He said: "Country clubs may be sought after for the gym, pool and other family-friendly activities rather than golfing facilities.

"Golf could become their preference for getting a country club membership at a later stage in their lives when it will be used as a platform for networking."

The 'swing' places

Singapore has 17 golf clubs and public courses occupying 1,500 ha. But this excludes the following five driving ranges.


Sin Ming Avenue. This range is bounded by the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and is within walking distance of Sin Ming Industrial Estate.


This driving range in Toa Payoh is surrounded by the Central Expressway and Toa Payoh East Road. The site is also opposite the Toa Payoh Industrial Park.


Close to Bukit Timah Saddle Club and The Grandstand. The range is off the Eng Neo exit of the Pan-Island Expressway.


In the north-east, near Punggol Waterway. It is also accessible via the Punggol LRT, and the closest station is Riviera.


Close to Bukit Batok Driving Centre, Swiss Cottage Secondary School and St Anthony's Primary School. It is part of the amenities offered by the HomeTeamNS club that includes an adventure centre and bowling alley.

Sources: OneMap.SG, Singapore Land Authority

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Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand: These Snail Beauties Are On the Brink of Extinction

Tanya Lewis Yahoo News 26 Mar 14;

They look like ethereal little beings from another planet, but they're actually newly discovered species of snails. And unfortunately, some of them are already going extinct.

A team of biologists catalogued 31 species of the snail genus Plectostoma from Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand, 10 of which were new to science. But the snails live on limestone hills mined by cement companies, which threaten to destroy the snails and their habitat along with them.

Dressed in shells of neon orange, lilac and crimson, the snails dazzle the eyes. "They flaunt all shell-coiling rules, by having very irregularly coiled and ornamented shells, making them look like microjewelry," said study researcher Thor-Seng Liew of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. [Photos: Gorgeous Neon Malaysian Snails]

Liew and his colleagues imaged the shells using a micro-CT scanner, a device that produces 3D X-rays of tiny objects.

The snails live only on limestone hills, which are rare in Southeast Asia, so each snail colony is isolated from the others. As a result, many of the species are endemic to a single hill.

This narrow habitat means that when mining companies quarry the hills for cement, they can destroy entire species of snail. The species Plectostoma sciaphilum already went extinct when its hill was mined around 2003. At least six other snail species face similar threats; for instance, P. tenggekensis, one of the species found in the study, may be gone by the end of 2014, the researchers said.

To raise awareness about these exquisite invertebrates, the researchers named some of the new species after conservationists and politicians who have supported preservation of the hills these snails call home (for example, Plectostoma whitteni was named after Tony Whitten, a former senior biodiversity specialist for the World Bank and the current regional director for Asia-Pacific Fauna & Flora International).

All of the species are described today (March 25) in the journal ZooKeys.

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Malaysia: The Malaysia Nature Society regrets plans to delist Ramsar sites in Johor

New Straits Times 26 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Malaysia Nature Society has expressed regret over the state government's plan to de-gazette two Ramsar wetlands here.

Its Johor branch chairman Vincent Chow said the delisting would mean the Ramsar sites would be vulnerable to continuous degradation and destruction, adding that the country stands to lose one of the biggest mangrove reserves if the state government gave up its commitment to environmental conservation.

He said the state had fought hard to get the listing about a decade ago.

"Man has to learn to co-exist with nature, not to destroy it for individual gains. Coastal mangrove vegetation takes hundreds of years to stabilise or settle down. Once a mangrove reserve is degraded or destroyed, it will never recover.

"Our future generation may not be able to see mangrove reserves like what we are seeing now. I hope the state government will exercise caution before making any decision which will have a negative long term impact on the environment."

Chow was responding to an NST article that the two Johor wetlands, which were accorded Ramsar status in 2003, will soon lose their listing.

The Ramsar listing is an international list of important wetlands that come under the Ramsar Convention, which champions conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The irony is that the degazettement is not due to the Ramsar Bureau having decided that the wetlands were no longer worthy. Instead, it is the Johor government which is seeking to degazette them on its own initiative.

State Health and Envoronment Executive committee chairman Ayub Rahmat said only the Pulau Kukup and Tanjung Piai sites were officially gazetted in 2003, adding that the Sungai Pulai site was never gazetted as a wetland.

It was learnt that the state government was finalising discussions on the de-gazetting exercise, which would also involve environmental bodies such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, which is responsible for protecting endangered wildlife and the environment.

The two Ramsar sites in Johor, Pulau Kukup and Tanjung Piai, were gazetted about a decade ago under the administration of former menteri besar, Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, due to their rich and unique biodiversity, as well as their unspoilt mangrove plants and extensive mudflats.

However, coastal erosion and development has taken a toll on the ecology of the environmental golden triangle in southwest Johor.

The state government also planned to reduce the size of the Sungai Pulai wetlands.

The wetlands in Sungai Pulai and its estuary, especially near Pulau Merambong, are a sanctuary for marine creatures, such as seahorses and dugongs.

Chow said the Sungai Pulai wetlands is a breeding ground for many marine species, including those from the Straits of Malacca, as the wetlands is well-sheltered from erosion and waves.

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Malaysia: No cause for haze alarm, says weatherman

patrick lee The Star 26 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: Haze from Sumatran fires will not reach peninsular Malaysia, with the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment owing it to winds blowing from the country’s northeast.

“The forest fires will not affect us in any way because the winds will blow towards Sumatra, and thus there’s no need for concern at the moment,” said National weather centre director Muham­mad Helmi Abdullah.

He added that a change in wind patterns would only occur in mid-May, and that there was a “very remote possibility” that winds would blow haze towards Malay­sia.

Muhammad Helmi said Malay­sia would also experience rain as it moved towards an inter-monsoonal period expected to occur by the end of next month.

“There will be frequent rains, and it can be quite heavy over the west coast states.

“It will cause the haze – if any – to clear up and fires in our areas to be drastically reduced,” he said.

A report by the Jakarta Post on Monday said at least 416 fires were recorded in peatland and forest areas across Sumatra. Most of these were in Riau, totalling 294 hotspots.

The peninsula has also been experiencing instances of haze along its west coast, with some forest areas catching fire due to months-long dry weather.

Muhammad Helmi said that cloud seeding could not be carried out until this Friday as the weather was not suitable for it.

Previously, he told The Star that there might be a “temporary break” in seeding-conducive weather this week.

“Conditions won’t be favourable (until Friday), so chances of us seeing showers or rainclouds are not very high,” he said yesterday.

Water rationing in Selangor to remain until further notice
The Star 26 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The water rationing in stage one and three in Selangor, and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya will continue until March 31 or longer.

Syabas assistant general manager Priscilla Alfred, said there had been no increase of water flow in Sungai Selangor due to the hot weather and absence of rainfall for the past few days.

“However, Syabas is still waiting for further decision from the Selangor state government on the water rationing,” she said in a statement here yesterday.

She said the water rationing in all affected areas in stage one and three would be continued according to schedule.

She added that hopefully, consumers would take a serious view of the water situation in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

The rationing for stage one and three in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya were implemented on Feb 27 and March 10.

The first stage of the water rationing plan was implemented following the closure of the Cheras Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi water treatment plants due to the ammonia contamination in Sungai Langat involving several places in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

She said Syabas was informed by the operator of the plant, Puncak Niaga (M) Sdn Bhd, that the Cheras Batu 11 treatment plant which had begun operations since March 17, had stopped operations since 2pm on Monday.

“This follows the increase in ammonia level at the Cheras Batu 11 treatment plant since Monday due to reduced rainfall in the last four days.

“The ammonia reading was at 4.2 parts per million (ppm), which is above the level permitted by the Health Ministry,” Priscilla said.

Stage three of the water rationing plan had been carried out in Gombak, Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor, Klang and Shah Alam following the reduction of raw water released from the Sungai Selangor Dam and the Klang Gates Dam as was decided by the Selangor state government. — Bernama

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Indonesia: Number of hotspots in Riau increases

Antara 25 Mar 14;

Map document of hotspot by BNPB. (

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The number of forest fire hotspots in Riau Province increased to 45 on Monday, from 10 the previous day, according to data received from the Haze Disaster Mitigation Task Force.

Drought and the use of fires to clear land have caused more hotspots to emerge, Sugarin, head of the Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said here on Tuesday.

Of the 45 hotspots, 27 were found in Rokan Hilir, seven in Dumai city, six in the Meranti Islands district, three in Siak and three in Bengkalis, according to the task force, which is based in Roesmin Nujardin Air Force Base.

Meanwhile, the Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday detected a total of 187 hotspots across Sumatra, including 163 in Riau.

Of the 163 hotspots, Rokan Hilir had 35; Pelalawan, six; Meranti Islands, 69; and Indragiri Hilir, four. Dumai city and Siak District had 29 and 17 hotspots, respectively.

The NOAA-18 satellite, however, reported only five hotspots in Riau on March 24.

"Drought and cyclone Gillian absorbed the water vapor, thus reducing the possibility of rain. Rains are predicted to start on March 28," stated Sugarin.

The National Disaster Mitigation Board (BNPB) said almost 90 percent of the forest and plantation fires in the Riau province had been extinguished.

"This morning, we received no report of new hotspots. But hotspots are not solely in the form of fires. They can also be found underground," BNPBs chief Syamsul Maarif noted on March 18.

Syamsul said a number of fires were still burning in the Siak district, where peat land is up to 5 meters deep.

It is believed that hotspots are still to be found beneath the peat land. Efforts to fight the fires are underway by sowing salt to create cloud seeds and induce rains and by showering water from planes.


F012 (f001/INE )


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El Nino likely in 2014, says Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Colin Packham PlanetArk 26 Mar 14;

Climate models show an increased chance of a 2014 El Nino weather event, said Australia's bureau of meteorology, leading to possible droughts in Southeast Asia and Australia and floods in South America, which could hit key rice, wheat and sugar crops.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said an El Nino could occur during the southern hemisphere winter, May-July, with Australian cattle and grain farmers already struggling with drought which has cut production.

The last El Nino in 2009/10 was categorized weak to moderate. The most severe El Nino was in 1998 when freak weather killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

"The latest climate model survey by the shows that the tropical Pacific is very likely to warm in the coming months, with most models showing sea surface temperatures reaching El Nino thresholds during the southern hemisphere winter," the BOM said in an emailed statement.

Australia's outlook echoes similar forecasts from other weather bureaus in Japan and the United States, which each said an El Nino was increasingly like.

(Reporting by Colin Packham)

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China says polluting industry still growing too fast, heavy smog alert for Beijing

David Stanway PlanetArk 26 Mar 14;

China's energy-hungry, high-polluting industries continued to grow too fast in 2013, putting "huge pressures" on the environment and causing air quality to worsen, the country's pollution agency said on Tuesday.

Premier Li Keqiang "declared war" on pollution in a major policy address this month, but China has long struggled to strike a balance between protecting the environment and keeping up economic growth.

China is still too slow in reforming its resource-intensive economy, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement on its website (

"The pace of restructuring and upgrading industries has slowed, the mode of development remains crude, and emissions of atmospheric pollutants have long exceeded environmental capacity," it said.

Rapid urbanisation brought dust from new housing and road building, while more traffic increased emissions. Slower wind speeds than usual in northern China were an additional contributing factor last year.

Only three out of 74 Chinese cities fully complied with state pollution standards in 2013, the ministry said earlier this month.

Separately, the official Xinhua news agency said that the meteorological office had issued another heavy smog alert for Beijing, its neighbouring city of Tianjin and for the province of Hebei.

The smog is expected to last until Friday, when it will be dispersed by a cold front, the report said.

Beijing's mayor promised in January to spend 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) on improving air quality this year as part of an "all-out effort" to tackle pollution, though similar pledges in the past have brought little improvement.

Pollution is an increasing concern for China's leaders, keen to forestall potential unrest as affluent city dwellers turn against the growth-at-all-costs economic model that has tainted much of the country's air, water and soil.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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