Best of our wild blogs: 6 Apr 14

27 Apr (Sat) morning: Free guided walk at Chek Jawa
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Night Walk At Venus Drive (04 Apr 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Life History of the Common Rose
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Community-grown vegetables for sale at Woodlands

Channel NewsAsia 5 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE: Residents in Sembawang GRC will be able to buy community-grown vegetables at a farmers' market on Sunday.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said there will be some 250 kilogrammes of vegetables for sale at the market, which will be held at the Republic Polytechnic in Woodlands at 9am.

Proceeds will go to the Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.

The vegetables are harvested from community gardens in Woodlands, which were upgraded into "model vegetable gardens" with the help of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA).

The community gardens are tended to by residents.

Writing in his blog "Housing Matters", Mr Khaw said those vegetable gardens have been showing astonishing results since he roped in AVA .

"Every 4 to 6 weeks, there is so much harvest that the residents have been able to share them with needy families," he wrote.

Mr Khaw said the little ones in his constituency are not left out.

Aspiring green thumbs from the PCF Kindergarten at Woodlands have also been growing their own vegetables and will hawk their harvests, which include Xiao Bai Cai, Nai Bai, Kang Kong and Bayam, on Sunday.

With the help from AVA officers, the pre-schoolers learn how to sow seeds in plastic cups, watch them grow into seedlings, before putting them out for outdoor planting.

Mr Khaw said this has allowed PCF teachers to conduct outdoor lessons on seedling transplant, fertilising, weeding and harvesting.

"We have successfully extended community gardening to the young to nurture a new generation of "green thumbs". Over the last two months, the children have been tending to their own 'Kinder-Garden'," he wrote.

- CNA/nd

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Expect short, thundery showers: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 5 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore can expect six to eight days of short, thundery showers in the afternoon in the first two weeks of April, says the National Environment Agency (NEA).

NEA says the showers may be heavy at times, especially when there is a convergence of winds coupled with strong solar heating.

NEA also says in its fortnightly weather outlook that inter-monsoon conditions will prevail over the region in the first two weeks of April.

However, rainfall for the month of April is expected to be below average.

The prevailing winds are forecast to be mostly light and variable in direction, which could bring a few warm days with temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius in the afternoon.

In addition, slightly hazy conditions can be expected on a few days, in particular in the early morning, due to an accumulation of particulate matter under light wind conditions.

- CNA/ir

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Malaysia: Clouded Leopards seen at Mount Santubong

Borneo Post 6 Apr 14;

KUCHING: Malaysian Nature Society has called for an immediate evaluation study of Mount Santubong as a home for Sarawak’s largest cat, the Bornean Clouded Leopard.

In February, there was a reported sighting of three Clouded Leopards on Mount Santubong.

The Bornean Clouded Leopard or ‘Neofelis diardi’ is an endemic medium-sized cat found only in Borneo, known locally as Entulu.

It is the smallest of the “large cats”, which is the general term used for the large members of the Felidae, like the tiger, lion and leopard. At over 2 metres in length, and weighing up to 25kg, this highly endangered cat in Sarawak is severely threatened by hunting and loss of its forest habitat.

In a press release issued yesterday, the Malaysia Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) chairman Anthony Sebastian said the sightings of three clouded leopards on Santubong, Sarawak’s newest gazetted National Park, is of great significance.

“MNSKB has been highlighting the biodiversity and historical importance of Gunung Santubong for many years. With more and more attention paid to Kuching’s iconic mountain, new discoveries are being made,” he said.

“Previously thought to have no hornbills, Santubong is now known to have four species of hornbills. Previously thought to have one otter species, we now know there are possibly three species of otters on Santubong,” he added.

This discovery of Clouded Leopards on Santubong, Sebastian pointed out, was yet another addition to Santubong’s increasingly rich wildlife, and not just another wild cat.

“This is Borneo’s top predator, and largest cat,” he emphasised.

The sightings of these Clouded Leopards were made by surveyors up on the mountain, doing preliminary work for the cable car project, revealed Sebastian.

Unlike hornbills, which are flying birds, and will only be affected by the disturbance caused by infrastructure development on the higher parts of the mountain, he said Clouded Leopards will be adversely affected by such projects.

Before any further plans to be made on Santubong, Sebastian stressed that it would be only prudent that a comprehensive study was commissioned to determine the requirements for Clouded Leopards on this isolated mountain, and what measures need to be put in place to ensure their continued, and permanent survival.

“Sarawak cannot afford to lose a population of a highly endangered large endemic cat living so close to Kuching. As arguably the most beautiful of the world’s wild cats, because of its exquisite bold markings, the opportunities are enormous for Sarawak’s, and Kuching’s tourism industry.”

He hopes that surveyors who sighted the big cats may withhold information on the animals’ exact location for their safety and survival.

The MNS, in its continuing efforts to highlight Santubong cultural, archaeological and biological richness, organised the first ever Santubong Nature Festival in 2013.

This year, the second edition of the Festival will be held in November.

Contact MNS for more information.

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Malaysia: Recent rainfall does not mean water rationing will end, says Syabas

christine cheah The Star 6 Apr 14;

PETALING JAYA: Recent rainfall over some parts in Klang Valley does not mean that water rationing may end any time soon, according to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas).

Syabas’ corporate communications assistant general manager Priscilla Alfred said the water distribution company had yet to receive any instruction from the state government or the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) to cease rationing.

“Having just a week of rain doesn’t mean that water levels in the dams have increased to a level the state government and SPAN deem satisfactory,” Alfred said.

Rain in various parts of the city does not mean that it also rained in water catchment areas, which for Sungai Selangor dam, would be the area upstream of Kuala Kubu Baru.,

As of yesterday, the Sungai Selangor dam, which caters to 60% of Klang Valley’s demand, has only seen a minimal storage increase from 36.67% to 37.09%, according to the Selangor Water Management Authority (Luas) website. Other dams such as Klang Gates, Langat and Sungai Tinggi stood at 52.91%, 49.35% and 60.97% respectively.

Alfred said that phase four of water rationing would continue until April 30.

To address the lack of rain in water catchment areas, cloud seeding will be carried out in these areas.

“Cloud-seeding operations will be based on data on the movement of the clouds – in terms of how fast they move and in which direction,” said the department’s central forecasting office director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah.

USJ4 resident Jason Ong, who is preparing for phase four which will affect his area today, has bought two 151-litre water containers, costing RM80 each, to cater for the needs of his household.

“We are all prepared and will use water sparingly. The water in containers are just for use when we really need it,” said Ong, a businessman.

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Indonesia: State of Emergency Lifted in Riau as Haze Clears

Farouk Arnaz Jakarta Globe 5 Apr 14;

Jakarta. Police said on Saturday that a state-of-emergency in Riau had been lifted, after fires and hotspots burned through forest and peatlands for weeks, sending air-quality in parts of the Sumatran province into the most hazardous levels, grounding flights and closing schools.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said the emergency status had been withdrawn based on an assessment by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG)’s report that, as of Wednesday, there were only two hotspots left in Meranti and Indragiri Hilir.

“Yesterday’s weather was cloudy and the visibility in the airport was seven kilometers,” Ronny said on Saturday. “Flights are all back to normal.”

Police have named 110 individuals and one company suspects for starting the fires. Officers would remain in the province to attempt to prevent smallholders and other Riau citizens from starting fires. police said, the lighting of which has been a longstanding practice used in Riau to clear land for plantations.

Ronny added that two planes, four helicopters and Bambi buckets would be kept on standby as a precautionary measure. The announcement does not mean Riau residents have seen the back of the haze for another year — last year the issue received greater international attention because the prevailing wind direction in June sent the air pollution drifting over the Malacca Strait into Singapore, which suffered hazardous air-quality levels for several days.

The situation for the residents of Pekanabaru, Dumai and other parts of Riau has been dangerous for weeks, and the seriousness of the fires was worse at its nadir in 2014 than last year, but the issue has not received as much international press because the wind direction ensured the haze stayed over Riau and parts of West Sumatra.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) said earlier this week that it planned to recall some 1,000 personnel who had been seconded to Riau to help manage the crisis.

The state of emergency was announced as forest fires re-emerged after a brief reprieve, surging to 777 hotspots. The fires, and the ensuing haze, have cost the province some Rp 10 trillion ($890 million), according to the state-run Antara News Agency.

Riau remains vigilant against haze
Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 5 Apr 14;

The haze emergency in Riau officially ended on Friday and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has handed over recovery and control operations to the Riau provincial administration. The administration, however, remains on the alert as it has been forecast that the province will have an extreme dry season in coming months.

BNPB head and commander of the Riau Haze Disaster Mitigation Integrated Task Force, Syamsul Ma’arif, said the task of stopping haze from forest and peatland fires had been completed through aerial and land operations as well as law enforcement.

“I have reported to President [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] on the achievement of the haze mitigation operation, which was badly needed by the community. The President deemed the military operation to overcome the haze in Riau a success,” Syamsul said during a rollcall at Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru before sending task force troops back to their units.

Since an emergency was first declared, BNPB deployed 1,000 personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy from various units in Java to assist the Disaster Mitigation Quick Reaction (PRCPB) team in Riau.

The Riau haze mitigation operation cost Rp 164 billion (US$14.49 million) in state funds, most of which was used to lease aircraft, including helicopters, and to cover the cost of water bombing and weather modification technology (WMT). The amount was higher than the Rp 103 billion spent on similar operations last year.

“In the next couple of days, PRCPB personnel, who have been on duty in Riau, will return to their respective units, but the helicopters for water bombing operations and aircraft for WMT will remain here to assist the recovery operation,” said Syamsul.

“The weather in Riau will soon be drier than last year, so the potential for forest and peatland fires will be higher. Anticipatory measures have to be intensified in order to prevent [forest and peatland fires] and haze. Despite no longer having full control, the BNPB will remain to assist the Riau provincial administration, including in providing funds and logistics,” he added.

He said the BNPB was ready to hold a second operation by deploying a bigger force, involving 2,500 personnel from the military and police in the third week of May should the condition worsen and the provincial administration was unable to handle it alone.

“So as to prevent haze from recurring, plus we won’t have to expend more energy. We already have the experience to mitigate the problem,” added Syamsul.

Meanwhile, Riau Haze Disaster Mitigation Integrated Task Force deputy chief Maj. Gen. Iskandar MS said the President had instructed all those concerned, be they civilian or military, at the lowest level, to take responsibility for the smallest fire in their respective areas.

“The district military commanders, district police chiefs, district administrative chiefs and other officials must accept sanctions, such as being dismissed, if they fail to report a fire in their areas before it becomes bigger and difficult to control,” said Iskandar.

“On the other hand, areas kept free of fire will receive awards, the form of which will be decided later.”

Separately, Riau Deputy Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman said the Riau administration was drafting a gubernatorial regulation as a legal tool to allocate 2 percent of the provincial budget and 50 percent from corporate social responsibility funds for the prevention and mitigation of forest and peatland fires.

“In the next four days, discussions on the regulation will be completed. We will consider all input and suggestions,” he said.

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