Best of our wild blogs: 8 May 14

The beauty of Pulau Hantu
from Peiyan.Photography

Oriental pied hornbill spotted in Bishan HDB
from Nature Spies

Butterflies Galore! : Pale Grass Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Malaysia: Johor building stadium on man-made island "located between Singapore and Johor"

mohd farhaan shah The Star 7 May 14;

JOHOR BARU: Expect bigger things from Johor Football Association (JFA) from next year, including a new stadium on a man-made island here.

President Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim announced on Tuesday that the new 50,000-capacity stadium is being constructed by Country Garden, which is one of JFA’s sponsors.

He pointed out that the stadium would be built on a man-made island located between Singapore and Johor.

“Reclamation work is currently being carried out and once completed, the island will be twice the size of Sentosa Island in Singapore.

“Hopefully, the construction period will not take too long. I am very excited about this new project,” he said, adding that it would be the most state-of-the-art stadium in the world.

Tunku Ismail also announced that Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has agreed to buy a private plane for the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players and officials.

He added that the decision came after taking into consideration the cost of travelling to other states.

Currently, JFA have three buses for their teams including the President’s Cup squad players.

On Tuesday, Tunku Ismail dropped a bomb by announcing that the JFA’s second team, JDT II, may be withdrawn from the Premier League.

“We are considering placing the team in the Singapore football league by November as it is better and will give the younger players better exposure,” he said.

The Johor Crown Prince added that the JFA are willing to pay a fine if the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) penalise them for pulling out JDT II.

He also announced that JDT will be buying two more foreigners for next season’s campaign.

“We already offered US$3.5mil (RM11.4mil) to Boca Juniors for Juan Manuel Martinez for next season,” he said.

Another player they are targeting is Selangor hitman Paulo Rangel.

On another matter, Tunku Ismail said JFA are considering holding a friendly match with Italian giants AC Milan as well as a charity match involving Lionel Messi, Neymar and other world class footballers.

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Don't release animals into the wild: NParks

Channel NewsAsia 7 May 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) has reminded members of the public not to release animals into the parks and nature areas during the Vesak Day period.

"We would like to appeal to the public not to release animals into the wild as it does not guarantee their survival," said Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at NParks.

"Some of these animals are kept as pets and are not likely to survive in the wild if they are unable to fend for themselves in the new surroundings.

"Other animals that are able to adapt to the new environment may disrupt the ecological balance when they compete with native species for resources or introduce new viruses."

Yap Kheng Guan, president of the Buddhist Fellowship, said: "We rejoice with Buddhists around the world as they commemorate the sacred day of Vesak.

"Some may mark the day with the act of animal liberation.

"Out of kindness and compassion, it is good to refrain from releasing the animals in nature reserves and reservoirs. Doing so may subject the released animals to natural predators or may cause harm to the eco-system."

- CNA/xq

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El Nino may be back in Singapore in mid-2014

Channel NewsAsia 8 May 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The United Kingdom Meteorological Office has forecasted a high likelihood of El Nino striking Southeast Asia in the middle of the year.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer) president, S Piarapakaran, said the institution, using the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) model, had forecasted a 70 per cent probability of El Nino in Southeast Asia.

The weather phenomenon is linked to dry spells in Southeast Asia.

According to Singapore's National Environment Agency, El Nino occurs every two to seven years and typically lasts about nine to 18 months.

A “very strong” El Nino year in 1997 led to a prolonged dry season in Singapore.

NEA said annual rainfall in Singapore that year was about half of the long-term average and the annual average temperature was 1.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

According to Malaysian news agency Bernama, El Nino could lead to a dry spell lasting about six months for the country.

- CNA/Bernama/xq

El Nino chances exceed 65 pct this summer -U.S. weather forecaster
Chris Prentice PlanetArk 9 May 14;

El Nino chances exceed 65 pct this summer -U.S. weather forecaster Photo: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) image shows the warming waters of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean
Photo: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab

The chances have increased over the past month that the much-feared El Nino weather phenomenon, which can wreak havoc on global crops, will strike this year, the federal U.S. forecaster said Thursday.

In its monthly report, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an agency of the National Weather Service, said neutral conditions will prevail through the spring. But the forecaster raised the likelihood of the weather pattern developing over the summer to more than 65 percent.

In April, it said it saw a 50 percent chance of the weather pattern developing by the summer.

Global weather forecasters in recent months have increased the likelihood of El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, heightening uncertainty in global commodity and energy markets.

To read the full CPC report, click:

(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Prototype for cooling techniques among Singapore-Swiss collaborations

Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 7 May 14;

ZURICH: A prototype for cooling techniques in Singapore is expected to be implemented by the end of next year -- among the strong research collaborations between the country and Switzerland.

The prototype is one of the projects from the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability, which is a joint research centre between Singapore and Zurich.

On the first day of his official visit to Switzerland, President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited ETH Zurich, a Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

At the institute, President Tan was given a demonstration at the laboratory of hydraulics, where he was shown what happens when a downtown area is flooded, and ways to prevent that.

He also saw how structures can be made resilient in the face of natural disasters, like tsunamis.

Some National University of Singapore students on an exchange programme with the institute also met President Tan.

In phase two of the Singapore-ETH Centre's research, a cooling technique is being developed to make Singapore a more sustainable city.

"We have developed prototypes for cooling technologies which can reduce the amount of energy that is needed by 50 per cent, and now it's a matter of designing buildings which use this kind of improved technology,” said Peter Edwards, director of the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability.

Chan Xiang Quan, a Singapore exchange student at ETH Zurich, said: "What I gained most from here is the ability to look for information on my own, and also to rely more on myself."

The Singapore-ETH Centre is housed on the NUS campus. Going forward, other programmes planned for the centre include nutrition and health.

It is hoped that the outcomes from the research groups to make life better for Singaporeans will also be applicable to other countries.

- CNA/nd

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Indonesia: Participatory approach needed to overcome haze

Andi Abdussalam Antara 7 May 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia needs to take a participatory approach where the central government, local administrations, non-governmental organizations, research institutions and the local people work together to resolve the annual haze problem, which often disturbed neighboring countries.

"In addition to a participatory approach, there should also be a political approach and scientific research on how to handle it," Asmin Amin, a member of Commission VII of the House of Representatives (DPR) on environment Affairs, said recently.

Moreover, Indonesia has not yet ratified the ASEAN agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution, which will allow neighboring countries to provide assistance in resolving the haze problem in Indonesia.

According to Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, Singapore and Malaysia are ready to assist if they are needed. "They said they are ready to assist if they are needed," the minister added after a meeting with Singapores Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday.

However, he asserted that the House of Representatives (DPR) had not ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution because the House was now in a transitional period.

The House members for the 2009-2014 period will end their terms of office this year after the legislative elections on April 9 and after the presidential election on July 9 was organized.

According to Wikipedia, the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution is a legally binding environmental agreement signed in 2002 by all the ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. The agreement recognizes that the trans-boundary haze pollution, which results from land and/or forest fires, should be mitigated through concerted national efforts and international cooperation.

Ministers responsible for the environment from the ASEAN Member States (AMS) held their 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution on September 25, 2013, in Surabaya, Indonesia.

They will meet again in Laos in September in 2014 on the occasion of the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution.

Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his ministry was now waiting for the ratification of the ASEAN agreement.

"We, including the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of environment, are waiting for the ratification of the ASEAN agreement by the DPR. It should have been ratified by now but the House is in a transitional period. The members are focusing on the presidential election," the minister pointed out.

Zulkifli Hasan said the House once discussed the ratification of the agreement but the DPR rejected it, saying that the content of agreement should be improved first.

Regarding the rejection of the agreement, Asmin explained that the reason for the rejection was that it provided a loophole for foreign countries to interfere in domestic affairs.

"If forest fires occur, Singapore can interfere without the need to ask for a permit. This was the reason why it was rejected. We turned it back. We were afraid that if we agreed, we will only become an observer (in handling the haze)," Asmin added.

Meanwhile, Singapore, one of the nearest neighboring country often affected by the Indonesian haze, said the forest and land fire perpetrators should receive firm punishment.

According to Minister Zulkifli Hasan, the Indonesian government was asked to act firmly against perpetrators of forest fires in Riau Province, which crippled infrastructure and peoples activities and sent haze to neighboring countries.

"We discussed efforts to enforce the law. Singapore said companies that committed the crime should be punished," Minister Zulkifli Hasan said after a bilateral meeting with Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday.

Recent forest and land fires in Riau have affected more than 20 thousand hectares of forest, plantation and peat-soil areas throughout the province. They disrupted around 30 percent of the economic activities and caused monetary losses in Riau.

Based on data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), forest and land fires occurring in the Riau Province between February and April 2014 have caused economic losses worth more than Rp20 trillion.

Police have named 116 people as suspects in the forest and plantation fires in the province.

They were allegedly involved in 70 cases being investigated by the local police officers throughout Riau province. Of the 70 cases, nine are still being investigated further, while 61 others are considered ready to be brought to court.

Meanwhile, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently stated that the work to prevent land fires in the Riau province was conducted systematically and involved all parties, so the handling of land fires should not become a regular agenda.

"April through October will be the dry season. The root problem that causes the land fires must be tackled, and it is the only way to overcome the haze problem in Riau," the president explained.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Sea Turtles a Flash Point in South China Sea Dispute

Philippines Arrests Fishermen Accused of Poaching Endangered Species
Cris Larano Asian Wall Street Journal 7 May 14;

MANILA—How did turtles become a flash point in the territorial spat in the South China Sea? Many would argue that it's because the endangered creatures are worth a fight.

In the Philippines—where five of the world's seven species of sea turtle live—poaching sea turtles is a crime that can come with up to 12 years in prison and fines of up to $22,500, depending on the type of turtle. Still, poachers seek them out for their meat, which is believed in some cultures to enhance virility, and their shells, which are used for jewelry.

On Wednesday, the Philippines arrested the crew of a Chinese fishing vessel near the disputed Spratly Islands after receiving reports of poachers in the area. The Chinese vessel contained around 500 sea turtles, some of them dead, the police said. The arrest prompted rebuke from Beijing, which called on the Philippines to release the crew.

In recent years, other Chinese fishermen have been caught by Philippine authorities for poaching turtles or other endangered species such as clams and anteaters.

"Even if those turtles didn't come from the Philippines, [the alleged poachers] could still be prosecuted here because sea turtles are globally protected animals," said Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The Southeast Asian country is a hotbed for poaching. Ms. Lim said all five species of sea turtles in the country are considered endangered, but more so the Hawksbill and Leatherback that are valued for their shells, which are used for ornaments and jewelry.

The other species found in the country are the Olive Ridley, Green Sea Turtle and the Loggerhead. The two other species not found in the Philippines are Kemp's Ridley and the Flatback. Leatherback and Hawksbill are considered the most threatened by possible extinction.

It takes decades before a sea turtle reaches maturity, and only then will females breed and return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their eggs. Aside from natural predators, including humans, loss of habitat and other environmental threats mean as few as one in every 1,000 hatchlings will reach adulthood. Each female can lay as many as 150 eggs per clutch, and can lay several times a season.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, poachers take around 30,000 green turtles in California alone while more than 50,000 sea turtles are killed in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. In the 1960s, over a million Olive Ridley turtles were butchered in Mexico.

Sea turtle eggs are considered an aphrodisiac in some countries, including China, and eaten raw or sold as snacks in bars and restaurants, WWF said.

Chinese and other East Asian cuisines use the meat, skin and innards of soft-shell turtles for soup. Turtles are also used in Chinese medicine. Japan is a major buyer of sea turtle shells, known as bekko.

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Australia: Science appeals to fisheries for seagrass salvation

Jeremy Story Carter ABC News 7 May 14;

The scientific community is reaching out to the fisheries industry in the hope of preserving a vital part of its aquatic ecosystem.

Seagrass provides vital food and shelter, for a huge range of fish species, but recent years has seen it decline in eastern Victorian waters.

“There’s certainly been persistent decline over the last two decades,” said Dr Ford, a research fellow from the University of Melbourne's Department of Zoology.

Dr Ford says a broad range of species are dependent on seagrass for survival.

“All these lovely local, sustainable fish that we eat, things such as King George Whiting, Garfish, Calamari, Rock Flathead, rely on seagrass in different ways,” he said.

“They either live in the seagrass, or they might actually eat the seagrass, or eat what is living on the seagrass.

“If we want to have a viable sustainable industry out of them, we need the seagrass to be there.”

A central part of Dr Ford’s research into seagrass decline, hopes to draw on the knowledge of commercial and recreational fishermen.

“The key difference to my project, to a lot of science and research that has gone on before, is that I am trying to harness the local knowledge of those who spend their lives on Gippsland waters.

“They’re out there every day when the weather’s good and they’re observing so many things,” said Dr Ford.

“As a scientist, I go out and do a short scientific survey, but I’m never going to pick up the things that they do.

“There’s so much information and observations that they have, that is vital for understanding the dynamics of the system.”

Dr Ford hopes the knowledge gained from those in the fisheries industry, can direct future ecological management strategies.

“What I’m doing is chatting to fishermen, getting them to document their observations, changes in seagrass cover and quality over time, and map algal bloom and how they might be affecting seagrass,” said Dr Ford.

“Algae can starve seagrass of light, nutrients and oxygen, so we’re trying to document what’s actually going on out there.

“[Fishermen] have such investment; their livelihood is invested in this seagrass, they are stewards of the system, they see these things and they care about them.”

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See Your City Flooded on Google Maps in Global Warming Simulation

Robin Sinha NDTV 7 May 14;

In order to promote the upcoming World Environment Day on June 5, CarbonStory - a crowdfunded organisation focussed on various environmental projects - has teamed up with two marketing agencies, BDDO and Proximity Singapore, to come up with an interactive website called World Under Water, a Street View mod for Google Maps.

The World Under Water website is powered by Google Maps and is said to be an exclusive to Chrome web browser, as per The Next Web. However, we were able to open the working website on Mozilla Firefox also.

World Under Water shows how various places from around the globe would look like when the global water level rises up due to global warming. On visiting the website, the users are given facts about global warming and rising water levels. Some of the cities included as presets on the website are Singapore, New York, Barcelona, Paris, Dubai, London, Rome and more. The interactive website lets users pan the whole place from one single point and share their awareness via Facebook and Twitter social websites.

Users also have the option to type any address in the search bar given below and see how it looks like underwater. The website also lets registered users calculate their carbon emissions and footprints based on the number of family members, income and country.

In the related news, last month Google Map's Street View snapshots got the ability to see what neighbourhoods and landmarks looked like at different periods in the last seven years that Google dispatched camera-toting cars to take street-level pictures for its maps.

Like every other feature on Google Maps, the time-tripping option is free. Google makes money off its maps from advertising, so the Mountain View company is constantly coming up with new attractions to keep people coming back.

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Great Barrier Reef's 'unprecedented' threat from dredging, dumping

Conservation society says impact of previous sediment dumps far greater than claimed
Oliver Milman 7 May 14;

The impact of dredging and dumping sediment on the Great Barrier Reef has been far greater than the mining industry has claimed, with nearly 150m tonnes of new dredging set to take place in the reef’s waters, a study shows.

The report collated by the Australian Marine Conservation Society states that the reef is under “unprecedented” threat from the proposed expansion of coastal ports and industrial development.

Planned expansion of ports, or the creation of new ones, at sites including Gladstone, the Fitzroy Delta, Abbot Point and Townsville, would involve dredging 149m tonnes of seabed to allow large ships to access ports.

The society’s report warns that the dredging process is dangerous to marine life. Worse, should this sediment be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area, corals and seagrasses would be damaged, impacting animals such as dugongs and sea turtles.

The amount of damage caused to the reef by coastal development and dredging has proved highly contentious after the government’s decision to approve five million tonnes of sediment being dumped within the reef’s marine park, as part of the expansion of Abbot Point, near Bowen.

The mining industry has pointed to research showing the degradation of the reef is down to cyclones, bleaching and coral-eating starfish, rather than dredging. The Queensland Resource Council has branded groups such as WWF as dishonest, launching a series of TV ads to argue its case.

But in an assessment of the health of the Great Barrier Reef released last week, Unesco said it had “concern” over the dredging program, querying why work on ports had begun before a long-term strategic plan was in place.

The society’s report states that previous dredging, such as at Hay Point in 2006, damaged corals, contrary to industry claims.

“The evaluation of the impacts at Hay Point dredging stated that most of the coral colonies were healthy and that more than 95% of corals were undamaged,” the report said. “However, the way that health and damage of corals was recorded at Hay Point clouds this interpretation.

“Corals that had dead patches, but that were believed to be recovering because of new growth, were grouped together with corals that had no damage at all. Recording damage in this way has obscured the fact that these corals were damaged and underestimated the impacts of the dredging.”

Dr Selina Ward, a coral scientist at the University of Queensland, said the monitoring of projects such as Hay Point was problematic.

“We know some corals had up to 60% coverage by sediment which would have been damaging for them,” she said.

“How did they cope into the future? We don’t know because the monitoring stopped six months after the dredging.

“There are many methods for measuring coral health that weren’t used in the monitoring, and as a scientist I question the results.”

Felicity Wishart, campaign director at the conservation society, said the planned increase in dredging could have a significant impact upon the reef.

“This report highlights that the industrialisation of the reef’s coast through expanded ports will continue to cause environmental damage to the reef if it goes ahead,” she said.

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, which will oversee the expansion of Abbot Point, said it would never propose any plan which would adversely impact the reef.

Brad Fish, chief executive of NQBP, said Unesco had overlooked scientific work which showed it would be unlikely that the development would degrade the reef.

“For Unesco to suggest that other options to develop and dispose of dredged material have not been fully investigated is not supported by the work that has been undertaken over the last 24 months and is an overly simplistic assessment of the range of issues at Abbot Point,” he said.

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