Croc's death, disposal raise questions

The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 May 14;

I am dismayed at the quick disposal of the saltwater crocodile's carcass found in Kranji Reservoir ("Bye, bye Barney"; last Sunday).

Crocodiles are a very hardy species - especially one weighing 400kg - with an average life span of about 70 years. It is rare for them to die of disease in a natural habitat.

The circumstances surrounding the death of the crocodile, nicknamed Barney by anglers, surely would have raised alarm and merited further investigation, especially an autopsy to determine the cause of its premature death. It should also trigger a warning of the possibility of some ecosystem anomalies.

What is the existing modus operandi when the carcass of an animal belonging to a significant wildlife species is found? Why wasn't expert advice sought in Barney's case? And why wasn't the carcass considered for preservation? Did the authorities determine whether it was deliberately poisoned? And how was the carcass disposed of?

Can the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority comment?

Letter by Edmund Lam (Dr)

PUB probing crocodile's death
The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 May 14;

PUB, the national water agency, and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) thank Dr Edmund Lam for his letter ("Croc's death, disposal raise questions"; Sunday).

On April 18, the PUB was informed of a dead crocodile at Kranji Reservoir. The authorised crocodile handler found a metal rod had pierced its eye, and a large fishing hook was lodged in its mouth.

The PUB has been investigating this as a case of poaching but has yet to be able to identify the culprits.

We remind the public that it is dangerous and illegal to hunt crocodiles and other wild animals. The poaching of wild animals carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and forfeiture of the animal. Members of the public should call the AVA's hotline on 1800-476-1600 to report any suspected poaching activities.

Tan Nguan Sen
Director, Catchment & Waterways Department
PUB, the national water agency

Yap Him Hoo (Dr)
Group Director, Quarantine and Inspection Group
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

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Best of our wild blogs: 13 May 14

Insect of the Month, April 2014 – Cicada (Heuchys fusca)
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Plain Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

Juvenile Spotted Wood-owl casting pellet
from Bird Ecology Study Group

四月双溪布洛华语导游 Mandarin guide walk@SBWR, April (XXXXXI)
from PurpleMangrove

Sighting in Bukit Brown: Golden-ringed Cat Snake
from Rojak Librarian

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Fourth Resorts World Sentosa dolphin dies

Nurul Azliah Aripin Yahoo Newsroom 13 May 14;

A dolphin from Resorts World Sentosa died on Sunday, according to a statement on the Marine Life Park blog posted a day after.

“We are conducting tests to confirm the exact cause of death. Prior medical tests indicated that she was healthy. We are closely monitoring all our animals, and as always, no effort or resources will be spared in ensuring the health and well-being of our dolphins at Dolphin Island,” it said.

MLP added that they are “deeply saddened” by the lost.

No further details were given on the bottlenose dolphin, which was one of the 24 dolphins available at RWS.

The dolphins are available for public viewing at Singapore’s S.E.A Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark.

MLP will provide further details on the blog when available.

The news has sparked calls for other dolphins to be released.

A Facebook post by Singapore’s Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said, “When is enough enough? Four have already died. Help speak up for the remaining 23 wild-caught dolphins. Urge Resorts World to work with ACRES toward rehabilitating and releasing them back into the vast open oceans.”

In 2012, a 10-year-old dolphin Wen Wen died on its way to Singapore. A year earlier, two dolphins captured from the waters of Solomon Islands for RWS also died.

An ongoing petition to free the bottlenose dolphins at RWS has garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Bottlenose dolphins are well-known as “intelligent” and “charismatic”, according to National Geographic. They can swim as fast as 30 km per hour and their average life span during captivity ranges between 45 to 50 years.

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Migratory birds staying longer

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 May 14;

SINGAPORE - Some migrant birds cannot seem to get enough of Singapore this year, as they extend their stopover to record lengths.

And this has meant a boon for local birdwatchers.

Just as Changi Airport is a popular stopover for travellers in the region, Singapore's mudflats, forests and parks are popular layovers for birds on their way to and from their homes, some of which are as far away as Siberia.

The migratory season typically begins in October and ends by the start of this month. This year, however, some are departing late. Mr Alan Owyong, chairman of the Nature Society's Bird Group which keeps annual records of when each migrant species is last spotted in Singapore, said that at least 10 bird species have set new records for stayovers this year.

Among them is the brown-chested jungle flycatcher. The small, dusty-looking bird from southern China was last seen here on April 10 - three months after it usually flies home.

The blue-winged pitta, a brightly hued forest bird which visits to escape the winter in Indochina, was spotted at Bidadari late last month - two weeks after its normal departure.

"From the records, more late migrants are stopping over on their way back north," Mr Owyong said.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve deputy director Sharon Chan added: "We have observed over the past few years that some migratory birds have lingered at the reserve beyond the migratory season. They include the common redshank and the whimbrel."

It is hard to say whether this year is particularly unusual - it may just be due to more people out looking for the birds, Mr Owyong said.

Birder Francis Yap, 44, has gone from Jurong West to Lorong Halus in Punggol as he pursues shrikes and sandpipers. "They may be leaving later because of the weather, which has been a bit strange this year," he said.

Some added that mass flowering, triggered by a dry spell earlier in the year, has led to more abundant fruit and insects - all food for the birds.

Could climate change be altering birds' migration patterns?

Last year, Mr Yong Ding Li, an ecology doctoral student at the Australian National University and a keen birder, pored over 20 years of data with colleagues from Singapore and Australia to show that the Japanese sparrowhawk and curlew sandpiper were arriving later each year, perhaps as warmer temperatures enabled them to stay at home longer each summer.

And anecdotally, blue-winged pittas have been spotted here in their breeding months from May to August, he said.

But, he added, bird migration is a complex cocktail of environmental and genetic factors, with some randomness thrown into the mix. "As any self-respecting researcher might say," he wrote in an e-mail, "there is a need for more research!"

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Malaysia: Possible halt of fish export and adjustment on start of padi season in view of dry spell

Zuhrin Azam Ahmad and Calvin Tan The Star 13 May 14;

PUTRAJAYA: The Government is considering the possibility of stopping fish export and adjusting the start of the padi season in view of the expected prolonged dry spell caused by the El Nino.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said with the padi planting process usually taking place in June, a decision whether to delay it would have to be made soon.

“We have asked the Farmers’ Association Board to convene a meeting to look into this. We are not too worried about areas under Kada (Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority) and Mada (Muda Agricultural Development Authority) as both have enough irrigation.

“It is the other areas that require water to be channelled in from elsewhere that we need to have a pre-emptive measure to ensure the farmers would not be badly affected,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Ismail Sabri earlier chaired a special meeting with the ministry’s various agencies on plans to face the effects caused by the El Nino weather pattern. While the prolonged dry spell would not adversely affect fish supply, Ismail Sabri said the ministry would consider the possibility of halting fish export as a pre-emptive measure.

The El Nino weather pattern is predicted to hit Malaysia next month and is expected to bring about a prolonged dry spell.

Meteorological Department central forecasting office director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the impending El Nino episode could be an intense one.

He said computer models from institutions around the world, including the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan, had run simulations on the possibility of an El Nino weather pattern this year and the result was 70% positive.

“The official forecast by the World Meteorological Organisation is that El Nino will begin in June to August and will persist to the following year and we concur.

“During the early stages of El Nino, there will not be much bearing on the weather as the impact will only be felt months later,” Muhammad Helmi said, adding that the 1997 El Nino led to a reduction in rainfall that was more profound only in 1998.

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Indonesia: 16 hectares of forest area razed by fires in Riau

Antara 11 May 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - At least 16 hectares of forest area were razed by fires in Riau Province, in May 2014, according to data from the regional disaster mitigation office (BPBD).

Of the 16 ha, 13 ha were found in Dumai City, Head of the BPBD Riau Said Saqlul Amri said in an e-mail message here on Sunday.

The remaining three hectares were located in Rokan Hilir District, he said.

Two hotspots of the forest fires were put out recently, according to the Riau Forest and Land Fire Anticipation Task Force.

During February-April 2014, there were a total of 242 forest and land fires in the province, razing 21,925 hectares of forest and plantation areas.

In Bengkalis District alone, 8,221 hectares of forest and plantation areas were destroyed by fires during the two-month period. Meanwhile, in Meranti District, 7,215 hectares were gutted by fires.

Forest and land fires occurring in the Riau Province between February and April 2014 caused economic losses worth more than Rp20 trillion, as per data furnished by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"It should be kept in mind that once the fires break out, it will be difficult to extinguish them and can cause huge losses," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated recently.

The haze disaster triggered by the fires disrupted around 30 percent of the economic activities and caused monetary losses in Riau.

The BNPB had spent around Rp164 billion, or one-third of its budget, to deal with the fires nationally.

The haze affected the health of several residents in Riau and the neighboring provinces, such as in West and North Sumatra.

The largest loss caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia was in 1997, when fires wiped out millions of hectares of forest and plantation areas and caused losses worth US$2.45 billion.

The El Nino phenomenon is forecast to develop and affect Indonesia between May and October 2014. El Nino-induced drought usually triggers forest and peatland fires in Indonesia.

Editor: Ella Syafputri

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West Antarctic glaciers in 'irreversible' thaw, raising seas: study

Alister Doyle and Michael Szabo PlanetArk 13 May 14;

West Antarctic glaciers in 'irreversible' thaw, raising seas: study Photo: NASA
The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.
Photo: NASA

Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said on Monday.

Six glaciers, eaten away from below by a warming of sea waters around the frozen continent, were flowing fast into the Amundsen Sea, according to the report based partly on satellite radar measurements from 1992 to 2011.

Evidence shows "a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat", said lead author Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The coastal ends of the glaciers rest on bedrock below sea level, holding back a vast weight of ice and making them vulnerable to melt, he said. He likened the process to uncorking a full bottle of wine while it was lying on its side.

This part of Antarctica would be a major contributor to sea level rise in coming decades and centuries since the glaciers hold enough ice to raise sea levels by 1.2 meters (4 feet).

"It's passed the point of no return," he told a telephone news conference.

Ice-penetrating radars showed no mountain ranges entombed under the ice, for instance, that could halt the flow. The fastest retreat was 34-37 km (21-23 miles) over the period in the Smith/Kohler glacier.

Even so, cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, part of efforts to rein in global warming, could at least slow the slide of the Pine Island, Thwaites, Haynes, Pope, Smith and Kohler glaciers.

"We do think this is related to climate warming," Rignot said. The scientists believed that a build-up of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was affecting wind patterns around Antarctica, driving warmer waters towards the continent.

Almost 200 nations have agreed to work out a U.N. pact by the end of 2015 to combat global warming, which the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says will cause more floods, droughts, heat waves and higher seas.


Monday's findings may also mean that scenarios by the IPCC for sea level rise are too low. The IPCC said last year that sea levels are likely to rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 and 32 inches) by the late 21st century, after a 19 cm (7 inch) rise since 1900.

"The major ice sheets of this planet will have a larger and larger role in sea level rise in the decades ahead," said Sridhar Anandakrishnan, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the study.

Last week, another study also suggested a part of the far bigger ice sheet in East Antarctica may also be more vulnerable than expected to thaw. The IPCC says it is at least 95 percent probable that warming is caused by human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels.

Monday's study, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, adds to signs of climate change under way.

On May 6, the Obama administration issued a study saying that warming "once considered an issue for a distant future has moved firmly into the present."

And the IPCC said in March there were signs of irreversible changes to tropical coral reefs and to the Arctic.

A separate study of the Thwaites glacier by the University of Washington in the journal Science also said it may have begun an unstoppable collapse that could last from 200 to 1,000 years.

A disappearance of the Thwaites alone would raise world sea levels by 60 cm (1.96 feet) but the "glacier also acts as a linchpin on the rest of the ice sheet, which contains enough ice to cause another three to four meters of sea level rise", it said.

The findings contrast with a paradoxical expansion of the extent of ice floating on the sea around Antarctica in recent winters that the scientists said may be part of natural variations. "The changes in the glacier reflect much longer-term processes," Tom Wagner, a scientist with NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in the telephone briefing.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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