Best of our wild blogs: 17 Jun 14

Sat 21 & Sun 22 June ’14: 3 Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Beting Bronok still slowly dying
from wild shores of singapore

Cyrene Reef (15 June 2014)
from teamseagrass

MacRitchie Nature Reserve
from My Nature Experiences

Black Bittern’s neck fully stretched
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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El Nino fear fuels water-saving moves

Carolyn Khew My Paper AsiaOne 17 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Many are battening down their hatches to prepare for the upcoming El Nino weather phenomenon, which is expected to lead to hotter and drier months ahead.

There will be no water fountains, or excessive watering of vegetables. Instead, from fish farms to hotels, various measures have been put in place to conserve water.

Last month, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) predicted the possibility of a weak to moderate El Nino - the abnormal warming in the Pacific Ocean - developing over the next few months.

This could cause rainfall in Singapore to drop 10-40 per cent below average over the coming south-west monsoon season, which runs until September.

The average daily temperature is also expected to be about 1 deg C above average.

Fish farmers are not taking any chances this time.

Following the dry spell in February this year, which made about 5 per cent of his fish "sick", Malcom Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, said that he would spend about $100,000 to increase his fish farm's capacity.

The money would be used to buy more pumps for aeration, solar panels and to upgrade the water-monitoring system.

"If the water is still, the fish will die (due to a lack of oxygen)," said the 51-year-old.

His fish farm produces 700 tonnes of fish a year.

"Our supply has to be consistent. We can't say, 'Sorry, we don't have fish for the next four months'."

Philip Lim, the chairman of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative, said: "We are monitoring water conditions every day, but my advice (to farms) is not to import any more fish for now."

Landscaping firm Nature Landscapes will drench the roots of its plants to avoid "root burn" and water its plants more frequently.

To save water, vegetable farm Green Circle in Lim Chu Kang will hand-water its plants using its catchment water, instead of using sprinklers.

The co-owner of the eco-farm, Evelyn Eng-Lim, said that hand-watering would save at least 50 per cent of water consumption. She said: "It's more targeted. Using sprinklers is more efficient, but sometimes they spray off target."

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is also looking to conserve water.

During the dry spell in March this year, water features in the RWS and CapitaLand properties were turned off.

Winston Chow, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, said that if an El Nino occurs, it would have a "strong influence" in lowering average rainfall in South-east Asia.

"We're still in an inter-monsoon period - which explains the current rainy weather - but with the transition in season to the south-west monsoon later this month, we should expect drier (if not warmer) conditions to manifest," he said.

Ivy Singh-Lim, who owns vegetable farm Bollywood Veggies, said that her ponds would have sufficient water to last her for four months.

"Too much rain is not good. When there's no rain, my fruit trees do even better," she said.

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Air quality 'moderate' as NEA begins daily haze updates

Channel NewsAsia 16 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has started posting daily updates on the haze situation. It says the overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate range.

An advisory posted on NEA's website says as of 6pm on Monday (June 16), the 24-hour PSI was 'moderate', at between 52 to 54. This is despite 114 hotspots being detected in Sumatra, with visible smoke plumes from hotspots in Indonesia's Riau Province.

Thundery showers are expected in parts of Singapore on Tuesday morning.

Last week, NEA had announced that it would provide daily updates on haze conditions. It said dry conditions from the onset of the Southwest Monsoon season would increase the possibility of transboundery haze.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) also forecast the possibility of haze affecting Singapore. It had said it expects weak to moderate El Nino conditions to develop in the next few months, which could make for hotter and drier weather.

More information is available at and

- CNA/ly

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Philippines: Planted mangrove sustained worst ‘Yolanda’ damage 17 Jun 14;

May I place in proper perspective the study of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“Gov’t study shows ‘Yolanda’ damage to mangroves bigger than reported,” News, 6/2/14).

1. The reported mangrove damage applies only to plantations—which confirms our earlier findings of widespread mangrove mortality only in planted “bakhaw” (Rhizophora ) areas. In contrast, natural stands of “piapi” (Avicennia marina), “pagatpat” (Sonneratia alba) and other species are recovering. The greater damage in planted mangroves reported by the ERDB compared to our study (1,700 hectares vs 100-200 hectares) may in part be due to more sampling sites covered by the former.

2. Most bakhaw (Rhizophora stylosa, R. apiculata and R. mucronata) along the seafront are the wrong species planted in the wrong sites. The scientific community has been pointing this out for over two decades now—since the 1990s. Yet bakhaw are favored over piapi and pagatpat.

3. Dozens of scientific papers and also gray literature from NGOs and other reports provide evidence of the ecological incorrectness of these practices. Even the very low seedling counts reported by the ERDB in the bakhaw zones (83-195/ha) show their nonsuitability and poor site adaptation compared to the natural stands (475/ha) in Palo, Leyte. We found even higher average densities of 6,000-18,000 seedlings/ha in the natural mangroves in Eastern Samar.

4. Therefore we ask: Did “Yolanda” cause the devastation of the 1,700-hectare bakhaw-planted areas (per ERDB report); or were the bakhaw already dying six months, or one or two years, or more before Yolanda?

5. Even in areas still to be planted, it will do no good to plant bakhaw all over again on seagrass beds. Based on our January/March 2014 survey, the natural stands along Eastern Visayas coastlines are dominated by piapi and pagatpat, as are those in Western and Central Visayas and the archipelago. Bakhaw can be found behind the piapi-pagatpat zone and in more protected sites such as tidal creeks and rivers. The nursery protocols for A. marina and S. alba are described in the “Community-based Mangrove Rehabilitation Manual” (2012).

6. Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that the 1,700-hectare plantations were devastated by Yolanda, these represent only 6 percent of the total—the more or less 28,000-hectare mangroves-occupied shorelines at various landfall sites—from Eastern Samar to Palawan (Rollon et al., May 2014 Tacloban Workshop presentation). Meaning that 94 percent of mangroves (representing natural stands, as observed in our January/March 2014 surveys) sustained zero to only partial damage, and that our original statement remains valid—that the mangroves in the Yolanda-affected provinces are recovering and need “protection” rather than planting.

This should guide the wise use of the P1 billion and other funds earmarked for mangroves by the government, NGOs and international development agencies.

Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation,
cochair, IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group,
chief mangrove scientific advisor,
Zoological Society of London,

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Vietnam: Rising sea levels could affect one-fifth of HCM City by 2100

VietNamNet Bridge 16 Jun 14;

Twenty percent of the HCM City’s area could be covered with water by the end of the 21st century, when sea levels are expected to rise by one meter. And by 2050, nearly 10 percent of the city could be underwater.

Dr. Le Huy Ba, Head of the Institute for Science, Technology and the Environment Management, noted that climate change was “abnormal” this year because the city faced three big problems, high tides, prolonged heat and more rainfall.

The maximum and minimum temperatures have fluctuated more sharply this year. In previous years, it began raining in May but this year it was later. Meanwhile, it was still very hot in June this year, while there was also a high possibility of hail.

More worryingly, Ba said, the tides increased unexpectedly this year. The high tide measured at the Phu An Station on the Saigon River in early June was 1.53-1.54 meters.

While sea water levels ein Vung Tau City rose by 0.8 cm per annum, the water level at the rivers and canals in HCM City has gone up by 1.5 cm a year, causing a 50-year record-high peak in tides.

Ho Long Phi, Director of the Water Management and Climate Change Research Center, an arm of the HCM City National University, said climate change has had an obvious impact on HCM City as the average rainfall has increased by 0.7 mm. Meanwhile, the city terrain has become lower. Some places in the city are just 0.5-1 meter higher than sea water levels.

Phi said that floods caused by climate change are unavoidable, and added that the most urgent and effective measure for now is building a system of sewers to control the floods.

However, Phi said the designed system cannot bring effects because of technical problems. He believes that with the approved technical parameters, the system can show limited effects, allowing them to fight against floods no more than one time a year.

HCM City’s Mayor Le Hoang Quan said the city had been taking many measures to handle with climate change. Many projects have been approved which aim to improve sanitation conditions, reduce carbon emissions, reduce consumption of fuel and enhance afforestation or develop greenery.

The city has spent big money to improve the environment of the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe and Tau Hu-Ben Nghe canals; build three waste treatment complexes; and buy new buses that can meet new standards on emissions.

Phi suggested that it is necessary to apply both “hard” and “soft” solutions to deal with climate change. “Hard” solutions include technical measures to control high tides and build water reservoirs to regulate water levels.

Meanwhile, “soft” solutions would include designing, programming and building urban areas with green spaces to help ease greenhouse emission effects.

Scientists have forecasted that by 2050, sea water levels could rise by 30 cm, which would put 10 percent of the city’s area under water, and the average temperature in the city would increase by 1 degree C.

Chi Mai

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U.S. Officials: Wildlife products may finance terrorism

VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press Yahoo News 17 Jun 14;

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government is stepping up its crackdown on the illegal trafficking of wild animal products across the nation's borders, saying some may be linked to terrorists, federal officials said Monday.

"Poaching in Africa is funding terrorist groups," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a news conference at Kennedy International Airport.

He said such illegal trade is a threat to global security because it's driven by criminal elements, including terrorists using profits from items such as rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks to finance their activities.

On display in an airport cargo warehouse operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was a collection of wildlife products seized at Kennedy — from ivory disguised to look like a wooden statue and the stuffed heads of a lion and leopard to handicrafts, artworks and musical instruments hiding animal parts.

The single priciest item was a rhino horn. It fetches $30,000 per pound — or about 30 percent more than its weight in gold.

Paul Chapelle, the agent in charge of New York for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said one horn case resulted in 16 arrests, including that of a mobster from Ireland now serving 13 months behind bars.

A dead elephant is worth about $18,000 — mostly from the tusk. Also seized was a small rhino horn libation cup worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Kennedy handles the largest cargo volume of any U.S. airport, about $100 billion a year, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.

And the wildlife element plays an especially powerful role in national security, said Froman, the chief U.S. trade negotiator and adviser to President Barack Obama.

More than 20,000 elephants were killed last year along with about 1,000 rhinos, meeting a rising world demand resulting in declining populations across Africa, according to officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

This treaty was signed by more than 170 countries to protect animals that end up as contraband including live pets, hunting trophies, fashion accessories, cultural artifacts and medicinal ingredients.

U.S. trade officials believe that groups benefiting from the poaching include the militant Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and South Sudan, the Janjaweed comprised of Sudanese Arab tribes, and al-Shabab, a jihadist group based in Somalia.

In February, Obama approved a new strategy for fighting trafficking through enforcement, as well as partnerships with other countries, communities and private industry. For the first time, U.S. officials are asking trading partners to agree to conservation measures for wildlife and the environment in return for signing agreements.

Kennedy customs officials are reaching out to local businesses, plus auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's and even Carnegie Hall to alert them to illegally traded valuables that may come their way.

U.S. using trade agreement negotiations to fight poaching
Noreen O'Donnell PlanetArk 17 Jun 14;

U.S. using trade agreement negotiations to fight poaching Photo: Gary Cameron
United States Trade Representative Michael Froman testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on President Barack Obama's 2014 Trade Policy Agenda on Capitol Hill in Washington May 1, 2014.
Photo: Gary Cameron

The United States is using negotiations on trade agreements to combat illegal international wildlife trafficking, which it regards as a threat to national security, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Monday.

"Poaching is funding corruption, it's funding terrorist groups, and a lot of it is making its way around the world into Asia and into the United States," Froman said at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport.

To meet the threat, the United States is emphasizing the environmental component of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Similar efforts are also part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the European Union.

In May, Judith Garber, an acting assistant secretary of state told Congress that, although it was difficult to determine the extent to which terrorist organizations took part in trafficking, it was believed that the Lord's Resistance Army, the Janjaweed and al-Shabaab were at least partly involved.

There was evidence that some insurgent groups were directly involved in poaching or trafficking, trading wildlife products for weapons or safe havens, she added.

Froman spoke next to a table displaying intricate carvings made of elephant tusks and rhino horns, tiger and leopard skins and snake skins, and the skull of an orangutan.

More than 20,000 African elephants were poached in 2013, according to a report from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Some 1,000 rhinoceros were killed, according to Froman. Rhino horn sells for $30,000 a pound, authorities said.

The report said that, although the sharp upward trend in illegal elephant killing since the mid-2000s was leveling off, alarmingly high poaching continued to exceed the natural growth rates of the elephant population, resulting in a further decline across Africa.

"The high demand for wildlife products is having a devastating impact, with iconic species like elephants and rhinos facing the risk of significant decline or even extinction," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement.

"The president's strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, including decreasing demand at home and abroad, is important to strengthen our nation's leadership on countering the global security threat posed by the criminal markets that encourage poaching and illegal trade."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andre Grenon)

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