Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jun 14

crab-eating snake & dinner @ pasir ris mangrove - June 2014
from sgbeachbum

Any sponge at Changi rocky shore?
from wonderful creation

Lornie Trail in a Late Afternoon
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Common Bluebottle @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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'Federal Govt to deal with Singapore’s concerns' about reclamation in Johor Strait

BEN TAN New Straits Times 23 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU: THE Johor government is preparing information about the state’s coastal land reclamation projects for property development at the request of the Federal Government.

This follows Singapore’s request to the government for more information on coastal projects in the Straits of Johor. Singapore fears the projects may cause trans-boundary issues.

A source has confirmed that the state government is aware of the request by Putrajaya to furnish details on the projects.

“We have received a formal request from the Federal Government and we are compiling information,” the source told the New Straits Times yesterday.

However, he did not reveal details of the request, only saying that the information was related to several coastal land reclamation projects.

The source said the information would take time to compile as it involved several state agencies, including the Iskandar Regional Development Authority.

Coastal land reclamation falls under the jurisdiction of the state government if a project is not more than 50m from the original shoreline. Beyond that, it will be under the Federal Government’s jurisdiction.

On Saturday, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement said it was concerned about any possible transboundary impact from the property development projects in Johor that involved reclamation works in the Straits of Johor.

“There are also international obligations for both Malaysia and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters,” the statement said.

The statement said the Singapore government had asked Malaysian authorities to provide more information so that the former could undertake a study on the impact of the reclamation works.

“They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon,” the statement said.

It was learnt that the Singapore government had sent several diplomatic notes to Wisma Putra in the last three months regarding the issue.

The latest diplomatic note was sent just after the Johor State Assembly two weeks ago.

However, it was understood that the diplomatic notes were merely formal government-to-government initiatives for information and not diplomatic protest notes.

The source said this was only a formal request through diplomatic channels and that the Singapore government would also follow up via other platforms.

“Among them is the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE) which is tasked with cooperating to protect the environment, including the monitoring of water quality to protect the marine and estuarine environment and monitoring ecology in the Straits of Johor to address any adverse impacts.

“Such a request does not indicate a souring of ties between the two countries and we will do our best to protect Malaysia’s interest,” said the source.

However, he said the state government would leave it to the Federal Government, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, to deal with Singapore as it involved bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee chairman and Pulai member of parliament Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said such matters were nothing new as Singapore had also developed their shoreline on a land reclamation project in Punggol near the Tebrau Straits, which saw ties strained back in 2002.

“Johor folks complained about the issue as they claimed it narrowed the straits in front of Pasir Putih and the Tanjung Langsat.

“The matter was then brought up by Malaysia at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, arguing for the project to be stopped as it may harm the environment.

“In the end, Singapore won the case and went ahead with the land reclamation,” said Nur Jazlan, whose constituency also has a major land reclamation project.

Forest City project alarms Singapore
The Star 23 Jun 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Singapore government has confirmed that it is perturbed over Johor’s Forest City project involving massive land reclamation that could affect the island state.

“Given Johor’s close proximity to Singapore, we are naturally concerned about any possible transboundary impact on Singapore from property development projects that involve reclamation work in the Straits of Johor,” a Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said there were international obligations for both Malaysia and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters.

The Republic was responding to media queries following Saturday’s front-page story in The Star on the republic’s concern over the pro-ject.

The report highlighted that the 2,000ha project – which will be bigger than Pangkor Island and will take three decades to complete – had raised eyebrows across the causeway.

“We have asked the Malaysian authorities to provide more information so that we can undertake a study as soon as possible on the impacts of these reclamation work on Singapore and the Straits.

“They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon,” he added.

The Star had reported that Singa-pore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had written to his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak about the project.

This is in addition to two diplomatic notes which were sent to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry last month.

The first was a request for Malaysia to provide all relevant information, including an environment impact assessment report and the completion date for the project.

Subsequently, Singapore sought clarification after Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin assured the state assembly that the reclamation work would not affect the environment.

Singapore reportedly started voicing its concern after an article appeared in The Star in March on the project by China’s Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

Johor reclamation works begin despite concerns
The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR - Two massive reclamation projects are under way in the Johor Strait despite the lack of environmental assessment reports and a move by Singapore asking about the impact of the development.

According to a report by news website The Malaysian Insider yesterday, the reclamation has also raised concerns over how it will affect the livelihoods of fishermen, as well as ships using the nearby Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

One of the projects is a 2,000ha man-made island - nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate - that will feature luxury homes and will be completed in 30 years' time.

The works are being carried out by China property developer Country Garden Holdings and Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

According to previous media reports, the project, called Forest City, is backed by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar.

Previous maps used by the Malaysian media showed a rectangular piece of reclaimed land, part of it lying under the Second Link, the bridge joining Tuas to Gelang Patah in Johor.

But The Malaysian Insider yesterday published a map that showed a much bigger island on the Malaysian side of the border in the strait.

Another massive reclamation, also reported by the Insider, is a 1,410ha island by Kuala Lumpur-listed company Benalec Holdings.

On its website, the company named the project as the Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park, and said the island would be turned into a petroleum and petrochemical hub.

According to the Insider, this project is backed by Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris Sultan Ibrahim.

All reclamation in Malaysia with land areas of 50 acres (20.2ha) or more need to have environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies submitted. Only when the EIA report has been approved by the government can the project go ahead.

But the promoters of Forest City had proposed breaking up the man-made island into smaller parcels so that environmental assessment studies would not have to be submitted, the Edge Review online magazine reported last month.

Johor's director of the Department of Environment, Mr Mokhtar Abdul Majid, said yesterday that the Forest City project does not need an EIA report as the land area measures 49 acres.

Reclamation work began in early March and is expected to be completed within eight months, Mr Mokhtar was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.

Singapore had over the weekend expressed concern to Malaysia over the reclamation works in the Johor Strait.

Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that Singapore had asked for more information so it could study the possible impact on the Republic and the strait.

"They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon," a spokesman said.

"Given Johor's close proximity to Singapore, we are naturally concerned about any possible transboundary impact on Singapore from property development projects that involve reclamation works in the Strait of Johor."

The MFA added: "There are also international obligations for both the Malaysian and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters."

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6 expensive-breed rabbits found near Bishan Park

Tan Tam Mei The New Paper 23 Jun 14;

Many kinds of wildlife can be found in Bishan Park, but you would not expect to find rabbits roaming there.

Mr Andrew Chua, 27, was crossing an overhead bridge towards Bishan Park to walk his dog at about 11pm last Friday when he spotted what he thought was a cat.

"When I got closer, I realised it was a rabbit. It hopped to the side of the pathway and when I peered over the fence, I saw another three or four rabbits on the grass," recounted the corporate executive.

He contacted his cousin, Mr Roy Wu, 30, a site coordinator, who went to the park to help him catch the rabbits.

Mr Chua recounted: "It was my first time coming across domesticated animals being discarded like this. I was worried for the rabbits."

He suspects that the animals were abandoned that very night as he did not come across any rabbits when he walked his dog on the same route the night before.

Armed with just a torchlight and a pet carrier, Mr Chua and Mr Wu spent about 45 minutes among a large patch of ferns at Bishan Park II near Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 trying to find the rabbits.

They only managed to catch three rabbits because it was too dark to catch the rest, which had wandered inside the vegetation.


They contacted private rabbit rescue group Bunny Wonderland that night. The pair returned to the same area the next day with a few members of the group and caught three more rabbits.

Bunny Wonderland representative Lynne Tan, 31, said: "We usually see about two abandonment cases a month, but the number of rabbits abandoned each time varies. The most we rescued at one go was 40, after a pet shop closed down.

"We have found rabbits in all sorts of places, such as trash bins or in boxes left beside rubbish chutes and in community centres."

The exact number of rabbits abandoned is unknown, but the group suspects that apart from the six found, there might be at least one more.

They speculate that the culprit who abandoned the rabbits could be a breeder trying to get rid of unwanted stock because two of the six found were pregnant.

Those rescued are all pure breed lionhead rabbits, which are quite expensive at up to $900 each at local pet shops, said Ms Tan.

Two out of six of the rabbits have been adopted, and the rest are either recovering or have been put in foster homes for the time being.

Rabbit welfare group House Rabbit Society Singapore said it sees about two to three cases of rabbits being abandoned or given away each week.

"After the school holidays and before Chinese New Year, we can easily see about one to three cases daily. And it's not just one rabbit per case, sometimes you get multiple rabbits," said its president, Ms Betty Tan, 29.

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Malaysia haze: Port Klang records unhealthy API readings


PETALING JAYA: Unhealthy levels of air pollution were recorded in Port Klang while other areas in the country recorded moderate and good readings.

According to the Department of Environment’s Air Pollutant Index (API) reading, Port Klang recorded a reading of 102 at 9am yesterday and gradually increased to 107 as of 4pm.

Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said this was likely due to the weakening wind conditions, which might have caused the haze to remain stagnant.

“The dry weather has caused the dust and smoke to be suspended in the air. Strong wind for the past couple of weeks has dispersed them but the wind flow was probably weak yesterday,” said Hisham when contacted.

Apart from Port Klang, Kampung Air Putih in Taiping and Seri Manjung in Perak recorded moderate readings of 98 and 95 respectively while Shah Alam recorded a reading of 97 as of 4pm.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

Hisham said the haze condition is likely due to local pollution from activities such as smoke emitted from factories and vehicles, as well as lesser rainfall.

Hisham said no rainfall is expected until next week, except for local isolated rain in the inland areas.

‘Good’ API readings
New Straits Times 23 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the haze, most areas nationwide recorded “good” Air Pollutant Index (API) readings, with the exception of Port Klang.

In Port Klang, the API as of 11am was an “unhealthy” 104.

Meanwhile, good and moderate readings were seen in other areas in Klang Valley and nationwide.

Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services division director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the haze was because of local pollution and low rainfall, which contributed to a thin layer of haze occurring in certain areas.

“The haze is likely because of local activities, such as smoke emitted from factories, vehicles and air-borne dust.

“The situation is still under control and is not too serious at present. The wind has been quite strong, greater than 10 knots per hour for the past couple of weeks since the dry spell began early this month,” said Hisham.

He said the strong wind helped disperse the haze, but warned if the wind weakened, the haze became stagnant.

“However, the bad haze we experienced yesterday morning was because of slower wind speeds. The situation gradually improved as the wind speed picked up.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and measures will be taken if API readings continue recording unhealthy conditions after 72 hours.”

He said the nation would not be expecting rainfall until next week, except for isolated showers in inland areas because of the southwest monsoon season.

Meanwhile, the department is monitoring the El Nino phenomenon by getting information from international research centres, such as the Japan Meteorological Agency, United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Centre and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

“Any developments will be announced to the authorities for further action,” said Hisham.

“Malaysia would be experiencing less rainfall during the southwest monsoon.

“During this season, we will experience a low rainfall of between 75mm and 150mm this month in the peninsula, which is 20-40 per cent lower than normal.”

The southwest monsoon season, which began late May, will continue till early September.

Johor water levels stable, except for Mersing
CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 22 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU: The water levels at all the dams and water intake areas in Johor have been stable despite the El-Nino weather phenomenon.

However, the Congok dam in Mersing is still at critical levels for the past two months.

Johor water utility company SAJ Holdings Bhd (SAJ) corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamil said that this was because the Congok dam was located close to the sea and the absence of rain there has contributed to the low water level.

"As a temporary measure, SAJ Holdings is sourcing water from Sungai Mersing for the local residents in teh affected areas," he said when contacted today.

The 5,000-odd residents there have been under the scheduled water supply for the last two months, and the exercise will only be lifted after the water level improves.

Jamaluddin said SAJ would only initiate its Water Emergency Response Plan when it is crucial.

"As for now, there has been no sudden dips in the water levels as most are stable," he said.

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Australia: Ningaloo Reef escapes relatively unscathed from once-in-a-century flooding event, research shows

Ebonnie Spriggs ABC News 23 Jun 14;

Ningaloo Reef, off Western Australia's Pilbara coast, appears to have escaped relatively unscathed from the impacts of recent flooding, described as a once-in-a-century event.

There had been concerns the reef might be hit by coral bleaching after the floods in April reached Exmouth's major tourism drawcard, when tonnes of silt and sediment, and fresh water washed into the sea.

But the Department of Parks and Wildlife's (DPAW) Arvid Hogstrom says initial research - conducted in collaboration with the CSIRO - has revealed little to no short-term damage.

"There was an expectation that due to the freshwater influx from the flooding event that some of that coral may have suffered coral bleaching as a result and died off," he said.

"But we were very pleased to hear the level of impact from that freshwater event was minimal, and the level of coral bleaching was virtually nil immediately following that flood event.

"The other thing they looked at was direct smothering of corals as a result of all that sediment and silt coming out.

"There was some localised impacts where some corals had been covered by sand and silt and branches and other debris but the level of impact was very small, smaller than we expected so, all in all, we were very happy with that initial outcome."

Just days after the floods, Mr Hogstrom described the waters of the Ningaloo Reef as mud-stained.

He said the waters have since returned to their famous turquoise colour.

"It's actually remarkably good, the water is crystal clear again," he said.

"The lagoons are their magnificent turquoise blue that catches everybody's eye as they drive into the World Heritage area, so it really looks as good as it has ever looked.

"Apart from some sort of immediate changes along the coastline where there are some new alluvial fans and silt fans, the park - both the terrestrial and marine side of it - looks as good as it has ever looked."

Checking mangrove sites and coastline changes

Mr Hogstrom said his understanding is the impacts of flooding should be noticeable very soon after the event.

"The fresh water can kill them [coral] off quite quickly and you will see some rapid changes so we are actually quite confident that there shouldn't be any longer term impacts than what we have already seen," he said.

"But because it's such an unusual event, and potentially a one in 50 to 100 year event, we just want to do the long-term monitoring to make sure we're not missing something."

DPAW will continue to monitor the coral, dune system, mangroves and seagrass.

"What we will be doing now is setting up some longer term monitoring of various sites to make sure the initial results we have seen aren't short term only and there's no long-term impacts of the silt that was in the water or the freshwater that was in the saltwater lagoon systems," Mr Hogstrom said.

"At this stage the mangroves and seagrass are all looking quite good.

"There is a bit of sediment and silt that has been deposited amongst the base of the mangroves, but there doesn't appear to be any die-offs of mangroves at this point in time.

"We are quite confident that it will return to its natural state, but we will be keeping an eye on it."

"We will [also] be assessing percentage coral cover and seeing whether there has been any reduction as a result of this flooding event.

"The other thing we are very interested in looking at is actually an assessment of the coastline itself, so the dune systems and the beaches because obviously there was significant erosion as a result of the flooding.

"We will be looking at those erosion areas to see whether they are returning to the way they were pre-floods or whether they are actually a permanent change and basically the whole coastline may have changed."

Mr Hogstrom says the CSIRO has long-term monitoring sites along the Pilbara coastline, which fortunately include Ningaloo.

"What it allows them to do and [to] pass ... onto us is compare the current state of it following the floods to what it was like beforehand," he said.

"Also they will be able to compare it over the next few years as things change."

Reef resilient to extreme events

Mr Hogstrom says Ningaloo Reef has proven it can cope with these extreme events.

"It's not a man-made event and I guess it is used to it albeit it may only happen only once every 100 years or so but the reef is resilient and seems to have bounced back quite quickly," he said.

A number of camp sites at the Cape Range National Park were shut down as a result of flooding, but the park itself is re-opened.

"Apart from four or five camp sites which we have closed down as a result of the flooding, the rest of the park is open," Mr Hogstrom said.

"All the key areas are all back open to the public and we have got about 125 sites out of about 140 camp sites re-opened to the public so there's plenty of camping available.

"The countryside is looking magnificent, some of the best vegetation, spinifex growth and seeding that I have seen for many many years so I think it'll be a fantastic wildflower season as well."

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U.N. enlists legal help to crack down on environmental crime

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 22 Jun 14;

OSLO (Reuters) - The United Nations will seek ways to toughen environmental laws this week to crack down on everything from illegal trade in wildlife to mercury poisoning and hazardous waste.

The U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA), a new forum of all nations including environment ministers, business leaders and civil society, will meet in Nairobi from June 23-27 to work on ways to promote greener economic growth.

That drive includes giving environmental laws more teeth.

"We often have environmental legislation that is well intentioned but is not effective," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme which will host the talks, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Many countries sign up for environmental treaties but are often slow to ratify and fail to enforce them in domestic laws, on issues ranging from protecting animals and plants from extinction to outlawing dangerous chemicals or regulating hazardous waste.

"Simply signing a commitment is one step, putting the finance, the technology, the laws in place are critical ingredients," he said.

The Nairobi talks will include a meeting of chief justices, attorneys general and other legal experts. They will seek ways to improve cooperation, speed up ratification of treaties and try to find models for domestic legislation.

"Illegal activities harming the environment are fast evolving and growing in sophistication," UNEP said in a statement. There was insufficient international coordination to catch crime gangs, from illegal fishing to loggers.


Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington, said "there are numerous pitfalls" for environmental treaties.

One big drawback is that developed nations often fail to provide promised finance to help poor nations fight everything from toxic waste to illegal logging, he said.

"Our experience has shown again and again that this financial support never comes through," he said.

And treaties face big hurdles even after they are negotiated. Last year, for instance, nations agreed a new convention to limit mercury, a heavy metal that can damage the human nervous system and cause liver damage and memory loss.

So far the United States is the only nation to have ratified the pact, which needs 50 ratifications to enter into force.

About 100 other nations including China and most industrialised states have signed - a declaration of intent to formally ratify the pact. "We anticipate to have the minimum 50 ratifications in two and a half years," Steiner said. "That would be a very fast process."

Successes have included conventions such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol for protecting the ozone layer. Others have struggled, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for curbing greenhouse gas emissions which only entered into force in 2005.

The United Nations will also issue a report on ways to crack down on wildlife crime. Steiner said there was an "enormous increase" in illicit trade, from ivory to timber, with increased links to international crime syndicates and drug cartels.

The UNEA, a forum agreed at an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, marks a shift from a former system in which only 58 nations met yearly to discuss environmental problems.

"It is a watershed," Steiner said.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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