Best of our wild blogs: 3 Jul 14

Mark your calendars: The Festival of Biodiversity is coming!
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and teamseagrass

Common Flameback confrontations
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A Practical Guide to Organising Conversations on Sustainable Singapore
from Green Future Solutions

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'Significant increase' in dengue cases, with further rise likely: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has reported a “significant increase” in the number of dengue cases in Singapore, with the figures likely to rise as the weather heats up.

A total of 676 cases were reported during the week ending June 28, up from 553 the previous week, latest figures on the NEA website showed. Between June 28 and 3.30pm on July 1, there were another 265 reported cases.

The NEA warned that there may be a further rise in dengue cases over the next two to three months, with the warmer weather shortening the breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquitoes, as well as the incubation periods for the dengue virus.

Parts of Hougang and Serangoon continue to be hotspots, with more than 500 dengue cases reported in those areas in the last two weeks.

“The best way to mitigate the higher transmission is to continue efforts to reduce the mosquito population,” the NEA said on its website. “NEA and its Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force partners, as well as Town Councils, are not letting up on efforts to check for and remove potential mosquito breeding habitats.”

Nearly 9,000 people have been diagnosed with dengue so far this year, according to the NEA website.

- CNA/cy

898 cases of dengue reported last week: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 8 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said there was a "sharp rise" in the number of reported cases of dengue in the week ending July 5, and warned that it expects the number of cases to rise further during the ongoing peak dengue season.

In a statement on Tuesday (July 8), NEA said there were 898 reported cases of dengue in the week ending July 5, and the figure was a sharp rise from the 674 reported cases from the previous week. As of July 7, there have been a total of 9,697 reported cases of dengue in 2014. DENV-1, the strain of virus that caused the 2013 epidemic, remains dominant, accounting for almost 90 per cent of infections, according to the NEA.

The agency said that its Gravitrap surveillance system revealed that the population of adult Aedes aegypti mosquitoes has doubled since May 2014.

The NEA said it usually sees a higher transmission of dengue in the country in the hotter months of June to October, due to the accelerated breeding and maturation cycles for the Aedes mosquitoes and shorter incubation periods for the dengue virus.


The NEA, other Government agencies from the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force, and all town councils are continuing to check public areas and housing estates for potential breeding grounds, with officers carrying out daily checks for breeding habitats in these areas. More than 1.5 million inspections have been carried out this year, the agency said, with space spraying and Gravitraps used to eliminate adult mosquitoes.

"We need to reduce the mosquito population urgently," the NEA said.

At the community level, NEA is calling residents to play their part in removing stagnant water, to deprive the mosquitoes of their breeding habitat.

Those infected with dengue should protect themselves from mosquito bites by applying repellent regularly, and those showing symptoms suggestive of dengue should see their GPs early to be diagnosed, the agency said.

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Singapore firms monitor haze situation in Indonesia

Channel NewsAsia 2 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore companies, especially commodities firms with plantations in Indonesia, are keeping a close watch on the haze situation in Indonesia.

First Resources and Golden Agri-Resources have told Channel NewsAsia they hold a strict no-burn policy and have stepped up fire surveillance and patrols on their lands.

Fire-fighting teams and equipment are also in place to prevent fires from spreading.

In a statement, First Resources said it strictly adheres to a no-burn policy for their land clearing process.

“To prepare for fire emergencies that may be caused by spontaneous combustion or fires on neighbouring lands that get out of control, we do have fire precautionary measures in place,” the statement said. “These include detecting and monitoring hotspots using satellite information, increasing frequency of security patrols during the hot and dry season, and maintaining a fire management team at all plantations.”

The statement also added that since 2013, the company has reinforced their fire management team with more trained firefighters, new fire-fighting equipment, further training and better quality protective gear for their fire-fighting crew.

Meanwhile, Golden Agri-Resources said they, along with their subsidiaries, are against any form of burning -- and are industry leaders in being the first palm oil producer to establish a zero-burning policy in 1997.

“We believe that businesses must act responsibly and a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach is the best way to find solutions for the haze issue,” the company said in a statement. “We are supportive of efforts to mitigate the haze and will work with the relevant stakeholders.

“We have intensified our fire surveillance patrols and are prepared to take prompt action to put out fires to protect our plantations.”

Wilmar, which also has plantations in Indonesia, declined to comment.

- CNA/rw

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Malaysia: Search for near extinct sawfish

The Star 3 Jul 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Marine researchers are hoping to rediscover a species of rays with long snouts resembling sharks, thought to be extinct, in smaller rivers that feed into Sungai Kinabatangan.

Though the marine creature called sawfish have not been sighted along the nation’s second longest waterway for about 20 years, researchers believe that there could be small populations at its tributaries or at the nearby Sungai Segama.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Borneo Marine Research Institute senior lecturer Dr Mabel Manjaji Matsumoto said they planned to carry field studies in rivers at the Lower Kinabatangan region to see if there were any more sawfish populations there.

She said the reported capture of a 5m long female sawfish on June 25 at Daro in Sarawak had once again brought into focus the need for urgent conservation efforts of these marine creatures said to be dwindling in numbers.

She said that sawfish were also a protected species under the Fisheries Act.

Dr Mabel said due to their resemblance of sharks, sawfish had been harvested for their fins apart from their long, toothed snouts or rostra, some up to 7m long, often in demand as “curios”.

Sawfish that thrive in freshwater and parts of rivers of low salinity are often caught in fishing nets due to their toothed snouts.

In addition many of their habitats are under threat due to land clearing activities and agriculture along the rivers.

Dr Mabel said four of five species of sawfishes had been recorded In Malaysia.

The most recent report of Borneo sawfish from Sarawak is encouraging – that sawfishes still existed in Borneo – and provides a hope to conserve the remaining population.

“As current knowledge of sawfish distribution in Malaysia is patchy at best, much needs to be done to better understand the distribution of sawfishes throughout Malaysia,” Dr Mable said.

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Malaysia: Rain, hot weather causing spike in dengue cases

New Straits Times 2 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The rainy weather interchanging with the hot season is one factor for the high number of dengue cases recorded between January and last month.

A Health Ministry official said the rainy season had created a more conducive breeding ground for mosquitoes while the hot weather had made the mosquitoes more active.

“The wet weather enables the mosquito egg to turn into larva, a pupa and later into an adult mosquito, or imago.

“Therefore, it is important to reduce breeding sources and create a clean environment so that the breeding process does not continue.”

Fogging is not sufficient as it only kills adult mosquitoes, and no vaccine has been developed yet.

“We have intensified our control measures but it should be an integrated effort by all quarters to ensure that there are no more dengue deaths.”

The official said compounds had been issued to people in charge of premises and sites that were not clean and which promoted mosquito breeding.

Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on Monday said the ministry was investigating the possibility of the rise of dengue cases to be due to the shift in the dominant dengue virus serotype that was circulating.

“We will investigate the possibility of a new strain of dengue virus from the four serotypes always in circulation (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4).

“The spike in dengue cases may be attributed to the new strain, but we will have to find out.”

Checks with private hospitals showed that the number of admissions for dengue had increased, with one private hospital in the Klang Valley saying the increase had forced it to turn away many patients.

Spike in dengue-related cases and deaths in Johor
The Star 3 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: Johor has recorded 15 dengue-related deaths in the first six months of this year, an increase of 144% compared with the same pe­­riod last year.

The number of dengue cases also increased by 52% from 1,660 in the first six months of last year to 2,524 for the same period this year.

State health and environment com­­­mittee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat described the trend as worrying as the death toll had more than doubled, adding the Health Depart­ment had been constantly carrying out fogging and clean-up across the state.

However, he said residents should not rely solely on fogging activities but take precautionary measures to rid mosquito breeding grounds.

“Fogging is the last resort to kill adult Aedes and some of them are already immune to the pesticide. Prevention is most vital to eliminate dengue cases,” he said while propo­sing that homeowners spend at least 10 minutes a week to check for possible breeding grounds around their areas.

On the usage of biological agent Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis (BTI) as the pesticide mixture for fogging, Ayub said that the Govern­ment was still conducting studies to check on its effectiveness.

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El Nino, Indonesian Peatland Conversion Add Up to Haze Risk

Harry Pearl Jakarta Globe 3 Jul 14;

Jakarta. Environmental groups and scientists fear a predicted El Nino weather pattern this year could exacerbate Indonesia’s destructive forest fires, which in 2013 left thousands of people sick, closed schools and sparked a diplomatic row with Singapore.

Meteorologists have predicted an El Nino weather pattern is likely this year, meaning Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia will see drier-than-usual weather and an increased possibility of drought.

Nigel Sizer, the global director of the World Resources Institute’s forests program, said this could have a significant impact on the threat of forest fires in Indonesia.

“We have been issuing warnings that this year could be a very, very bad year for fires,” said Sizer, speaking at a panel discussion on forest fires hosted by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club on Wednesday. “Last year was very bad of course, this year could be worse.”

Fires in Sumatra’s Riau province in June last year closed schools, airports and saw thousands of people suffer from respiratory tract diseases.

The haze from the fires, most of which were said to have been deliberately lit to clear land for agriculture including oil palm and pulp plantations, blanketed the skies of neighboring countries.

Air pollution levels reached record levels in Singapore, leading to Singapore’s lawmakers introducing the draft Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. If passed, it would see foreign companies fined for polluting the country’s air.

Critics have said the Indonesian government is not doing enough to combat the fires.

Herry Purnomo, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), said there was a lack of capacity to fight the fires and disagreement between national and local government as to who was responsible.

“We talk a lot but not a lot is happening,” Herry said.

Bustar Maitar, head of the Indonesian forest campaign at Greenpeace International, called on the ministry of environment to give Indonesia’s peatlands full protection. He also said the government needed to stop treating forest fires as a natural disaster.

“For me peatland is a dynamic and unique ecosystem but if that peatland is not being managed properly then it will become a source of fuel for forest fire,” he said. “So if you’re talking about how to stop forest fires, one key element that we need to talk about is how to stop making fuel – by clearing and draining peatland.”

About 80 percent of Riau is covered by peatland, as is much of Kalimantan, Bustar said.

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