Best of our wild blogs: 7 Jul 14

pied triller, breakfast @ Changi - July 2014
from sgbeachbum

A Quiet Morning @ Upper Seletar Reservoir Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Bats Roosting in my porch: 3. Partial success with lights and CDs
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Conjoined Swift
from Butterflies of Singapore

13-15 Jun 2014: Nets and traps seen on Pulau Sekudu
from Project Driftnet Singapore

Black-mouth Nerite @ Kranji
from Monday Morgue

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600 households get supplies to help prepare for haze & dengue

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: About 600 vulnerable households in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC on Sunday received packages to help them prepare for haze and dengue.

Called the WeCare pack, it contains four N95 masks and some food and medicine, which are said to be able to last residents for three days.

Members of Parliament for the area on Sunday distributed the supplies to needy households and the elderly.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "We want to make sure that we are able to bring the essential items to those more vulnerable members of our community, so that in case there's another recurrence of a haze episode, they have the basic things that they need - masks and so on, and they don't have to go out to get them.

“This was something which we had to do on the fly last year. But this year we want to be prepared ahead of time. So we're doing this in every constituency in Singapore over these two to three months."

- CNA/xq

Stop-work order for dengue-hit site

Salma Khalik and Hoe Pei Shan The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jul 14;

Construction company China Jingye Engineering Corporation has been told to stop work and clean up its Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1 Housing Board construction site after 35 of its workers contracted dengue.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take the company to court after an inspection of the site found four mosquito breeding areas.

It is the fourth time the site has been found to have breeding areas. Project manager Tan Chee Hock said the company was given its first stop-work order there last year.

It has since paid fines of more than $10,000 in total for three cases of mosquito breeding.

In the current case, workers were first diagnosed with dengue on June 23 and a stop-work order was issued two days later. The firm has about 900 staff in total.

Mr Tan said China Jingye will plead guilty and extended an apology to residents in the area - 22 of whom have also fallen sick.

"We need to work with NEA to make sure the lives of those living around the site are not affected," he said. "We have that responsibility." The NEA is intensifying its efforts as the number of dengue cases rises, with more than 9,300 infections so far this year.

Last week, 676 cases were diagnosed - 123 more than the previous week. Between Sunday and 3.30pm yesterday, another 668 were infected by the mosquito-borne viral disease.

Roughly one in five sufferers ends up in hospital.

The NEA said it will check the seven construction sites in Choa Chu Kang every week. It is the neighbourhood with the most new dengue cases in the last fortnight, although checks have found only one home where mosquitoes are breeding.

Residents told The Straits Times they are worried about the rise in dengue fever and are doing their best to keep their homes free of stagnant water. Cabby Wahad Bach k, 58, blamed construction sites. "Before those came up, we never had so many people with dengue."

Singapore's current "super cluster" is the Serangoon and Hougang area where 550 people have been infected. The NEA has been deploying 200 officers a day there to spray insecticides, and search for and destroy breeding sites. They have found 266 breeding spots there - 80 per cent of which were in homes.

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Missed out on island-hopping? HeritageFest has more to offer

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jul 14;

Hopping on boats to Singapore's outlying islands may be one way to learn more about the Republic's island heritage - but it is not the only one.

Those who do not manage to register for the popular island-hopping trails, organised as part of this year's Singapore HeritageFest, can still glean nuggets of history from the festival's other programmes.

These include film screenings as well as activities and exhibitions at 11 festival hubs islandwide.

They are among more than 60 different programmes put together by organiser National Heritage Board for the annual festival, which is focusing for the first time on Singapore's island heritage.

Now in its 11th edition, the Singapore HeritageFest will be held from July 18 to 27.

At the festival hubs located at shopping malls and places such as the National Museum of Singapore, visitors can browse exhibitions featuring themes ranging from Singapore's myths and legends to its kampung history to its island heritage.

For instance, the Tales From Our Shores festival hub at Century Square, a mall in Tampines, will tell six stories that have been passed down through the generations.

Some will dwell on the origins of places and things - such as the hot springs of Sembawang and the kompang drum, a Malay musical instrument - while others will centre on how places in Singapore were named.

Visitors to the exhibition will learn how Bukit Merah - which means "red hill" in Malay - got its name after a jealous ruler ordered his men to kill a young boy, causing his blood to flow down the hill.

At another festival hub, at Jurong's Westgate mall, visitors can find out more about the different forms of traditional healing from the different ethnic groups - traditional Chinese medicine; jamu, which is traditionally Malay; and ayurveda, a traditional Indian healing form.

Traditional Healing hub curator Angeline Tong, 38, said: "The exhibition aims to inform visitors that traditional healing is a collection of ancient wisdom that we should treasure."

The festival's offerings have piqued 26-year-old bank analyst Daniel Govindan's interest.

"The festival hubs in heartland malls will be convenient to visit, and I'll pop by on my way home from work," he said.

Island-hopping trails oversubscribe

A ballot will be conducted for registrations via e-mail for the popular island-hopping tours.

Following strong demand, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has laid on more tours beyond the Singapore HeritageFest period.

When the festival website opened for registration at midnight on Monday, there was an overwhelming response. NHB has since asked people to register their interest by e-mail.

It has worked with its partners, such as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, to open up more slots, but registrations will have to be balloted and the tours will take place after the festival ends on July 27.

Themed Our Islands, Our Home, the festival aims to tell "lesser-known tales of our trading past" and showcase the cultures and traditions of immigrants who settled here.

"The public can also participate in the other programmes at the festival to learn more about our island heritage," said NHB.

There will be more than 60 different programmes and 11 festival hubs at locations such as Century Square, Changi City Point and the National Museum of Singapore.

The following are three events that visitors can still sign up for:

Pulau Ubin on Film: A Screening of Moving Gods and Discussion

When: July 20

Time: 4pm to 6pm

Where: National Museum of Singapore (NMS) Gallery Theatre, Basement; Register by e-mailing First come, first served for up to 245 people.

Island Archaeology: An Obscure But Bountiful Past

When: July 15

Time: 7.30pm 9pm

Where: NMS Gallery Theatre, Basement; Register by e-mailing First come, first served for up to 245 people.

Protecting Chek Jawa - Past, Present and Future. A Screening of Remember Chek Jawa and Discussion

When: July 27

Time: 4pm to 6pm

Where: NMS Gallery Theatre, Basement. Register by e-mailing First come, first served for up to 245 people.

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Islandwide plan to sterilise stray cats

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Jul 14;

A NATIONAL effort to reduce the number of stray cats by sterilising them humanely is now in place again islandwide after more than a decade.

The stray cat sterilisation programme was quietly extended across Singapore in May.

Under it, volunteers who take strays from HDB estates to selected veterinary clinics will not have to pay a cent to get them sterilised and micro-chipped. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) funds half of the costs, while the Cat Welfare Society funds the rest. It typically costs between $30 and $60 to neuter a cat and another $20 to microchip it.

A similar programme ran from 1998 to 2003 before it was deemed ineffective and scrapped by the AVA, in favour of removing the then 80,000-strong stray cat population from the streets altogether for public hygiene reasons.

Strays were instead culled, pet owners educated not to abandon cats, and groups encouraged to house them at their own cost.

The AVA's decision back then was criticised by animal welfare groups, which subsequently funded sterilisations on their own.

They said sterilisation would have reduced the stray population effectively if the measure had been given more time to take effect.

In 2007, the AVA proposed a new sterilisation programme, but it had no takers as town councils did not want to clean up after the cats. In 2011, it was partially relaunched as a trial in four areas.

It was extended islandwide in May this year after the trials showed sterilisation managed to cut the stray population, the AVA said. "For sterilisation to be more effective... there has to be greater coverage," said a spokesman, adding that the programme supports sterilisation as "a humane way" of controlling numbers.

The move has drawn praise from animal welfare groups, which say culling is inhumane and ineffective. They said the drop in stray cat numbers from 80,000 to about 50,000 now, together with the fall in culling figures, is evidence that sterilisation works.

"If euthanisation numbers have decreased, it surely means that sterilisation is working, as fewer cats need to be culled," said executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Corinne Fong.

The AVA euthanised about 1,000 strays last year, down from 3,300 in 2008 and 13,000 in 2001.

"Mindsets do change over time," said Ms Fong. "I'm happy that the AVA saw it fit to re-introduce this initiative. It would have been good if it had sustained (the previous programme) - imagine what the stray cat population would be now."

Cat Welfare Society vice-president Veron Lau estimated the society and its volunteers sterilised "tens of thousands" of strays over the past decade. Last year alone, it sterilised 4,479 cats, she said.

"With this additional funding, it means that we can do more."

Groups hope stray cat numbers will fall to a more manageable 20,000 within five to 10 years. To do this, said Ms Lau, policies other than sterilisation have to succeed such as preventing cat abandonment. She also noted that sterilisation has not yet dented the numbers in industrial estates.

Dog welfare groups have also urged the Government to adopt a national sterilisation scheme, rather than culling, to reduce stray dog numbers. The AVA has regularly emphasised that its priority in the case of dogs is public health and safety, as stray dogs may attack people or carry rabies.

Human sterilisation of strays is best approach
The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Jul 14;

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) affirms the national effort to reduce the number of stray cats by sterilising/neutering them humanely ("Islandwide plan to sterilise stray cats"; yesterday). This is certainly justified and timely, considering the still sizeable number of stray (or more aptly termed as "community") cats on the streets.

Ultimately, it is sterilisation that offers the most effective and humane means of keeping the community animal population in check.

On this note, we assure readers and donors that our existing voucher programme will go on, as it has for the last 23 years.

Since 1991, we have distributed more than 30,000 free sterilisation vouchers to the public, making it possible for community animals to be sterilised at participating veterinary clinics islandwide. The cost is borne by the SPCA. Currently, a monthly budget exceeding S$5,500 is set aside specifically for this.

This scheme is expressly for the sterilisation of community animals. We are unable to provide treatment/surgery for companion, or pet, animals with this focus in mind, and encourage pet owners to take their pets to private clinics for the necessary sterilisation.

More information on this scheme can be found at

In keeping with the principles of responsible pet ownership, we strongly urge all pet owners, too, to help curtail the growth of Singapore's unwanted animal population. They can also take heart in their sterilised pets being typically healthier and less prone to illnesses.

The humane sterilisation of our community animals would certainly go a long way towards creating a more harmonious living environment for all of us, and SPCA Singapore welcomes the return of this much-needed programme on a national scale.

We also applaud the programme implementation by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Cat Welfare Society, and would be happy to render any other form of support in any way we can.

-Corinne Fong (Ms)
Executive Director
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore

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Hong Kong: Businesses in city 'must plan ahead' to limit damage from rising sea levels, experts say

South China Morning Post 7 Jul 14;

How badly affected would Hong Kong be if sea levels rise as predicted? The city's rugged coastline and high sea walls offer some protection but government and businesses cannot be complacent from the threat of stronger typhoons and accompanying storm surges, say experts.

"The government has to have policies at all levels. When we think about the substantial cost associated with sea flooding versus taking early action to avoid damage, it is better to plan ahead," said Kalmond Ma, the head of climate programme at the World Wildlife Fund.

The most deadly surges would come from a southerly direction and combine typhoon-strength winds, spring tides and a low pressure system to devastating effect, said Mok Hing-yim, a senior scientific officer at the Hong Kong Observatory, the government agency in charge of monitoring storms.

Ma said elevated sea levels around Hong Kong would put at risk residential and commercial buildings in unprotected districts. They would also affect wildlife sanctuaries such as the Mai Po marshes near the border.

Buildings less than 10 metres above sea level were potentially in trouble, said Caspar Honegger, the head of flood perils at Swiss Re. For those 20 metres and above, surges were not a problem, he added.

Sea levels in Victoria Harbour had risen on average 29mm per decade since 1954, when records began, Mok said.

Referencing data from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Observatory estimates sea levels will rise between 17 and 38cm by 2065, and between 26 and 82cm by 2100.

At the same time, it expects typhoons to increase in number and severity. In the Observatory's worst-case scenario, a storm like Typhoon Hagupit in 2008, which whipped up waves up to 3.53 metres high in Victoria Harbour and caused flooding and power cuts, will no longer be a once in 50 years event.

By 2065, it will happen every five years, and by 2100, it will be an annual occurrence. By 2100, wave surges topping 4 metres would hit Hong Kong every decade under this scenario, said Mok.

Various government departments were now assessing the impact climate change might have on Hong Kong, said Paul Chu, a spokesman for the Civil Engineering and Development Department, and a report was expected by early next year.

In a 2012 report, the Hong Kong Business Environment Council, a corporate-sponsored think tank, recommended a "first response" towards climate change. The government, power sector, transport network operators and the construction industry, among others, all needed to develop strategies to adjust to a changing climate, it said.

There are no cost estimates of the potential damage of future storm surges to Hong Kong, or of the investment required to protect existing shorelines.

In a recent report assessing the impact of hurricanes and rising sea levels on New York, Swiss Re analysts estimated that annual losses will increase from US$1.7 billion today to US$4.4 billion by 2050.

Mok said contractors and civil engineers routinely quizzed him on climate change.

"Contractors consider their safety margin and expected impact from climate change, the cost effectiveness and the longevity of the project," he said.

Coastline infrastructure needed to be protected by 5-metre-high walls, and new developments should be sited away from high risk areas, he said.

Ma recommends the construction of curved sea walls as these would help absorb a wave's power. Straight walls like the ones protecting Victoria Harbour, only deflect the waves and cause a ricochet effect. Low-lying land could be rezoned as unsafe and critical infrastructure moved to higher ground, he said.

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EU unveils new recycling targets, landfill ban

Julia Fioretti PlanetArk 3 Jul 14;

Europeans will need to recycle 70 percent of urban waste and 80 percent of packaging waste by 2030, the European Union proposed on Wednesday, as it pushes to cut the amount of trash produced by its 500 million citizens.

Fostering an environmentally friendly economy has long been a priority for the European Union, which argues it would set the 28-country bloc on a sustainable path to growth after the financial crisis.

"If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfill as waste," said Janez Potocnik, the EU's environment commissioner.

By 2025, the EU executive is also pushing for a ban on sending recyclable waste, such as paper and plastic, to landfill and a 30 percent reduction in the amount of food thrown away.

The proposals would build on the EU's current target to recycle half of all its trash by 2020, but member states are falling short of that.

In 2012, EU countries recycled just 27 percent of their urban waste, while over a third was put in landfill, according to data from Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.

The EU is reviewing its 10-year strategy for boosting growth and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020 and in Wednesday's proposal suggested introducing a new target for the efficient use of raw materials.

"We have already made strong progress towards increasing recycling and reducing landfilling over the last decade," Potocnik said.

Germany was closest to achieving the 50 percent target in 2012, recycling 47 percent of its waste and burying none of it. Romania buried 99 percent of its urban rubbish.

The proposals received a cautious welcome from environmental campaigners, who said they were a step in the right direction but a lot more remained to be done.

"More recycling alone does not mean that Europe's overconsumption of resources is actually reduced," said Benedek Javor, spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament.

"The top priority should be a greater focus on prevention of waste, with ambitious reduction targets."

The proposals need the blessing of the newly elected European Parliament and national governments before becoming law.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Peru says El Nino threat over, waters cooling and fish returning

Teresa Cespedes PlanetArk 7 Jul 14;

Temperatures in Peru's Pacific peaked in June, rising 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) above average levels, but have since retreated and will likely return to normal by August, the state committee that studies El Nino said.

"The possibility of us seeing an extraordinary Nino is ruled out," said German Vasquez, the head of the committee.

Peru is the world's top fishmeal exporter, producing about a third of worldwide supply. The industry is concentrated along the South American country's northern and central coast.

Cold-water anchovy that swam south to escape warmer sea temperatures that arrived in April are making their way back now, Vasquez said.

"Anchovy are coming north," Vasquez said. "There are already fish in the center of the country, but they're still very close to the coast and not yet at their usual depth."

El Nino, characterized by a warming of surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, can trigger floods in some places and droughts in others.

Vasquez said sea temperatures off Peru's coast could rise again slightly at the end of the year.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

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