Best of our wild blogs: 27 Jul 14

Rambutans at Chek Jawa with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from wild shores of singapore

Checking up on dead fishes at Sungei Buloh
from wild shores of singapore

Long Walk At Central Catchment Park Connectors (25 Jul 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Butterfly of the Month - July 2014
from Butterflies of Singapore

Helping a dull bird shine – Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

Read more!

AVA probes mystery of fish deaths at Sungei Buloh

Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Jul 14;

Dead fish found on the banks of Sungei Buloh Besar yesterday. In a similar incident in April, thousands of dead grey mullet were washed up in the wetland reserve.

Dead fish were spotted in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve earlier this week, with parts of Sungei Buloh Besar turning black.

There was also a strong stench - not unlike the smell of rotten eggs - along the main bridge in the reserve when The Straits Times visited yesterday.

Despite several decomposing fish carcasses on the banks of Sungei Buloh Besar, halfbeaks, a native breed of fish, were still seen swimming in the river.

Housewife Sharon Choy, 50, a frequent visitor to the reserve, said: "On Tuesday, when I looked out from the main bridge, I could see the dead fish lining the banks of the river. I told my husband, even if 100 people came to help, they would not be able to clean everything up."

The water, however, was still clean and had its "usual colour" when she visited.

Nature enthusiast Ria Tan, who runs, a wildlife website, said she saw about 40 dead fish along the river yesterday morning.

Most of them looked like the sort of large market-size farmed grey mullets, she added.

National University of Singapore biology lecturer N. Sivasothi said mass fish deaths are usually due to two factors - low oxygen levels and poisoning.

Low oxygen levels could be a result of increased algae growth, with algae competing with fish for oxygen. If there are large amounts of fertiliser or sewage upstream, the fish could have been poisoned and flowed into Sungei Buloh.

It was important to monitor the water quality of the Johor Strait, and ensure that offshore fish farms have proper waste disposal facilities, he added.

A spokesman from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said there has been no report of abnormal fish deaths from our coastal fish farms so far. "We are investigating the fish deaths in Sungei Buloh with the National Parks Board," he added.

The National Parks Board yesterday said it is removing the dead fish from the reserve.

In a similar incident in April, thousands of dead grey mullet were washed up in the wetland reserve.

The AVA said then that Singapore's coastal fish farms in the western Johor Strait had not been hit by die-offs and that there had been no plankton blooms or any abnormalities detected.

The agency had also cautioned that it would take enforcement action against farms found to be illegally dumping waste in the water.

Additional reporting by Priscilla Goy

Related links
Dead fishes at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve again on the wild shores of singapore blog.

Read more!

Life on Pulau Ubin: 'We don't close doors, there are no thieves here'

Melissa Lin and Linette Lai The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE - Towkay Tan Chee Kiang runs a busy restaurant and a shop in a prime location, serving up fried squid and sambal kangkong to visitors hailing from South Korea to Germany.

But the 66-year-old is no boss of businesses in Orchard Road, or even an HDB town centre.

Instead, he owns a provision shop and one of the largest eateries on Pulau Ubin, an isle the size of Tampines.

Born and bred on Ubin, Mr Tan is one of the popular island's last 30-odd residents.

Home for Mr Tan is a single room at the back of the provision shop that has been in his family for nearly 100 years, back when Singapore was a British colony and when policemen wore shorts.

The shop is a short walk from the main jetty, where bumboats drop off visitors, past a dusty road lined with bicycle rental shops and weathered old men whiling their time away.

Here, there are no traffic lights, no shopping malls, no clinics even, but residents are all the happier for that.

"It's quieter, more peaceful and the air is definitely better," Mr Tan said in Mandarin.

"We don't need to close the doors in our homes. There are no thieves here."

A queen-size bed sits in the corner of the room he shares with his wife. The wall is bare save for a framed photograph of his youngest daughter as a toddler.

The corridor that links to the shop is lined with stacks of cartons of canned drinks. A cool, salty breeze blows in from a single window facing the sea.

Mr Tan, the middle child of a family with five children, took over the shop from his father.

His father, who died three years ago at the age of 103, was in his 20s when he moved to the island with his younger brother.

Mr Tan's uncle ferried people to and from the island as a bumboat pilot; Mr Tan's father started the provision shop.

"Nine or 10 years ago, I started this seafood restaurant," Mr Tan said, gesturing at the business adjacent to the shop, now one of the island's largest eateries.

The village of his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s is very different from today's Pulau Ubin, or Granite Island in Malay.

Back then, thousands of people called the island home, working at its granite quarries, fish farms and in agriculture.

"We used to grow some vegetables for ourselves," Mr Tan recalled.

"Neighbours would also grow them, and we would buy some from them."

The wooden "wayang" stage in the town centre, where Chinese opera performances were put up, held fond memories for him.

"They used to have shows here, and there would be a lot of people. Nowadays only a few people watch such shows."

The "theatre" sometimes doubled up as a classroom, when the nearby Bin Kiang School ran out of space.

Mr Tan, who attended primary school there, said the island had many children in those early days.

"The school had six classrooms but sometimes those weren't enough and we had our classes on the stage," he recalled.

There were no cars and villagers went around on bicycles.

The roads were wide enough for only one cyclist to pass at a time; the bridges were so rickety you had to get off your bike and push it across, he said.

But the Ubin quarries started closing down - the last one shut in 1999 - and the islanders begin to move out in search of other livelihoods.

The number of residents on the island has since whittled down to fewer than 40.

The wayang stage now stands silent in the village square and some of the houses scattered across the island are abandoned.

Bin Kiang School closed in 1985 and was demolished in 2000.

Mr Tan's two daughters and a son, now aged between 26 and 38, went to schools on the mainland. They would wake up at 5am to catch the 6am boat to school.
The house he grew up in, opposite the provision shop, was turned into a storeroom.

His children moved into an HDB flat in Tampines, and he and his wife moved into the room in his shop.

Although he bought the flat more than 20 years ago, it was only after his father died that Mr Tan could spend nights at the flat, relieved of the responsibility of taking care of the old man.

But he still prefers his home on idyllic Ubin, where he spends most of his days.

"Living on Ubin is not so hectic, not like on the mainland," he said.

Here, life operates at a different pace.

Crates of beer and other heavy goods are delivered a few times a month, depending not on the traffic on the roads but on the tides.

"If the tides are too low, the boats can't come," he said.

These days, his rest days, Tuesdays, are spent meeting his group of old friends from the island for coffee near his Tampines flat.

He said wistfully of the past: "I had friends everywhere, no matter where I walked to (on Ubin). I grew up here, played here and went to work here.

"But everyone has gone his own way."

In the neighbourhood: In search of a simple life

Mr Sim Kim Seng, 50, did not grow up on Pulau Ubin but rents a room from his good friend, Mr Tan Chee Kiang. Mr Sim tells The Straits Times about the home he has adopted.


I am a contractor on Ubin who does repair jobs. I live in a rented room on Ubin four to five days a week, and have been doing so for the past eight to nine years.

I have a daughter, who works as a teacher, and a son studying in university, who live on the mainland.


Singapore is very "cramped". On Ubin, there are fewer rules and no traffic lights, zebra crossings, and ERP (Electronic Road Pricing).

I like the air and sunshine here. When I take walks in the morning, there are many surprises. I get to see different animals and birds. It is never boring.

The road is the same but every time you take a walk, it is a different experience.

When you say "hi" to people here, they respond. But if you do that on Orchard Road, people will wonder what you are doing.


Pulau Ubin used to be like an "orphan" last time, nobody cared about it. Now, more people are interested in it and there are tourists of all nationalities who visit.

Schools also hold their camping trips here. But most of the young people who lived here have left.


The nature here. On the mainland, the floors are made of concrete.

The people who live here, if their feet do not touch the soil, they are not used to it.

Is it inconvenient to live here? No, as long as you get used to it and live a simple life, it is okay.


- See more at:

Read more!

Haze could return to Singapore in the later part of the year, say experts

Channel NewsAsia 25 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The air quality in Singapore has been relatively good in recent weeks, despite earlier expectations of a return of the haze. But satellite experts say that hotspots in Sumatra are spreading, which could cause haze to return to Singapore in the later part of the year.

Southern Sumatra is expected to experience drier weather and also more hotspots in September. This could mean a likely return of haze in September and October this year.

The El NiƱo effect in the region, however, is expected to be weaker than usual, and this could moderate the impact of the haze. Favourable wind directions could also help, experts say.

"Currently most of the fires occur in the province of Riau, in central Sumatra. Singapore is at the south-east part of the hotspots area,” said Liew Soo Chin, Principal Research Scientist at the National University of Singapore Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing.

“The second factor is the wind direction. Currently the wind mainly blows from south to north. So that carries the haze towards the Kuala Lumpur side. (Because) Singapore is on the southern part of the hotspots area and the wind direction is not blowing towards us, we don't get the haze," he said.

- CNA/ek

Read more!

Malaysia: Air quality in Port Klang worsens to unhealthy level

New Straits Times 26 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The air quality in Port Klang was at an unhealthy level at noon today, raising to two the number of places with such air quality.

Sibu in Sarawak had registered an unhealthy level of air quality earlier in the day, according to the Department of Environment (DoE).

The DoE portal recorded an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 102 for Port Klang. It had an API reading of 108 for Sibu at noon, up from 103 at 7 am.

Thirty-nine other places in the country had air quality at the moderate level, according to the portal.

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Members of the public can refer to the DOE portal at to find out the API reading for their areas. - BERNAMA

Strong winds, rough seas warning, low visibility warning
New Straits Times 26 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Meteorological Department has issued a strong winds and rough seas warning in four areas - Phuket, Reef North, Layang-Layang and Palawan.

The department in a statement said northwesterly winds with speeds from 40-50km/hr and waves up to 3.5 metres were forecast to persist in the four areas till Thursday.

The situation is dangerous to small boats, recreational activities and water sports, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the department also warned of low visibility in the northern Melaka Strait and Sarawak (Kuching, Rejang dan Mukah) due to the current haze and that the situation was expected to continue till Thurday.

This was also dangerous for vessels not equipped with navigational aids, it said. - BERNAMA

Water level at dam drops to new low
The Star 26 Jul 14;

SHAH ALAM: The water capacity at the Sungai Selangor dam has dropped to a new low and is dipping to the critical level. The state government, however, is remaining adamant about not calling for another rationing exercise.

State exco man in charge of infrastructure and public amenities Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi is insisting that there is enough water in disused ponds in Bestari Jaya to keep the state’s water supply going.

He said the measures taken were good enough to ensure continuous supply during the festive season.

“Although water levels at all seven dams in the state dipped between 0.8% and 3% from July 18 to Thursday, the state currently has 24 pumps that are operating all the time while another four more pumps are yet to be installed,” he said, adding that this step would ensure continuous water supply before and after the Raya holidays.

He said the El Nino situation was a moderate one and would last until September while rainfall was expected in October.

In a statement issued yesterday, Dr Ahmad Yunus also said that the National Security Council had agreed to use the assets of the Malaysian Air Force to conduct cloud seeding.

Klang MP Charles Santiago, however, remained critical of the moves, saying that they were simply not enough to stop water levels at the dams from dropping.

“The state needs to educate the public about conserving water.

“They need to know how to consume water sparingly.

“If people do not practise conservation, it is going to be difficult to stop water levels from dropping beneath the critical mark of 30%,” Santiago said.

On pumping water from the ponds, he said the state would need to show a public reading every time water was pumped into the Sungai Selangor dam.

“This is because the water levels at these ponds are also low. When this happens, heavy metal residue can be found in the water,” he said.

Of the seven dams in the state, Sungai Tinggi recorded the biggest drop, falling from 53.02% on July 18 to 50.02% on Thursday.

The Sungai Selangor dam – which supplies water to 60% of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor – fell to 36.18% on Thursday.

Rationing was imposed in the Klang Valley on March 2 – and lifted on May 1 – after the water level dipped below 40%. The critical level for the dam is 30%.

Meanwhile, industry sources questioned the Selangor state government’s decision in lifting the rationing exercise quickly.

Sources said the lifting was a “mistake” as the water levels at the dams were still unstable.

“Looking at the trend, it is usual for us to experience problems in water supply but due to El Nino, the drop may be more drastic.

“Even if it rains, it has to be every day and at the water catchment areas or else it is pointless,” said one source.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department has already warned that there would be hot and dry days over the next two months.

Read more!

Indonesia: Haze Set to Worsen After More Hot Spots in Riau Detected

Kennial Caroline Laia Jakarta Globe 26 Jul 14;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s disaster agency warned on Friday that the haze in Riau province on Western Sumatra island would likely exacerbate after satellites detected 346 hot spots across Sumatra, mostly in Riau.

“The forest and land fires continue to rage until now. The latest development showed that out of 346 hotspots, 148 were detected in Riau,” spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.

The number is higher than the previous report, which recorded 87 hot spots.

The hot spots are mostly located in Rokan Hilir village with the number reaching 73 hot spots, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

“The haze has also caused the visibility range in several areas disrupted, such as in Pekanbaru, Pelalawan, Rengat and Dumai,” Sutopo added. “If the provincial government does not take any preventative measure, this condition would likely worsen. The dry season in 2014 will make it even worse.”

Sutopo said the fire mitigation process in the region was conducted poorly, adding that the provincial government still mostly relies on the central government for help.

“The role of the Riau government in handling the land and forests fires is still not optimal. The efforts to reduce and prevent fires in Riau are still very low. They are still depending on the central [government],” he said. “The Riau government should by now be able to handle the incident because it is one of the richest regions.”

Riau Governor Annas Maamun said this week that his government was keeping a close eye on the fires in the province.

“We are really serious in anticipating the fires. However, the officials couldn’t possibly keep an eye on the forest all night long,” he was quoted as saying by

Sutopo said that hotspots in Riau would continue to appear until November.

“New hot spots would continue to appear if El Nino occurred this year. The BNPB has allocated budget up to Rp 355 billion ($3.1 million) to anticipate land and forest fires across Indonesia,” he said.

Sutopo attributed the never-ending forest fires in Riau to lack of law enforcement in the province.

“Many regulations stipulating environmental control have been issued by both the central and regional government. However, the problem truly lies in the implementation,” he said. “Every year, during June to October in Sumatra, more than 70 percent of the fires happen outside forest areas, which were intentionally set off by humans. This has a great impact on its surroundings.”

Haze, in February-April this year alone, has caused Rp 20 trillion in losses. Meanwhile 21,914 hectares of land had been burned, and 58,000 people developed respiratory ailments and schools were forced to closed, the BNPB said.

Sutopo received reports from the Riau Police, which said the fires were mostly set off by owners of private plantations which considered burning as more cost-efficient as compared to clearing them.

Legal expert Uli Parulian Sihombing, with the Indonesian Legal Resource Center, echoed this view, saying that the fires were the result of weak implementation of regulation and poor supervision from the local government.

“Existing regulations prove that the government has a good intention to stop the land and forest fires. However, law enforcement is very low. Although perpetrators have been arrested for setting off fires, generally they were only actors in the field while the masterminds who organized the fire are still walking free,” he said.

Uli said the government needs to take extraordinary measures because the haze from the fires is not only affecting Indonesians but also neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

“Besides Kalimantan and Papua, Riau is the last bastion of Indonesia’s tropical forests. It has to be protected. There should be extraordinary measures from the government to stop the forest fires in Riau and other potential areas in Indonesia,” he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: Treasures from Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

MyKampung Sin Chew Daily 26 Jul 14;
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE

The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve is the largest mangrove forest in Peninsula Malaysia.

Environmentalist Wu Yong Quan's first job after returning from Taiwan was to join the Wetlands International Malaysia and he lived in Kuala Gula for two years. He was surprised when he first saw the spectacular estuary mangrove.

He received mangrove narrator training when studying in Taiwan and said that there are many mangrove-related books in Taiwan while many mangrove narrators have also been trained.

He was shocked to find that Taiwan is actually having only 3km2 of mangroves while in Malaysia, mangroves can be found at almost all estuaries and the sizes could reach more than 3km2 if there is no serious damage or development projects.

He explained that it is because Malaysia is having a tropical rainforest climate which is suitable for the growth of mangrove. There are about 1,000km2 of mangroves in Peninsula alone. However, many have been destroyed in the name of development due to the lack of proper protection.

There are only about 70 mangrove species worldwide while Malaysia is having 40 of them and is currently ranked world's sixth in total mangrove area.

The Matang Mangrove Forest is 400km2 in size, covering estuaries of several rivers include Kuala Larut and Sungai Sangga Kecil. It is the largest mangrove area in Peninsula. Since it is far from the sea and most mangroves are planted, it is lack in biodiversity.

Wu said that local mangroves are cut to make charcoal.

"Almost 300km2 mangroves are cut and replanted for a period of 30 years, while the remaining quarter of the area is kept for conservation, research, recreation, education and seed banking," he added.

Matang Mangrove Forest claims to have the world's best mangrove management system but it is not necessarily best protected. He said that the initial management was drawn in the early 20th century. A new management plan will be drawn every 10 years since the 1950s to amend and assess mangrove deforestation. It was estimated that Matang mangroves for charcoal and piling have brought RM30 million of profit each year.

Many people think that mangroves serve mainly as a windshield and thus, mangrove conservation plans started to be promoted after the 2004 Aceh tsunami, but Wu does not share the thought. He thinks that the windshield functionality of mangrove is not really strong.

"Malaysia has many mangroves and drifting mangrove saplings grow naturally wherever the environment is suitable," he said.

In fact, places with strong winds and waves are not suitable for the growth of mangroves. He explained that when the southwest monsoon blows, the huge waves are blocked by Sumatra. Fine mud brought by rivers are left on the coast and thus, west coasts are relatively more dirty. However, it is also more suitable to grow mangroves. It is also why the sizes of mangrove forests in east coasts are relatively small and most are having beach ecology instead.

Mangrove forests catch nutritious fine mud from upstream and nourish river creatures. Meanwhile, fishes, shrimps, crabs, shellfishes resting under the shade of mangroves absorb nutrients provided by decomposed leaves, increasing fishermen's catches.

Since it biggest feature is enriching seafood cultivation, the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve has brought RM230 million of revenue to the seafood cultivation industry.

Drives local charcoal industry

Although charcoal and piling wood are not the main sources of profit, the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve has still driven the charcoal industry in Kuala Sepetang. There are 348 licensed charcoal kilns in Sepetang and charcoals produced here are also exported to Japan.

Mangroves used to make charcoals are usually "Bakau Minyak" and "Bakau Kurap".

The management for mangroves used for charcoal production and piling wood is as followed:

The 30th year: All mangroves within the management area are completely deforested for charcoal production while 3 metre of buffer zone next to the river is conserved to prevent sea erosion.

The first to third year: Control weeds, plant seedlings and replace dead seedlings.

The 15th to 19th year: Selectively cut some trees to increase the distance between trees, while the wood can be used for construction purposes.

The 20th to 24th year: Selectively cut some trees again.

The 29th year: Survey mangrove growth condition and estimate production.

Wang Hong Xi, 34, is one of the kiln operators. He explained that a ship can load 9090kg of mangroves per trip.

Mangrove trunks must first be peeled before being arranged vertically in the kiln. About 1300 trunks can be arranged vertically in a kiln and each of the trunks must be padded with a small brick to allow hot air circulation, leaving space to allow the discharge of steam. A small opening must be left before kiln fire is lit.

Instead of being directly burned, charcoals are made through evaporation. Mangrove trunks will first be smoked with high heat, about 240 degrees, for 10 to 15 days before the heat is reduced to 85 degrees.

Pyroligneous acid or wood vinegar is channelled through a tube and collected in a blue plastic bucket next to the charcoal kiln. Wang said that applying wood vinegar to burn wounds could help prevent blister while applying it to cuts can help in hemostasis.

Mangrove trunks will turn into pink colour when they are carbonised and later translucent blue. They will continue be smoked with reduced heat until they become charcoals and the whole process takes about a month.

Wang stressed that kiln fires must keep on burning or the trunks will automatically burn up inside the kiln.

The last step will be sealing the kiln and letting the trunks to slowly cool down inside the kiln. Charcoals are removed from the kiln after more than ten days of cooling.

No trunk in the charcoal kiln is allowed to exceed 5 feet and 3 inches long or the operator will be fined RM10 for each trunk for first violation, RM20 for second and RM40 for third. Once blacklisted, it will affect license renewal which must be made every 10 years.

Each charcoal kiln is limited to operate in 2.2 hectares of mangrove forest to avoid excessive deforestation. In addition, kilns must be piled with 24,000 bricks and their heights must be 6.7 feet in diameter. Wang has three kilns producing 10 to 12 times of charcoals respectively each year and kiln operators are required to file 11 tons of taxes each time charcoals are removed from kiln.

Read more!