Best of our wild blogs: 13 Aug 14

23 Aug (Sat) evening: Free guided walk at the Pasir Ris mangroves
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Surprises at special Changi shore
from wild shores of singapore

common seastar, undercover @ semakau - Aug 2014
from sgbeachbum

Update on coral bleaching at Sultan Shoal (Aug 2014)
from Bleach Watch Singapore

Bats roosting in my porch: 5. Fruits, nectar and pollen
from Bird Ecology Study Group and Bats roosting in my porch: 7. Morphology of the Common Fruit Bat

Raining in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (but fruits and seeds)

from Mountain and Sea

Insights on Marine Trash in Singapore
from Green Future Solutions

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Malaysia: Rain barely increased dam level, says Syabas

hemananthani sivanandam AND yuen meikeng The Star 13 Aug 14;

PETALING JAYA: Do not raise your hopes as the showers over the weekend, although it helped to cool down the temperature, did not make any significant impact to the water level at the Sungai Selangor dam.

The dam, which supplies water to 60% of households in the Klang Valley, only showed a mere increase to 32.03% of its capacity compared with 31.9% last Friday.

A check on the Selangor Water Management Board (Luas) website showed that the dam received 3.56mm worth of rainfall, contributing to the increase in water level.

However, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) corporate communications and public affairs general manager Priscilla Alfred described the increase as “extremely small”.

“Only constant increase and frequent rain will help in the long run.

“At the moment, we are able to manage, but should the dry season continue without any rainfall, we will certainly have problems,” said Alfred when contacted.

Malaysian Meteorological Department spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said more rain was expected until this weekend, but it would merely be isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Dr Hisham said the wind had been very light and did not have any specific direction.

“During the southwest monsoon, the wind is supposed to flow from the southwest direction, but currently the wind is flowing from various directions.

“The weakening of the wind has helped to form more rain clouds, which brings more rain,” he said.

So far, the Selangor government has yet to decide on whether to start water rationing.

The state started water rationing in February when the dam level dropped to 37%, but currently the “critical” level has been reduced to 30%.

Previously, water rationing was imposed in stages in Selangor beginning Feb 25, affecting 6.7 million people.

This was following weeks of hot weather and a decline in water level at the dams.

The rationing was lifted on May 1.

The Selangor state exco in charge of infrastructure and public amenities Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi said yesterday there would not be any water rationing in the state for now.

He said the only restriction imposed was on carwash operators.

Meanwhile, on the hailstorm hitting several parts of the country, Dr Hisham said such occurrences were normal after a long period of dry weather, but noted that it did not happen often.

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Malaysia: Jumbos straying into populated areas keep rangers busy

The Star 13 Aug 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers in Sabah are having their hands full dealing with elephants straying into populated areas in two districts recently.

State Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said a group of 18 elephants had strayed into a village in Telupid district, near Sandakan.

Seven other elephants that strayed into the area had been herded back and relocated.

Dr Sen said the rangers were working as fast as possible to relocate the animals to a nearby forest reserve.

In February, wildlife rangers were called in to relocate a herd of 30 elephants that had caused a scare among villagers at Kampung Bauto in Telupid.

The elephants caused massive damage to oil palm, banana and fruit trees planted by the villagers.

Two female elephants, said to be matriarchs of the herd, were translocated to the nearby Dermakot Forest Reserve in hopes that the others would follow them.

Dr Sen said despite efforts to relocate the elephants, there was no assurance the problem had been resolved.

“There is no guarantee they will stay away (from villages) as elephant habitats are shrinking due to human activities,” he said.

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Fighting for sharks in the Philippines

ANNA VALMERO GMA News Online 12 Aug 14;

CALATAGAN, BATANGAS — His skin burnt from from years of diving, a local reef warden gets ready for another underwater guard watch with his usual attire: fins, snorkel and a mask. It’s just another day in the office as he readies to release five premature blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) into a nearby shallow reef that already show slight signs of bleaching.

The baby sharks swam out to the coastal village’s wharf just as a local fishermen, Mariano Bautista, slit open the belly of their mother, a 1.2-meter-long blacktip reef shark, caught one Sunday morning off the coast of Batangas.

This story is told too often in different parts of the world. The bycatching of reef sharks—sometimes accidental, but more often intentional—is a serious issue highlighting mankind’s harsh impact on marine resources.

Each year, up to 100 million sharks are killed for their fins, according to the latest report by the Global Ocean Commission.

The issue of bycatch is one of the many challenges that threaten the oceans, upsetting the balance of marine ecosystems.

But the story doesn't end here.

Non-stop demand from oceans

The oceans are also threatened by a mix of challenges including overfishing, massive biodiversity loss, ineffective management and enforcement of ocean protection, and deficiencies in high seas governance, according to the latest landmark report by the Global Ocean Commission.

Just before the premature reef sharks could swim any further out in the open, Delos Reyes' brother, Alex, collected the babies so they can be released in a protected reef. This gives them a better chance at survival to adulthood so that they can, eventually, contribute to maintaining a healthy and productive reef.

“This is very sad. As much as we tell them to not catch sharks or rays, they rely only on fishing, mostly for subsistence. For them, any catch will mean food on the table. But we are hopeful that the baby sharks we released today will be able to survive back in their natural home and that this serves as a lesson to local fishermen,” noted Delos Reyes, who also served as trainer at Conserve and Protect Oceans (CAPOceans) Foundation, a local foundation that promotes ocean conservation.

Blacktip reef sharks, according to Filipino marine biologist Dr. A. A. Yaptinchay, are apex predators that help keep fish populations healthy, especially when decades of overfishing has depleted 87 percent of global fish stocks.

“Reef sharks help in controlling sick, diseased, and genetically inferior individuals to maintain robust fish stocks. They also feed on midlevel carnivores to ensure that herbivore fishes can do their job to help coral reefs grow better by eating algae,” noted Yaptinchay.

If there is too much algal growth in the ocean, it can severely stress and upset coral reef systems, that serve as nurseries for small fishes. Without coral reefs to protect them, the small fishes can easily fall prey to predators and die long before they mature and produce their own offspring.

Tough choices

When faced with a choice of keeping the ocean healthy and keeping one’s ability to bring food to the family, sadly, most fisherfolk would go for the latter.

Bautista said that he sold the freshly-cut fins for P200 (about $5) per kilo, the same price as a kilo of tanigue mackerel. Meanwhile, the reef shark’s meat was sold at P20 (about $0.50) per kilo.

A kilo of dried shark’s fin—a local delicacy served in Chinese restaurants—sells for P7,000 (approximately $160), said Delos Reyes when he made rounds in Divisoria, a popular bargain’s market in Manila.

The blacktip reef shark is listed as a near-threatened species under the IUCN Red List, referring to global populations “not in immediate danger of depletion.”

“While they may still be common, it does not mean that they are not threatened,” said Yaptinchay.

Lobbying for protection of marine animals is slowly taking progress after the Philippines recently passed a bill that bans the catching of sharks and rays, while some local airline carriers such as Cebu Pacific prohibited shark fin carriage to help discourage the trade.

And more needs to be done.

Glimmer of hope

The second week of August, 2014, the first Philippine Shark Summit is to be held in Cebu to discuss measures for encouraging protection of these animals and their long-term benefits for the community in the form of sustainable fish and alternative livelihood, such as ecotourism.

In the Philippines, Malapascua has been generating income from shark tourism as divers flock the area to see their underwater treasures while Donsol and Cebu are getting attention as whale shark eco tours. — TJD, GMA News

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UK: Seagrass fish feeding grounds 'lost like rain forests'

BBC News 12 Aug 14;

Underwater fish "meadows" are being lost at the same rate as the Amazon rain forests, researchers have warned.

Seagrass is a key habitat for feeding and sheltering young fish, including plaice, haddock and pollock.

But every hour an area the size of two football pitches is destroyed.

Scientists from Swansea University believe the habitats need to be protected otherwise fishing stocks could be affected.

"The rate of loss is equal to that occurring in tropical rainforests and on coral reefs yet it receives a fraction of the attention," said Dr Richard Unsworth, lead researcher.

"If you're a small fish, like a juvenile cod, then you need food and shelter. Seagrass meadows provide both."

The biggest threat is from poor water quality and damage caused by boat anchors and moorings.

The Swansea research, for the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), is part of a global conservation effort to save seagrass.

The team, using baited underwater camera systems and netting, took a year to measure the size and number of fish in seagrass meadows in the seas around Britain, and compared the results with nearby sand habitats.

The study included Porthdinllaen and Pen-y-Chain on the Llyn peninsula in Gwynedd.

In one seagrass site off the Gwynedd coast, divers found 42 fish species, 10 of which are important commercially.

"If there's lots of food available for them to eat and reduced predation, like there is in seagrass meadows, they don't spend all their time hunting for food so they're more likely to survive and put on weight faster," said Dr Unsworth.

"When you start to lose these habitats you'll see smaller juveniles and smaller fish stocks."

The research is part of a wider project assessing the benefits of seagrass meadows across the Atlantic, which is funded by the Welsh government and the EU.

"We want to work with partners around the country to look at trying to get this up the conservation agenda," said Dr Unsworth.

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Climate indicators show renewed signs of El Nino: Australia

Colin Packham PlanetArk 13 Aug 14;

The Pacific Ocean has warmed in the last two weeks, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday, renewing signs of the development of an El Nino weather pattern.

The Pacific Ocean has warmed amid weak trade winds. Should the trend continue, more warming toward an El Nino is possible, the bureau said.

The bureau put the chance of an El Nino at at least 50 percent.

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Australia warns of poor outlook for Great Barrier Reef

Sonali Paul PlanetArk 13 Aug 14;

Australia warns of poor outlook for Great Barrier Reef Photo: Great Barrier Reef National Park Authority/Files
A tourist swims on the Great Barrier Reef in this undated file picture.
Photo: Great Barrier Reef National Park Authority/Files

Australia's Great Barrier Reef remains under threat despite efforts to rein in major sources of damage to the World Heritage-listed icon, the government said on Tuesday.

Canberra released a five-yearly review of the reef and moves to protect it, to address concerns raised by UNESCO and persuade the world body not to put the key tourist attraction on its "in danger" list next year.

"Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate," the government said in its outlook report.

The fragile reef, which stretches 2,300 km (1,430 miles) along Australia's east coast, is the centerpiece of a campaign by green groups and marine tourist operators aiming to stop a planned coal port expansion that would require millions of cubic meters of sand to be dredged up and dumped near the reef.

The reef has the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusk, and is home to threatened species, including the dugong and large green turtle, the World Heritage list says.

The government said run-off from farms, crown-of-thorns starfish and climate change remain the biggest threats to the reef, but acknowledged that shipping and dredging occur in reef areas already facing pressure from other impacts.

"Greater reductions of all threats at all levels, reef-wide, regional and local, are required to prevent the projected declines in the Great Barrier Reef and to improve its capacity to recover," the government said.

The government said it would not allow any port development outside long-established ports in Queensland. Those existing ports include Abbot Point, where India's Adani Group and compatriot GVK plan a huge coal terminal expansion, and Gladstone, where ship traffic is set to increase sharply from 2015 as huge new liquefied natural gas plants start exports.

Green groups said the report did not let off the hook the mining industry, which is digging up coal for export, adding to climate change and expanding ports along the reef.

"The greatest risk, again, is climate change," said Wendy Tubman, an official of the North Queensland Conservation Council, which is leading a legal fight against the Abbot Point expansion.

"And we all know what the greatest contribution to climate change is: that's mining coal for export."

The Queensland Resources Council, which represents the mining industry, said it supported the effort of the state government to improve port development and management along the reef.

At a meeting in Doha in June, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO deferred until next year a decision on whether to place the 300,000-sq-km reef on its list of sites in danger.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is concerned over the proposed coastal developments, and has asked Australia to submit an updated report on the state of conservation of the reef, which sprawls over an area half the size of Texas, by next February 1.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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