Best of our wild blogs: 18 Aug 14

23 Aug (Sat): Free Pasir Ris Mangrove boardwalk tour with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from wild shores of singapore

First public walk at Sisters' Island Marine Park
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

Mangrove Horseshoe Crabs at Mandai
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) @ Sungei Tengah
from Monday Morgue

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Jurong Lake Gardens on the cards

Channel NewsAsia 17 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: A new Jurong Lake Gardens, a revamped Science Centre, and possibly the terminus for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail - major updates for Jurong announced at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 17).

Jurong has been dramatically transformed from a swamp area into an industrial town over the years. The most notable upgrade was the Jurong Lake District in 2008, which consists of a commercial district and a lakeside. At the National Day Rally, Mr Lee says a more ambitious transformation is planned to revitalise the area.

Nearby tourist attractions like the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden will be merged with the Jurong Lake Park to form a giant attraction called Jurong Lake Gardens.

Mr Lee said authorities plan to bring community gardeners from all over Singapore to create and look after show gardens in the Jurong Lake Gardens. They will "make it a people's garden. Bigger than Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, perhaps even better than Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park."

But it's the new Science Centre that the Prime Minister says will be the "jewel" in the Lake Gardens' crown. To be completed around 2020, the centre will be located near the Chinese Garden MRT station. This will allow the Centre to extend into Jurong Lake Gardens, and integrate with the living environment, thereby raising possibilities of an entirely new concept for the centre.

Other than linking the gardens to the park connector network and Jurong River, there are plans to build more housing and integrate them into the Lake District. In the longer-term, Prime Minister Lee says this may mean shifting the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) southwards to create more space next to the lake.

Mr Lee said there is also a possibility that the planned Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail may come to Jurong. "I've agreed with PM Najib to build a high-speed rail between Singapore and KL. I've told PM Najib that in Singapore - why don't we site the terminus in the Jurong Lake District? We are discussing it with the Malaysians, we have not settled it yet, but if we get the high-speed rail terminus in the Jurong Lake District, then that will make Jurong truly an exciting gateway to Singapore."

To address Singapore's traffic issues, Mr Lee said improvements will be seen within the next two years by increasing capacity of the existing North-South and East-West lines. The additions of the Jurong Region Line and Cross-Island Line will also help.

- CNA/ly

Jurong to get jolt of green with Lake Gardens
Kelly Ng Today Online 18 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE — Decades of development had transformed Jurong from a collection of swamps into a vibrant hub in the west. Now, the makeover of the area is set to continue, with the creation of the Jurong Lake Gardens.

The Japanese Garden and the Chinese Garden will be integrated with the Jurong Lake Park into a “beautiful set of gardens in the heartlands”, and it could eventually be connected to the islandwide park connector network and the Jurong River.

Speaking at the National Day Rally yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Japanese and Chinese gardens are dated and under-utilised.

Under the Jurong Lake District plan launched in 2008, the Jurong Gateway precinct developed into a buzzing commercial district with shopping malls such as Westgate and the setting up of the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, the national Continuing Education and Training campus in the west.

The 700-bed Ng Teng Fong General Hospital was also slated to serve the healthcare needs of residents living in the west by December, but Mr Lee revealed that this would be pushed back by about six months due to construction delays.

There is more to Jurong than shopping malls and industry, said Mr Lee, as he outlined plans for the Lakeside precinct of Jurong Lake District, which spans more than 220ha of land and 70ha of water areas.

Beyond the plans to merge the gardens, the Government plans to build more Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in the north of the precinct and down south around Pandan Reservoir, when industrial leases there run out over the next 20 to 30 years.

The Gardens will house the new Science Centre Singapore next to Chinese Garden MRT Station, expected to be ready in 2020. The new site will allow the centre to integrate with the natural environment around Jurong Lake.

The public will be invited to submit ideas for Jurong Lake Gardens next year. When completed, it will be maintained by community gardeners from all parts of Singapore. “The Jurong Lake Gardens can be something special,” Mr Lee said.

He acknowledged that averting traffic problems in the area is crucial for this ambitious transformation. “Those of you familiar with the area might be thinking, all these sound good, but right now, there are so many traffic jams. We are working on it.”

Over the next two years, the capacity of the North-South and East-West MRT lines will be increased. New MRT lines such as the Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line — targeted for completion by 2025 and 2030, respectively — will also improve public access to the area.

In the long term, the Ayer Rajah Expressway may also be shifted southwards to make room for more lakeside housing, Mr Lee said, adding that the Government is in talks with the Malaysian authorities on the possibility of siting the Singapore terminus of the proposed high-speed rail link with Kuala Lumpur in Jurong East.

Property analysts whom TODAY spoke to felt the Jurong Lake Gardens would enhance the living environment, but said property values should not see an immediate spike. “The image of Jurong has transformed from a grey industrial area into a greener, more residential district. These changes are gradual and their effects will take time,” said Mr Nicholas Mak, head of consultancy and research at SLP International Property Consultants.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive officer of real estate agency Century 21 Singapore, felt the integration of the gardens may not be sufficient to improve the living environment or attractiveness of the location. More recreation and dining options, such as water-skiing, al fresco restaurants and free parking, could be introduced, he suggested.

“What was shared during the rally is simply an general update to what was already announced in 2008. Prices won’t change until we know of more concrete plans,” he added.

Members of Parliament (MP) for Jurong welcomed the plans, but were concerned about supporting infrastructure. “Public transport is key, be it roads, trains or buses. I think we really need to look at that so we don’t get into a bind,” said MP David Ong.

Ms Charlene Chia, who lives two bus stops from Lakeside MRT Station, welcomed the idea of having a large community garden, as HDB flat residents do not usually have space to do gardening.

“If the new Gardens have areas for people to maintain their own patches, it will definitely attract more residents,” said the 23-year-old. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAURA PHILOMIN

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Malaysia: Wildlife rangers probe pygmy elephant death

muguntan vanar The Star 18 Aug 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife rangers are investigating the death of a Borneo pygmy elephant that was shot dead near a village in Tungku, about 80km from Lahad Datu.

The elephant was believed to be part of a herd of about six that has been raiding villagers’ farms for the past three months.

It was found dead in the Felda Umas 6 area by Felda auxiliary policemen on Friday.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu said that the elephant died after it was shot.

“We are investigating. I can confirm it died of a gunshot wound.

“The species are protected animals,’’ he said yesterday,

It was learnt that the elephant had wandered around for a while before it died.

It is believed to have been hit near the lungs and its death was due to a loss of blood.

A villager Mohd Padeli Ismail said that he saw the elephant trying to stand up after falling down several times, while two other elephants were wandering around at about 9am on the day of the incident.

He said the two elephants left the area immediately after the elephant died.

The problem of elephants raiding the villagers’ farms had been going on for the past few months.

Lahad Datu Wildlife Department officer Mohd Suffian Abu Bakar said that his team had been sent to the area following the villagers’ complaints.

He said it was quite difficult for the team to keep up with the animals’ movement.

He also said the dead elephant was buried at the spot where it died on Saturday.

Male elephant found dead in Tawau
AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 18 Aug 14;

KOTA KINABALU: An adult male elephant was found dead at the Felda Umas Oil Plantation near Tawau.

The carcass was discovered on August 15 by the plantation manager, who then alerted the district's Wildlife Department.

Wildlife district officer Soffian Abu Bakar said the elephant aged between 18 and 25 died of gunshot wound.

"This was confirmed by our Wildlife Rescue Unit’s Veterinary Team that conducted the post mortem on the carcass later that day," he said in a statement.

According to Sabah Wildlife Department, more than 25 elephants have ventured out of its forest habitat and caused undue damage to fruit trees and small Oil Palm Plantations owned by villagers since July.

This group of elephants had also made its way close to Telupid town and eight elephants were successfully located by the Widlife personnel.

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Solomons town first in Pacific to relocate due to climate change

Megan Rowling PlanetArk 18 Aug 14;

Under threat from rising sea levels and tsunamis, the authorities of a provincial capital in the Solomon Islands have decided to relocate from a small island in the first such case in the Pacific islands.

Choiseul, a township of around 1,000 people on Taro Island, a coral atoll in Choiseul Bay, is less than two meters (6.6 feet) above sea level. Its vulnerability to storm surges and tsunamis caused by earthquakes is expected to be compounded in the future by rising seas.

Aware of these risks, communities in Choiseul Bay consulted a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the impact of climate change.

It was decided they would take disaster prevention measures in the short term but also build a new town on an adjacent mainland where the population will be moved in stages.

"The project followed the ways of our traditions - talking with people, listening to people and reflecting the desires of the people," Jackson Kiloe, premier of Choiseul Province, said in a statement on Friday.

Philip Haines, project manager for BMT WBM, an international consultancy that worked on the strategy, said relocation was the only option that would keep the community safe but it would take "many decades" to complete.

Land to build a new, larger settlement catering for some 5,000 inhabitants has already been acquired, Haines said.

Essential infrastructure such as a hospital and secondary school will likely be built in the next five years, he said, adding that everything from roads to government buildings and a hydropower system must be constructed because the land is a greenfield site.

"Basically it's a town from absolute scratch," Haines told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Australia. "So we need to do it well and build it to last for many generations to come."


Haines declined to give a price tag for the project, but said it would run to many hundreds of millions of Australian dollars. The Solomon Islands government would be looking for climate change funding from international donors to finance the relocation, he added.

On a brief visit to the Solomon Islands this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Pacific Island nation stands to benefit from U.S. funding for programs to deal with the effects of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States deployed troops and contributed $250,000 to help deal with the last big disaster in the Solomon Islands - Cyclone Ita which struck in April. The tropical storm caused widespread flooding, killed at least 23 people and affected another 50,000.

The groups behind the Choiseul adaptation plan said it is being hailed by the Solomon Islands national government as a model for other provinces across the nation and more broadly across the Pacific.

The threat posed by climate change has promoted other relocation initiatives in the region.

The Kiribati government, which sees relocation as an option of last resort, is pursuing a policy it calls "migration with dignity".

It plans to help establish expatriate communities that can absorb and support more Kiribati migrants in future, while

Elsewhere, some 2,000 people are being permanently resettled from the tiny, low-lying islet of Han in the Carteret Atoll of Papua New Guinea to mainland Bougainville, a three-hour ride on a wooden boat, due to salt intrusion and king tides eroding shores and making farming difficult.

But the Choiseul project is the first time that a provincial capital with all its services and facilities will be relocated in the Pacific Islands, the planners said.

Haines said locals are keen to move as quickly as possible due to the risks they face, noting they may be less attached to their home than other communities because the township on Taro Island only became well-established after World War Two.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling, Editing by Katie Nguyen)

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