Best of our wild blogs: 26 Aug 14

Green Future Solutions is Hiring
from Green Future Solutions

Sun 31 Aug’14 Morning Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Identification resources for the new birders
from Singapore Bird Group

First Love MacRitchie Walk of the season, and more to come!
from Toddycats!

I Shall Wait For You
from Colourful Clouds

Bats roosting in my porch: 9. Mating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : White Banded Awl
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Pulau Ubin coast faces erosion risk

Melody Zaccheus The Sunday Times AsiaOne 26 Aug 14;

Pulau Ubin's northern coastline is fast being eroded by tides and currents.

If left unchecked, the island could lose parts of its coastal forest and mangroves.

To turn the tide, the Ministry of National Development plans to carry out a study to establish the extent of erosion, the types of vegetation affected and the impact it will have on hydrology.

Speaking at a reforestation initiative on the island yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the study will help it "properly design restoration measures and erosion control measures".

One solution could be to install breakwaters, he said.

The fast-eroding shoreline is one of several pressing needs facing the 10.2 sq km island, which is about the size of Changi Airport.

Another is to fix the dilapidated buildings on the island, some of which have fallen into disrepair due to neglect.

Capturing the stories of the island's remaining 38 elderly dwellers is another urgent matter, Mr Lee said.

That is why the ministry has been gathering ideas from different Ubin interest groups and stakeholders on how to preserve and enhance the island's rustic character and natural environment, while sensitively providing access to the public. This intention was first announced by Mr Lee in Parliament in March.

Since then, the Friends of Ubin Network has been set up - comprising nature groups, heritage groups, academics, anthropologists, sports enthusiasts and artists. It has met twice so far.

The group and other stakeholders have suggested ideas to address these issues, such as by carrying out a "cultural mapping" of the village there.

Suggested by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), it would involve documenting, extracting and understanding the historical, economic, social and religious layers that used to exist and those that are still practised on the island.

SHS president Chua Ai Lin said cultural mapping goes beyond a historical study of an area, looking also at patterns of everyday life, to see how the different facets come together.

"It's really about the conditions of the people and the social, cultural, economic systems, networks and ways of life, from a holistic viewpoint," she said.

"Putting such ground-up data together can mean more informed policymaking."

Some have also suggested building a field research centre for scientists and nature lovers to set up camp. This could serve as an outreach point for people interested in learning about Singapore's biodiversity and the island's history.

Others have called for greater access to nature and nature-based recreation.

Mr Lee said: "So for those who say leave Ubin alone, we need to certainly at least deal with these things to prevent the island from falling into disrepair."

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Singapore farmers can tap on S$63m fund to boost yields, productivity

Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Local farmers can look forward to more financial assistance to transform their farms and nurseries into high-tech, productive plots, after the Government pledged S$63 million to aid their efforts. Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for National Development and Defence, announced the new policy during a visit to Sky Greens farm.

The new Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) is meant to spur farmers to boost their yields and raise productivity, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a news release on Monday (Aug 25).

Of the S$63 million, S$53 million will be used for farm capability development to support productivity improvements in the farming sector. The remaining S$10 million is earmarked for farms to carry out research and development (R&D) in innovative production technologies, it stated.

This is in addition to the existing S$3.9 million Landscape Productivity Grant administered by the National Parks Board (NParks), which serves to co-fund landscape nurseries' investments in machinery and technology.

In conjunction with these aid initiatives, MND said farms and landscape nurseries will have to meet the following new conditions:

Use at least 90 per cent of the land for farm production or landscape nursery purposes, while the remaining 10 per cent may be used for ancillary purposes.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) farms must meet minimum production levels to qualify for new leases or lease extensions. Landscape nurseries must meet minimum productivity targets and be registered under NParks’ Landscape Company Register and Nursery Accreditation Scheme.

These conditions will be applicable to new farm sites to be tendered out by the AVA, lease extensions for existing farmland, and landscape nurseries managed by NParks, said MND.


MND added that AVA and NParks will offer farmers greater peace of mind in terms of the tenure they have to recoup on investments in the areas mentioned.

"For the farms, AVA will tender new farm sites with a 10-year tenure, and offer existing sites a lease extension of 10 years if they are not required for any future development. These leases can be extended for another 10 years provided the farms meet the minimum production levels and other prevailing criteria, and if there are no redevelopment plans," MND explained.

As for landscape nurseries, there will be a new "3+3+3" tenancy model introduced by NParks. Essentially, the initial tenure for the property will be for three years, and can be renewable up to two further terms of three years each. "The new tenancy model will not require nursery operators to pay land premiums upfront. A monthly rental scheme will be applied instead," NParks stated.

It added that operators will not have to worry about infrastructure costs as NParks will provide connections to utilities such as potable water, electricity and telecommunications cables, sewage pipes and roadways.

"Over the past few months, I have been visiting some of our farms to better understand their operations and concerns. These understandably focus on the cost of technology, land tenures, shortage of manpower, and business continuity," said Dr Maliki.

"With the various funding schemes, AVA and NParks will work closely with the farms and nurseries respectively to help them build up their capabilities, and use more automation and technology to reduce manpower demand and optimise the use of our limited land."

$63m fund, new criteria for farming
Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Aug 14;

Local farmers applying for new leases and extensions must now meet minimum production levels and land use conditions.

The Ministry of National Development announced yesterday that all land-based farms must use at least 90 per cent of their land for production and meet minimum output levels.

These conditions will also apply to non-food farms, such as those which produce ornamental fish and orchids.

Landscape nurseries will also have to meet new productivity targets and land use requirements.

And to help the farmers' productivity efforts, the Government has pledged a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund.

Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman said: "The bulk of the fund is to encourage quantum leaps in productivity, especially in increasing the capacity of our farmers."

Dr Maliki announced these changes during a visit to "vertical farm" Sky Greens in Lim Chu Kang yesterday.

While the new fund will be available from October, the other changes will take immediate effect.

Talking about the new conditions for farmers, Dr Maliki said: "We are quite confident that the minimum standards are not onerous.

The majority of the farms will be able to meet them. We must make sure that the land is fully utilised for the purposes that it was set out for."

In the past, there was no minimum production level for land-based farms and 30 per cent of farmland could be used for ancillary purposes.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will now also offer new farm sites for tender and lease extensions for existing farms in 10-year tenure periods, provided the land meets the required conditions and is not needed for future development.

Previously, lease extensions could be granted in periods of less than 10 years.

These changes will help to create greater certainty among farmers and increase their willingness to invest in new systems such as automation and technology, Dr Maliki said.

Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, chairman of Sky Urban Solutions which runs Sky Greens, an urban farm, said: "The challenge for farmers here is that land is limited. Therefore, we have to produce as much as we can per square metre of land. That is why we need government support."
- See more at:

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia: Breakthrough in clouded leopard project

The Star 26 Aug 14;

KINABATANGAN: A female Sunda clouded leopard has been fitted with a satellite collar — for the first time ever — by a conservationist studying the movement of the endangered species in the lower Kinabatangan area.

Rahsia, weighing 9.9kg, was caught in one of the traps set up along the Kinabatangan River in the vicinity of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) on Aug 15.

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) team member Andrew Hearn, who is a PhD student with Oxford University, said the leopard was the fourth one collared but was the first female to be tagged.

“After more than a year and a half of setting traps each day, the capture of this healthy female leopard is a breakthrough for our project,” Hearn said.

“We are hopeful that the data from her collar will provide essential insight into her movements that will enable the development of appropriate conservation actions for her species.”

The collaborative project is being carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department, WildCRU and DGFC. It is aimed at the research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah.

Project leader Dr Benoit Goossens, who is DGFC director, said the research played an important role in Sunda clouded leopard conservation and management.

“Regardless of the efforts focused on maintaining and increasing the amount of natural habitat, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle in the Kinabatangan area,” he said.

“So, understanding how the wildlife is using this ever-changing landscape will help us mitigate and hopefully reduce the level of threats posed by changes to their habitat.”

The project is funded by Sime Darby Foundation, with additional funding and support from Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo, The Clouded Leopard Project and Rufford Foundation.

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Indonesia: Raja Ampat forms public supervision group to conserve coral reefs

Senin Jakarta Globe 25 Aug 14;

Waisai, West Papua (ANTARA News) - The Raja Ampat district administration has set up a public supervision group to protect and conserve its coral reefs.

"Local fishermen, who used to conduct destructive fishing practices, have been persuaded to help protect the coral reefs by joining the public supervision group. They also help to patrol the surrounding waters," Syafri Tuhurea of the Raja Ampat maritime and fishery office stated here on Monday.

The local fishermen have stopped practicing destructive fishing methods, but those from other regions sometime illegally fish in the waters of Raja Ampat by using bombs, he remarked.

"They are driven away if they are spotted by the local fishermen. But, they usually sneak out when the local fishermen and officers are not around," Syafri pointed out.

The public supervision group is expected to promote a sustainable coral reef preservation program involving the local community, he affirmed.

Tuherea also added that public awareness regarding coral reef conservation in Raja Ampat District, West Papua Province, has improved.

"In the past, there were many traditional fishermen who conducted destructive fishing practices by using bombs. Now, their number has decreased significantly," Syafri stated.

The Raja Ampat district administration has carried out public awareness campaigns for the conservation of coral reefs over the past five years, he noted.

The public were informed that since the diversity of the marine ecosystem was not solely to be cherished by the current generation, but the future generations as well, therefore, it should be protected and preserved.

In line with the Tomolol Declaration issued in 2003, every stakeholder in Raja Ampat has agreed to sustainably conserve and manage marine resources.

Raja Ampats marine conservation area totals almost 1.2 million hectares. The best preserved coral reefs are found in Dampier Strait located between Waigeo and Batanta isles.

In the southern part of Raja Ampat, Misool isle has endemic coral reefs, which are unique to this area.

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Indonesia: Aceh custom council launches Sharia-based management forest book

Senin Jakarta Globe 25 Aug 14;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - Aceh Custom Council (MAA) is launching a forest management handbook based on sharia and customary law compiled by Acehs traditional and public figures to support sustainable forest management in Sumatra.

"The book describes how Islamic and custom laws established the environment, including sustainable forest management," the chairman of MAA, H Badruzzaman, said here on Monday.

The book is published by the MAA in cooperation with Strengthening Integrity and Accountability Program (SIAP) II.

SIAP II, which is run by a consortium, consisting of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, Transparency International Indonesia, and Indonesia Working Group on Forest Finance, is a part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program.

Badruzzaman said Sharia law, both Al-Quran and Al-Hadith, has established many factors related to the balance of life, including the relationship of Allahs creatures.

According to him, relationship also covers the surrounding environment, what is allowed and what is not allowed, as well as the threats that could occur due to human violation.

"Aceh has experiences in the history of custom forest management, and it is to be collected and brought back to life through the spirit of Aceh today," Badruzzaman said.

Meanwhile, the CEO of WWF Indonesia Dr. Efransjah noted that the role of civil society in promoting sustainable forest management is a necessity, so the MAAs involvement in this effort is important.

"Moreover, the pressure on the remaining forests in Sumatra is getting greater. If this condition is neglected, within 20 years, Acehs forest biodiversity could become extinct," he claimed.

Acehs forest is the last hope for remaining natural forests in Sumatra. With an area of 3.3 hectares, Acehs forests should be managed with sustainable forest management that is acceptable to all the people in Aceh.

Acting Director of USAID Indonesia Derrick Brown stated that the book was the result of consultation with community leaders. The book is expected to be a guide for ending corruption in the forestry sector.

"Deforestation in Aceh also has implications for other countries, including the United States. Therefore, the American government through USAID has been helping to preserve the forests in Aceh," he added.

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Indonesia: Mangroves planted to protect Semarang’s new Ahmad Yani airport from coastal erosion

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post 25 Aug 14;

Dozens of schoolchildren and hundreds of university students and soldiers helped to protect Ahmad Yani International Airport in Semarang, Central Java, from coastal erosion by planting 10,000 mangroves on Maron Beach on Saturday.

Medicine producer PT Phapros donated the mangroves being planted. “We launched the ‘Go Green’ program by planting mangroves on Maron Beach, Semarang, in 2011. We have so far planted 380,000 mangroves in the area,” Phapros’ president director Iswanto said.

He said the program had been conducted in cooperation with Diponegoro University’s student community KeSEMaT who shared the company’s concern about mangrove preservation.

The planting, according to Iswanto, was also an attempt to educate younger generations to love nature and to develop their support for mangrove conservation.

“We have also conducted research by taking samples of mangrove products to see if they can be further developed for added value,” said Iswanto adding that the alkaloid content in the plant’s fruit and seeds might be able to be developed into a medicinal product.

Studies have revealed that Semarang’s northern coastal area has been experiencing erosion by up to 50 meters annually.

If nothing is done it is feared the erosion will cause problems at Ahmad Yani’s runway, which is located only about a kilometer from the beach.

The research also revealed that some 70 percent of the mangroves along Semarang’s coastline have been damaged due to the ignorance of local people who have cleared mangroves for the wood and converted the areas into fish ponds.

According to satellite data, mangrove forests in Indonesia cover an area of around 3.1 million hectares, the second-biggest in the world after Brazil. This accounts for 22.6 percent of the world’s total mangrove forests.

Separately, commander of the Military Regional Command (Kodam) IV/Diponegoro, Maj. Gen. Sunindyo who joined the planting on Saturday, said that he had commanded all the TNI (Indonesian Military) personnel assigned to coastal regions to plant and preserve mangroves.

“The TNI has fields in coastal regions such as in Cilacap, Pekalongan, Semarang, Kendal and Rembang,” he said.

He hoped that the private sector would participate in and care about the preservation of the environment by planting mangroves.

The cooperation between the private sector, local administrations, the TNI and police, he said, could be conducted like in a war zone, i.e. by establishing sectors.

It was reported earlier that the government planned to build a “floating” passenger terminal on a platform in the sea as part of the expansion project of the airport.

The airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I said that the expansion would allow the airport to accommodate up to 6 to 7 million passengers annually, up from 3.2 million as of the end of 2013.

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Sydney harbour’s plastic pollution at ‘alarming’ levels, scientists find

Microplastics less than 5mm long pose threat to marine life, and come from clothing and toiletries
Oliver Milman 25 Aug 14;

Researchers have found “alarming” level of plastic pollution in Sydney harbour, with fibres from clothing and toiletries causing a widespread impact upon the marine ecosystem.

The first information from the ongoing Sydney Harbour Research Program shows that small pieces of plastic measuring under 5mm have been found in each of the 27 surveyed sites along the length of the harbour.

Scientists from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science took sediment samples from the bed of the harbour and used a high salinity concentration to separate out the plastic.

The researchers found that the samples had 60 to 100 plastic particles per 100ml of wet harbour sediment. This is far higher than overseas sites – a study of a busy harbour in Sweden, for example, found 24 plastic particles per 100ml of sediment.

Thin plastic fibres, as opposed to shards of plastic bottles, were the most commonly found particles. These fibres come from clothing, such as fleeces that lose material as they are washed, and facial scrubs.

“The focus has previously been on larger pieces of plastic which injure turtles and birds, but it’s possible that microplastics are doing the most damage,” professor Emma Johnston, director of the research, told Guardian Australia.

“These plastics are small enough to be ingested by 96% of the world’s animals, invertebrates, which are then transferred to fish and larger animals.”

The plastic fibres not only potentially block the gut within fish but also release toxins absorbed by the plastic after it is released into the environment.

Johnston, who started on the research project 18 months ago, is seeking funding for a further four-year analysis of the microplastics problem.

“This is cutting-edge research, so much so that we aren’t sure of the full impact of these plastics,” she said. “The lines of evidence all point to it being a major concern, but we don’t have the numbers to do a full risk assessment. We need to do a lot of targeted research quite quickly.”

Last year, research conducted by the University of Western Australia and the CSIRO found that the waters around Australia are riddled with more than 4,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometre.

It’s estimated that Australia produces 1.2m tonnes of plastic each year.

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Small island states, facing rising seas, seek economic overhaul

ALISTER DOYLE PlanetArk 26 Aug 14;

Small island states facing a "frightening" rise in sea levels will seek investments in everything from solar energy to fisheries to boost their economies at a U.N. summit next week.

Leaders will meet in Samoa in the Pacific from Sept. 1-4 to drum up partnerships with companies, development banks and donors on projects that bring in dollars and jobs while protecting oceans and environments, organizers said.

Many islands from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean are suffering erosion and coastal flooding from storm surges as global warming raises sea levels by melting ice from the Himalayas to Greenland.

"Beaches disappearing, hotels and port facilities having to move - it is for some countries a very frightening outlook," the head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, told Reuters.

Islands were interested in developing fisheries, moving into eco-tourism and shifting to wind and solar power from imported diesel to generate electricity, among other projects, he addded.

Small island states say they are often overlooked by investors, even though Steiner said islands including the Seychelles, Barbados and Mauritius have made strides to cleaner economic growth.

The countries have also accused developed nations of failing to keep promises made at previous summits in 2005 and 1994.


Aid has been "over-promised but under-delivered. This is the biggest hurdle," Marlene Moses of Nauru, chair of the 44-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), told Reuters.

"We are calling for a paradigm shift" to take more account of the needs of island states, she said.

A draft AOSIS statement, obtained by Reuters, mainly faults rich nations for failing to address global warming.

"International action to address climate change remains grossly inadequate, and emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise at a distressing rate," it says, calling for more action "with developed countries taking the lead."

Developed nations say they have met some aid goals, despite austerity at home, for instance providing $30 billion from 2010-12 to help developing nations cope with climate change.

Sea levels have risen about 20 cms (8 inches) since 1900 and are projected to rise by another 26 to 82 cms by the late 21st century, threatening many low-lying atolls.

Some communities are even moving. The authorities of Choiseul, a provincial capital in the Solomon Islands with about 1,000 people, said this month that they had decided to relocate from their small island.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Conservation of Amazon threatened by poor social conditions of its people: study

Astrid Zweynert PlanetArk 25 Aug 14;

Lack of access to clean water, violence, illiteracy and limited opportunities to pursue a better life are among the problems highlighted in the Social Progress Index (SPI) for the Amazon, one of the world's most important ecosystems.

The study paints a picture of social injustice and inequality by charting data from all but one of the region's 773 municipalities and nine states. Researchers hope it will become a tool for improving development policy as Brazil elects a new president in October.

Beto Verissimo, one of the study's authors and lead researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon), said the findings raise the question of whether the biodiversity of the Amazon can be protected if the people living there continue to struggle on the very basic measures.

"From access to clean water and basic education to personal choice and rights, the citizens of this region, on average, experience significantly lower social progress compared to people living in the rest of Brazil," Verissimo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

The Amazon SPI studied more than 40 indicators, including maternal mortality, access to piped water, secondary school enrolment, deforestation, malaria incidence, child and teenage pregnancies and violence against indigenous people and women.

Nearly all of the Amazon municipalities have a social progress score below the national average, according to the index examined in the study that was published in partnership with non-profit Social Progress Imperative.

"It is almost like two different countries when you look at the Amazon region and at Brazil as a whole," said Verissimo. "Despite some government efforts to close the gap, progress in the rest of the country has been faster than in the Amazon. It would take 10 to 15 years of social investment to change this."

The study follows the release of the 2014 global SPI, developed by Social Progress Imperative, which ranked Brazil 46th out of 132 countries. It measures social and environmental performance rather than economic output in a drive to make social progress a priority for politicians and businesses.

Brazil's score of 67.7 compared to more than 88 for the top ranking New Zealand, mostly due to problems with personal safety and lack of access to advanced education.

The country has also faced social unrest as Amazon tribes protest against what they see as the steady undermining of their rights to ancestral lands by farmers. The rainforest is threatened by unsustainable logging, infrastructure development and agricultural expansion.


The Amazon scored most poorly in the category "opportunity", which includes personal rights, freedom and choice as well as tolerance, inclusion and access to advanced education. The region scored 48.3, compared to 61.2 for the country as a whole.

Acre, on the border with Peru and Bolivia, had the lowest score of the Amazon's nine states. Only 39 percent of its 760,000 population has access to clean water, 24 percent is illiterate and it recorded twice the average rate of violence against women.

In Amazonas, Brazil's biggest state with a population of almost 4 million, some 15 percent of 10-14 year olds have to work to survive and 15 percent of girls aged 15 to 17 years are mothers. Only 37 percent of women complete a basic education.

Even areas that rank above the Amazonian average face formidable social challenges.

The city of Manaus, for example, has a rate of 56.5 homicides per 100,000 residents, more than twice the national average. Violence against women is double the average of the Amazon at 160 cases per 100,000 residents.

The next survey is due in 2016, Verissimo said. "It will be a powerful tool to track progress," he added.

(Editing by Ros Russell)

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