Best of our wild blogs: 8 Sep 14

“Nature lover” has a whole spectrum of meanings
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

Octopus Garden at Sentosa
on wild shores of singapore

Skippers @ Mandai
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Haze Monitoring Citizen Science project
from biodiversityconnections

Bats in my porch: 13. Territory and Courtship
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Siamese Rhinoceros Beetle (Xylotrupes gideon @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Marine Parade - Singapore's first marine park

Bryna Singh The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Sep 14;

Singapore's first marine park is still under development, but there is already much biodiversity there that members of the public can see on guided walks.

Yes, at the 40ha Sisters' Islands Marine Park, you can get up close and personal with worms, crabs, fish, moon snails, a host of anemone and corals and even a striking nudibranch.

Life!Weekend saw these marine life forms when we joined a recent guided tour for the public.

Organised by the National Parks Board, the first introductory guided walks at the park took place over two days earlier last month.

The walks were fully subscribed with about 90 members of the public being given the opportunity to observe the marine life at Big Sister's Island.

As there are currently no regular ferry services to the islands, the visitors were taken there on a boat chartered by National Parks Board. The walks are free.

Upon arriving at about 8am, we were divided into three smaller groups of about 15 people. The guide for our group was volunteer and nature enthusiast Ria Tan, 53, who runs popular wildlife site

The National Parks Board has been working with organisations such as WildSingapore, Naked Hermit Crabs, Blue Water Volunteers and TeamSeaGrass to design and run programmes at the Marine Park.

Some members of these groups, such as the effervescent Ms Tan, have been helping out on the guided walks.

Our first stop was at the inter-tidal area at the big lagoon on the island. There, Ms Tan pointed out a moon snail, which would burrow through the sand and retract at the slightest touch.

We also saw a fluted giant clam with purplish lips mottled with yellow.

Giant clams are the largest living bi-valve molluscs in the world, and National Parks Board plans to re-introduce these endangered clams with the help of research partners.

Growing around the giant clam were several different types of corals, such as brain corals, galaxy corals and mushroom corals.

"They are given these names because they look like what their names suggest," said Ms Tan.

In time to come, the parks board will be establishing a coral nursery in the waters around the Sisters' Islands.

We stopped to examine a green-coloured carpet anemone, which looked like a lotus leaf. But unlike the leaf, the anemone was rough to the touch, like a dry tongue, and with suction.

As the visitors stroked it, out crawled a female spotted anemone shrimp which had been hiding under the carpet anemone. It was followed by a smaller male shrimp, much to the visitors' delight.

We then set off to another section of the lagoon. Along the way, eagle-eyed visitor Eugene Lim, 42, spotted a pink-hued bristle worm burrowing into the ground.

"What a great find!" crowed Ms Tan, as the group clamoured to get a good view of the fast-disappearing worm.

Mr Lim, who works in the manufacturing industry, was there with his wife Doreen, 37, and daughter Fybie, eight.

Said Mrs Lim, who conducts research for car manufacturer Toyota: "I registered us for the walk because my husband is a huge nature-lover. He grew up climbing trees and catching fish with his bare hands."

Mr Lim added that they brought Fybie along to expose her to the great outdoors. "If not, she would be used to only city life," he said, pointing out how Fybie had whined about getting her feet wet.

At the other section of the big lagoon, we spotted a black sea cucumber, random heaps of worm excrement, a goby hiding underneath a rock and damaged shells that were formerly inhabited by snails before they became dinner for determined crabs that bore holes through the shells with their pincers.

Starfish, a cluster of squid eggs nestled among tape seagrass and more moon snails inhabit the small lagoon.

By then, it was about 9am and almost time to leave.

Before we did, "seekers" - National Parks Board employees and other volunteers - gathered the visitors to look at some of their finds from less easily accessible places around the lagoons.

These marine gems include an uninhabited spider conch, a nudibranch, a teddy bear crab and a hermit crab that had outgrown its shell. The seekers later returned them to where they were found.

Visitors saw close to 30 forms of marine life on that guided walk.

Undergraduate Justin Foo, 22, who was there with his girlfriend Lee Fang, 20, said he found the interconnectedness of the various marine creatures - such as the anemone shrimp living on the carpet anemone - fascinating.

"I just hope I didn't kill anything along the way when I was wading in the water," he said.

Dr Karenne Tun, the coastal and marine deputy director of National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre, noted that the current focus of the park is to show marine life to the public, without them destroying the environment.

That is also where the seekers come in. "They bring the items to the people," she said.

There is no completion date set yet, but when finished, the marine park - about the size of 50 football fields - will comprise Sisters' Islands and the surrounding reefs, as well as the western reefs of nearby St John's island and Pulau Tekukor.

The park's main objectives are outreach, education, conservation and research. Next year, there are plans to roll out programmes such as reef monitoring and dives.

There will also be workshops, camps and talks at an outreach and education centre on St John's island.

The park offers the public a chance to see different types of marine flora and fauna from those at Pulau Ubin's Chek Jawa.

Dr Lena Chan, director of National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre, said this is because the habitats are different at both places.

"The intertidal area at Chek Jawa is a mudflat adjacent to mangroves, while the intertidal areas within the marine park are largely rocky, interspersed with patches of sand and coral rubble," she explained.

The upcoming public guided walks to the Marine Park this month have been fully subscribed, and there are no tours next month as the tides are not favourable.

Slots for the walks in November will open on Oct 1 at midnight. Details can be found at

Dr Chan added: "We hope the tours will be a fruitful experience for all to learn about our rich natural heritage."

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Survey to examine Singaporean habits to cut growing food wastage

Siau Ming En Today Online 8 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — A survey to look at how Singaporeans shop for, eat, cook and dispose of their food will be conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA), as part of efforts to cut the growing amount of food waste here.

Commissioned by a working group formed to look into reducing food wastage, the survey will try to capture both qualitative and quantitative data on consumer behaviour — shopping, cooking, eating and catering habits — that may lead to wastage, the types of food being wasted and why they are being thrown out, among other things.

Targeting about 1,000 respondents, the survey — expected to be completed next month — will also try to identify consumers’ knowledge and attitudes towards food wastage, the NEA said in the tender documents put up on Aug 20. “It will help the (working group) to scope its outreach programme and refine target audiences,” said the NEA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in a joint response to queries.

Last year, Singapore dumped 796,000 tonnes of food waste, a 13.2 per cent increase from the 703,200 tonnes in 2012. Food wastage also took up 10 per cent of the total wastage by Singapore last year.

While food recycling rates in Singapore rose for the second consecutive year in 2013, last year’s rate was still below the 16 per cent of food waste recycled in 2010.

In the tender documents, the NEA said the manufacturing, retail and consumer segments generate the largest amounts of food waste. “At the retail and consumer segments, the working group recognises that operational characteristics of retail and consumers could be influenced by consumer behaviour,” it said.

Formed in 2012 by the Inter-Ministry Committee on Food Security, the Food Wastage Reduction Working Group is jointly chaired by the NEA and AVA and includes representatives from agencies such as the Economic Development Board and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

“To address the rise in the amount of food waste, the (working group) has engaged stakeholders such as food manufacturers, hawkers, hotel operators, retailers and non-governmental organisations to better understand the factors contributing to food wastage,” said the NEA.

The contractor commissioned to conduct the survey will have to propose recommendations on food wastage based on the findings and, where possible, propose initiatives and mitigating measures to reduce wastage.

Speaking to TODAY, Ms Lynda Hong, the Singapore Environment Council communications manager, said this survey would allow for a better understanding of where Singapore stands in terms of food wastage and recycling. She added it was also crucial to understand the extent of food wastage along the supply chain — such as in production and the retail sector.

Mr Eugene Tay, director of Green Future Solutions, hopes that besides this survey, more data will also be collected to identify the amount of food waste generated by different sectors. Currently, statistics here only reflect the annual amount of food waste.

Without the breakdown, Mr Tay noted that campaigns or outreach programmes will not be as targeted and it will be tougher to track their effectiveness. Siau Ming En

Govt study to tackle food wastage
Samantha Boh The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Sep 14;

Tonnes of food go to waste every day and the Government wants to know why and how this can be reduced.

It has commissioned a food waste survey and plans to interview 1,000 Singaporeans aged 18 and above. The study, which hopes to tackle the country's worsening food wastage problem, is expected to be completed by next month.

According to tender documents obtained by The Straits Times, the study will look at respondents' shopping, cooking, eating and catering habits.

Those surveyed will also be asked how much and what type of food they waste and why.

What will also be examined is consumers' knowledge of and attitudes towards food wastage, and to identify ways to motivate people to waste less food.

Last year, Singapore generated 796,000 tonnes of food waste, an increase of 13 per cent from the 703,200 tonnes dumped in 2012.

This is the sharpest spike in at least six years.

The study will be managed by the Food Wastage Reduction Working Group, which was set up in 2012 to come up with recommendations and initiatives to address Singapore's food wastage problem.

The National Environment Agency, which co-chairs the group with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, said the survey will help the working group "scope its outreach programme and refine target audiences".

It added that the aim is not only to raise awareness of the importance of reducing food wastage, but also to emphasise individual responsibility in cutting down on food waste.

Singapore Environment Council spokesman Lynda Hong said the survey will help the authorities understand the extent of food wastage along the supply chain, from the time food is produced till it reaches consumers.
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Malaysia: Bid to totally protect Sunda pangolins underway

muguntan vanar The Star 8 Sep 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife conservationists are seeking to make the fast depleting Sunda pangolins a totally protected species under a measure to check rampant poaching of the nocturnal animal.

The move to push for full protection under Schedule One of the Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 will help boost conservation efforts of the pangolins.

The newly formed Sabah Pangolin Conservation Working Group has suggested that a state Cabinet paper be prepared to propose total protection of the animal that is currently listed in Part One of Schedule Two, which means that it can be hunted with a licence and upgrading its status to Schedule One will accord it full protection.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said participants at a recent workshop to discuss the fate of pangolins had unanimously agreed that the matter has to be brought to the attention of the State Cabinet.

Apart from seeking full protection for pangolins next steps include starting an awareness campaign with the soon to be established Wildlife Enforcement Unit, an initiative between Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and the department.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said: “The long term goal which covers a period of two to five years will be to decrease poaching and trade of pangolins, increase ecological and population studies and to look at the possibility of setting up a sanctuary to rehabilitate pangolins.

Dr Goossens pointed out that according to a 2010 report by wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC, some 22,200 pangolins were killed between May 2007 and January 2009 to supply one syndicate, with most coming from the districts of Keningau, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau.

The working group was set up at the end of a day-long workshop involving the relevant government agencies, NGOs, research organisations and an oil palm company.

Pangolins to get total protection
New Straits Times 8 Sep 14;

KOTA KINABALU: The pangolin will be classified as a totally-protected species in Sabah.

Once that happens, the Sunda pangolin, or Manis javanica, will enjoy similar protection like seven other animals in the state.

The Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utan, sun bear, proboscis monkey, clouded leopard, Bornean pygmy elephant and dugong are listed as totally-protected species under the Sabah Wildlife Enactment 1997.

Those found guilty of harming or killing these animals can be jailed between six months and five years.

The Sabah Pangolin Workshop Group was recently formed to prepare a working paper to be submitted to the state cabinet to elevate the level of protection of the species.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said this was necessary because of the rampant hunting of pangolins.

Between May 2007 and January 2009, 22,200 pangolins were hunted and killed to supply international syndicates. Most of the pangolins came from Keningau, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu and Ranau.

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Indonesia: Male Elephant Found Dead, Tusks Removed, in Aceh Jaya

Nurdin Hasan Jakarta Globe 7 Sep 14;

Banda Aceh. A male Sumatran elephant has been found dead with its tusks removed in an inland area in Aceh Jaya district, making it the fourth such death in the province this year, an official said on Sunday.

Genman Suhefti Hasibuan, head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency, or BKSDA, said the elephant was found by a passing villager on the banks of the Cengeh River in Panggong village, Krueng Sabee subdistrict.

“Its tusks had already been removed by the time it was found; we strongly suspect the elephant was killed,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “We are still waiting for forensic results to determine the cause of death.”

The elephant was found about 10 kilometers from villagers’ houses. Already rotting, it is thought to have died a week ago.

The BKSDA team visited the site immediately after hearing receiving a report of the dead elephant. It has conducted an autopsy and sent tissue samples for testing to a forensics laboratory in Medan, North Sumatra, to determine the cause of death.

Genman said it was the fourth dead elephant found in Aceh this year alone.

In August, a 6-month-old elephant calf was discovered dead on a river bank in Serbajadi, in East Aceh district. The cause of death in that case remains unknown.

Another elephant was also found dead in Southeast Aceh district.

In April, Aceh police arrested 12 people suspected to be among the poachers responsible for killing an elephant for its tusks in Teupin Panah, West Aceh district. Three were released for lack of evidence; the remaining nine suspected poachers currently await trial.

Between 450 and 500 elephants live in Aceh, according to Genman.

Elephants habitats have increasingly come under threat in Aceh, as enormous swaths of land are cleared for industrial use. Villagers cite elephants’ encroachment on plantation areas as an aggravating factor in often violent responses.

Six elephants died last year in Aceh, most at the hands of humans — whose avowed territorial frustration with the elephants would seem belied by the dead animals’ missing tusks.

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