Best of our wild blogs: 10 Sep 14

Boat graveyard at Terumbu Pempang Tengah
from wonderful creations

Article Alert! – Giant clam shells ‘graveyard’ at Semakau Landfill
from Neo Mei Lin

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ACRES launches appeal, reward for information related to rare marmoset finding

Channel NewsAsia 10 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has launched an urgent appeal for information regarding a black female black tufted marmoset which they found lying on a grass patch at Block 47 Marine Crescent last Friday (Sep 5).

The marmoset was severely emaciated when discovered, and upon closer veterinary examination by the vets at the Singapore Zoo, was found to be suffering from severe metabolic bone disease, said ACRES in a Facebook post on Wednesday. As a result, the marmoset had to be humanely euthanised.

According to ACRES, marmosets are endemic to Brazil and it is illegal to keep them as pets in Singapore. They live in rainforests and reside high in trees, and as a result they are rarely observed at or near ground level. This is the first time ACRES has found a marmoset in Singapore, said a spokesperson.

In addition to an appeal for information, ACRES has also offered a S$10,000 reward leading to the “successful prosecution of the individual who had illegally kept this marmoset as a pet”.

ACRES hopes this sizable sum will send a strong message that Singapore is committed and serious in combating the illegal wildlife trade. Anyone with information should contact ACRES at their Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783 7782.

- CNA/do

Get $10k if you reveal abandoned monkey's owner
Colin Tham The New Paper AsiaOne 12 Sep 14;

A monkey native to Brazil was recently found abandoned on a grass patch at Block 47, Marine Crescent.

It was in a shocking physical state, weighing just 119g and with bone deformities on all four limbs. It was also severely dehydrated.

Now, questions are being raised about how it got into Singapore and who could have been so cruel as to leave it in such a bad state.

The monkey had to be put down to relieve it of its suffering.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which rescued the animal, is offering a $10,000 reward for information about its owner.

Acres has identified the monkey as a female black tufted marmoset. A post on Acres' Facebook page said the species is usually found high in trees, under the canopy, and is rarely seen at ground level.

Pictures from the post showed the animal in pain. Vets from the Singapore Zoo found that it was suffering from severe metabolic bone disease.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng said the zoo vets told him that the marmoset's poor physical condition was due to a lack of calcium and vitamin D from an improper diet and a lack of exposure to sunlight.

Mr Ng said that in the zoo, when an adult monkey weighs less than 235g, it is placed in critical care.

The monkey was most likely abandoned as it was unable to move on its own. It was estimated to be an adult about three to four years old.

Mr Ng said Acres was concerned how a South American species could have been smuggled into Singapore.

On the $10,000 reward, he said: "A life has been lost. We hope justice will be served."

A spokesman for the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it is investigating the case.

"AVA would like to remind the public not to import or keep wild animals as pets, as demand for such animals would fuel the illegal wildlife trade.

"Wild animals are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into our dense urban environment.

"Wild animals that are non-native to Singapore may also be a threat to our bio-diversity if released into the environment."
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HDB unveils green living plans for Bidadari and Tampines North

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 9 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The first housing projects at Bidadari and Tampines North will yield more than 2,500 units, and residents can look forward to more greenery, open spaces and seamless connectivity to transportation networks, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced on Tuesday (Sep 9).

Development plans for the two areas were first announced last year. The first public housing project for Bidadari, a former cemetery, will be launched next year. It will be located in the Alkaff neighbourhood, which is adjacent to Upper Serangoon Road.

Residents can expect roof gardens, community terraces, and garden courtyards. There will also be an underpass to connect residents to the Alkaff Lake and Bidadari Park.

At Tampines North, the first project to be launched will be located in Park West District, located along Tampines Avenue 9. This will yield about 1,500 HDB flats.

There will be a park and landscaped decks at Tampines North. The carparks both here and in Bidadari will be hidden under walkways and gardens. It is not just a green feature - it also enhances connectivity and safety for pedestrians when commuting from one end of the precinct to another.

Said Mr Fong Chun Wah, Group Director of Development and Procurement at HDB: “We have put a lot of effort into the landscaping to make landscape decks and also the ground greenery, so that it is a conducive environment for the residents. We have also looked at how we can create more overhead pedestrian links, so that it is a safe environment for residents, especially now that we have more elderly and children in the estates. This will create very safe pedestrian paths."

The two districts will also boast smart features such as a pneumatic waste conveyance system that has sensors to monitor disposal patterns.

Mr Steven Tan, Managing Director of real estate agency OrangeTee, expects Bidadari to be the most popular among home-buyers due to its location: "For HDB estates in centralised locations, the demand is usually much higher."

Those interested in applying for Bidadari will have to wait till next year, while applications for Tampines North will open in November.

On Tuesday, HDB also detailed plans for a seafront district at Punggol Northshore, which will be a testbed for smart technologies.

- CNA/xy

Punggol Northshore to test smart technologies, directly connect to LRT station
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 9 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Punggol Northshore, one of the seven new waterfront housing districts in Punggol, will be the first public housing district to be directly connected to a Light Rail Transit station, through which residents can have sheltered access to the waterfront.

It will also be the first district to test-bed smart technologies in public housing, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said today (Sept 9) as it unveiled plans for three housing projects. The district will feature an intelligent parking demand monitoring system, that will automatically increase the number of lots for visitors during non-peak hours. Lights in common areas will be equipped with sensors, and the district’s waste conveyance system will be fitted with sensors to monitor waste disposal patterns.
Punggol Northshore
Punggol Northshore

Smart waste management will feature in the other two housing projects in Bidadari and Tampines North. Tampines North will have what HDB called a comprehensive network of green spaces, including “community living rooms” located on the ground level of each block adorned with lush greenery and landscaping.

Bidadari’s six neighbourhoods will have two malls and a sheltered walkway along Upper Serangoon Road running along the housing development, providing space for recreational and community events.

Punggol district first to trial smart technologies
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 10 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — From car parks to waste management, one of the seven new waterfront housing districts in Punggol will be the first public housing district here to test smart technologies.

Punggol Northshore will be the next district to be developed in the town, after plans for Matilda district were announced last year. It will have about 6,000 flats, with the first project to be launched next year, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said yesterday when it unveiled plans for three housing projects around the island.

Solar panels will sit atop Punggol Northshore blocks. They will also be directly connected to a Light Rail Transit station, with sheltered access to the waterfront.

Smart technologies will enhance the planning and maintenance of HDB estates for a more liveable and efficient environment, the agency said.

Besides lights equipped with sensors in common areas, the car parks in Punggol Northshore will have an intelligent parking demand monitoring system that automatically increases available lots for visitors during non-peak hours and decreases them in the evening when residents with season parking return home.

A pneumatic waste conveyance system — automated waste collection that uses a vacuum-type underground pipe network to collect household waste — will come with sensors to monitor waste disposal patterns. The data to be collected have yet to be decided on, but the aim is to optimise the deployment of waste-collection resources.

The smart waste management system will also be deployed in the first housing precincts of Bidadari and Tampines North, said the HDB.

The Bidadari project, to be launched next year, will be in Alkaff neighbourhood. It will feature two malls, one with an underpass linking residents to Alkaff Lake and Bidadari Park. Roof gardens and community terraces will be built on top of multi-storey car parks and selected residential blocks, with views of the lake and park.

Over in Tampines North, envisioned as a “green shoot” of Tampines town, its first public housing project comprising 1,500 flats will be launched in November. The project’s blocks will have undulating facades resembling a canyon’s rock walls and its low-rise two-storey car parks will have landscaped rooftops to provide “doorstep greenery” to residents. “Community living rooms” with lush greenery and landscaping will be located at the ground level of each block, with seats for residents to get together and mingle, said the HDB.

The projects — which follow broad master plans for Bidadari and Tampines North announced last year and that for the next phase of Punggol’s development announced in 2012 — aimed for distinctive districts and neighbourhoods, as well as seamless connectivity to transportation networks, the HDB said.

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Malaysia: Rare earless monitor lizard is latest target of wildlife trade

The Star 10 Sep 14;

PETALING JAYA: The extremely rare earless monitor lizard, which is native to Borneo, is now the latest target of the illegal wildlife trade, warned Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Lanthanotus borneensis is not well known as it is a burrowing animal that is only active at night.

“For zoologists and conservationists working in Asia, the earless monitor lizard is truly a mythical creature and something we have read about in classical scientific literature.

“The last detailed observations were made on lizards caught in either Sabah or Sarawak from the 1960s,” wrote Dr Vincent Nijman, a professor of anthropology at Oxford Brookes University in a recent Traffic investigative report on illegal wildlife trade.

Earless monitor lizards are around 20cm in length, have reduced eyes and limbs, and is perfectly capable of hearing despite its apparent lack of earlobes. It generally feeds on earthworms and similar prey.

This species is very rare to the extent that most known specimens are preserved, though these too are rare.

The earless monitor lizard is interesting to scientists studying evolution as it serves as a reference for those studying the link between varanid (water monitor lizard, for example) and helodermatid lizards (the Gila Monster).

Traffic noted that international trade of the earless monitor lizard had increased over the last two years, with deals negotiated mainly online since 2013.

“Specific instances mentioning the species were documented on forums and social networking sites in Japan, Ukraine, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.

“Currently, this is the only species in the monitor lizard family that is not protected from over exploitation under the Convention on Interna­tional Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” Traffic said in its report.

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Hundreds die in India, Pakistan after heaviest rain in 50 years

Abu Arqam Naqash and Adnan Abidi PlanetArk 10 Sep 14;

On the Indian side of the heavily militarized Line of Control that divides the Himalayan region, the city of Srinagar lay submerged along with more than 2,000 villages.

"The damage is shocking," a senior official from India's National Disaster Response Force said in New Delhi. "People have been stranded on the rooftops of their homes for the last three days in some parts of Kashmir."

The official, who requested anonymity, said he would have deployed disaster-response teams earlier, but "we were all caught off guard because there was not a single warning issued by the weather office. The flash floods took us by surprise".

India's meteorological department had forecast heavy rain in Kashmir last week, but the Central Water Commission, which issues flood advisories, has been criticized by Indian media for not warning the state.

Some 47,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in India, where 217 were reported dead by Tuesday. The Indian Air Force has air-dropped more than 550 tonnes of relief material, and 80 medical teams have established emergency health services in government schools and state-run health care centers.

The flooding is the first major humanitarian emergency under India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, but also comes at a difficult time for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has faced weeks of street protests aimed at forcing him out.

In Pakistan, the death toll was comparable, with at least 231 people reported dead across the country, including Pakistan's side of Kashmir.

"With the memory of the catastrophic floods of recent years still fresh, many are wondering why the present calamity was not better predicted, flood warnings were not issued with more urgency, and mitigation measures not undertaken speedily," Pakistan's Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.

In Pakistan, people still remember 2010, when the worst floods in generations affected some 20 million people and damage to infrastructure ran into billions of dollars.


India has hundreds of thousands of soldiers stationed in Kashmir, manning the border and conducting counter-insurgency operations against separatist militants in a decades-old conflict that claimed thousands of lives at its peak but has cooled in recent years.

Soldiers rescued families using boats or airlifted them from rooftops by helicopter after the river Jhelum burst its banks in Srinagar, but many more remained stranded.

"Fortunately, it is not raining in Kashmir today and we are now getting a chance to send our teams across the region to help tens of thousands of people who have been displaced," Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

In Pakistan, at least nine people died and six were injured when the roof of a mosque collapsed after days of heavy rain in the city of Lahore, said a spokesman for the rescue operation there. Sixteen people were still trapped under the debris, he said.

"Rescue workers are trying to recover them," he said.

Saeed Qureshi, an official at Pakistan's State Disaster Management Authority, said the volume of rainfall had rendered contingency plans useless.

"Nobody can fight with nature," Qureshi said. "We had made a contingency plan, identifying vulnerable populations along the banks of rivers and torrents, but rains with unexpected density wreaked havoc on the hilly areas beyond our imagination."

He said the district of Haveli, which straddles the de facto border between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, had got 400 millimeters (15.75 inches) of rain in a day, which had "no parallel in the past 50 years".

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said this year's monsoon rains had killed more than 1,000 people in India alone.

When flash floods killed 5,000 people two years ago in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, including many Hindu pilgrims, relief authorities were also criticized for their slow response.

(Additonal reporting by Rupam Jain Nair in NEW DELHI and Mubasher Bukhari in LAHORE; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Maria Golovnina, Larry King)

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Ebola map shows people in more African regions risk infection from animals

Kate Kelland Reuters Yahoo News 8 Sep 14;

LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Scientists have created a new map of places most at risk of an Ebola outbreak and say regions likely to be home to animals harbouring the virus are more widespread than previously feared, particularly in West Africa.

Understanding better where people come into contact with Ebola-infected animals - for example through hunting or eating bush meat - and how to stop them contracting the deadly disease, is crucial to preventing future outbreaks, the researchers said.

The Ebola virus, which can have a human mortality rate of up to 90 percent, is thought to be carried by bats or other wild animals and believed to cross into humans through contact with blood, meat or other infected fluids.

These jumps by viruses from animals to humans are known as "zoonotic events" and were the cause of major human disease outbreaks such as HIV and the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

The new map, published on Monday as the death toll in the West Africa Ebola outbreak, the world's largest, stood at almost 2,100, found that large swathes of central Africa as well as the western part of the continent have traits of what the scientists called "the zoonotic niche" for Ebola.

To see the map, go to

Nick Golding, an Oxford University researcher who worked on the international mapping team, said it found significantly more regions at risk from Ebola than previously feared.

"Up until now there hadn't been a huge amount of research, but there was one paper in which the at-risk area was much smaller," he said in a telephone interview. "It didn't predict, for example, the area in Guinea where this current outbreak first started."

Previous Ebola epidemics have been in central Africa, and a current outbreak in Congo - separate from the one in West Africa - has infected around 30 people in recent weeks.

According to latest data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 2,100 have died from Ebola in the current West Africa outbreak, which has infected at least 4,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. The WHO says it will take months to bring the epidemic under control and is warning there may be up to 20,000 cases before it is stopped.

Golding's study, published in the journal eLife as a collaboration by scientists at Oxford and University of Southampton in Britain, Canada's University of Toronto, and HealthMap at Boston Children's Hospital in the United States, did not seek to map potential human-to-human spread, but focussed on where there is a risk of animals infecting people.

It used data from the current outbreak as well as previously unmapped infections in bats, primates and other animals.

Previous studies have shown that the first patient in an Ebola outbreak is very probably infected through contact with an infected animal. The so-called "index case" in the current Congo outbreak was, according to the WHO, a pregnant woman from Ikanamongo Village who butchered a bush animal that had been killed and given to her by her husband.

While the West Africa epidemic is vast, long-lasting and deadly, the scientists noted that this is almost entirely due to person-to-person spread, and said Ebola outbreaks are still relatively uncommon events.

"Although the disease may be found in animals across a wide area, outbreaks are still very rare; very few animals in this region have detectable infections, and it is extremely rare for humans to catch the disease from them," said David Pigott, one of the lead authors of the study.

To find areas most at risk, the team identified the predicted distribution of bat species suspected of carrying the disease. They also mapped environmental factors to find suitability for Ebola transmission from host animals to people.

These data were combined with detailed data on locations where humans have been infected by wild animals and where infected animals have been identified.

"This work was a first step towards understanding where outbreaks of the disease might occur in the future," Golding said. "To prepare for future outbreaks and to deal with the current one we need to understand how human movements cause the disease to spread once it has entered the human population."

As a next step, the team wants to map the spread of the disease in past and present outbreaks to identify the most likely direction for the current outbreak and help target surveillance efforts, education and medical interventions.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Roche)

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