Best of our wild blogs: 14 Sep 14

Bats in my porch: 14. When is the bat’s head pointing up?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Lacy Encounters
from Butterflies of Singapore

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More options for nature lovers even as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve closes

Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will be closed from Monday (Sep 15) for restoration works, and will reopen partially during weekends in April next year. Repairs will only be completed at the end of 2016, but nature lovers can still visit the adjacent park.

The reserve will undergo repair and restoration works to its slopes, trails and forests. NParks will also upgrade its visitor centre - which is more than 20 years old - during this period.

The closure of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from Monday does not mean it is the end of the road for nature lovers, hikers, runners and bikers. The adjacent Hindhede Nature Park and the mountain bike trail will still be open to members of public.

Visitors may also choose to explore routes less travelled. The three-kilometre Kampong Trail and the Rail Corridor - which ends at the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station - are nearby.

NParks has started holding tours for the public twice a month on Saturday mornings. The tours explore Kampong Trail - where squirrels, monkeys and rambutan and durian trees are among the highlights. Another highlight of the trail is the Singapore Quarry.

The free tours can be booked on NParks' website.

- CNA/xq

Nature reserve closing? Try other trails
Jalelah Abu Baker The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Sep 14;

From elderly joggers to young nature lovers, they came yesterday to bid a temporary goodbye to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which will be closed for a two-year renovation starting tomorrow.

But lesser-known sites around the reserve will still be accessible during the makeover to firm up the soil on trails, plant more trees and install more toilets.

The Hindhede Nature Park, Kampong Trail, Rail Corridor and mountain bike trail will remain open to the public till works end in 2016.

The 164m-high summit of Bukit Timah Hill will be accessible through the reserve's tarmac road on weekends from April next year.

Explaining the need for the repair works, Ms Sharon Chan, deputy director of the Central Nature Reserve, told The Sunday Times: "Slope failures and landslips are happening all the time. If we don't do anything, in the end, visitors won't even have the main road to walk on."

She explained that the works will take two years because they need to be done in stages so as not to disturb the ecological balance in the area and drive the animals out.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at the National Parks Board, said visitorship has increased from 80,000 a year in 1992 to 400,000 now. The changes will help the reserve cope with a rise in human traffic.

In the meantime, visitors will get the chance to discover three walking trails they may otherwise have ignored. Along the way to the nature reserve along Hindhede Drive is a dirt slope that leads to the scenic 24km Rail Corridor.

Further up is the Kampong Trail, which is still rife with fruit trees. There will be guided tours for this trail on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month till November.

Retired public relations veteran Goh Shih Yong has turned up at the reserve for his hike at 11am every Saturday for the past eight years with a group of seven to 10 friends.

He is excited at the possibility of starting his hike at the Kampong Trail, which leads to MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

"We will try it out first. We have to see if the trail suits our age. We are all in our 60s," he said.

It's time for a big facelift
Darishini Thiyagarajan The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Sep 14;

He last visited the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 10 years ago..

When he learnt it would be closed for about two years to undergo major renovation works, he decided to visit it one last time.

The 163ha reserve will be closed from Monday, the first time in its 22-year history.

Heavy rainfall and the increase in the number of visitors over the years have taken its toll on the reserve.

Half of its 9km trail will be repaired.

A visitor who wanted to be known only as Johnny, 73, said he last visited it a decade ago with his friends.

He went yesterday with a neighbour.

He said: "We both wanted to see this place before they close it down. Two years is a very long time to wait, and we didn't want to wait."

When The New Paper visited the nature reserve yesterday morning, nature enthusiasts had flocked there to spend time at the only hill dipterocarp (a family of hardwood trees) forest in Singapore.

A group of women aged between 50 and 65 were practising yoga as early as 7am at the Kruing Hut, which faces the Hindhede quarry.

They said they were sad about the closure.

The yoga instructor, Madam Joo Nguee, 50, said: "We met through yoga, and we've been coming here four times a week for four years now.

"But with the closing of the reserve, we might have to meet somewhere else."

On the other hand, Mr Mike Rehu, who was walking up the trek with two of his children, said the closure would not be affecting him as much.

Having made it a point to visit the reserve thrice a week for the past four years, Mr Rehu, in his 50s, said: "I will still be able to walk the dogs around the reserve, and my kids like going to the West Coast Park.

"Maybe we'll spend more time there before it (the reserve) reopens."

Three main areas will be repaired - from Simpang Hut to Police Repeater Station; from Quarry Road to TAS Station; and the main road between Kruing Hut and Simpang Hut.


In addition to the upgrading of the visitor centre, a 1.3 km-long raised boardwalk at Dairy Farm Loop and Summit Path will be built for visitors.

At the summit, many nature lovers were seen taking a rest with their loved ones before heading down.

Mr Alan Chan, 56, was greeting everyone with a smile. The retiree has been visiting the nature reserve every Monday for the past two years, and would like the restoration works to be finished as soon as possible.

He will be going to Jurong Lake for walks in the meantime.

The trails will be open to the public during the weekends after six months.

Mr Chan said: "It gets too crowded on weekends, and I would like some peace after I reach the top of the hill.

"But I can't wait to see the reserve after its restoration works."

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50 ways to the Rail Corridor

Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Cyclists here could one day start their ride along the scenic 24km Rail Corridor from 50 different entry points.

This would involve building pavements, staircases and bridges that connect to nearby office compounds, housing estates and train and bus stations along the Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands corridor.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, there are four access points today. These are the southern end of Rail Mall; the slope near Hindhede Road; the slope near Rifle Range Road and from the railway bridge on Bukit Timah Road. It is one of several ideas to "enhance liveability in Singapore" which are now on show at the URA Centre's Singapore City Gallery.

The exhibition called Re:Imagining Cities - Urban Design Research in Singapore features ideas from the Singapore University of Technology and Design's (SUTD) City Form Lab and Singapore-ETH Centre's Future Cities Laboratory.

Some of the proposed access points by the SUTD team include the intersections between Henderson Road and the Ayer Rajah Expressway; Commonwealth Avenue West and North Buona Vista Road; and Upper Bukit Timah Road and Petir Road.

These nodes were selected based on the number of residents and office workers they can serve, said Dr Andres Sevtsuk, the director of City Form Lab.

Said Dr Sevtsuk: "There are around 8,000 businesses found within a 1km buffer around the Rail Corridor. Their employees could benefit from the Rail Corridor by biking or walking to work."

The URA has been seeking ideas and suggestions from the public and interest groups since 2012 on how the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway land can be best used.

Other ideas on show at the exhibition, which will run till Oct 8, include plans to rejuvenate Singapore's historic districts, such as the densely packed Rochor district.

One suggestion is to replace the individual air-conditioning units along the backlanes of shophouses between Serangoon Road and Lembu Road in Little India with a central system.

This could help free up space for commercial activities such as alfresco dining while being more energy efficient, said Professor Kees Christiaanse of the Future Cities Laboratory.

Another idea is to build a community centre in Farrer Park that can serve as a space for the area's two "intersecting populations" - the thousands of foreign workers who are there on weekends and the expected influx of medical tourists who are set to throng Connexion, an upcoming hospital and hotel complex.

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End of the road for Tampines Bike Park

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Sep 14;

SINAGPORE - Marbles, Raptor, Tree Hugger - these are pet names of parts of the Tampines Bike Park that cyclists have grown to love.

But, by Monday, they will be just memories.

After more than a decade, the much-loved park will close to make way for the new Tampines North housing estate.

"It's a real loss," said Tampines resident Azman Omar, 45. "All of us are sad to see it go."

The avid cyclist has been a regular rider there since 1999, when it was an unofficial bike park consisting of 60ha of open space with a rough dirt track which cyclists maintained in their free time.

"Because of this place, I've not moved out of Tampines since 1994. I told my wife, I don't want to go anywhere, this is my playground," said Mr Azman, who works in logistics.

The Tampines Avenue 9 park has the only BMX track in Singapore and a 13km-long mountain bike trail.

Managed by Sport Singapore (SportSG), it is used by about 2,600 riders a month - a healthy number for a park of this size, according to the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF).

Its BMX track was built specially for the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, when it was officially opened, and is the only one in South-east Asia certified by the International Cycling Union.

The park was supposed to close last year. The Government agreed to postpone the closure so that SportSG could find a new venue.

When The Straits Times visited on Wednesday morning, there was a sign put up by SportSG announcing the impending closure.

Coaches told The Straits Times they have already stopped holding cycling classes there.

"Tampines was great, it was very accessible and you could teach all levels of riders," said mountain bike skills instructor Wilson Low, 31. But while he holds his classes at three other mountain bike trails, BMX riders will have nowhere to go.

"The future of BMX depends largely on whether a new track is built," said Mr Kenneth Wee, 43, founder of Singapore Bike School. "The closest BMX track to us is in Malacca."

SportSG issued a tender to design and build a new BMX track in June but withdrew it soon after, without explanation.

SCF's vice-president for BMX Abdul Rahman Ibrahim said he had contacted SportSG three times since then, but has not received an answer. "It's very frustrating. Without a BMX track we cannot take the sport forward."

SportSG told The Straits Times it has been working with various agencies to find a possible site for a new BMX track. "We will give an update in due course," said the spokesman, who declined to comment on the tender's cancellation.

Meanwhile, Tampines MP and SCF patron Irene Ng said her GRC is organising a bike carnival tomorrowto mark the park's last hurrah. "We encourage those who haven't done so to come and enjoy (the park) one last time," she said. The carnival will host game booths, cycling clinics and the venue's last race.

Ms Ng added: "I expect a lot of photo-taking to capture the final days of the (venue) and to preserve memories of Singapore's first world-class bike park."

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2013 dengue outbreaks in Malaysia, S'pore associated with serotype switch

Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The dengue virus surveillance joint effort between Malaysia and Singapore under the UNITEDengue (UNited In Tackling Epidemic Dengue) has shown that the 2013 outbreaks in Malaysia and Singapore were associated with a switch in the predominant virus serotypes.

A joint statement by the Singapore's National Environment Agency and Malaysia's Health Ministry said in Singapore on Saturday (Sep 13) that the predominantly circulating virus serotype switched from DENV-2 to DENV-1 at the beginning of 2013. Malaysia, however, saw an increase in the dominance of DENV-2 in its dengue cases.

In 2013, Malaysia recorded over 43,000 cases with 92 deaths, while Singapore reported over 22,000 cases with seven deaths. In Singapore, the DENV-1 remains the predominant dengue virus.

But the number of dengue cases carrying the second most common strain DENV-2 in Singapore has been on the rise since July 2014. The statement said the authorities are watching this development closely, as the spread of the DENV-2 virus may result in a serotype switch here. This could potentially lead to a new wave of infections.

The DENV-2 virus strain is predominant in Malaysia especially in the southern states of Johor and Malacca. It has also been associated with higher reported fatality cases in the two states.

- CNA/al

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MediaCorp staff take part in International Coastal Cleanup

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Close to 40 MediaCorp staff rolled up their sleeves on Saturday morning to take part in this year's International Coastal Cleanup. It is an annual event conducted in about 100 countries around the world, coordinated by US-based non-profit organisation The Ocean Conservancy.

This is the first time MediaCorp is supporting the programme as part of its Saving Gaia Initiative - a month-long campaign promoting environmental awareness and going green.

Volunteers picked up around 330 kilogrammes of trash - including items like glassware, plastic bags, styrofoam and food wrappers - from Selimang Beach in Sembawang on Saturday.

The trash was itemised and weighed, with the information submitted to governmental and international organisations. It is hoped that the information will help the organisations educate the public on marine debris issues.

- CNA/al

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Checking up on oceans' health - at a bargain price

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Sep 14;

A research team led by scientists from Singapore is embarking on an ambitious project to find out more about the Earth's oceans - on the cheap.

Instead of sending out scientific vessels on expensive voyages, the team of 23 is hoping to collect oceanographic data by tapping a network of travellers who are already plying the more than 15 major sailing routes worldwide.

The aim of the project is to find out more about the health of the oceans, said Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Associate Professor Federico Lauro, who is leading the effort.

"Some of the things we can do include assessing the environmental impact of ships in the shipping lanes, how climate change affects the ocean, and how bacteria and viruses get transported from one part of the world to another," added Prof Lauro, a microbiologist from the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering.

He and his team estimate that compared to the US$300 million (S$378 million) cost of sending out 20 scientific vessels, it will cost them only about US$200,000 by using crowd-sourcing to get information such as water temperature and dissolved oxygen levels, and to collect seawater samples containing microorganisms.

With the data already collected for them, scientists can devote more time to data analysis, said Prof Lauro.

Researchers and funds are also freed up to send scientific vessels out to less popular parts of the ocean - typically near the poles, where waters are choppier and colder.

The project, which was outlined in international scientific journal Public Library of Science Biology on Tuesday, is still at a preliminary stage.

For instance, researchers are in the midst of developing a prototype device equipped with sensors that can be installed on the decks of vessels such as sailboats and yachts to collect samples and data. This is expected to be ready by mid-2015.

Prof Lauro said he hopes the project will be an ongoing one, with the potential to tap the 5,000 yachts that sail annually on popular routes.

Data collected will be uploaded onto an online platform and will be freely accessible.
- See more at:

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