Best of our wild blogs: 15 Sep 14

Full of crabs at Punggol shore
from wonderful creation

Night Walk At Lower Pierce Reservoir (12 Sep 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Crazy Insect Challenge- Tiny grasshoppers everywhere!
from My Nature Experiences

Common Gliding Lizard (Draco sumatranus) @ Sungei Buloh
from Monday Morgue

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Looking at a different class of preschool locations

Chitra Kumar Channel NewsAsia 14 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: What if kindergarten lessons are conducted in a tree-house near the expressways? That could be possible in a preschool of the future, says Lien Foundation and Singapore-based architecture firm Lekker Architects.

“A Different Class: Preschool Spaces Redefined”, a project commissioned by Lien Foundation, looks at unusual and underused spots in land-scarce Singapore where preschools could potentially be located. Lekker Architects has identified 10 types of locations.

The project looks at converting under-utilised spaces at Lower Seletar Reservoir into a preschool, where classrooms are built on a floating platform, allowing children to have a better awareness of the river life.

The purpose is to integrate the outdoor and indoor environment to help with a child's learning.

Lee Poh Wah, CEO of Lien Foundation, says: "Imagine if you are in a preschool environment that is beautiful, soothing, full of wonder and discovery… You are eager to live, learn and work in that place.

“In my opinion, I find that preschool spaces in Singapore don't make the grade. Why are all our boisterous children in all these cramped, cluttered, cookie-cutter preschools that are devoid of nature itself? So 'A Different Class' is a bold exercise to envision the future of preschools spaces."

The project also urges policy-makers to think more creatively when considering new locations.

Building a preschool on a rooftop of a multi-storey car park in HDB estates may not be the norm, but the architects say it is safe.

Ong Ker-shing, director of Lekker Architects, says: "You might look at some of the schools, like the schools on top of the HDB car parks and say, ‘you are putting kids so high up in the air, and it doesn't look like there are any fences’.

“Well, there are fences. But we designed it in a way where there are methods of keeping the kids away from the edge, but they are not visible. Instead of putting up a giant barrier, and making it very obvious that there is a giant barrier, we thought about it in something very beautiful - we hide it behind greenery."

The Early Childhood Development Agency has described the project as "a useful contribution in providing design ideas for pre-school development in unique spaces”, and that it has been "working with various agencies to explore and incorporate innovative design features”.

- CNA/xq

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Air quality in 'unhealthy' range as PSI hits 113

Channel NewsAsia 14 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Air quality in Singapore moved into the "unhealthy" range on Monday (Sep 15), with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) three-hour reading hitting 113 at 6am. As of 7am, the three-hour reading was 111.

The three-hour PSI reading was 64 at 6pm on Sunday and it climbed to 74 at 9pm Sunday. It has since remained in the 101-200 range.

A PSI reading of 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 is classified as "moderate", while 101-200 is in the "unhealthy" band.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has advised healthy people to reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion when the PSI is in the "unhealthy" range. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise such activities, which should also be avoided by people with chronic lung disease or heart disease, NEA said on its website.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan wrote in a Facebook post on Monday morning that he was monitoring the air quality with "some concern".

His post said a change in wind direction brought with it haze that had been accumulating over Sumatra for the past few days, with the western parts of Singapore especially affected, he wrote.

"There has been an escalation in hot spots in Sumatra. NEA was in touch with the Indonesian authorities last week and has urged them to take action," he wrote, adding that Singapore "stands ready" to provide assistance if necessary.

- CNA/ir

Air quality hits unhealthy range
Today Online 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Air quality worsened late last night, with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) creeping into the unhealthy range.

The three-hour PSI reading hovered between 61 and 69 for most of the day, before rising to 74 at 9pm. It went up to 83 an hour later, and reached 96 at 11pm. The reading hit 100 at midnight. At 1am, it was 102.

A PSI reading of 0 to 50 is considered “good”, 51 to 100 is classified as “moderate”, while 101 to 200 is “unhealthy”.

The air quality reporting was tweaked in April to incorporate levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which were previously reported separately from the PSI.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an update on the haze situation that the total number of hot spots detected in Sumatra decreased yesterday to 82 from 194. The reduced hot-spot count was due to partial satellite coverage.

The NEA said occasional slight haze may be experienced in Singapore if the winds blow from the south-west. It expects the overall air quality for today to be in the moderate range.

Singapore's air pollution index rises to unhealthy level
Reuters AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's air pollution rose to unhealthy levels on Monday, the National Environment Agency said, as winds changed direction and brought in light smoke from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia.

Singapore is in the middle of its "haze" season, when smoke from forest clearing in Indonesia traditionally chokes the air, but this year has been practically haze free, despite warnings in May it was going to be worse than 2013's record pollution.

The three-hour Pollution Standards Index broke above 100, the level beyond which the air is considered unhealthy, at 1 a.m. and remained above that level into the daylight hours, the government agency said on its website.

The NEA warned on Sunday that if the wind blew from the southwest, Singapore could experience occasional haze from fires on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

The smoke blanketed Singapore last June, pushing the air pollution index to a record 401.

In August, Singapore's parliament passed a bill proposing fines for companies that cause pollution regardless of whether the companies operate on the island, though it remains to be seen how the law can be enforced.

Singapore air pollution soars due to Indonesian forest fires
AFP AsiaOne 15 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Air pollution in Singapore rose to unhealthy levels Monday, blanketing the city-state's skyline with clouds of smog from fires raging across giant rainforests in the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra, officials said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency said the pollutant standards index (PSI) reached a high of 111 at 7:00 am (2300 GMT) before easing to 80 a few hours later.

A reading between 101-200 is considered "unhealthy", with people with existing heart or respiratory ailments advised to reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia are smothered annually in varying degrees by smog from forest fires in Indonesia during the summer months from June to September.

Last year's smog was the worst since 1997-1998, when the smoke caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across Southeast Asia.

The NEA said in a statement that the current smog is "most likely due to the hotspots (forest fires) in South Sumatra detected over the past three to four days".

"Given the continued dry weather in southern Sumatra, we can expect the hotspots to persist and the 24-hour PSI for Singapore to fluctuate between the high-end of the moderate range and the low-end of the unhealthy range for the rest of the day." White smog shrouded the city-state's skyline, with smoke wafting into the business district.

But the smog was thickest in western part of Singapore, which is nearest to Sumatra, where residents said they could smell a light acrid smell of burning foliage.

In an annual occurence, westerly monsoon winds blow smoke from the fires caused by slash-and-burn land-clearing by individuals and plantations on Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait.

Last year, the PSI hit record levels in Singapore and Malaysia forcing people to wear face masks and stay indoors and prompting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to apologise to both neighbours.

Singapore last month passed a bill that gives the government powers to fine companies that cause or contribute to the annual smog up to S$2 million, regardless of whether they have offices in the city-state.

While the new law is designed to target companies both based in Singapore and outside, observers have said enforcement will be difficult.

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Malaysia: ‘Avoid Kuantan port shellfish’

New Straits Times 15 Sep 14;

KUANTAN: Recent checks on shellfish collected from Kuantan port waters showed reduced levels of paralytic shellfish poison (PSP), as compared with when it was first detected in the seafood last month.

State Rural Development, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif said the latest samples of shellfish taken from the affected areas showed PSP readings of 1,700 microgram (μg) per 100gram of shellfish.

The level of contamination is still higher than the permissible level of about 80 μg per 100g of PSP, or red tide toxin, which could lead to symptoms leading to death.

Shafik said the Fisheries Deparment and other agencies continued to collect and test samples of shellfish from the affected area every week.

“Based on tests made by the Fisheries Department, only the flat oysters are affected by the PSP.

“But we are advising the public not to consume all types of shellfish in the area as a precautionary measure,” he told the New Straits Times when met at Kuala Penor here yesterday.

Shafik assured seafood lovers could continue enjoying shellfish sold in Pahang as these were brought in from other states in the west coast.

“Pahang is not a supplier of shellfish, such as cockles, kepah (mussels) and lala (baby clams),” he said adding that department would make an announcement when the PSP level in the flat oysters returned to safe levels.

Those who consume the affected oysters could experience symptoms, such as numbness in the neck and lips, vomiting, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Pahang Engineering Technology Faculty dean Professor Dr Zularisam Abd Wahid said high nitrogen levels in the water, caused by untreated sewage, had been identified as the cause of the contamination.

He said studies showed that the high nitrogen concentrations could trigger the blooming of poisonous microscopic algae, such as dinoflagellates, which are the main natural toxin producers
found in shellfish in tropical Asian waters.

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Malaysia: Orangutan under threat

stephanie lee The Star 15 Sep 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Climate change is causing a rise in temperature and the gradual destruction of plants, which are food sources to the orangutan, said Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu.

“When food becomes scarce, the orangutan will move to higher areas,” he said, adding that this would make it harder for them as forests were becoming more isolated and fragmented due to development.

Dr Laurentius said Sabah was home to 80% of the Malaysian orangutan population, making the department custodians of the large majority of the nation’s orangutan.

“Therefore, we have to find ways to ensure the survival of the orangutan,” he said, in a study co-authored by Dr Benoit Goosens of the Danau Girang Field Centre, a research and training facility managed by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department.

Dr Benoit said although lowland forests were the favoured orangutan habitat, higher locations in the western side of Sabah would be more favourable to these species.

“Researches show that they (the lowland forests) will be less and less productive as the plant biodiversity changes and their suitability to sustain the orangutan decreases,” he said.

“Forests in higher locations in western Sabah that are not prime orangutan habitat today will become more hospitable to the orangutan.

“They will offer a refuge to the orangutan when climate changes affect the lowland forests,” he explained.

“Unfortunately, it is difficult and, in some cases, impossible, for wildlife to move from lowlands to higher ground in the present situation of having fragmented and isolated forest patches,” Dr Benoit said.

“Hence, there is a need for careful spatial planning now to ensure corridors and forest patches are established as a land bridge which will allow wildlife to move in order to survive.”

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