Best of our wild blogs: 30 Sep 14

Sat 4 Oct, Sun 5 Oct & Mon 6 Oct’14: Guided Walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Dragonfly (46b) – Idionyx yolanda, male
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

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Wild otters raise family around Marina Bay

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

Wild otters have started breeding in the heart of the city, the first- ever known here to have done so.

Now, experts are worrying about how to best protect them.

Some researchers had considered Singapore's southern coast around Gardens by the Bay too built-up for these threatened native marine mammals that are often found at sea but need a source of fresh water nearby.

But a pair of smooth-coated otters, which first caused a stir in February with their visits to the downtown park, have now raised five pups.

Videos posted on social media over the last month show the family roaming and eating fish along the banks of Marina Reservoir.

They have also been seen inside the Gardens and in its lakes.

The park's deputy director for research Adrian Loo declined to reveal where the otters are suspected to have built their den, in case curious visitors go looking for them.

"If visitors start feeding or playing with them, they might associate humans with food... they might start to harass people," he said, urging visitors to keep their distance when they spot the otters at the Gardens.

There have been signs that humans and otters are getting too close for the staff's comfort.

The animals have been seen scampering after joggers and being chased by children.

"We think they're being fed," said the park's urban ecologist Phira Unadirekkul.

Signs have been put up asking visitors to keep their distance.

National University of Singapore (NUS) otter expert N. Sivasothi was asked to give a talk earlier this year to park staff, who in turn will educate visitors.

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Singaporeans urged to help save Malayan tigers

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

Tigers in Malaysia are in trouble, and conservationists there are hoping for help from Singapore.

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) is urging Singaporeans to visit the Taman Negara National Park in Pahang, which was home to about 90 wild Malayan tigers in 2001.

The number has declined due to poaching though there is nocurrent information on how many of the tigers are actually left.

But the presence of eco-tourists can ward off poachers hoping to set snares that will trap the gigantic cats, said Mycat general manager and wildlife biologist Kae Kawanishi. Mycat organises "cat walks" - short for Citizen Action for Tigers - at the 4,343 sq km park on weekends.

Today, only 250 to 340 Malayan tigers are left roaming the jungles of Malaysia - the only place in the world where these large cats are found.

These animals are at the top of the food chain in the forest eco-system, but are threatened by poachers that kill them for their meat or body parts used for ornaments or traditional Chinese medicine.

The Malayan tiger has been listed as "endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since 2008.

But the species can now meet the IUCN criteria for a "critically endangered" listing, said Mycat and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) Peninsular Malaysia in a joint statement on Sept 15.

Said Dr Kawanishi: "A population of about 300 wild tigers should be able to bounce back - they just need our protection to do so."

A fund-raising dinner attended by about 160 guests was held at HortPark last night in support of initiatives to save the Malayan tiger.
- See more at:

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Man starts website to nab serial cat killer

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 30 Sep 14;

A shopkeeper is on a mission to find the culprit, or culprits, behind the serial abuse of cats in Beach Road.

Since 2011, there have been at least 50 cases of abuse in and around the Housing Board estate across from the Golden Mile Complex, according to animal lover Anthony Hong. He launched on Sept 14 to raise awareness and appeal for information.

Just yesterday afternoon, a cat was found in the area with a stab wound to its neck.

"Most of the cat carcasses showed signs of abuse - such as slingshot wounds, knife wounds and punctures in their body," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his picture taken as he was worried about vandalism at his shop.

His site details where and when several of the dead cats were found, along with grisly photos. Mr Hong, whose sundry shop is in the area, found out about the deaths after meeting elderly people who feed and care for Beach Road's strays. One such "auntie" lodged a police report in August 2011 complaining about an elderly man seen shooting stones at cats with a catapult.

In September 2011, Mr Hong paid $2,000 to hire a private detective for a week to check on this suspect but this did not unearth any evidence. A month later, a black cat was flung from "a high level" at Block 5, Beach Road. The police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) were called. "But the police told us they could not arrest him as there was no concrete photo or video evidence," Mr Hong said.

The abuse is seemingly still going on. Earlier this year, a few cats were found dead with stab wounds. On Aug 1, the carcass of a grey cat, with blood coming from its mouth, was found at Block 9, North Bridge Road. It was taken to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, which is looking into the case. It said it has received feedback about the suspected cruelty cases.

Mr Hong decided to set up the website after years of appealing to the authorities yielded no results. "They kept asking us for evidence, but the elderly feeders are not tech-savvy," he said.

Last month, the SPCA and Cat Welfare Society (CWS) jointly produced posters appealing for more information. These were pasted at the notice boards of blocks in the area. Ms Joanne Ng, chief executive of CWS, urged residents there to keep their eyes open. Ms Corinne Fong, SPCA executive director, said information collected so far has been sketchy at best, and that "real credible evidence" is needed.

Madam S. K. Koh, who has been feeding strays in the area for the past 19 years, admits she has never seen the suspect harm a cat. The 74-year-old retiree said: "But when he walks by while I'm feeding the cats, all of them will run and hide."

Mr Hong, who is single, also runs a separate Facebook page to raise funds for food and veterinary bills for Beach Road's cats. His passion for cats grew in 2010, after he adopted a sickly stray which had the feline version of AIDS. He said: "I cannot understand why anyone would want to kill cats."

Save Beach Road Cats facebook page:
Save Beach Road Cats website:

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An all-aspect approach to transport issues

Giving commuters the information they need to adapt their plans to evolving traffic conditions could improve satisfaction with public transport services.
The key to getting on top of Singapore’s public transport issues could lie in putting the power in commuters’ hands
Scott Marsh Today Online 30 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The solution to increasing customer satisfaction with public transport lies not only in improving elements of our transport infrastructure, such as boosting the reliability, frequency and availability of buses, taxis and trains. It could also lie in giving commuters the information they need to plan their journey according to evolving traffic conditions and the availability of public transport services.

What if commuters could use an integrated transport app that not only informed them of transport delays but could also suggest alternate routes or even offer to book a taxi for them?

That’s something that Assoc Prof Lim Yun Fong, Associate Professor of Operations Management, Singapore Management University, believes is within reach.

“We could, for example, use apps to meet the individual demands of customers. Every commuter can build his or her own itinerary through the app. This can help the commuter link up with the service provider or get information about arrival times,” said Assoc Prof Lim.

Such a scenario isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. Apps such as the Land Transport Authority’s MyTransport.SG Mobile app already update users about traffic conditions, bus arrival times and train and taxi services. Taking this one step further, future versions of such apps could let commuters book taxis or let commuters know if they’ll be able to get on the next train.


Such information would be crucial in helping commuters find the fastest way to their destination. It would also boost customer satisfaction with public transport services, which are currently facing declining levels of customer satisfaction.

The second-quarter results of the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG), conducted by the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University (ISES), showed that the year-on-year scores for the MRT System, Public Buses and Taxi Services sub-sectors fell by 6.8 per cent, 3.6 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.

One approach to addressing the issue has been to increase the supply of services. Under the Bus Services Enhancement Programme, for instance, the government, working in partnership with bus operators, plans to introduce 1,000 buses from 2012 to 2017.

The Land Transport Authority aims to double the length of Singapore’s rail network from 178km today to 360km by 2030. Steps such as these will help increase the supply and reach of Singapore’s public transport network.

Ms Sylvia Fong acknowledged that rail operators have been taking steps to address the issues, but feels that increasing supply doesn’t address other issues.

Said the 29-year-old assistant manager: “Although the frequency of train services has improved, there are other areas that fall short. For example, the speeds at which the trains travel are inconsistent — during peak periods, trains sometimes still move slowly.

“I feel that train operators have realised the problem of over-crowding a little too late and are trying to play catch-up. But I can see continuous improvements being planned and rolled out so they are trying and communicating to commuters appropriately.”


Another key issue, said Mr Lim Kell Jay, general manager of GrabTaxi Singapore, is being better able to match demand and supply.

Citing GrabTaxi’s experience in attempting to meet the demands and expectations of commuters and taxi drivers, he said: “On the one hand, there is the mismatch of demand and supply. On the other hand, we looked at data to understand what time of the day, what day of the week, what day of the month the biggest mismatch occurred. And we tried to do something about that.”

“I wouldn’t say we have solved the problems, but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Ms Anusha Krishnamoorthy, a 26-year-old copywriter, appreciated that taxis are generally comfortable and convenient, but also spoke about the mismatch of demand and supply. “I find it hard to flag down a taxi unless I am at a central location, so I end up spending extra on booking charges.”


Said Ms Caroline Lim, director, ISES: “Commuters’ expectations here have been shaped by the smooth operations of our public transport network until recently — the spate of MRT breakdowns in 2011.

“Operators and regulators will have to do more to engage commuters so as to give confidence, to bring back the sense of a seamless experience like it was in the past.”

Digital marketing manager Gurmit Singh Kullar, felt that a more integrated approach should also extend to payment methods.

Said the 39-year-old: “Passengers should be allowed to use any payment method — buying tickets with credit cards and going through MRT fare gates with an NFC (near-field communication) device should become the norm.”

Key to improving overall customer satisfaction with public transport would be examining all aspects of the transportation equation to give commuters a smoother journey.

Said Dr Marcus Lee, academic director, ISES: “Our public transport stakeholders should focus on the total journey experience; this should take centre stage. By focusing on seamless transfers between modes of transport, the total journey experience is optimised.

“A common goal like this is one way for all the public transport stakeholders to work together to improve commuter satisfaction,” he said.

This report is a collaborative project between TODAY and the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University.

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Malaysia: No land acquisition for Forest City project

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 29 Sep 14;

PASIR GUDANG: Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin has allayed fears that land in Kampung Pok and nearby villages will be acquired to give way for the controversial Forest City project.

He said certain parties had confused villagers by spreading rumour about land acquisition, hoping to create unnecessary fear and worries among the villagers.

"The blueprint of the project did not indicate any forms of land acquisition from the villagers. This includes land for the construction of an access road from Forest City which will pass by the villages.

"On concerns about land reclamation, I would like to stress that reclamation occurs everywhere, including Singapore.

"The Environmental Impact Assessment study has compelled the project developer to address several key issues related to pollution and the environment," he said.

Khaled was speaking to reporters after attending the ground-breaking ceremony of the Taman Seri Albion project here today.

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Global wildlife populations down by half since 1970: WWF

Tom Miles Reuters Yahoo News 30 Sep 14;

GENEVA (Reuters) - The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday.

The conservation group's Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind's demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

"This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live," Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

However, there was still hope if politicians and businesses took the right action to protect nature, the report said.

"It is essential that we seize the opportunity – while we still can – to develop sustainably and create a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

Preserving nature was not just about protecting wild places but also about safeguarding the future of humanity, "indeed, our very survival," he said.

The report's finding on the populations of vertebrate wildlife found that the biggest declines were in tropical regions, especially Latin America. The WWF's so-called "Living Planet Index" is based on trends in 10,380 populations of 3,038 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species.

The average 52 percent decline was much bigger than previously reported, partly because earlier studies had relied more on readily available information from North America and Europe, WWF said. The same report two years ago put the decline at 28 percent between 1970 and 2008.

The worst decline was among populations of freshwater species, which fell by 76 percent over the four decades to 2010, while marine and terrestrial numbers both fell by 39 percent.


The main reasons for declining populations were the loss of natural habitats, exploitation through hunting or fishing, and climate change.

To gauge the variations between different countries' environmental impact, the report measured how big an "ecological footprint" each one had and how much productive land and water area, or "biocapacity", each country accounted for.

Kuwaitis had the biggest ecological footprint, meaning they consume and waste more resources per head than any other nation, the report said, followed by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

"If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA, we would need 3.9 planets," the report said.

Many poorer countries - including India, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo - had an ecological footprint that was well within the planet's ability to absorb their demands.

The report also measured how close the planet is to nine so-called "planetary boundaries", thresholds of "potentially catastrophic changes to life as we know it".

Three such thresholds have already been crossed - biodiversity, carbon dioxide levels and nitrogen pollution from fertilisers. Two more were in danger of being breached - ocean acidification and phosphorus levels in freshwater.

"Given the pace and scale of change, we can no longer exclude the possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth," the report said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years - report
Roger Harrabin BBC 29 Sep 14;

The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.
Severe impact

Compiling a global average of species decline involves tricky statistics, often comparing disparate data sets.

The team at the zoological society say they've improved their methodology since their last report two years ago - but the results are even more alarming.

Then they estimated that wildlife was down "only" around 30%. Whatever the numbers, it seems clear that wildlife is continuing to be driven out by human activity.

The society's report, in conjunction with the pressure group WWF, says humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can re-grow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can re-stock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than oceans and forests can absorb.

It catalogues areas of severe impact - in Ghana, the lion population in one reserve is down 90% in 40 years.

In West Africa, forest felling has restricted forest elephants to 6-7% of their historic range.

In Nepal, habitat loss and hunting have reduced tigers from 100,000 a century ago to just 3,000.

In the UK, the government promised to halt wildlife decline - but bird numbers continue to fall.

The index tracks more than 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010. It reveals a continued decline in these populations. The global trend is not slowing down.
'New method'

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.

The report notes that the impacts of climate change are becoming of increasing concern - although the effect of climate change on species until now is disputed.

WWF is keen to avoid despair. It points to conservation efforts to save species like:

A Gorilla Conservation Programme in Rwanda, promoting gorilla tourism
A scheme to incentivise small-scale farmers to move away from slash and burn agriculture in Acre, Brazil
A project to cut the amount of water withdrawn from the wildlife-rich River Itchen in the UK.

Previously, the Living Planet Index was calculated using the average decline in all of the species populations measured. The new weighted methodology analyses the data to provide what ZSL says is a much more accurate calculation of the collective status of populations in all species and regions.

A ZSL spokesman explained to BBC News: "For example, if most measurements in a particular region are of bird populations, but the greatest actual number of vertebrates in the region are fish, then it is necessary to give a greater weighting to measurements of fish populations if we are to have an accurate picture of the rate of population decline for species in that region.

"Different weightings are applied between regions, and between marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments. We are simply being more sophisticated with the way we use the data."

"Applying the new method to the 2008 dataset we find that things were considerably worse than what we thought at the time. It is clear that we are seeing a significant long-term trend in declining species populations."

Solutions still in reach as world biodiversity suffers major decline
WWF 29 Sep 2014;

Gland, Switzerland: Global wildlife populations have declined by more than half in just 40 years as measured in WWF's Living Planet Report 2014. Wildlife's continued decline highlights the need for sustainable solutions to heal the planet, according to the report released today.

The Living Planet Report 2014 also shows Ecological Footprint – a measure of humanity's demands on nature – continuing its upward climb. Taken together, biodiversity loss and unsustainable footprint threaten natural systems and human well-being, but can also point us toward actions to reverse current trends.

“Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to this planet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

The Living Planet Report 2014 is the tenth edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. With the theme Species and Spaces, People and Places, the report tracks over 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010 through the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. The report's measure of humanity's Ecological Footprint is provided by the Global Footprint Network.

This year's Living Planet Index features updated methodology that more accurately tracks global biodiversity and provides a clearer picture of the health of our natural environment. While the findings reveal that the state of the world's species is worse than in previous reports, the results also put finer focus on available solutions.

“The findings of this year's Living Planet Report make it clearer than ever that there is no room for complacency. It is essential that we seize the opportunity – while we still can – to develop sustainably and create a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature,” said Lambertini.

Critical wildlife declines
According to the report, populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Freshwater species have suffered a 76 per cent decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species. The majority of these losses are coming from tropical regions with Latin America enduring the most dramatic drop.

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation. Fishing and hunting are also significant threats. Climate change is becoming increasingly worrisome, with research cited in the report finding that climate change is already responsible for the possible extinction of species.

“The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming,” said Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London. “This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry.”

While biodiversity loss around the world is at critical levels, the Living Planet Report 2014 highlights how effectively managed protected areas can support wildlife. In one example, Nepal is noted for increasing its tiger population in recent years. Overall, populations in land-based protected areas suffer less than half the rate of decline of those in unprotected areas.

Ecological Footprint increases

According to the report, humanity's demand on the planet is more than 50 per cent larger than what nature can renew. It would take 1.5 Earths to produce the resources necessary to support our current Ecological Footprint. This global overshoot means, for example, that we are cutting timber more quickly than trees regrow, pumping freshwater faster than groundwater restocks, and releasing CO2 faster than nature can sequester it.

“Ecological overshoot is the defining challenge of the 21st century,” said Mathis Wackernagel, President and Co-founder of Global Footprint Network. “Nearly three-quarters of the world's population lives in countries struggling with both ecological deficits and low incomes. Resource restraints demand that we focus on how to improve human welfare by a means other than sheer growth.”

Delinking the relationship between footprint and development is a key global priority indicated in the report. While per capita Ecological Footprint of high-income countries is five times that of low-income countries, research demonstrates that it is possible to increase living standards while restraining resource use.

The 10 countries with the largest per capita Ecological Footprints are: Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, United States of America, Bahrain and Sweden.

The climate connection
The report comes months after a United Nations study warned of the growing impacts of climate change and gives evidence to the finding that climate is already impacting the health of the planet.

According to the Living Planet Report 2014, more than 200 river basins, home to over 2.5 billion people, experience severe water scarcity for at least one month every year. With close to one billion people already suffering from hunger, the report shows how climate, combined with changing land uses, threatens biodiversity and could lead to further food shortages.

Constructive negotiations over an international climate deal are among the opportunities that exist to control these trends. Completion of a global agreement that clears the way to a low carbon economy is essential given that fossil fuel use is currently the dominant factor in Ecological Footprint.

A complementary set of negotiations on a set of development goals creates the opportunity for countries to address how natural systems can be protected as world population surpasses 9.5 billion in coming decades.

Sustainable solutions
The Living Planet Report 2014 serves as a platform for global dialogue, decision-making and action for governments, businesses and civil society at a critical time for the planet.

The report provides WWF's “One Planet Perspective” with strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities are already making better choices to reduce footprint and biodiversity loss.

“Nature is both a lifeline for survival and a springboard to prosperity. Importantly, we are all in this together. We all need food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live. At a time when so many people still live in poverty, it is essential to work together to create solutions that work for everyone,” said Lambertini.

In Asia, the report shows how cities are innovating ways to reduce carbon emissions, integrate renewable energy and promote sustainable consumption. In Africa, the report profiles how government can work with industry to protect natural areas. In other examples from around the world, the report highlights initiatives to control pollution, transform markets and improve lives.

WWF's “One Planet Perspective” shows how every corner of the globe can contribute to maintaining a footprint that doesn't outpace Earth's ability to renew. By following WWF’s programme for one planet living, society can begin reversing the trends indicated in the Living Planet Report 2014.

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