Best of our wild blogs: 16 Oct 14

Any dead fishes on Singapore's northern shores?
from wild shores of singapore

Back at Bida; Birds, Bugs and Bits
from Winging It

Tiger Shrike’s feeding behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Marine bacteria detected in fish samples

Janice Lim Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: A type of marine bacteria, Vibrio, has been detected in fish samples taken from Singapore's coastal fish farms.

While Vibrio is found naturally in tropical marine environments, humans can get infected by consuming undercooked seafood or exposing an open wound to sea water. Diarrhoea, vomiting and fever are some symptoms of the infection.

Experts say warm weather and rising sea surface temperatures have led to the rapid growth of marine micro-organisms, which release toxins that kill the fish. A large number of fish in 44 farms have died due to the infection, causing frustration among fish farmers.

Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative Chairman Phillip Lim said two farms in Lim Chu Kang lost about 60 tonnes of fish to Vibrio, and his own farm has also been affected. "I started with 8,000 fish. I'm only left with 200 to 300-plus fish," he said. The infection was discovered when they sent samples to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore for examination.

"For us, as farmers, we don't have the equipment, so we need more professional help on that, to advise us what to do about all this. Because Vibrio can also infect humans, so it is quite dangerous." Mr Lim said stress might have killed the fish as well.

While dead fish are disposed of, those still alive are sold at local markets. The public is urged to ensure the fish is fully cooked, before consuming them.

- CNA/xy

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‘Not always safe for motorist to stop after hitting animal’: MHA

MHA’s decision to not include more animals in Road Traffic Act disappoints rights groups
Joy Fang Today Online 16 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — The police have rejected calls to penalise motorists who negligently run over any kind of animal, a move that has upset some groups here which have been lobbying for such changes.

Animal welfare activists who have been clamouring for more animals to be covered under the Road Traffic Act have expressed their disappointment, after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told this newspaper yesterday that it had decided against changing the Act which, among other things, requires motorists to stop and help certain animals if they knock them down.

At least two groups — the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) — have indicated they will be appealing against the MHA’s decision.

The activists’ hopes for the Act to include more animals under its purview were raised in April last year, when the Ministry of National Development said it had accepted all 24 recommendations made by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which included Members of Parliament, community leaders and industry representatives.

One of the recommendations was to align the definition of “animals” under the Road Traffic Act with that of the Animals and Birds Act, which states that an “animal” means any mammal (other than man) or fish, and includes any other living creature that is prescribed as an animal.

But the MHA said yesterday it had reviewed the Road Traffic Act and will not proceed with any amendments.

Its spokesman told TODAY: “In the recent review of the Road Traffic Act, the MHA decided against adopting the proposal of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee after careful consideration. Our main concern was that it is not always safe for a motorist to stop his vehicle (e.g. when travelling along a busy expressway) after hitting an animal.”

Currently, if a motorist knocks down a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle — which activists describe as animals with farm value — the Road Traffic Act states that failure to stop and help the animal could be a crime and the driver could face a S$3,000 fine or a jail term of up to a year. However, the Act is silent on other animals such as cats, monkeys, birds and rabbits.

The MHA’s decision comes after several Members of Parliament tabled a Bill on Oct 7 to amend the Animals and Birds Act to include harsher penalties for those convicted of acts of animal cruelty.

Several animal welfare groups told TODAY that they are disappointed with the MHA’s decision and hope that the authorities will reconsider.

ACRES founder Louis Ng said the society has been responding to “an increasing number of hit-and-run cases for a variety of animals, including macaques”.

“It would seem inconsistent that cruelty to a cat and other animals defined in the Animals and Birds Act is illegal, however, if you run over one, you do not need to stop to provide assistance. Both pieces of legislation should be in sync,” he said.

Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) president Ricky Yeo suggested that even if the laws remain unchanged, it will be beneficial for the Government to educate the public on what to do, especially in the industrial areas, where the group has come across many hit-and-run cases involving animals.

The animal welfare groups agree that a balance has to be struck between safety and stopping for an injured animal that has been hit.

“But what is important is that the person who is responsible takes the responsibility by stopping later to check on the animal or rendering medical aid at the vet,” said Mr Yeo. He plans to work with the other animal welfare groups to engage the relevant authorities privately on this issue, to “see how receptive they are”.

The MHA spokesman said motorists who hit an animal on the road should stop and provide help only when it is safe to do so, adding that it encourages such drivers to contact the SPCA or Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore for assistance.

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Cautious welcome for animal protection Bill

David Ee The Straits Times 15 Oct 14;

ANIMAL welfare groups and pet owners have cautiously welcomed the tougher animal protection Bill introduced in Parliament last Tuesday.

But they warned that while the long-awaited move was historic, it remains to be seen whether the proposed law will be effectively implemented and enforced.

The Bill requires pet owners to provide reasonable care for animals under their charge. Those who neglect their pets will, for the first time, face a fine and/or a jail term.

Under the proposed amendments to the Animals and Birds Act, penalties for animal abuse will be increased, especially for repeat offenders and animal-related businesses. Staff working with animals in relevant businesses will be required to be trained in animal care and handling.

The Bill will also let the authorities adopt a code that sets new standards on animal welfare. Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Yeo Guat Kwang, who chairs the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee (AWLRC) driving the Bill, said the recommendations came from the ground, through the various stakeholder groups represented in the committee and from public consultations.

Voicing her worry, dog owner Gail Sethi, 50, said: "You can have all the laws in the world, but no enforcement."

Ms Verou Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society, hailed the Bill as historic, but said her biggest concern, which is shared by other animal welfare activists, is whether the enhanced law will be enforced.

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002. Cases of animal abuse handled by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority grew from 377 in 2008 to 484 in 2012, according to AWLRC's report last year. Cases reported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rose from 870 in 2007 to 1,027 in 2011.

However, just 13 cases were prosecuted during this time, partly due to difficulties in gathering evidence. This challenge was acknowledged by the review committee, made up of MPs, animal welfare activists and industry representatives.

Mr Ricky Yeo, president of Action for Singapore Dogs, expects "a long road ahead" in changing mindsets.

"The way I see it, it is still very business-oriented, where pets are still part of the commercial landscape.

The balance is still very much skewed towards pets being a commodity, rather than a marginalised group that needs protection," he said.

He also called for the new laws to be enforced "with a strong moral conscience rather than just from a legal perspective".

Mr Marcus Khoo, 40, executive director of pet grooming and boarding services firm Petopia, also raised a practical point. He noted that ensuring that staff are trained would reduce the risk of negligence, but the industry finds it hard to get qualified workers.

In a statement last Tuesday, Mr Yeo said the road to raising animal welfare standards is certainly not over. "I hope that this Bill will be an important first step in strengthening animal welfare in Singapore and making it a shared responsibility by all stakeholders," he said.

MP Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), a member of the committee, told The Straits Times he expects the question of enforcement to be "debated in detail" in Parliament during the Bill's second reading on Nov 3.

"Of course, we want to make (the laws) practical and enforceable.

There's no point having a law we can't enforce," he said. But he cautioned that change cannot be expected "overnight".

Stiffer Penalties

AMENDMENTS to the Animals and Birds Act, to strengthen the protection of animals, were introduced in Parliament last Tuesday. The Bill, which included new and harsher penalties, will be debated in Parliament on Nov 3. Among the amendments:

- For the first time, pet owners who do not take adequate care of their pets will be slapped with fines of up to $20,000 and/or a two-year jail term.

- Animal abusers will face fines of up to $30,000 and/or a three-year jail term, up from fines of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail term.

- Animal-related businesses that contravene the Act face fines of up to $100,000 and/ or a three-year jail term, up from up to $10,000 in fines and/or a one-year jail term.
- See more at:

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To cut waste, FairPrice may drop prices of more food items

Siau Ming En Today Online 16 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice is looking at extending marked-down prices — which currently apply to seafood and chilled meats after they have been displayed for a day — to other categories of food, without compromising quality and safety, as part of a series of initiatives to reduce food wastage.

Other possible measures under its food waste reduction framework, which will kick in early next year, include educating customers that fruits and vegetables that may not be aesthetically appealing, and which are often left unsold, can still be wholesome and safe for consumption.

Announcing its plans for the new framework yesterday, FairPrice said it would donate more unsold but safe-for-consumption products to charity.

FairPrice chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng said the framework would help the cooperative clearly define its goals and systematically track its progress towards reducing food waste.

“While we already have some initiatives in place, we need to find a more effective and sustainable approach to reduce food waste,” he said.

Based on statistics from the National Environment Agency, Singapore dumped 796,000 tonnes of food waste last year — a 13.2 per cent increase from 2012.

With a network of more than 120 outlets around the island, FairPrice contributed to about 0.3 per cent of total food waste generated last year. It said the key categories of food that go to waste at its supermarkets are vegetables and fruits.

Last year, FairPrice set up a working committee to review its processes and look into new approaches to better manage food waste.

An ongoing study has found that apart from food that is aesthetically flawed and left unsold, quality control, the trimming during packaging, damage caused during transport and storage as well as mishandling of products by customers have contributed to the supermarket chain’s food waste.

FairPrice said that, currently, about half of its 122 outlets donate their unsold products, which can still be consumed, to more than 30 charities on an ad-hoc basis.

When the new framework is launched, FairPrice will start a long-term partnership with voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) Food From The Heart, which conducts monthly distribution of food goodie bags at various schools and corporations, among other activities.

Separately, the supermarket chain will support the VWO’s series of initiatives held in conjunction with World Food Day today.

This includes a Clean Plates campaign to encourage more than 10,000 students not to waste food.

NTUC FairPrice introduces measures to tackle food waste
Channel NewsAsia 15 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: NTUC FairPrice on Wednesday (Oct 15) announced that it will address food waste through a structured framework, in commemoration of World Food Day on Thursday.

In a media release, NTUC FairPrice said plans to reduce food waste include enhancing and implementing internal processes that are "preventive in nature" and engaging its customers on greater awareness of food waste. It also hopes to reshape mindsets towards “imperfect-looking but perfectly safe” fruits and vegetables.

The supermarket chain added that it will also work with suppliers and charities to reduce food waste, and the framework will kick in early next year.

NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng said: “While we already have some initiatives in place, we need to find a more effective and sustainable approach to reduce food waste. Through the FairPrice Food Waste Framework, we are able to clearly define our goals and systematically track our progress.

“Everyone needs to play a part in dealing with this growing issue and we are optimistic with a structured approach and through collective effort, we can make a difference,” he added.

In 2013, Singapore saw a record high of 796,000 tonnes of food waste, NTUC FairPrice, citing National Environment Agency's (NEA) findings, pointed out. This was a steep increase of 13.2 per cent from a year ago.

While food recycling rates rose for the second consecutive year in 2013, NTUC FairPrice said it was still below the 16 per cent of food waste recycled in 2010.

Additionally, NTUC FairPrice said it plans to work on a long-term partnership with charity organisation Food from the Heart (FFTH). When the framework is launched next year, all FairPrice stores will donate “unsold but still wholesome food products” to the community through FFTH on a regular basis. The initiative will aid in reducing the total amount of food waste while increasing the donation of products to charities, it explained.

Commenting on the new initiative, FFTH Executive Director Anson Quek said: “It will enable FFTH to collect food on a regular basis and will further enhance our capacity to reach out to more families and individuals as well as other charities in our community.”

- CNA/xk

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Indonesia: Persistent haze grounds flights, shuts schools

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 15 Oct 14;

Several flights from Batam in the Riau Islands to Jambi and Pekanbaru in Riau were canceled on Tuesday as thick haze was still covering the airports in both cities.

“Almost every airline wished to avoid the risk and preferred to delay and cancel their flights. This has had an impact on incoming and outgoing flights in Batam,” Hang Nadim International Airport’s flight safety head Indah Irwansyah said in Batam on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news portal.

The haze also caused uncertainty to the education system in a number of regencies in Jambi. The West Tanjung Jabung regency administration for example, has suspended school since Monday because of the poor air quality in the regency.

When contacted on Tuesday, West Tanjung Jabung Education Agency secretary Hartono said his office had not yet decided how long the suspension period would last because it was still coordinating with the local Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) and the Health Office, according to Antara.

“We are waiting for instructions. If the conditions improve, school activities will resume,” he said.

Separately, Batanghari Regent Sinwan also instructed that school be suspended on Monday and Tuesday.

In a desperate move to tackle the haze, thousands of residents wearing masks performed the Istisqa prayer to ask for rain at the South Sumatra provincial administration office in Palembang on Tuesday.

Governor Alex Noerdin said the prayer was performed since the haze in the province was worsening despite various efforts to extinguish forest fires, including by using aerial water bombings and weather modification technology. The haze in the province, which recorded a record number of hotspots in Sumatra this week, was believed to have recently caused a fatal road accident on the inter-province highway in Musirawas regency.

Musirawas Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Nurhadi Handayani on Tuesday said motorist Budi Santosa of Muara Kelingi subdistrict collided head-on on a straight stretch of road with a Daihatsu Xenia van driven by Fazni Zehan, 25.

Budi died on the way to the nearest community health clinic from severe head injuries.

As the haze started to cover the Padang Pariaman regency, West Sumatra, police in the region also urged motorcyclists and motorists to be cautious while driving.

“The haze has blanketed Padang Pariaman, so members of the public must be careful while driving their vehicles on the road,” said Padangpariaman Traffic Police chief Adj. Comr. Teuku Heri Hermawan in Pariaman on Tuesday.

In Riau, despite the poor quality of air, acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi “Andi” Rachman has not declared a health-related state of emergency in the province.

Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Said Saqlul Amri said that, as a preventive measure, the Riau provincial administration would set aside Rp 31 billion (US$2.6 million) next year for the procurement of firefighting equipment and pay the salaries of the members of the Disaster-Alert Society (MSB). According to the plan, each village and district will be equipped with five MSB members.

“The MSB members are recruited especially to act in response to the haze disaster. They will be posted in all the districts and villages in Riau to prevent and extinguish even the smallest fire,” said Said.

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Indonesia: Giant Sea Wall to inflict losses on Jakartans: Groups

The Jakarta Post 15 Oct 14;

The Giant Sea Wall, a Rp 600 trillion (US$49.07 billion) construction project in the Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI) that started on Oct. 9, poses serious problems for Jakarta’s residents, NGOs have said.

The People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (KIARA) and the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association (KNTI) said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the Giant Sea Wall would not only remove thousands of local people and fishermen from their homes but was also unlikely to be effective in resolving the flooding and water crisis that had long disrupted the lives of Jakarta’s residents.

Moreover, the project violated laws in that, for instance, it did not have environmental permits and was not based on the results of a regional strategic environmental assessment (KLHS).

Abdul Halim of KIARA said the MP3EI was a new method of natural resource destruction, which could trigger ecological disasters and remove people from their places of residence.

The Giant Sea Wall had been included in the MP3EI scheme after the Jakarta administration failed to protect settlements and warehouses in coastal reclamation areas he said.

“The government has never paid close attention to the rights of traditional fishermen in Jakarta,” said Halim in a press release made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

During the implementation of the Jakarta coastal reclamation project on a 2,500­-hectare area in 2000-­2011, as many as 3,579 fishing families were forcefully removed from their homes.

In the Giant Sea Wall project, at least 16,855 fishermen will be removed from where they live and make a living.

“The project is destructive to the ecosystem in Jakarta Bay,” said Halim.

He said damage to mangrove forests and coral reefs would cause larger ecological disasters, such as the disappearance of fish in northern Jakarta waters and the decline of maritime tourism potential from a damaged marine environment and abrasion at Banten Bay and along the northern Java coast due to ongoing sand mining for the reclamation. (ebf)

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