Best of our wild blogs: 25 Oct 14

New sea anemone described from Singapore!
from wild shores of singapore

My introduction to the Common Palm Civet
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Recce Walk Near The Singapore Night Safari(24 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

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Rising tide of litter on Singapore's shorelines

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 14;

A single environmental programme's volunteers have picked up 14,440kg of trash from the shores of Singapore and Pulau Ubin since the start of the year. The haul by volunteers of the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) is just 8kg shy of the rubbish they cleaned up from the coasts for the whole of last year.

This is despite fewer volunteers and shorter distances canvassed so far this year, going by ICCS statistics. The figures also seem to show that the littering has become worse over the past decade, with the average weight of rubbish collected per volunteer rising from 3.1kg in 2002 to 4.2kg last year.

The average weight of trash picked up per metre of coastline is even more stark, tripling from 0.25kg to 0.74kg in the same period. Environmentalists said the efforts of groups such as the ICCS and Nature Society have pushed back the tides of rubbish, but more can be done.

Mr Eugene Tay, who recently won the National Environment Agency's (NEA) EcoFriend award, said the waste's sources are still unclear. "I think the NEA should study the sources, such as whether fish farms are dumping the rubbish, and how much of it comes from beachgoers and Singaporeans littering into drains and canals going into the sea," said the founder and director of Green Future Solutions consultancy firm.

Temporary booms placed in some of the island's waterways to intercept floating waste going out to sea could indicate how much of the unsightly coastal trash is coming from inland, he suggested.

Mr Tay said the NEA could also collect data from the clean-up work of government agencies and green groups here.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the WildSingapore website, said she has seen fish meal bags, tarpaulins, netting and blue drums like those used on farms here. "Some may claim that the trash could have come from Malaysia, but the Singapore farms far outnumber nearby Malaysian farms and are closer to where the trash has washed up," she said.

Large bulky items such as coffee tables, televisions, refrigerators and even sofas dumped on Pulau Ubin shores not accessible from inland may also be the work of errant local farmers, she said.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has said that it has told fish farmers loose items and structures on their farms that could fall into the sea would be marked for traceability.

While there are centralised trash collection points for coastal farmers here, Ms Tan said the authorities should provide daily door-to-door waste collection for them.

AVA found in October last year, when there were 60 licensed fish farms in the east, that each farmer would have to pay $160 per month for weekly door-to-door collection. The Government said at the time the cost was too high for the farms.

AVA carries out quarterly checks to see if farms dispose of waste properly, and ad-hoc night raids to deter them from towing trash to shore illegally.

Mr Philip Lim, chairman of Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative, said fish farmers here would not pollute the waters that provide their livelihoods.

But he added that very strong monsoon winds, waves generated by passing vessels and irresponsible employees left to man the farms alone could have resulted in some trash tumbling into the sea.

Green Future Solutions' Mr Tay said cleaners' work at the beaches means people often do not see the problem.

But as WildSingapore's Ms Tan added: "The trash hurts the environment, marine life and even Singaporean taxpayers whose money has to go towards cleaning up the mess."

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Monkey see, monkey do as the guard says?

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 14;

They call it monkey herding: stationing a specially trained guard at a hot spot to shoo monkeys away from residential areas.

The guard may tap a stick, an umbrella or a net on the ground, or just tell the monkeys to go away.

This is a method wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is proposing to the authorities to deal with monkeys in residential areas.

This has become such a big problem that the authorities last year culled about 570 monkeys, or nearly one-third of the estimated 1,800-strong local population.

But groups such as Acres have called for alternative ways to deal with the problem.

Acres has been conducting studies on the herding method for a year. It carried out two trials in Bukit Timah and Bukit Batok in August and September.

The results were promising, with monkeys no longer entering residential premises as often as before, said Acres' macaque rescue team and campaigns executive, Ms Sabrina Jabbar.

But more manpower and funding will be needed to continue such efforts and conduct further research, she added.

"By tapping the object on the ground or pointing it towards them, the monkeys naturally understand that it's harmful and move away," said Ms Jabbar, who stressed that herding should only be done by trained professionals.

In both projects, she was the only monkey guard, though there should be two or four ideally, said Ms Jabbar.

Acres hopes to raise at least $10,000 to continue its efforts and to hire four staff members.

Acres chief executive Louis Ng said: "If we have more funding, we can expand the team and cover more areas."

He said four staff members, working in pairs and in shifts, would be a bare minimum.

The problem of monkeys disturbing residents has eased this year, going by figures from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA).

It has received 520 pieces of feedback on monkeys so far this year, compared with 1,860 for the whole of last year.

About 150 monkeys have been euthanised this year.

An AVA spokesman said the deployment of guards may not necessarily resolve issues of monkey aggression or nuisance as "such monkeys, accustomed to being fed by humans, would likely continue to venture out of the forests to source for food from people".

The "indiscriminate release" of aggressive monkeys back into the environment "merely transfers the problem from one estate to the next", and relocation options are limited due to land scarcity, she said.

This is why euthanasia is AVA's "last resort", she added.

Mr Ng and other activists said there is a need to better educate the public on monkey behaviour, such as how certain gestures such as making eye contact with the monkeys will provoke aggression.

Residents should also not leave food lying around as this is what lures monkeys into their estates.

All of the calls Acres received about monkey nuisance involved residents not disposing of their trash properly or leaving food out in the open.

Ms Jabbar said one advantage of monkey herding is that it serves an educational function. "Residents and security guards can observe that monkeys aren't aggressive creatures if you know how to relate to them."

Assistant Professor Michael David Gumert of the Nanyang Technological University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences said that while herding can be costly and labour-intensive, it is worth it.

Monkey guards can be "chaperones" to warn residents or passers-by if their interactions with the monkeys may provoke aggression, said Prof Gumert, who studies long-tailed macaques here.

Bukit Timah resident Benjamin Ng agreed that more public education is needed.

The 66-year-old retiree, who lives at Springdale condominium, said: "I don't think you need to kill the monkeys."

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MP-driven animal welfare Bill to set new standards: Khaw

Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: In a blogpost on Friday (Oct 24), National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said MPs Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair "made history" when they tabled the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill for first reading in Parliament this month.

Mr Khaw noted that in Parliament's history, there have not been many Private Member's Bills and, on Ministry of National Development (MND) matters, there has been none. If passed, the Bill will "give teeth" to many of the recommendations put forth by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which was chaired by Mr Yeo, he said.

One of the recommendations required owners to provide reasonable care for animals placed under their charge. Staff in businesses dealing with animals must also be trained in how to care for and handle them.

Harsher penalties were also proposed. First-time offenders can be fined up to S$40,000 or jailed for up to two years, or both. One of the recommendations requires owners to provide reasonable care for animals placed under their charge. Staff in businesses dealing with animals must also be trained in how to care for and handle them.

"It will set new animal welfare standards for individuals and businesses in Singapore, and engender greater responsibility among pet owners. It will also update the penalties for convicted acts of animal cruelty," Mr Khaw wrote.

The minister said the Bill is the fruit of more than two years of hard work, and numerous consultations were organised to ensure all views were considered. "It reflects a diversity of perspectives from animal lovers and those who are less comfortable being about animals. We need the understanding and cooperation of all, as we try to balance these diverse views," said Mr Khaw. "The key objective is to achieve a harmonious living environment for everyone."


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$15m in grants awarded for research on clean energy

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 14;

A total of $15 million in government grants has been awarded to seven research teams here to develop clean energy sources and small-scale power grids.

The teams from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) will focus on better harnessing of solar, wind and tidal energy, as well as hydrogen fuel cells.

They will also aim to improve the performance of microgrids that can be crucial in providing electricity to remote parts of South-east Asia.

The funding comes under the Energy Innovation Research Programme (EIRP), a $140 million initiative aimed at promoting inter- disciplinary and commercially relevant research and development in the energy sector.

It was awarded under the programme's fourth grant call, launched last year.

One of the grant recipients, Professor Chan Siew Hwa from NTU's Energy Research Institute (Eri@n), will be developing a catalyst for low-temperature fuel cells to generate electricity from hydrogen contaminated with chlorine.

This would make use of hydrogen produced as a by-product in chlorine production, 10 to 15 per cent of which is normally released into the atmosphere and wasted.

Prof Chan, who in July was named by Thomson Reuters as one of the most influential scientific minds this year, said: "This will not only help to improve the energy efficiency and productivity of chemical plants in Singapore and other parts of the world, but will also reduce the carbon footprint of the chemicals industry."

Another grant recipient, Associate Professor Sanjib Kumar Panda from NUS' department of electrical and computer engineering, will be developing a hybrid diesel-solar power generating system that can provide electricity to remote regions.

Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, managing director of the Economic Development Board and co-executive director of the Energy Innovation Programme Office, said the clean energy and microgrid research projects would help Singapore commercialise these for regional markets.

In May, the EIRP launched three more grant calls in the areas of solar energy, smart grids and gas technologies.

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More using diesel vehicle trade-in scheme

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Oct 14;

More people are trading in their old commercial diesel vehicles for newer and greener ones under a government scheme which rewards them for doing so.

Nearly 4,200 vehicles have been traded under the Government's Early Turnover Scheme as of last month, with about three quarters of the replacements made under the new incentive scheme, according to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

More vehicles have also been switched in recent months, with about 700 in July and nearly 820 in August, many more than in previous months. The figure, how- ever, fell to 535 for last month.

The scheme was introduced in April last year to reduce local sources of pollution, and its incentives were sweetened from March, resulting in more people making the switch.

Under the scheme, owners can deregister old commercial diesel vehicles bought before January 2001 and register a replacement commercial vehicle for a discounted fee. They will not need to bid for a certificate of entitlement (COE) for the new vehicle.

Owners can also transfer the unused period of COE from their existing vehicle to the replacement one. They will get a bonus COE period for their replacement vehicle, derived from a proportion of what's left of their existing vehicle's 20-year lifespan when it is deregistered.

For Mr Bakar Moosa, a manager in his 70s, the scheme saved him some $30,000 as he needed to get a new commercial vehicle for his lubricants and motor oil distribution firm.

Mr Moosa, who is in his 70s, and others like Mr Goh Swee Hwa, 62, said the scheme's cost savings were especially useful for small and medium-sized business owners, but added that it could be improved further.

Mr Goh, who owns G T Art- Glass, which delivers and installs aluminium frames and tempered glass, said firms have to deregister their old vehicles before they can register the new ones.

"But the new registration takes time, and we cannot use the old vehicles once we deregister them, so there's a lag time when we have to rent vehicles, and this hurts our business," he said.

Mr Desmond Wong, director of Borneo Motors' Toyota commercial vehicles division, suggested that business owners be given a grace period of a month to use the old vehicle even after their deregistration.

Mr Moosa said the scheme should be expanded to some vehicles bought after January 2001, since only vehicles at least 14 years old are eligible now, whereas commercial vehicles tend to wear down by their 10th year due to heavy usage.

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High-speed rail: Singapore wants updated feasibility study from Malaysia

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 24 oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has requested that Malaysia provide an updated version of its feasibility study on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail. Singapore's Transport Ministry told Channel NewsAsia on Friday (Oct 24) that Malaysia had shared its initial feasibility study with Singapore in January this year. However, since then, there have been major changes to Malaysia's proposal, including an additional station in Putrajaya and changes in alignment.

The ministry said an updated study and other details are needed for Singapore's own feasibility study, which is expected to be completed by next year.

On Wednesday, the chairman of Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission Mr Syed Hamid Albar had said that authorities are waiting for Singapore's own feasibility study on its section of the rail. Singapore's feasibility study started in August and is ongoing.

In addition, Mr Syed Hamid said construction of the rail could start in the third quarter of next year.

Singapore's Transport Ministry said that before construction works begin, both countries will need to discuss and agree on various other issues, including financing and governance frameworks.

The rail link - first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in February last year - is expected to cut down travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes, compared to over four hours by road.

- CNA/ms

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Indonesia: Walhi opposes planned construction of Jakarta giant seawall

Antara 24 Oct 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) has opposed the planned construction of giant seawall in Muara Angke, North Jakarta, citing it will destroy the environment and render thousands of fishermen jobless.

"Our stand is based on the result of our investigation into the planned construction of the mega project," executive director of Walhis Jakarta chapter Puput TD Putra said here on Friday.

The coastal reclamation that will be carried out to facilitate the construction of the seawall will destroy the environment and eliminate the fishermens historic track in Muara Angke, he observed.

"This is a serious problem that the government must consider," he added.

Puput revealed that Walhi and several fishermen groups will stage a rally in Muara Angke to oppose the project that is expected to cost Rp500 trillion.

"If the government builds a dam or anything else, it must also consider ecological and environmental conservation. And it should not view it merely from a projects aspect," he remarked.

The construction of the project started on October 9. The 33-kilometer-long seawall will extend from the Jakarta-West Java border to the Jakarta-Banten border.

Jakarta is currently sinking by an average of 7.5 centimeters a year. So, the giant seawall is expected to protect the capital city from floods.(*)

Jakarta Great Sea Wall to have serious waste impact: Walhi
Antara 28 Oct 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) has argued that the Jakarta Great Sea Wall (JGSW) will hold wastes from the rivers flowing to the sea in great volumes

"We do not need to explain the marine life that could survive such as mangroves or whether fishermen still can catch fish," said Walhis External Affairs Deputy Director Zaenal Muttaqin here.

When the JGSW is built, said Zaenal, the flow of sea water and wastes from factories along the coast will gather around the embankment.

"Wastes will come from 13 polluted rivers and other factories that dump waste into rivers in Jakarta," he said.

Walhi will consistently reject the JGSW development because of environmental reasons.

"In addition to the damage, the negative impact in the field will also be experienced by people living in the coastal areas," said Executive Director Walhi Puput TD Putra in Jakarta.

According to Puput, the Socialization of JGSW construction project is not openly and intensely carried out by the Government of Jakarta.

"This project seemed to be not open to the public. The next thing I knew there was a plan to develop the project," he said.

He said that the JGSW is only able to reduce flooding by eight percent. In essence coastal communities do not benefit from the project," he said.

Walhi plans to conduct a study related to the development of JGSW. "We will conduct a study related to the JGSW at the end of this month and hold a discussion with experts," said Puput.

(Reported by Roberto Calvinantya Basuki/Uu.A051/A014)

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Indonesia: Jokowi’s merging of environment, forestry ministries scorned

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 24 Oct 14;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s vow to protect the environment has come under question following his plan to merge two complimentary entities, the Forestry Ministry and the Environment Ministry, into a single ministry.

A conservation group, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said on Thursday that the plan would be a setback to the country’s effort to improve the management of the environment, as the monitoring function of the Environment Ministry may diminish as it merges with the Forestry Ministry, one of the subjects of the monitoring.

Walhi chairman Abetnego Tarigan said that the two ministries were almost antagonizing in nature since the Forestry Ministry tended to focus on the exploitation of forests while the Environment Ministry focused on preserving the environment.

“Amid the [backward] paradigm of exploitation in our country, combining exploitation and conservation authorities into one body does not guarantee balanced decision making,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Therefore, it was feared that the new ministry would produce policies in favor of exploitation rather than conservation, according to Abetnego.

“The paradigm is influenced by the point of view that conservation is costly while exploitation is a source of income to the state,” he said.

Likewise, Greenpeace Indonesia chairman Longgena Ginting said that the focus of the ministry might be skewed toward exploiting forests.

“This idea of merging is worrying because the Environment Ministry could become a part of the portfolio of the Forestry Ministry, as the first’s roles and authorities are smaller and more limited than the Forestry Ministry,” he told the Post on Thursday.

Another thing that might be problematic in the future is the fact that the Environment Ministry is in charge of monitoring unruly public officials authorized to issue forestry permits and file lawsuits against them, while the Forestry Ministry who issues permits.

“No one will assume the watchdog role in the future,” Abetnego said.

Longgena also pointed out the fact that environmental issues were not limited to forestry.

“There are issues in other sectors, such as maritime,” he said. “The plan might marginalize environmental issues.”

Abetnego, meanwhile, said that the plan might cause people to think narrow-mindedly about the environment.

“Why isn’t [the Environmental Ministry] being merged with other natural resources sectors?” he said.

Abetnego also said that it was too risky to merge the two ministries seeing as how any decisions made by the new ministry would be heavily influenced by the appointed minister.

The plan to merge the two ministries was spelled out in a letter sent to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, in which Jokowi proposed additions or alterations to the nomenclatures of the ministries in his administration.

According to Abetnego, the plan contradicts Jokowi’s vow and commitment to strengthen the institutions related to the environment.

“The President has failed to comprehend the essence of strengthening and is trapped dealing with the number of ministries promised in the Cabinet. If the two ministries are not merged, then the number of ministries will be higher than those during former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s era,” he said.

Furthermore, during a meeting with Jokowi in May, Walhi suggested that he keep the two ministries separate while increasing the authority of the Environment Ministry.

“Therefore, we urged the House to reject the plan and call on the President to cancel the plan,” Abetnego said.

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