Best of our wild blogs: 26 Oct 14

Fun with families at Pasir Ris mangroves!
from wild shores of singapore

Glimpses of fish farm happenings during dead fish checks
from wild shores of singapore

Revision to the Common Names of Butterflies 3
from Butterflies of Singapore

Short Walk At Bukit Brown Cemetery (25 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Purple Swamphen eats Kyllinga polyphylla flowering stalks
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Our last morning Chek Jawa Boardwalk for 2014!
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

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Indonesia: Satellite detects 72 hotspots in Sumatra

Antara 26 Oct 14;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 satellite of the United States operated in Singapore, detected 72 hotspots in Sumatra, of which 10 are located in Riau Province, according to the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD).

BPBD Head Said Saqlul Amri said in his electronic release on Sunday that the 10 hotspots in Raiu province were detected on Saturday. Four of the 10 hotspots were located in Siak District, namely one in Dayun village and another one in Minas Subdistrict.

The satellite also detected one in Pangkalan Pisang Village, Koto Gasib subdistrict and one in Sam-Sam Village, Kandis Subdistrict.

The NOAA 18 satellite also detected three hotspots in Kampar District, particularly in Sungai Rambai village and one in Kambar Kiri Subdistrict.

According to the NOAA 18 satellite, the other two hotspots were found in Kuantan Singingi District, namely in Munsalo village, Kuantan Tengah Subdistrict, and in Gunug Melintang Village, Kuantan Hilir Subdistrict.

One hotspot was also detected in Telayap Village, Pelalawan Subdistrict, Pelalawan District.

Saqlul Amri said the emergence of the hotspots was scarce rain falls over the past several days.

In order to anticipate haze, Saqlul Amri said his side continued to try to put out land fires in the region.

He said that the regional government of Riau will soon have a fast reaction team (TRC) to handle land and forest fires which often take place in various areas in the province.

"We have passed several phases in selecting personnel to form the team and the results of the selection will be announced in the near future," he said.

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Malaysia: MACC steps up raids against Sarawak illegal loggers

NADIRAH H. RODZI The Star 26 Oct 14;

PETALING JAYA: Authorities have carried out more raids in Limbang and Lawas in Sarawak as a statewide anti-logging and anti-graft operation goes into full swing.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission (MACC) director of investigation Datuk Mohd Jamidan Abdullah said MACC personnel seized 400 to 500 illegally-felled logs, eight bulldozers and other machinery worth RM1.7mil during Friday’s Ops Tukul raids at the two locations.

He said the commission had also started backtracking the logging activities of more than 10 companies and individuals in Kuching.

“We are investigating them to ascertain how long they have been in operation,” he said.

“I believe further arrests will be made soon,” he said yesterday.

The MACC had earlier revealed that 10 suspects, including a district CID chief, were hauled up in connection with illegal logging in Sarawak. They are aged between 28 and 72.

On Thursday, MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull told reporters that the suspects were arrested in Limbang, Sibu, Kuching, Miri and Kapit since Monday. Other suspects include general managers, owners, camp managers and shareholders of 10 local logging companies.

Mohd Shukri also said they had frozen bank accounts worth RM18mil belonging to the companies. “Nine suspects are believed to have bribed the police officer.”

He revealed that in the first nine months of this year, the Sarawak government lost about RM43mil to illegal logging.

‘Losses of RM45m in 4 months’
AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN New Straits Times 27 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: LOSSES incurred by the federal and state governments from illegal logging could run into billions of ringgit if the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) four-month Op Tukul in Sarawak is anything to go by.

A task force formed to investigate the illegal logging activities in Sarawak, which is said to be continuous and widespread for
many years in the state, found that the state government had lost
more than RM45 million to illegal loggers in just four months from May to August this year.

The task force comprised senior investigating officers from the anti-graft agency’s headquarters in Putrajaya, the Sarawak state government and Forestry Department.

“The losses are not RM100 million per year as reported in the dailies. It is very, very high... much, much more than that. We are talking about RM45 million in just four months and in Sarawak alone,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said if illegal logging in
other states was taken into account, losses could well reach into the billions.

Op Tukul is MACC’s most comprehensive operation in recent times, with an all-out crackdown on illegal logging expected to last a few years.

Last week alone, MACC had arrested 30 people in Johor and Sarawak, including a senior police officer with the rank of assistant commissioner.

MACC also froze 30 bank accounts with RM18 million, belonging to more than 10 companies suspected of being involved in the activities.

Last Tuesday, 26 MACC enforcement officers raided a kongsi near the Seluyut forest reserve in Johor and arrested 20 foreigners involved in illegal logging.

The raid placed the Johor Forestry Department under the microscope as there was extensive illegal logging near a dam under construction at the site.

The source said MACC had made it “very clear” to both the federal and state governments of the inevitable dire consequences of illegal logging in the next few years if the problem is not curbed.

“We are talking not just in terms of revenue losses to both governments, but also the massive ecological destruction and condemnation by the international community.

“The state governments and relevant agencies such as the Forestry Department should be serious about wanting to put a stop to these activities.”

The source added that MACC had proposed long-term steps to the state governments in dealing with illegal loggers.

“In Sarawak’s case, the MACC suggested to Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem recently, that all logging companies or concessionaires must sign an anti-graft pledge.

“If they are involved in illegal logging, the state government must blacklist these companies and terminate their logging concessions.

“The state government must not entertain any appeals from these companies, no matter how established they are.”

The source said Adenan had directed that a special task force be set up to put an end to illegal logging in the state.

A total of 89 compound fines totalling RM1.6 million were slapped on illegal loggers in Sarawak since early this year.

“But these loggers are not bothered about the fines they have to pay. To them, even though they have to pay RM1 million in fines, that is considered nothing to them because they know that they can gain much more.

“They are not worried because it is business as usual for them.”

The source said it was impossible for the MACC and state governments to deploy officers to mount frequent operations against illegal loggers.

“They (logging companies) must be made to sign the pledge so that those who commit illegal logging can be taken to court without delay.”

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Malaysia: Greener nation in 5 years

ROBIN AUGUSTIN New Straits Times 26 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE government plans to ensure there is foliage coverage in all areas nationwide within five years.

Under a plan, trees will be planted in areas that are poorly stocked and degraded, such as permanent forest reserves, on state land, alienated land, open areas and coastal areas.

Following the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry’s successful Tree Planting Campaign, which saw 53.13 million trees planted in a span of three years between 2010 and last year, the ministry is now aiming to expand its record to 80 million trees.

Its minister, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, told the New Sunday Times that the ministry was confident the target could be reached.

While the areas had already been identified for the additional 30 million trees, discussions would still need to be carried out with relevant state governments before the trees could be planted, he said.

“The trees that we will plant in coastal areas include loop-root mangrove (bakau kurup), tall-stilt mangrove (bakau minyak), beach casuarina (rhu pantai) and Alexandrian Laurel (bintagor laut), as they grow well in these areas.”

In the forest areas, dipterocarp and non-dipterocarp trees would be planted.

Dipterocarp trees produce winged seeds or fruits that is dispersed by wind, while the seeds of non-dipterocrap trees are dispersed by animals.

The initiative does not come cheap, however. The average cost of seedlings range between RM10 and RM20.

“This does not include management and operational costs, which is why we look forward to working together with corporate companies through the Tree Planting Strategic Cooperation Programme,” said Palanivel.

The cost of maintenance, he said, would be borne by the government.

“Cooperation would ensure sustainable funding for the maintenance of the planted trees, which will take an average of 15 to 30 years to mature.”

Palanivel said the ministry's enforcement team was committed to monitoring and protecting the planted areas.

He also welcomed participation and input from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“Relevant NGOs are invited to participate in our programme on the conservation and rehabilitation of the mangrove and suitable species along the coastline areas, and take part in a task force meeting chaired by the NRE Ministry secretary-general.”

The NGOs, he said, could share their views and opinions and even receive financial support from the ministry to carry out mangrove planting activities.

Since the launch of the 26 Million Tree Planting Campaign in 2010 , a total of 53.13 million trees have been planted throughout Malaysia, covering an area of 65,559.01 hectares.

Meanwhile, environmentalists said there was need for a monitoring and enforcement mechanism to ensure the success of the tree-planting exercise.

Otherwise, they said, it may end up a futile exercise.

Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) chairman Gurmit Singh urged the ministry to outline its maintenance plans and publish an assessment of the tree-planting programme.

“It is easy to plant trees, but the seedlings’ growth must be monitored to ensure they survive for at least five years.”

He said that if a tree could survive for at least five years, on average, it would be able to survive environmental factors.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) head of communications Andrew Sebastian agreed and urged for the publishing of all records related to the maintenance of the trees.

“We welcome the ministry’s initiatives. The publishing of maintenance plans and reports will attract the public and nearby communities to contribute to the cause.”

Andrew said MNS looked forward to being part of a joint task force for forested areas.

“There are a lot of forested areas that are degraded and need protection and a task force involving NGOs would definitely help protect these areas.”

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Malaysia: The butterfly effect

JEANNETTE GOON The Star 26 Oct 14;

They are beautiful and familiar, but their diversity and abundance are also indicators of environmental health. These factors make butterflies ideal ‘ambassadors’ in efforts to educate the public about the importance of biodiversity to the survival of the planet.

MALAYSIA is one of 17 megadiverse countries identified by Conservation International.

About 20% of the world’s animal species are thought to be found here. However, this is not something most Malaysians view as a priority or even with interest, which is why a senior lecturer from Universiti Malaya (UM) decided to embark on the School Butterfly Project.

Dr John James Wilson, who is a senior lecturer in ecology and biodiversity at the Institute of Biological Sciences, is originally from the United Kingdom but has lived in Malaysia for two years.

“In my short time in Malaysia, I have noticed that Malaysians are a bit ambivalent about the immense diversity and biological richness of their country,” said Wilson, who is also the assistant curator of the Museum of Zoology at the UM campus.

“The School Butterfly Project came out of this concern – that we need to educate the next generation to care about their environment and the wildlife they share their country with.”

The funding for the project comes from UMCares, the Community and Sustainability Centre at UM, which offers seed funding for community engagement programmes.

“I took the opportunity to start the School Butterfly Project,” he said, explaining that it was basically using butterflies as “ambassadors for wildlife”.

Under the project, Wilson and his team will go to five primary schools in five different states to teach the pupils about butterflies and, by extension, about the environment.

“(We will) teach the children how to take non-lethal DNA samples and how the diversity of butterflies can be used to indicate changing environments.

“Butterflies can be considered ‘bioindicators’ as their diversity and abundance can indicate how good an area is, in terms of its richness of wildlife,” he said.

Wilson said that the general public often consider insects as tough, resilient, overwhelmingly abundant vectors of diseases or pests.

However, insects are actually very sensitive to small changes in seasons and climate.

“But we have very little clues as to exactly how they will respond to these changes,” said Wilson.

“Most people, when thinking about climate change think about melting polar ice caps, but actually studies have shown that the tropics are the parts of the world that are going to feel the impact of climate change first.

“If insect populations are severely affected by climate change, which will manifest like seasonal changes but much more severe, this will have a huge impact on our lives.

“Insects play a crucial role in ecosystems as consumers of plants and detritus. They then provide food for the next tropic levels such as birds and small mammals.

“Insects are also incredibly important pollinators, sustaining the production of our food plants,” he said.

With the School Butterfly Project, pupils will get the opportunity to play a role in providing samples to the university.

They will go out four different times a year to collect butterfly samples and send the tissue samples, in the form of legs, to the researchers at UM.

“We will use DNA barcoding to identify the butterflies and measure the diversity at each school and how it changes over the year,” said Wilson.

When the team made its first round of school visits, they brought butterfly catching “kits” with them – a box containing supplies for the pupils to make nets, collect and keep samples.

Each box contains tweezers, string, clothes hangers and net fabric (for making butterfly nets), marker pens, tape, tubes and prepaid envelopes (to send samples back to UM). UM also loans a camera to the schools.

Wilson said that, besides being bioindicators, butterflies were chosen because they are well-known insects and the “DNA barcode library” is established.

He added that there was always a possibility of finding a new species and one of these primary school pupils may even be able to do so.

“We will give them a list of the species that they find,” he said.

He added that they hope to increase the number of schools involved next year and would welcome support and contributions from other individuals and organisations.

“Contributions could be in the form of the contents of the box or a camera on loan,” said Wilson.

(The cost for the items in the box, as well as the fee needed for net sewing is RM152.)

As there is a lab fee required for the barcoding procedure, Wilson said that the project would cost about RM2,500 for one school.

One of the schools taking part is SJK(C) Ting Hwa in Malacca and science teacher Jisming See Shi Wei believes that this project will be a valuable experience for her pupils.

“Citizen science is still something new in Malaysia. As educators, we support any kind of educational activity for children,” she said, adding that the project was a good opportunity for the pupils to get involved in actual scientific research.

“Furthermore, the topic is familiar to them. It is about environmental awareness and wildlife, and I believe the butterflies will definitely attract their attention.”

She added that the children of today would be an influence on the environment in the future.

“It is very important to promote their interests through official and non-official education. Besides instilling a sense of responsibility towards the environment, this project provides schoolchildren with a real sense of discovery, and enhances the learning experience in biology,” she said.

The first sampling is scheduled to happen later this month and, according to Jisming, the pupils are already impatient to begin.

“They keep asking when the sampling day is,” she said.

Even though the pupils have not begun the sampling process, they are already able to remember and point out butterflies based on the training session that was conducted.

While the DNA barcoding portion of the research would not be possible for members of the public, capturing and documenting butterflies is doable.

“The insects are quite fragile though, “ cautioned Wilson, “so you shouldn’t just go out and randomly catch them.”

He advised those interested to go to the School Butterfly Project Facebook page ( ) for tutorials on catching and sampling the insects.

Wilson said that UM will begin mass monitoring insect diversity at UM field stations across the peninsula from Johor to Kelantan over the course of an entire year.

“Once we have this data on how insect diversity is affected by climate and seasons, we’ll be better positioned to understand and predict the effect of global climate change on our tropical ecosystems,” he said.

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UK Science chief warns on acid oceans

Roger Harrabin BBC 24 Oct 14;

The UK's chief scientist says the oceans face a serious and growing risk from man-made carbon emissions.

The oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 that’s being produced by industrial society, and this is changing the chemistry of seawater.

Sir Mark Walport warns that the acidity of the oceans has increased by about 25% since the industrial revolution, mainly thanks to manmade emissions.

CO2 reacts with the sea water to form carbonic acid.

He told BBC News: “If we carry on emitting CO2 at the same rate, ocean acidification will create substantial risks to complex marine food webs and ecosystems.”

He said the current rate of acidification is believed to be unprecedented within the last 65 million years – and may threaten fisheries in future.

The consequences of acidification are likely to be made worse by the warming of the ocean expected with climate change, a process which is also driven by CO2.

Sir Mark’s comments come as recent British research suggests the effects of acidification may be even more pervasive than previously estimated.

Until now studies have identified species with calcium-based shells as most in danger from changing chemistry.

But researchers in Exeter have found that other creatures will also be affected because as acidity increases it creates conditions for animals to take up more coastal pollutants like copper.

Shock result
The angler’s favourite bait – the humble lugworm – suffers DNA damage as a result of the extra copper. The pollutant harms their sperm, and their offspring don’t develop properly.

“It’s a bit of a shock, frankly,” said biologist Ceri Lewis from Exeter University, one of the report’s authors. “It means the effects of ocean acidification may be even more serious than we previously thought. We need to look with new eyes at things which we thought were not vulnerable.”

The lugworm study was published in Environmental Science and Technology. Another study from Dr Lewis not yet peer-reviewed suggests that sea urchins are also harmed by uptake of copper. This adds to the damage they will suffer from increasing acidity as it takes them more and more energy to calcify their shells and spines.

This is significant because sea urchins, which can live up to 100 years, are a keystone species - grazing algae off rocks that would otherwise be covered in green slime.

Dr Lewis found that at the pH expected by the end of the century, sea urchins will face damage from copper to 10% of their DNA.

Urchins are in an unfortunate group of creatures that look most likely to suffer from changing ocean chemistry.

At the bottom end of the marine animal chain, tiny creatures like plankton and coccolithophores reproduce so fast that their future offspring are likely to evolve to cope with lower pH.

At the other end of the scale are fish and crustaceans which are able to control their internal chemistry (even though some fish are affected in unexpected ways by acidification).

But the long-lived urchins are too simple to control their own body chemistry and will find it harder to adapt. They’re likely to be in trouble, along with molluscs like mussels - which provide food for predators and also perform vital services to the eco-system.

Tough, boulder corals may survive the changes, but many of the branching and table corals which provide shelter for tropical fisheries are judged unlikely to last out the century.

Slow recovery
The recent meeting of the UN’s convention on biodiversity warned that it can take many thousands of years for marine life to recover from acidification.

Dr Lewis said that it was straightforward to forecast future chemical changes to the ocean. She said predictions of future pH had drawn few of the criticisms levelled at the much more complex models of climate change.

But she warns that the biological effects of the chemical change in the oceans are harder to predict.

In her Exeter lab she is currently subjecting ill-tempered crabs to the end-of-century challenge. She plunges her hand into a seawater tank to seize the shell of one feisty specimen that does not want to be moved. It grips the water feedpipe with a vicious-looking claw.

“We think crabs should fare better with low pH than urchins do,” she tells me.

“We don't know yet how they will respond to extra availability of copper.

“Our work means we are under-estimating effects of acidification for coastal invertebrates. We are now realizing there are many indirect impacts of ocean acidification on other processes. It could be that we are facing a lot more surprises ahead.”

Dr Lewis has set herself a mission to explain the science of ocean acidification to children. Along with other ocean experts she wrote to the government urging the education department to guarantee a place for the oceans in the school science.

“It’s unacceptable that pupils can go through their entire school science career learning nothing about the oceans which cover 70% of the planet,” she says. “Ocean acidification is a fact – children should know that.”

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